My perfectly imperfect first camping trip
Traveling across England
After we finished drooling, we got our heads together. We actually needed to find a campground to camp in. I was quickly sidetracked while searching for the information center. I spotted a group of backpacking hippies, sporting dreadlocks and Bob Marley t-shirts, and carrying hiking packs protected by waterproof covers.Their hiking gear preparedness reminded me of our lack thereof. Traveling in leather jackets and borrowed rain boots (a.k.a. wellies, as the English call them), we were carrying a leather side satchel and a canvas backpack. Each were filled with a pair of one-piece footy pajamas, a bottle of water, and a change of clothes. Also split between our bags was a variety of fruit (soaked, mashed, and inedible by the time we got to it) and a very cheap (perhaps the cheapest) bottle of white rum. If that wasn’t enough, we were lugging around a massive two-person sleeping bag and a borrowed tent worth £20 (which might as well have weighed 20 pounds, it was so heavy).
The unheeded warning, and the damage that ensued
Here we are at the end of the weekend at the Great North Swim wearing borrowed sweatshirts, waterlogged wellies,
and clothes that had been soaked and partially dried two or three times over.
I still say it was one of the best weekends of my life. We survived on adrenaline and cheap white rum. It was nothing short of an adventure; one I was definitely not prepared for and will never forget.
Without further ado, here is my list of 13 Camping tips:
1. Book your campsite way ahead of time.
You might be able to get away with booking a campsite in a private campground, the day before you leave for your trip, but national and state parks are particularly busy, and might require booking up to six months in advance.
There is plenty of information regarding national and state parks online at recreation.gov or over the phone at 1-877-444-6777.
2. Bring extra tent stakes.
You never know when one of them will get bent out of shape when you’re pounding them into the ground.
3. Practice putting up your tent ahead of time.
4. Bring a little lantern.
Having a lantern makes a world of a difference in your campsite. It’s nice to have your campsite lit up while you’re hanging out, or making dinner.
Here is my Ultimate Survival Technologies Brila Mini Lantern:
I bought this lantern at the REI in Fresno, California on my last camping trip, when I decided that it would really improve my camping experience. Luckily, it was around $15, so it didn’t break my wallet.
I like it because it’s small enough to fit in my pack or my pocket, and it has a hook on the top (so I can hang it in my tent, or on a tree branch) and a powerful magnet on the bottom.
The only downfall is that the lantern runs on AA batteries, which means I will need to keep buying them.
5. Bring an extra tarp.
I say extra tarp because you should already have a tarp for underneath your tent, if there is even the slightest chance of rain. I haven’t had any water leakage in my tents when I’ve use a tarp, but I have definitely had water leak into my tent when I didn’t use one. Many times it’s not necessary, but it’s good to be safe.
Camping Fail: It started raining on day two of my camping trip in Sequoia National Park. After hiking all day, we didn’t have an awning or a tarp to hang out under. In sheer desperation, we constructed an overhang for our picnic table out of whatever scraps of plastic we could find, and some rope and duct tape. The plus was that we had an overhang to use, but the minus was that everything underneath was already soaking wet.
How to use the tarp:
- You can tie your extra tarp to trees, your car, or even a broken tree branch shoved into the ground (as I recently witnessed a neighboring camper do).
- Stretched out, your tarp can be an overhang for a picnic table or some camping chairs.
- sanity, when it’s been raining for 3 days straight, and anyplace is a better hangout than your the tent you’ve been banished to since the start of the rain
- playing a game of cards in your campsite, during a downpour
- drying out wood, clothing, blankets, or sleeping bags
- impressing fellow campers who aren’t as prepared as you are
- storing extra gear
6. Get organized!
7. Think ahead about devices and chargers.
Let’s be realistic. Most people bring their devices everywhere they go; even camping!
- Pack chargers, back up batteries, and extra memory cards.
- Empty the pictures out of your phone so you have plenty of space for new ones.
With that said, plan to have no signal or anywhere to charge your devices. That way, there’s no shock or disappointment when you realize you’re out in nature where you’ll be left to your own devices.
Major camping fail: On my most recent camping trip, I brought the wrong charger for my digital camera. After the camera was dead, that was it for great quality photos in Yosemite National Park. And I could have avoided the whole mess if I had been more careful while packing.
8. Think about what kind of a camper you are and pack accordingly.
9. Tell someone where you are going.
If you have an itinerary, print off an extra copy for a family member or a friend. If you don’t have an itinerary, give someone a basic idea of where you’ll be, just in case anything goes wrong.
This tip is especially beneficial for people who plan to hike while camping. Here is an article that includes phone apps designed for safety: 10 Must-Have Smartphone apps for Hikers.
There are also handheld GPS devices available for hiking, and other outdoor activities. Here is an article that compares and reviews several of these devices: The Best Handheld GPS Review.
10. When camping in bear country, hang your food or store it in a bear canister.
These (sometimes even human proof) devices are designed to keep bears out of your food and away from you and your campsite. Anything with a scent is fair game for a bear This includes toiletries like soap and shampoo This stuff isn’t safe in your car either, unless you’re okay with a few broken windows, dents, and bear paws all over your stuff
Bears that eat human food can become aggressive and in some cases required to be put down. Using a bear canister is for the safety of you as well as the bears Click on this link for more information from the National Park Service about bear safety and food storage in human-and-bear-shared nature areas.
Check out my blog post on safe camping in bear country for more info!
11. When camping ANYWHERE, store food carefully.
There are plenty of other animals that would love to eat your tasty human food.
Camping fail: Years ago, while camping, our group left the campsite to visit a neighboring site. We returned to find a family of raccoons tearing the campsite apart, because we had been foolish enough to leave our food unattended.
12. Semi-plan your meals ahead of time.
It’s always annoying when you have too much food and end up going home with an abundance of stale, fire-stinking, dirt-filled food that doesn’t seem nearly as appetizing in the comfort of your own home, where you have an array of fresh (and hopefully clean) foods to choose from.
What’s not only annoying, but potentially dangerous, is going on a camping trip and realizing that you don’t have enough food and that you’re going to have to ration the little food you do have.
Estimate how much food you’ll need per day and work off of that estimate:
- Scenario 1: Dehydrated meals for EVERY meal!
- Scenario 2: Oatmeal each morning, snacks during the day, and a big meal cooked over the fire each night
- Scenario 3: Three big meals, all cooked on the grill
- Scenario 4: Glamp it up with bacon and eggs or a tasty tofu scramble! With this scenario, you won’t want to forget your sides and condiments like olive oil or butter, ketchup, bread, cheese, milk, etc.
13. Show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Do you have any helpful camping tips?
If you need anything, come on by! I’m Two Tents Down!
Email me with questions, comments, or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.