Your tips for first time campers

There are LOTS of first time campers this summer, as COVID has made camping the safest vacation for many people. I’m always glad to hear more people are getting outside.

What tips would you give to a first time camper, in terms of their personal enjoyment, social courtesy, and taking care of the environment?

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In terms of their personal enjoyment I would remind first time campers that they should plan to do what they enjoy.
But, also remember, you are camping!
You are not at the Hilton, or even Motel 6.
You will be hot, it is summer.
There will be bugs, you are outside.
You may have to walk to the bathroom and shower.
You may hear noises in the dark.
But, also remember what you went camping for in the first place.
I’ve been camping, in tents, under the stars, and in a travel trailer for over 60 years.
I’ve enjoyed every night.
As to social courtesy, and taking care of the environment…We are all here together, and there is only one earth.
Act like it.

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Have your first camping trip be close to home, especially if you have kids. My sister’s family just went camping nearby for the first time last week in 90 degree weather with severe thunderstorms in the forecast. They were able to sleep there one night and then just returned for day trips on the remaining days of their reservation.

Keep your food stored in your car or in a bear box. Apparently my sisters camping neighbor decided to hang their food in their tent (they probably heard something about hanging your food from a tree and forgot the tree part), and raccoons tore the tent open to get inside of it.

Acquaint yourselves with the rules, especially quiet hours. Time goes by quickly when you are having a good time around the fire, and before you know it you could be well past quiet hours. I was camping at Zion and my neighbors were up well past the quiet hours. One of the members of the group mentioned that they should be quieter, someone else said that they were talking at a normal volume so others shouldn’t be able to hear them. This was not true :crazy_face:

Respect your campsite! Hammocks are huge right now, and I see a lot of them hung up on trees that are not thick enough. Do not break branches off of trees for your fire or for hot dog/marshmallow sticks. This should go without saying, but clean up your site and don’t just leave your garbage in the fire pit for the next person to deal with.

Anticipate bugs. Buy a screen house if you have the budget for it, I regularly set mine up in the backyard so it gets lots of use.

Borrow as much camping gear as possible (at a social distance) before you invest in your own. You not only get to save money, but you will get an idea for it what gear you like or dislike. You have to be willing to replace it if you break it though.

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One of the weirdest things I ever experienced camping was in a dispersed site - we found a good spot with no one else and settled down for the night. I woke up to pee at 3AM and there was an RV not only parked next to us - but facing us! It was super odd, my guess is they saw our van and thought “oh that must be a good spot”. There were so many empty sites around, I have no idea what else they would have been thinking. In sum - my advice, if you’re not familiar with where you are camping, get there before dark to acquaint yourself with it. If there are not designated spots, leave some space between you and your neighbor. Talk to your neighbor if you’re unsure! I am always happy to give out tips :slight_smile:

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If you are able, I’d recommend going with a trusted, humble, understanding friend “who’s been there-done that,” and happy to show you the ropes.
My Pop’s wise words of “buy once-buy the best” has helped me in the outdoor world. 37 years ago I paid crazy money for a NorthFace VE-24 tent ($350), almost a months wages, Thermarest self-inflating pads ($45 ea)and NorthFace down sleeping bags ($150 ea). Financially, that investment hurt…but it made camping comfortable and attractive to me. I still own and use those 37 year old products. I realize not everyone can make those initial sacrifices, so borrow from friends or rent top notch equipment or buy good used, so your first experience is positive (staying warm and dry are essentials). As others rightfully mentioned…try close to home first…but choose a wonderful place full of memories. Each of us are different, with different likes, dislikes, expectations…so that makes it tough answering these type of questions. Camping is a lot of different things to different folks, but this is my take on it.

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As someone whose job was to regularly take newbies out camping and taught basic camping for years, there are some easy tips you can take on to make it a more comfortable stay for your first time…

  1. Have an experienced friend walk through all set up with the people camping before they head out. Make sure they have the right gear and know how to use it before hitting the woods. There is not much worse than watching someone trying to blow up their full sized air mattress but they only have an electric pump or getting frustrated when they haven’t seen a camp stove or trying to use the bathroom in the outdoors for the first time. Be gentle when teaching, don’t reprimand when people don’t know the right way to do it. Talk them through it.

  2. Go through or watch a tent demo for all types of weather (ie putting the rain fly on correctly, tucking the tarp completely under the tent, staking the tent down).

  3. Bring lots of comfort food snacks. When in a new environment, it can be really soothing to have snacks that cheer you up when you are learning how to be outside of your comfort zone.

  4. Make sure to walk through the packing list and double check you have everything. There are basic camping packing lists online that you can download so you don’t have to worry about if you have everything.

  5. Set your camp up when you arrive. Don’t wait for the sun to go down for you to set up your tent or kitchen. Once you are more comfortable with the set up it is easier to do it on your own timeline, but to start, get your site all ready to go and secure before you head out adventuring.

  6. “Bombproof” your site if you are heading out for an adventure. That means not leaving anything open or left out. No shoes outside the tent area, food left on a table, or tent flaps open or else you will get unwanted visitors and have to go chasing down that doritos bag when a gust of wind comes though.

  7. Bring lots of water. You can get a 6 gallon water jug for around $10 and it is a good idea to bring a full jug with you for all purposes. You will need it for drinking, cooking, washing dishes and hands, and putting out fires. Campground water sources are sometimes shut off or undrinkable, so bring it yourself.

  8. CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF! Don’t leave toilet paper or trash at the site. Put out your campfires until the pit is swimming, don’t take a chance thinking “that’s good enough”. If that thought is even in your head, it probably isn’t good enough.

  9. Keep in mind that you are away from civilization usually. That means that a jump from a rock that you could do at home has added risk out there. It isn’t easy to hike a friend out if they get injured. Or to think you have gone on longer walks without water or sunscreen (or even chapstick) before. Bring anything you might need with you and be safe when on the trails.

  10. Make yourself comfortable. If that means you are “princess camping” for your first couple of times then so be it. As you camp more, you will learn what you really need and what you can leave at home. Give yourself a break. Don’t expect to be an expert and be humble about learning how you want to camp. It is different for everyone, we don’t expect you to run when you are just learning to walk, so give yourself some grace in learning.

Gary Smally is a speaker on family dynamics. He talked with close, strong families to see what they all had in common. He discovered they had all gone through a significant traumatic event(STE). This was tough for him because you cannot tell families to lose everything in a tornado. And how do you initiate or fake a low level STE? He looked for something else and discovered many CAMPED! Which he did not want to hear, because camping to him was miserable, things always got forgotten, you get rained on, bugs would attack. Then he realized, camping was the initiated STE! :slight_smile:
My advice is to just do it. When things go well, embrace the beauty and wonderment and get closer to God. When you have ADVENTURES (our word for when things go wrong) realize you are in an adventure. Embrace
it…and get closer to God. Overcoming is actually part of the fun, though it won’t seem like it at the time.
Friends of ours, went on their first camping trip, boondocking in the badlands, in a questionable old camper. They saw bear, sheep, vistas, and canyons. But the truly spectacular thing was when one needed to do business at night, she shouted to wake the others of her family and had them come out and see the stars! You will never get that at a resort!
My recommendation is to do what you can and then JUST DO IT and embrace the beauty and the adventures.

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