Summer is the time when most camping is done, especially when you factor in inexperienced outdoor overnighters. Summer holidays, such as this coming Labor Day, are especially popular. But before you load the tent in the family minivan consider the following advice.
First and foremost, remember to have fun. Learning to camp can be fun, and funny to be sure. Laugh off mistakes — yours and others.
Think of camping as an adventure to be shared by all, not a military mission. Occasionally, a camp commandant will bark out orders, scaring the kids, angering his wife and running off his friends. Remember to relax — camping is an outdoor vacation.
Although we are trying to escape precise schedules while enjoying the great outdoors, do have ideas for activities — hiking, swimming, fishing, and reading. