As states reopen and summer approaches, camping will likely become an even more appealing way to spend some time outside. If you’ve never gone camping before or haven’t in a long time, here’s a step-by-step guide to making your first trip a success.
What is it that you desire to do when camping?
It’s affordably enjoyable, and there are plenty of places to do it close to you, no matter where you live in the country, thanks to our country’s unique system of public lands—lands you own as a citizen.
I recommend car camping for those of you who are embarking on your first camping trip or who haven’t been on one in a long time. Bring your car instead of going on a human-powered adventure, and you will be more comfortable and save money on equipment. The difficulty can be increased by choosing a more remote location and planning exciting day trips away from camp. A good, easy meal, a cold beer, and a comfortable night’s sleep outside after a strenuous hike or bike ride are welcome after a long day on the trail or the bike path.
If you want to go further into the backcountry, check out this video of me taking a friend on his first backcountry trip. If you want a more hands-on experience, Camp Crate organizes several self-guided trips and rents you the gear, as well as the navigation tools and permits you’ll need to make them a success.
Where Should You Go?
Consider what level of comfort you require. Do you need picnic tables or restrooms? A developed campground is what you’ll want to go to. Typically, those must be scheduled ahead of time.
Most federal and state campgrounds accept reservations through Reserve America. The majority of national parks, on the other hand, require reservations through the National Park Service. HipCamp has recently amassed an impressive catalog of camping opportunities on private lands, albeit primarily in the western United States.
It’s as simple as making a hotel reservation using one of the above tools. In most cases, you can type the campground’s name into Google Maps and navigate there the same way you would a hotel. They’re great ways to spend a relaxing weekend under the stars, but other people in a developed campground surround you. Plus, you can’t let your dog off the leash in a campground.
Do you want to get away from the crowds? Then dispersed camping, where you find your remote campsite in a national forest, on BLM land, or in some state parks, is for you. In this article, I explained the various types of public land and the ins and outs of dispersed camping. The gist is that you go out into the woods, mountains, or desert and find your private spot, far away from other people. For the sake of the next visitor, a few ground rules should be followed to ensure that these places are left in good condition by all parties. On the other hand, camping continues to be the best option because it provides an authentic outdoor experience. In some national forests and on many Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, you can let your dog run free.
What should you bring with you?
Let’s go over the basics and figure out the cheapest way to get out there, as well as some reasonable upgrade options that could make the trip a little more comfortable.
System of Sleep
It will be necessary to bring a tent, a sleeping pad, and a sleeping bag.
Cheaper tents, such as those made by Coleman or Walmart’s own brand Ozark Trail, do a fantastic job of keeping bugs and rain out. They are, however, often cumbersome and do not fold up to fit into small spaces.
It is unnecessary to spend significantly more money switching to a higher-quality brand. It costs around $150 to purchase an equivalent product from a higher-quality brand; in contrast, a basic four-person Ozark Trail tent costs $35. Kelty gear is one of my favourites. A tent-like Tallboy 4 will last for years of use while also fitting into a small duffel bag and providing more excellent field reliability. On a rainy night, the chances of breaking a pole, clasp, or zipper are much lower with Kelty.
There isn’t a conversation about tents that doesn’t include the subject of tent sizes. When reading the previous section, you’ll notice that I listed two four-person (or 4P) tents; The heights of caskets and the dimensions of tents are nearly identical. Typically, a four-person tent can accommodate four people of average size who are lying next to and touching each other. The size of your tent should be larger than the number of people you’ll be bringing if you want more space to roll around in, change clothes, or hang out.
The primary function of a sleeping pad is to act as a cushion for the user’s body. In contrast, the task of providing insulation is less obvious. Sleeping on a sleeping pad helps to prevent convective heat loss from the ground you’re sleeping on while you sleep because your body weight compresses the lofted insulation on the underside of your sleeping bag while you sleep. An inflatable air bed is not recommended because of this and the fact that they frequently fail after only one or two uses. You would sleep much more comfortably if you used a slimmer sleeping pad made of foam and air. Spending more money will allow you to live for a more extended period.
Sleeping bags can be deceiving as well. It’s common to see very cheap ones listed with extremely unrealistic temperature ratings at big-box retailers. This metric is self-reported and is based on a European standard that isn’t strictly enforced in the United States. What is my recommendation? Purchase a reputable sleeping bag or bring a cheap bag rated for far colder temperatures than you will encounter. Anything sold by a low-end company that claims to be comfortable in zero-degree temperatures should work down to the mid-thirties. However, just in case it isn’t, bring an extra blanket from home.
Down is not warmer than synthetic insulation; it simply packs smaller and lighter. Buy a synthetic sleeping bag for car camping to save money.
How to Prepare a Meal
Regardless of whether you plan to cook over an open fire or not, you will need a stove. To put it another way, it will at the very least allow you to make coffee quickly and easily in the morning. This Coleman one-burner option is designed to be used on top of a propane canister and performs wonderfully. Try something from Camp Chef if you’re searching for something a little more substantial. This brand’s burners are some of the most powerful on the market, with the best simmer control.
In the classroom, disposable plates, bowls, and utensils are permitted. It is recommended that you choose a set of stainless steel camp dishes that are reusable and easy to clean for optimal environmental impact reduction. A wooden spoon, tongs, a cast-iron pan, and an antique saucepan are all recommended utensils for preparing this dinner.
