“I’m not an outdoorsy person” is the first objection most people have to camping trips. However, camping isn’t about living off the land and paring down to bare necessities; while some campers enjoy relying on nature during their camping trips, it is entirely acceptable to bring whatever amenities will make you feel most comfortable. Camping is an abundantly rewarding activity, and it is never too late to start. Plus, it doesn’t take that much preparation to be ready for the nature trip of a lifetime.
1. Find the Perfect Spot
America has a proud history of enjoying and preserving natural spaces, which means that every state in the union has plenty of wild parks replete with established camping grounds perfect for first-time campers. There are two different types of campsite available in the U.S.:
- Developed camping takes place within an organized campground maintained by a group or individual. These grounds sometimes have facilities for campers’ use, including toilets, showers, fresh water, and even stores of firewood. Often interested campers must call ahead to reserve spots.
- Dispersed camping is also known as camping-on-your-own, meaning campers venture into the wilderness to locate or build their own campsite away from others. This type of camping may sound more liberating, but parks around the country have strict limitations on behavior of dispersed campers which may be confusing for first-timers.
- Tent. Purchase a tent or multiple tents to accommodate the people who will regularly go camping. Note that the number listed on a tent’s packaging is its absolute capacity, which means cramming four people into a four-person tent might not be comfortable.
- Sleeping bag. Do some research on the temperatures you’ll endure at nearby campsites, and select sleeping bags that withstand the absolute lows.
- Sleeping pad. Understand that the bag is to keep you warm while the pad provides comfort; otherwise you’ll be sleeping on the rock-hard ground for the duration of your trip.
- First aid kit. Fill a box with healing essentials, including antiseptic, bandages, sunscreen, bug spray, and anything else you might require.
3. Understand Fire Safety
Many people assume fire safety is a no-brainer, but when more than 70 percent of all forest fires are caused by human negligence, it becomes clear that campers need to brush up on fire basics. It’s smart to limit open flame as much as possible — which includes finding flameless alternatives to cigarettes as embers from discarded butts are some of the most common causes of wildfires. Campers must simply be careful and attentive in the building, tending, and extinguishing of their fires.
4. Remember Food and Water
Sustenance, including food and water, are absolute requisites for survival. However, plenty of first-time campers neglect to include these essentials. Whether food and water are simply overlooked during the planning stage or campers unintentionally overestimate their ability to live off the land, many a camping trip has been cut short by growling stomachs, so beginner campers should pack ample food for meals and snacks to avoid a terrible trip. Additionally, dehydration is a leading cause of forest rescues; unless campers come equipped with filtration and sterilization devices to purify water found in the wild, beginners should bring at least 16 ounces for every waking hour spent camping.
5. Nature-Proof Your Devices
While first-time campers may want to participate to become closer with nature, it won’t be long before they miss the familiar touch of their regular devices. While campers cannot expect to find reliable reception — let alone a strong Wi-Fi signal — in the true outdoors, some developed campsites may offer those services. However, even in well-established campgrounds, the wilderness poses a significant threat to delicate devices, so campers must protect them in weather-proof cases if they want to survive the trip technology intact.