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Thinking Outside the Chain-Hotel Box

When I began my first "real" full-time job, I wanted only one thing from that first paycheck.

A tent.

A tent meant possibilities. Hotel stays drain a wallet, and since I enjoy the outdoors anyway, I figured that owning a tent would allow me to pick up and travel, inexpensively, and at a moment's notice. And what a perfect investment it was! That $100 Sears tent saw me through ten years, eight states, and dozens of camping trips filled with memories of quality time with people I care about. Waking up to the sound of the waves, enjoying lazy conversation and s'mores around a cozy fire, and stumbling out of my tent to chase raccoons away from the cooler in the middle of the night?  Priceless!

Over the years, I've learned that many people are intrigued but intimidated by the idea of going camping. They've never done it, they don't know what to do, they don't have any equipment, they're nervous about being in the woods and forgetting something they need at home, and so on. Is this you?

If you're interested in trying it out, all you really need for your first campout (that you might not already have) is a tent. Of course, there are all kinds of gear that you will eventually accumulate to make your stay more comfortable, but if you just want to get a sense of whether or not camping is something that will work for you, ask around to see about borrowing a tent, even if it's from someone's grandpa's garage. It'll do the job. Be sure to set it up once beforehand to ascertain that all parts are available and functioning.

For your first trip, choose a campground located somewhat close to home, or at least, a Wal-Mart! This will help ease your mind, even if you never have to visit said Wal-Mart.  Sesquicentennial State Park and Dreher Island are two convenient options to try.

Lastly, read up a bit, especially about recommended gear to bring from home. I've perfected my car-camping checklist over the years so that I know exactly what I need to be comfortable and have fun. Below, you'll find links to several current books which will help beginners feel confident about planning a terrific trip!

I'll post again with notes about some of the best campgrounds I've visited, and how to choose a campground you'll enjoy. And about those late-night cooler Houdini's, I offer two words: bungee cords.

  • Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide, From the Backyard to the Backwoods
  • Camping in Comfort: A Guide to Roughing it with Ease and Style
  • The Happy Camper: An Essential Guide to Life Outdoors
  • Wilderness Pleasures: A Practical Guide to Camping Bliss

AmazonAmber C. Says: Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids' Guide, From the Backyard to the Backwoods
Amazon Says: Bear bags, wilderness showers, and telling the temperature by counting the cricket chirps... Whether you're planning an over night in the backyard or a weekend in more...
Amazon Says: Bear bags, wilderness showers, and telling the temperature by counting the cricket chirps... Whether you're planning an over night in the backyard or a weekend in the wilderness, this book is packed with stuff to know. The basics, from gearing up to choosing a site to building a tarp tent. Tasty outdoor recipes: Solar Oven Pizza, Chow Down Chili and s' more's of course—with 8 variations.Plus: how to keep a Field Journal, exploring the nighttime sky, creepy campfire stories, and when it's time to go home, leaving no trace. It's everything you need to pick up and head for the hills.For Ages 7 and up. less...
Amazon


Camping in Comfort by Lynn Haney
AmazonAmber C. Says: Camping in Comfort: A Guide to Roughing it with Ease and Style
Amazon Says: Roughing it doesn't have to be uncomfortable...or expensive! Camping in Comfort is the complete guide to help you enjoy the latest advances in outdoor gear without wast more...
Amazon Says: Roughing it doesn't have to be uncomfortable...or expensive! Camping in Comfort is the complete guide to help you enjoy the latest advances in outdoor gear without wasting money on expensive, unnecessary paraphernalia. Packed with information on tents, sleeping gear, clothing, footwear, and camp kitchens, it also offers detailed information on state parks, private campgrounds, luxury camping resorts, backpacking and bicycle camping, kayak camping, RV camping, and much more. less...
Amazon


AmazonAmber C. Says: The Happy Camper: An Essential Guide to Life Outdoors
Amazon Says: All of the thrills with none of the spills. Praise for Kevin Callan's The Happy Camper: "Comprehensive, easy-to-read... [Cal/an] displays the assurance and economy more...
Amazon Says: All of the thrills with none of the spills. Praise for Kevin Callan's The Happy Camper: "Comprehensive, easy-to-read... [Cal/an] displays the assurance and economy of a true woodsman, and applies humor as well." - San Francisco Chronicle This colorfully illustrated, highly entertaining, truly informative sequel to The Happy Camper looks at why people love the wilderness and how everyone from rugged canoe-trippers to family car-campers can derive more enjoyment from their time outdoors. This is the perfect book for those who love camping except for "that one part" (which may be packing, portaging, bugs, bad weather, second-rate food, sleeping bags, rocks, uphill hikes, downhill tumbles, tippy canoes, life without a toilet or, let's face it, other campers). With his trademark mix of comic timing and expertise, veteran guide Kevin Callan reveals the secrets to smooth paddling and pleasure-filled camping. Topics include: Choosing and planning the right trip Camping companion harmony Best camping equipment, gadgets and clothing Sleeping softly on hard ground Traveling light but eating well Bush martinis and other wilderness spirits Close encounters of the wildlife kind Campside saunas, skinny-dipping, and how to make love in a canoe. less...
Amazon


AmazonAmber C. Says: Wilderness Pleasures: A Practical Guide to Camping Bliss
Amazon Says: Great outdoor advice. The Happy Camper is a comprehensive, heavily illustrated, highly entertaining compendium of basic wilderness instruction and well-tested camp more...
Amazon Says: Great outdoor advice. The Happy Camper is a comprehensive, heavily illustrated, highly entertaining compendium of basic wilderness instruction and well-tested campsite advice. One of North America's top canoeing and outdoors experts, Kevin Callan explains how to get the most from your camping experience -- no matter where you pitch your tent, what you forgot to pack or what the weather. Step-by-step, the book shows: How to plan a trip for a day or even a few weeks How to pack only what is needed How to beat the bugs, stake a tent, build a fire, ward off unwanted wildlife, paddle a canoe and much more. Other crucial topics include: Choosing the perfect campsite Using maps and compasses Camp cooking Camping with dogs and kids Bruises, blisters and Band-Aids Canoe and kayak camping Wilderness photography Cold-weather camping. less...
Amazon

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