It just rained, the firewood is all wet, and everyone is hungry. It is no fun being unprepared for the outdoors. Sure there are a lot of Survival Experts out there who can live off of grass dew and buffalo eye balls. This article is for the average person who would like to be in the woods relaxing, inspired, and enjoying his/her time.
- Alone or Companion: All camping and outdoor books and trainings I went through advised against going camping, hiking, canoeing, etc. I tend to enjoy the wilderness with others and that is my advice also. (If you do go alone, see my post on Traversing the Outdoors Alone) If not going alone, choose your companion. Will it be your partner, a friend, a family, a bunch of friends? Whomever it is, make sure you all are in agreement of the plan for the trip. (Camping with kids is a whole other story for a whole other post.)
- Pick a time to go: Pick the length and right time of year (season) to go. If you stay too long, you may never go camping again. If it is too short of a time you spend more time setting up and breaking camp than relaxing.
- Pick a place that fits your needs: If you are bringing children with you, be realistic about the conditions they are ready for. If you or your travel mate have back or other medical conditions, choose accordingly. Are you bringing a dog? Make sure the place allows pets. Are you and your travel mate happy with just sitting around the fire all day? Or do you need things to do in the community? Are you staying in a cabin, tent, trailer, lean-to etc. Where ever you choose to go, make sure you look at all the amenities and things to do. Read the reviews about the place.
- Bring the right Gear: The gear will vary depending on the type of camping you are doing. Is there a bathroom available? Are there showers? A good way to think about what to bring is thinking of these categories: sleeping, eating, bathing, safety, environment, and fun. About everything fits in these categories. (See my other post Best Ways to Pack for Any Trip.)
- Food & Drinks: A hungry + tired camper = unhappy camper. If you choose to bring food you normally won’t eat, odds are you will not be happy. For instance, if you choose to bring dried fruit and canned spam, because that is what you think camping should be about, your tummy will not agree. Spend a good deal of time planning out the meals, and snacks. 1. Figure out how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you will have while on your trip. Bring plenty of water!! 2. Consider if you will have to transport the food. If you are car camping (camping with a car close by) weight is not a factor. If you are hiking during your trip, you should avoid canned food and fragile foods. Figure out how you will store your food. Is there is a lot of bear activity where you will be camping? Some outdoor enthusiasts spend a lifetime trying to outsmart animals in the wild. Don’t underestimate the critters! Also, it is your job to protect these critters from food they should not be eating.
- Fun!: Don’t fool yourself. You will not be fishing, hiking, swimming, and sitting around the fire the whole time. Bring other activities to keep you busy. If kids will be coming, that is a whole other situation. (There will be another post for this also.) Think about bringing a book, cards, board games, nature books, camera, journal, sketch book, frisbee, baseball and mitts, wiffle ball, hackey sack, and other sports equipment.