Camping these days seems like a lost art.
Fewer people want to give up their creature comforts and truly get out in nature and enjoy the hardships of having the stars over their head instead of a feather pillow.
But the return on an outdoors overnight trip will be a lifetime of memories with those you shared time with.
There are infinite options for people to camp pretty much anywhere in our great country. A trip can be to the local state park or nearby public land.
Or, there are thousands of campsites that cater to those who want to be outside, but still want some creature comforts available like a shower or camp store.
Before embarking on a rustic camping trip, one of the first pieces of advice to consider is plan, plan, plan—right down to each item you want to take with you.
This is particularly true if you have not camped in a while, or ever. Don’t take too much gear, but do pack the essentials.
What are the essentials?
Well, a sleeping bag, first-aid kit, food, ground cloth/tent, fire making supplies like matches or a lighter, rope, twine, and water.
Items such as insect repellent, toiletries, toilet paper, and so on are also important. A cell phone packed in a dry, sealable bag is a good idea too, but try to keep the phone put away so as not to ruin the experience!
Planning your trip in accordance with the weather is also extremely important. Don’t plan a trip for you and the kids during a monsoon or heat wave or when strong thunderstorms are likely. Know what to expect from the weather when you go.
Plan your trip well by researching the area you want to visit.
Does it have water nearby? Should you take a fishing pole? Are there bears to consider? How is the terrain if you are hiking to your site? Does the area allow dogs or firearms? Where is the nearest supply store?
Finally, how far is it from your vehicle and medical aid should you need to reach either one?
Be sure to plan your trip around the capabilities and endurance of your entire group. If you have someone who is not as mobile as the triathlete in your group, cater to the lowest ability to ensure everyone enjoys the trip.
Consider the kids too. Kids don’t have the stamina that adults do and they are also more likely to go off exploring without thinking, so keep a close eye on them.
One of the coolest types of camping trips you can take is a floating camping trip.
Research your local river and see if there are places you can put in, float down, and perhaps take out of the river after 8-12 hours.
Camp at the halfway point (if there are islands or permissible spots to stop and make camp) and enjoy the sounds of gurgling water and catch a few fish for supper.
This was by far our best trip. We would put in upriver of a good take out point, scout for an island or two prior to the trip at the halfway point to make sure it was public land, had firewood for a fire, an adequate sand bar or area to pitch the tent and was high enough that the river level could fluctuate without endangering us. Keep tabs on storms upriver for this reason!
Plan on getting to your site with a few hours of daylight left to put up a tent, gather firewood, get your campsite set up and prepare a meal. Be sure to take plenty of food and water because being outdoors makes you hungry!
Take foods high in energy, but not sugary. Trail mixes, granola, jerky, hot dogs, and some vegetables (wrap some corn on the cob in foil) will fit the bill. Keep in mind that anything that needs ice will be heavy to haul!
Cover your sleeping area with plastic, unless you have a waterproof tent, and use a ground cloth. The dew will make everything damp, so store clothing in the tent along with shoes. Hang a rope or twine to use as a clothesline and hang food away from the ground where critters can’t get into it.
If you do a float trip, be sure not to overload the canoe or boat and put all important things in a dry, sealable bag.
Consider taking a water filter in the event you run out of bottled water. Bringing a few extra dry bags, sealable plastic bags, and even trash bags will be a good investment. An extra pair of underclothes, socks, and a shirt or shorts is a good idea too.
The first time you decide to go camping, do a dry run of the area. Actually paddle or hike to the area and scout it out. If you have never put up your tent, do so in the back yard first.
In fact, consider camping out in the yard if you’re a newbie, particularly if you have kids! You will find out pretty quick what your needs are!
Perhaps the best part of the camping trip will be the campfire. Be sure you can have a fire in the area you intend to go.
Dig a trench or pit and keep brush away from the fire so you don’t catch the woods on fire. Rocks, if available, are great to make a fire ring and they reflect heat and provide a place to put cookware or coffee cups.
When you leave, be sure to leave your site like you found it. Thoroughly drown your fire. This is another reason I prefer float trips—there is always plenty of water nearby!
Pick up all of your trash and smooth out the spots where you left impressions. The next person will appreciate it.
Be sure you let someone know where you are going and when you plan on returning, just in case of any misfortune.
And then enjoy your trip under the stars and all the wildlife you might see along the way!