In this instance, you won’t need one. Before you leave, make sure everything that may be frozen is frozen, that your cooler is tightly packed, and that you only open it as often and for as long as is absolutely required. As a result, we recommend that you bring a separate cooler just for keeping alcoholic beverages. The ice packs will not absorb any water from your meal as they melt, preventing it from getting soggy and mushy.
Take some DEET-based bug spray with you. The chemical is one of only a few proven ways to repel mosquitoes. It is the most widely proven safe. You don’t need anything more than a 40% concentration.
A Thermacell is an area repellant that has been proven to work. Put one on your picnic table if you want skeeters to stay away longer than you can with bug spray.
Traditional lanterns don’t appeal to me as much as these ultra-cheap plastic lightbulbs. You’ll get a nice spread of dispersed light if you hang a few around camp.
You’re going to need a table and a place to sit. Everything you need can be found in big box stores.
If you’re going somewhere rainy, such as the eastern half of the United States, you’ll also need a hang-out shelter that’s big enough for your group. Cheap instant canopies that tear the first time you use should be avoided. A large blue tarp and some rope can be used, but they are challenging to set up.
It will be significantly colder than you expect. Even temperatures that seem mild when you’re walking the dog around the block can feel bitterly cold when you’re just sitting around for hours on end, depending on your activity level. Dress in layers and bring more clothing than you anticipate you’ll need. At the very least, everyone will require a pair of wool socks, long underwear, a wool sweater, a warm jacket, a knit hat, and some rain shell to keep themselves warm and dry. While you should avoid cotton if at all possible, there’s no need to run out and buy a full new outfit just to sit around a bonfire in your pajamas.
How Do You Get There?
Finding a campground is simple. It’s more challenging to find your dispersed campsite.
You were exploring the maze of dirt roads that run through BLM land and national forests, which necessitated paper maps and a lot of trial and error. Now, you can navigate the maze with a smartphone. The fact that a simple dirt road could turn into a problematic trail that could cause damage to your vehicle a few miles down the road was utterly unknown. After all, was said & done, there was no way of knowing if there would be a locked gate at the end that would prevent you from reaching that beautiful alpine lake where you wanted to camp.
With the introduction of the OnX OffRoad app, these issues have been resolved, and the guesswork has been removed from off-roading through public lands. Everything you need to know about which roads and trails you can drive on, as well as how difficult they are to go, will be provided in this guide. It also works without an internet connection, which is essential because cell phone service is unlikely to be available in those outlying areas.
Of course, you’ll need to find a location where you can set up camp for the night. These can be discovered through suggestions from friends, Google Earth exploration, social media and Internet searches, and a variety of other methods.
What Are the Consequences of Failure?
Bears and other wild creatures are not likely to attack you unless they feel threatened. Maintaining a clean camp, with food stored safely in coolers or storage containers during the day and inside a closed car at night, is recommended. Creatures as diverse as crows and donkeys take pleasure in stealing human food, which might result in an enormous mess at your campsite.
Cross-contamination between raw food, going to the bathroom, and your mouth should be avoided at all costs. Hand sanitizer should be used frequently, and hands should be washed whenever they are visibly dirty. Here’s a link to a dependable source of hand sanitizer; it’s currently hard to come by in stores.
On a similar note, cooking outside after dark presents its own set of challenges. Bring a simple meat thermometer with you and check everything before serving to avoid undercooked meat.
Whether you’re in a campground or setting up your dispersed campsite, you must be careful to leave no trace. Before resigning, prepare to poop (follow LNT guidelines) and inspect your campsite for trash, whether yours or someone else’s.
How Do You Make It Enjoyable?
You can’t go wrong if you think of camping as a fun barbecue or dinner party in a much more beautiful setting. Assign tasks and responsibilities to everyone to ensure that they are all involved and invested in the process. Pack warm clothes and sleeping gear, avoid mosquito bites and keep everything clean to eliminate the apparent sources of discomfort. Don’t forget to play some music.
When in doubt, camp near water
When in doubt, set up camp near a body of water.
I also recommend that you camp somewhere where you can enjoy a campfire on your first camping trip. Seasonal and regional restrictions apply, and you can expect stiff penalties if you light a fire in an area where it is prohibited. To find out if you can have a fire in a particular location, Google the name of the place you want to visit & “campfire,” then look for signs. There are videos here that show you how to gather firewood and extinguish a campfire. Bring your firewood, but make sure you buy it close to your campsite to avoid spreading invasive species such as bark beetles.
Is Camping Safe and Responsible?
COVID- Even as states issue confusing, and often conflicting, guidance on restarting our economy, the number of deaths continues to rise. As a result, it is up to ordinary citizens to take all necessary precautions to prevent the disease from spreading.
As politicians say, the disease will spread between communities and regions for the foreseeable future, and small, isolated communities close to popular camping spots are especially at risk.
The best way to plan a camping-trip this summer is to check and follow all state and local rules, then plan your trip as close to home as possible. Minimize contact with potential infection vectors, such as gas stations and grocery stores, avoid large gatherings, and use appropriate social distancing techniques. Facemasks may help prevent the virus from spreading within your group if you’re camping with people who aren’t part of your quarantine program.
Because emergency response resources are often stretched thin, participate in only safe activities to avoid overtaxing them.
Keep in mind that it’s not just your health that’s on the line. It’s about the health of vulnerable populations and our entire country—camp in a responsible manner.