First time camping trips can be both exciting and a little worrying if you have never attempted it. So some tips on picking a campground, your tent and some of the essential things you will need for a comfortable and fun time.
As this is something I have been doing all my life it did not occur to me lessons were required until I noticed several provincial and state park systems are offering overnight sessions at their parks to introduce urban dwellers and new comers to North America about the joys of this outdoor activity.
Once you have tried it feel free to explore the continent as there are campgrounds everywhere with new adventures awaiting for this inexpensive and healthy activity. So lets go camping.
Camping for Beginners
Camping is a a great way to enjoy nature and get outdoors for quality family time, some other reasons might include:
- Inexpensive holiday or weekend away
- Get to enjoy the outdoors
- Can easily move around the country for different experiences
- Spend valuable family time together enjoying the activities
- Camp cooking, I mean who does not having a marshmallow on a stick over the fire
- Stories told by the fire
- Relaxing and stress free getaway from work and the city
- Active and healthy
A number of state and provincial parks offer learn to camp programs for people from the city to get started. For example Parks Ontario featuring a choice of six camping areas with a one or two night stay and instructions from the staff. The Ohio Parks System has a similar program which even includes how to build a fire. If you have ever watched the TV series Survivor you know it can be challenging if you do not know what you are doing.
Types of Camping Tents
You will need a tent, some sleeping bags and a camp stove to get started. Lacking a tent you can also rent a trailer or cabin.The type of camping tent you choose will be determined by how you plan to use it.
Backpacking – you require a lightweight and compact bivy tent as you do not want to carry excess weight.
Car camping – in many situations a tent recommended by a manufacturer for 8 people might be a tight fit for that many so always go slightly larger than stated as the weight does not matter. There are dome, cabin and more traditional ridge shaped tents. The cabin tents may feature several rooms for parents and kids or to be used for storage. And yes, there are also tents for your dog if they are not sharing your tent.
For any tent think of the storage spare provided by any fly, ventilation through the windows and door. Are they free standing or do they need to be staked down. Are there pockets to store things like a flashlight in case you need to head to the washroom in the middle of the night. Is a footprint required under the tent. Also is it large enough to fit a cot or mattress.
Which ever tent you purchase be sure to practice setting it up and ensuring it is waterproof before you depart. On one trip we arrived at our campground in the rain at 10 pm and had to quickly set up camp in the dark, no problem if you have done it before.
Where to go Camping
When picking a campground for the first time consider location and facilities. For your first few times pick a campground located close to where you live just for the experience. I remember when I was a kid our family drove only about 20 miles to a place that had hot showers, a swimming area and few trails and for the weekend we had a grand time.
Later as we got older and toured New England, Ontario and Quebec we stopped in located where we could do some sightseeing such as Watkins Glen State Park in NY State where you can walk the famous glen, take a boat ride on the lake, see a winery (grape juice at my age) and the nearby Corning Glass Center tour.
Facilities vary these days with some parks featuring mini golf, kids rides, beaches and the more traditional walking paths so pick a locate that fits your needs.
State, provincial and county parks – a good place for your first camping experience as prices will be reasonable and you can expect the parks to be clean. Besides the areas for tents and trailers there can be cabins at some locations.
National parks – most are very scenic and feature some significant sightseeing and hiking opportunities. They vary from the popular (and crowded) Acadia National Park in Maine, to the Grand Canyon to spectacular Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies.
Private campgrounds – although many of these cater recreational vehicles and trailers some provide excellent areas for tents as well. Because many of the guests park in one location for the summer there can be a extensive activities program provided as well. Rates vary, we checked into one after a major rain storm and they had numerous cancellations so they invited us to stay at an extremely low cost hoping to make money from us using the showers and buying at there store.
Extra charges – Besides the basic price depending on the location there can be extra costs for the reservation fee, showers, firewood and an electrical outlet (for trailers). Always check the cancellation fee.
Reservations – required for long weekends and busy destinations during the summer. Pick a site based on how close you want to be to the washrooms and water outlets.
Easy Camp Cooking
First, for easy camp cooking you are going to need a portable camp gas stove, usually with at least two burners. There are also portable BBQ which you cast also bring. And you are also going to require a large cooler to store things in until you need them. You also need a set of camp cooking pots, cast iron makes an excellent choice but they don’t have to be.
Being outdoors and active in the fresh air everyone is going to build a big appetite and everything tastes better out here anyway.
For breakfast start a pot of coffee first thing as some people just need it. Cereals, oatmeal, eggs, bacon or pancakes all are easy to prepare outdoors. Top it off with some fresh fruit picked up at nearby a country market the previous day if possible.
For lunch hot dogs, sandwiches or pasta are all quick and easy to prepare.
For dinner you can always have a BBQ or various ground beef dishes as they can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer. Lasagna is also easy to get ready ahead of time and store.
When I am visiting different regions I also like to sample some of the local cuisine such as the clam chowder in Maine with wild blueberry pie for dessert. Another option if you do not feel like cooking is to head to a supermarket and get a roast chicken.
Camping for beginners is taking it slow the first few times, perhaps just a weekend before tackling longer trips at faraway destinations. So pack your car and head out for a fun time