You’ve decided to get out into the world and you want to try tent camping, that’s great! There are lots of reasons to do so; to get back to nature, to save money on accommodations, to have a little more flexibility, etc. This time of year, just the thought of warm weather activities brings happiness so let’s get planning.
This is what you need to know:
- People who camp are almost universally wonderful people. I think it is all of the fresh air and s’mores.
- Campground owners are wonderful too, though every once in a while it takes them a little while to warm up.
- Bicycles, scooters and skateboards are frequently welcome at campgrounds.
- Many campgrounds have pools and laundry facilities.
- You are going to need bug spray! Seriously, bring it.
- Some National Parks DO NOT have showers but they are available in the nearby town. (Rocky Mountain National Park is one such place but the views are worth the extra effort.) Get the details before you book.
- Bring shower shoes (flip flops) and a plastic container for your shower supplies (the kind that college kids use is best) regardless of where the showers are located.
- Your first time out, BORROW most of the supplies from friends (with full instructions on how to set up the tent). Please don’t spend money on new things when your friends have them for you to borrow. Save the purchasing until you know you love it, then buy what you love and use the heck out of it.
- You need a ground cloth (a large sheet of thick plastic about the size of the bottom of your tent) under your tent no matter what anyone tells you. It also must be completely under the tent, if it sticks out even a little it will collect rain which will run under your tent. Disregard this if you like but I don’t wake up in puddles, even if it rains.
- You MUST stake down your tent. This is to keep the shape so it is comfortable for you and to keep it where you put it.
- Assess your site carefully. Do NOT put your tent at the bottom of a hill or near a body of water if it is likely to rain, rivers rise when it rains folks. If you are concerned, ask for a new site. See #2.
- Many campgrounds offer some kind of community activity in the evening, usually around a fire. It is a great way to meet people. See #1.
- When borrowing or eventually buying a tent, you need to know that they generally sleep fewer people than the box says. Ours says it sleeps 5 but we can only get 3 in it. The number on the box for ours is accurate if a group were to all sleep side by side, without air mattresses, didn’t have any gear/clothes in there with them and no one was over 5’6″. Did I mention that my husband is 6’3″? You will almost always need to sleep perpendicular to the suggested direction. Don’t get frustrated by the discrepancy in capacity, just know this going in.
- If there is severe weather, GET OUT OF THE TENT! Find a secure building. The camp office is usually your best bet. We were camping one night in Nebraska (we were in a camper this time) and a thunderstorm came up with some noticeable winds, nothing to bother the camper but the tent in the site next to us ended up in the lake. See #10. Please note that had the winds been any higher we would have had to vacate the camper too. If you are camping out in the open in an area of the country where high winds and tornadoes occur, talk to the camp office about emergency procedures. They have them, I promise.
- Tent camping usually means that you are further out into nature than you may normally be. Be careful with your food. If you leave food out, you will likely have visitors. The other humans will leave it alone but the raccoons, bears and their friends can actually smell it from a mile away. There are quick and easy ways to contain your food and prevent an unplanned run-ins with your woodland neighbors. Check with the camp office for their recommendations. Call or email them before you arrive so you can bring the supplies you need. I’m purposefully not giving specifics here as many campgrounds have their own regulations based on their facilities and local wildlife.
Next time: A detailed packing list for a tent camping trip.
Original photograph by: ByBy Kbh3rd (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Text added by DreamDepartExplore