Camping is one of America’s favorite outdoor hobbies. Short of giving an exhaustive guide to camping, there are some things you just have to know before you head to the woods and pitch a tent. An understanding of the basics of camping will give you the knowledge and the confidence you need to get out there and have a great adventure.
One of the first things to do to plan the perfect camping trip is to go online to the national or state park website and reserve a campsite that meets your needs. Different parks offer a variety of amenities from primitive to plush. When you’re in a wooded area and you’re looking to set up camp, look for a space that’s level and fairly free of debris. Also, look around for signs of unwanted animals–dung or evidence of predators hunting. You don’t want to invade their turf. Look around and make sure that there are no rotten or leaning trees that could potentially fall on your camp and cause some serious problems. Clear the space of debris, limbs, rocks and brush.
How to pitch a tent
Before you get to your camping destination, be sure you know your tent inside and out. Learn how to set up your tent by doing a test pitch before the day of your trip. This way, there will be no surprises at the campsite, and you’ll already have a good feel for your tent.
Making a fire is one serious camping essential. Bring along some basic tools like a fixed blade knife (or a hatchet), a firesteel, and some cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly. With these items, you can easily start a fire anywhere. Use dry, local firewood wherever possible, either from a store close to your campsite or the old-fashioned way. Once you’ve got all the tools and supplies, it’s as simple as sparking your tinder and kindling a fire, using twigs and small branches until it can sustain some bigger pieces of wood.
How to store your food
If you’re camping in bear country, invest in the kind of gear needed to suspend all of your food and scented items well out of bear-reaching distance. Bears can break into cars, so don’t be fooled into thinking your stuff will be safe in there. If you’re in a bear-free zone and camping near your car, then you’ll be fine storing food in there.
How to use a map and compass
Technology fails, so don’t rely on your smartphone’s compass. When the battery is dead, your smartphone is a useless hunk of plastic and glass. A good compass will serve you well, and will keep you pointed in the right direction.
Basic first aid
If you’re camping in the wilderness, it helps to know some basic first aid like CPR, how to clean and dress a wound, or how to treat bee stings, insect bites and snake bites. If you can, get CPR certified. You never know when that skill could save a life.
What to pack
In addition to your tent, sleeping bags, food and fire starting gear, remember to bring some layers of clothing and extra socks. You can find durable gear from a quality outfitter like Carhartt. Although not an exhaustive list, you should bring a few of these things:
- Cookware & dinnerware
- Camping chairs
- Air mattress
- Water filter or purifying tablets
- First aid kit
- Toiletries and personal items
- Insect repellant
Camping is a wonderful way to unwind and experience nature. Now that you’ve got some of the basics under your belt, get out there and explore some of the great open spaces that our nation’s parks and reserves have to offer.