With summer comes the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the long warm days and the cool crisp nights. It’s a time to leave the confines of the city and head to seclusion of the wild. Leaving your cares and worries behind, so you can simply relax and in turn, relax simply. It’s time to go camping.
So, let’s be honest, for some people the mere thought of camping is far from a vacation. To others, however, it’s a great escape; a chance to spend time outdoors and to reconnect with the spirit of nature. Now, if you’re a first time camper it is important for you understand a few things up front. Unlike staying in a traditional hotel or condo, you have to differentiate between essential items to pack and those that are more luxurious and probably not needed. For example: will you be staying in place that has cell phone service or Wi-Fi? Do you need an entire make-up bag or can you get by with just a few basic items? Most importantly, how do you plan to stay warm, dry, and fed during your camping trip? The key to safe and successful camping is knowing what necessities to bring with you and what to leave behind.
Your needs may be very different depending on the type of camping you plan on doing. If you are camping in a rustic cabin, tent camping at a campground, or hiking into the woods and pitching a tent they will all call for varying items. Since it is a good idea to have some camping experience under your belt before you go off deep into the woods, your best bet is to start by reserving a campsite at a campground. Even then, there are some important thing to consider when packing for your trip.
Before you even start to make a list of items to pack, be sure to find out if the campground has available utilities. If they do not provide electricity, for example, then bringing that plug in cappuccino machine won’t be of much use. Alternatively, you can bring battery operated equipment, but be sure to take additional batteries. If the campground offers running water and hot showers, then you don’t have to worry about taking gallons of water to weigh you down. Finally, find out if there is a grill or fire pit provided so you can plan on how you will be cooking your meals. Getting this information ahead of time will go a long way in avoiding unneeded frustration later.
Weather- Plan for Rain
As much as we would all like to think that our trip will be rain free and that weather forecasting is a perfect science, the fact is, it is always best to plane for the worst. This means planning for both rain and sunshine alike. There is nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night, only to find the floor of your tent soaking wet. So regardless of the forecast, place a tarp or large piece of plastic under your tent to help keep you dry. Also, be sure to have plenty of seam sealer and duct tape, just in case you spring a leak… or two.
While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to also pack some ponchos, raincoats, or umbrellas as well. These items can help you stay dry so that you can still enjoy your activities even when the weather doesn’t want to cooperate. I always like to bring additional socks with me, too. Since there is no clothes dryer nearby, it is pretty miserable to have to go around with wet feet. These items don’t take up much room, so they’re worth adding to your list to pack.
Protect Your Skin
While it can be fun soaking up the warmth of the hot sun, it’s no so fun getting a nasty sunburn. The sun can be deceiving, so make sure to bring sunscreen with a high enough SPF level to keep your skin protected. Generally, this is going to be a SPF of 30 or higher and I tend to prefer the type that won’t run with sweat. Be mindful of younger children, the elderly, and those with fair skin may need a stronger version. Having a hat with a visor to wear while you are out walking, by the lake, or on the water will add an additional layer of protection during those unexpected heat waves.
Protect Yourself from Insects
Regardless where you camp, a few different kinds of insects will probably cross your path. Bring at least one can of insect repellent with you on your trip. You will most likely enjoy the outdoors a lot more if you’re not spending all of your time swatting away pesky pests. That being said, be sure to check your clothes for any insects that might be hiding in there.
Because warm days can quickly turn to chilly nights, you will want to pack for all occasions. Go ahead and throw a swim suit in your bag, but you will also want to pack a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and a sweatshirt. If you are camping in a warm climate you may not be concerned about the chilly nights, but it is still important to think ahead, consider weather patterns, and pack accordingly. Bottom line; it is always better to peel layers off than to wish you had brought warmer clothing.
One of the greatest things about camping is being able to experiment with cooking. Whatever you decide to cook on your trip, also consider the essential tools to make the process easier. Tinfoil works wonders when cooking vegetables, for example, and don’t forget to bring a spatula or grilling fork if you’re cooking meat. As much as you might like to only pack paper plates and plastic utensils, you will not be very happy when your plastic fork melts while flipping steaks over the campfire. This doesn’t mean you have to pack the whole kitchen (after all the goal is to pack light), but you will want a few multipurpose tools to make your cooking experience a little easier. Finally, if you are packing meats, condiments, or dairy products, be sure to have large enough cooler that will maintain temperature during your trip. Remember, depending on where you are staying, ice may not be readily accessible. You don’t want your food to spoil before it can be eaten.
Planning for a camping trip may seem like a lot of work, but planning ahead and ridding your packing list of unnecessary items can help simplify the process. When all is said and done, the most important things to consider are your basic fundamental needs: food and water, shelter, clothing, and safety. Everything else is optional and can only add to the enjoyment of your camping experience.
Camping is an opportunity to reconnect with nature, enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, and experience a different way of life. Enjoy the essence of camping by leaving a few luxuries behind and getting away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday routine. By keeping it simple and planning ahead, camping can be a fun and stress free way to enjoy the great outdoors while spending quality time with friends and family.