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 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