For my first "How to" I wanted to write about how to plan for your very first weekend adventure while camping. I wish I would have been able to find a guide that laid things out more obviously. I think most people out there believe that every first timer will know all the obvious things that anyone that has gone camping knows, however for my very first trip I came grossly unprepared and the whole thing overall was just not very well organized (it was still one of the best times ever).
1.Pick a destination: For your very first trip I'd suggest picking a destination that isn't too far from home, maybe a couple of hours or so. The reason for this is so that in case you really cannot tolerate camping or something happens such as your tent and clothing gets soaked, then you can easily head home at any time. Knowing in the back of your head that you're close to home will also help you get over the anxiety that could arise when you're ready to leave for your first trip as it's likely that this is something that's entirely different and slightly foreign to you.
a.For this you usually have two options, staying on national/state camp grounds, and staying on private campgrounds. Both will be fairly close to in the cost per night per sight, although from my research the private grounds tend to run a little higher. National/State grounds are likely to have bathrooms for you to use as the only amenity, while private campgrounds often times come with amenities such as bathroom, shower, Wifi, etc. For your first time, a private campground might be more suited simply because many of them will provide you with creature comforts.
b.Check if you need to reserve a campground in advance. Most places will offer walk in's but keep in mind that campgrounds can fill up very quickly and you might not have anywhere to stay. This has happened to me twice, one time I was lucky enough to find a different campground nearby, and the other time I had to spend the night in my car in the parking lot of a hotel.
c.Check for various restrictions for the campgrounds. One specific one that I can think of is firewood. Some places will not allow you to bring in firewood that is not local in order to keep various termites from spreading to their area. Many places will allow you to collect downed wood, but with this you you'll need to bring an axe and collect the wood. This could be a time consuming task so I's suggest that you collect enough wood on your first time to last you your stay there. Buying wood could be expensive as a bundle will usually run you a bit over $5 and that's only good enough for about two short fires to cook some food. This cost can quickly add up.
2.Check the weather: Yes, weather is not always predictable, but you want to make sure that you know what you're heading into. If you get rained out then chances are that you will not do much besides sitting in your tent. Bring a rain suit or a poncho. They do not take up much space and are very lightweight. Your tent could also let water through at both the top and the bottom. Most campgrounds will have a specified area within which you can set up your tent. Try your best not to set it up in an area in which water from around you will pool. If you have a tarp and you know that it will be raining then it's a useful tool to have it tied to trees above your tent at an angle in order to deflect the rainfall from falling on your tent.
3.Activities: Do your research on the activities that are in the area and the sights that could be seen, however do not think that it is absolutely necessary to stick to this plan. The point of doing your research is so that you can gauge as to what you are liking so far and be able to have a bank of ideas as to what is possible to do in the area. I believe this part is important as I have many times changed my mind on the things that I had already planned because either of losing my interest or being unable to do it for some reason. You might be in an area without cell service so you may not be able to quickly look up what else there is to do so it's a good idea to have backups for your backups in order to not waste your trip.
4.Some random tips and thoughts:
a.You may be in an area where you cannot easily acquire water or food. Make sure you double check for that as this could potentially be a fetal mistake, depending on how advanced you decide to make your first trip. If you are going to be somewhere remote then make sure you bring enough food to last you the entire stay. Same goes for water, however water takes up a lot of space and is very heavy. If you're going to be somewhere remote then a water filtration system could be a good idea for you. Cheap and portable water filtration stick or tablets could easily be acquired online or at many outdoor stores.
b.Bring comfortable shoes if you're planning on hiking. Hiking shoes are suggested but not necessarily needed if you're keeping your hiking short and just want to try it out. Hiking shoes are a great investment if you decide that you enjoy it as regular shoes are likely to give you blisters and very little support through any moderate to advanced terrain.
c.If you need to hike from the parking lot to your campground then you should also take this into consideration. For your first time you should consider staying at a drive up campground. I say this because it is fairly difficult to get a lot of your gear across miles of trails without any proper backpack. Once again it will let you try out camping without you having to actually make any investments in gear.
d.You can rent gear in certain places such as tents, and there are some tents that are fairly inexpensive out there, however if you want to try this out in a cheap manner and do not want to invest in one then consider spending the nights in your car if you own a hatchback or SUV. Most of these vehicles allow for the rear seats to fully fold down and make a perfectly flat bed in the rear.
e.Bring your tooth brush and tooth paste. You can still brush your teeth while camping. This may seem like a very obvious one, however I've had a buddy of mine not bring it on a four night trip thinking that we would not have the ability to do this.
Overall I think this is a pretty decent guide as to what and how you should prepare for on your very first camping trip. In this case I'd say that it's better to over prepare then to under prepare simply because it is your first time out and you really might miss your creature comforts.
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