Camping is an exciting activity to enjoy with a few good friends. For many reasons, however, some people find it frightening to contemplate sleeping in the great wild outdoors. If you are one of those people, let us put your mind at ease with a few helpful tips on what you need to know before you go camping.
Destination: This is an obvious one. You can either play to the fates and be spontaneous with your decision but the destination really depends on how much and what kind of gear you'll need. The national and state parks around this gorgeous country make for the best camping although you'll find excellent campgrounds all over the place. Parks have all of the outdoor recreation right in your literal backyard which makes for easy activities; hiking, biking, rock climbing, what have you.
Time of Year: This is another obvious one but it's kind of a big deal. If you go in the summer, you basically need completely different gear and clothing than if you go camping in the summer. This is also dependent on your destination; if you go camping at Yellowstone in January you'll need winter gear whereas camping at the Everglades in Florida in January will be warmer. Easy peasy.
Gear: Every camping trip needs a basic supply of gear including (but not limited to):
- Tent - you can get a good rainproof three man tent for a decent price.
- Sleeping bag and pillow - maybe a sleeping pad or air mattress for extra comfort (the ground never seems so hard until you have to sleep on it)
- First aid kit
- Backpack - make sure it's big enough to carry everything you need for hiking.
- Reusable water bottle - be eco-friendly and healthy and skip over the plastic bottles which, by the way, can seep harmful chemicals into the water when the bottle gets hot.
- Sturdy and comfortable pair of hiking boots - break them in before you go to avoid painful blisters. Also make sure to bring thick, tall socks.
Are you cooking?: If you plan on doing any kind of cooking, bring matches and charcoal for campsite grills, and maybe a few cooking utensils like a campfire pot/pan/skillet and tableware. They make camping cookware sets that include everything you'll need, or you can go minimalist and just bring the absolute essentials. First, make sure your campsite allows open flames if you're wanting to do a fire pit, and you can also see if the campsite includes a grill.
Eat and drink regularly: Camping and hiking can take a tole on your health if you don't pay attention. Eat and drink regularly and healthy to avoid dehydration especially when you're hiking. Take along that reusable water bottle and refill it wherever you find a clean water source. Take along granola bars, dried fruits and jerky as you hike to keep up your strength.
Dress properly: This of course feeds into the time of year but it's something that many people don't think of when they're camping for the first time. The way you dress can also cut down on tick and mosquito bites, which I'll talk about further down. If you're camping in the hot summer months, dress in light breathable cotton clothes, hike with your tall socks and sturdy boots, and bring a swimsuit. If it's in the winter, make sure your coat is thick enough to stand the bitter wind chill and you have thick pants. Maybe think about doubling up on shirts, pants, and socks for winter recreation. You can, of course, check the campground or park website to find more information on the weather inside the area.
Safety first: Don't think you're invincible. While hats are helpful, the sun will get to you under that baseball cap. Make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen, hats, your general first aid kit, and remedies for after you get sunburned or bit by bugs like aloe vera, cooling lotion, or even witch hazel which works absolute wonders on both bites and sunburns. After you're done camping, take down everything and clean up after yourself. Be sure the fire is out completely by following the guidelines provided by the lovable Smoky the Bear and your campground.
Don't be scared: Lots of people are terrified of ticks and mosquitoes, not to mention the larger wildlife. I can't tell you that the insects you'll encounter won't be carrying diseases but if you follow the guidelines and keep a positive attitude, it'll be okay. Freaking out causes more problems than it solves. Please don't head straight for the bug spray which is full of chemicals and is fairly harmful to your health across the board. Instead, simply wear light colored clothes to better see the small insects, tall socks to cover your ankles and shins, and think about wearing long sleeves and pants. If it's simply too hot outside, just remember to stick to clear cut trails and check for ticks every so often. If you find one, and chances are you will, just pick it off with your fingers or tweezers and throw it away from you. Many people, who deal with ticks all the time, know that ticks can survive pretty much everything except water so you can toss them in a water source to get rid of them for good. You're not going to prevent ticks fully even by using bug repellent so it's best to deal with the situation and treat the bite afterward.
If you're scared of the larger wildlife, get all the information you can from the campsite and/or park about the wildlife in the area. Most of the larger animals are more scared of you than you of it but with animals such as bears, it's best to know that information before you go. Different bear species react differently (i.e. some don't respond to playing dead). It's best to get a park ranger's input or at least the park website info on the subject.
Remember, camping is fun! It's a great way to bond with friends and get back to nature. If you're thinking about planning a student group camping trip, don't freak out about what could happen and instead focus on the fun you'll have. Call us, as always, if you have any questions about planning your upcoming trip!