Technology has made life more efficient than ever before. However, along with technology comes a speedier pace and more stress. A camping vacation may be just the way to relieve stress. After learning how to camp, the relaxed pace can provide the perfect opportunity to nurture children’s respect and love of nature.
Spotting wildlife while exploring nature paths, or roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories around a camp fire are experiences that can only be found in the outdoors. Even if you haven’t been camping or backpacking before, you can make a camping vacation fun and memorable. Like any new adventure, taking time to learn how to camp before setting out is a good confidence-builder.
The following are some suggestions for the beginning camper that will put you on the path to a camping vacation that is relaxing and – most of all – fun!
The first step in learning how to camp is to ask for help. Seek out friends who are campers for advice on what equipment is needed to get started, as well as other pointers that only experience can teach. Check local libraries, book stores and sporting goods stores for books on beginning camping.
When you go camping for the first time, make sure the first camping trip is a short one. Try setting up camp in your own back yard or spend one or two nights at a nearby location. If possible, choose a developed camp site that offers a few comforts like a hot shower, restrooms, picnic tables and barbecue grills.
Move on to more remote wilderness areas with little or no facilities as your confidence moves you. Keep it simple and try to take only what is needed. Use camp checklists (such as the one below) to help determine real needs.
You can’t go camping without prior planning. Planning is important. Think through preparation of each meal and refer to the checklist so you’ll have only what you will need. If something is missing – improvise. Check weather forecasts before leaving home. Pack clothes and bedding accordingly. Reference books may help you enjoy the wildlife, plants, historic locations, the stars and more. A deck of cards, a book, a board game and a radio can all add enjoyment to the trip.
Air Mattress, Aluminum Foil, Backpack, Binoculars, Camera, Can Opener, Coffee Pot, Compass, Cooking Utensils, Cooler, Daypack, Dishpan and Pot Scrubbers, Duct Tape, Eating Utensils, First Aid Kit, Flares/Mirror, emergency items, Flashlights, Folding Chairs or stools, Fuel, Ground Cloth, Hand Axe, Hat/Visor, Ice or Ice Substitutes, Insect Repellent, Iodine Tablets, Jug of Water, Knife, Lantern/candles, Lighter-Disposable, butane, Mantles, Maps, Matches & Waterproof Container, Mittens/Gloves, Nylon line, Pad, Pencil or Pen, Pillow, Plastic Zipper Bags, Pots and Pans, Prescription Medicine, Rope, Cord or Wire, Shovel – folding type, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Bag Liner, Snakebite kit, Soap-Biodegradable, Stakes, Stove, Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Tablecloth, Tent, Poles, Tent Broom, Thermostat, Tissues, Toiletries, Tool Kit, Towels, Trash Bags, Watch, Water Container, Water Purification tablets
It may be helpful to keep track of those pieces of equipment which you had and didn’t need or needed and didn’t have. This will help on future camping trips.
Camper’s Buying Guide
Shelter. Before buying a tent decide how it will be used. Two-person, double-walled A-frame snow tents for backpackers cost about $100. For family camping larger, boxy canvas rooms are available with prices in the similar range. Look for tub flooring of waterproof material extending far up the sides to prevent flooding.
Tents get you out of wind and weather; sleeping bags make you cozy. They are made in a number of sizes and are filled with everything from inexpensive Dacron to expensive duck or goose down. Prices for good camp bags range from about $30 to $100. The usual camping rig has a sandwich-like quality. You put down a ground sheet, set up a tent on it and between the tent floor and the sleeping bag you place an air mattress (in warm climates) or a foam pad (in cold ones) to palliate the effects of the hard, cold ground. A thick vinyl-covered pad is good for family camping.
Water. Since camping can always turn into more adventure than you’d bargained for you should always carry water, even if you know it’s a true campsite. A collapsible plastic jug costs about $5-10. For backpackers, canteens and flasks are available. Hikers leaving the main track should carry water purification tablets.
Clothing. In the outdoors, baggy corduroys are best. In warm climates, T-shirt, shorts. hiking boots or occasionally sneakers are fine, with a ventilated wide-brimmed hat to ward off the sun. In cold climates, many loose layers are better than one tight one and are more flexible as the day warms.
Thermal underwear has pockets to trap the body’s heat. Wool, which retains heat but breathes, is very good. Wear two pairs of socks – a thin inner pair and a thick wool outer pair. For intermediate cool temperatures, an Irish wool turtleneck is excellent. For deep cold, down is best. To retain most of the body heat lost through the top of the head, wear a woolen cap.
Weight limit. The family camper has a car, truck or trailer. The backpacker has only his back and his pack. Experts suggests a backpacker should plan to carry no more than one-fifth of his body weight.
Light. Fire can’t do it all. In case of emergencies, have a six-volt flashlight that is waterproof and floatable. For old-fashioned camp light, the Coleman lantern is excellent and costs about $25 as does the Aladdin kerosene type, which burns some 50 hours on a gallon (about $50-100). More recent technology offers fluorescent lanterns that burn 20 hours between recharges.
Tools. They must include foil, a spatula, a toothbrush, a can, and biodegradable soap. You also should have wetdry towelettes, plastic garbage bags for camp site, pencil and paper. You must have a knife and it’s an item, like boots, that you should not skimp on. Also include an ax or machete for chopping, a small shovel for trenching and extinguishing fires and a saw for cutting firewood. If you’ll be away from the road, take a local topographical map and compass – and and the instructions.
Schedule a light hike your first day out so you can adjust to your pack and get comfortable navigating strange trails. Should you lose your way, a compass and a candle become quick comforts. With compass in hand, pick two natural land features that are in sight and on your map. Measure the number of degrees each is off magnetic north, then draw lines through the feature map at their respective angles to north. Where the lines intersect on the map is where you stand in the woods. If that fails and darkness falls, you still have the candle. To make a suitable camp candle, pour melted wax into a small tuna fish can. Burned inside a makeshift shelter, it can give off enough heat to prevent hypothermia. It also acts as a beacon, signaling those who might be out looking for you.
We’ve all heard camping horror stories related to bad weather, cold temperatures, mosquitoes etc. But if you take the aforementioned tips into serious consideration you will learn how to camp like a pro and make your trip an enjoyable experience next time you go camping.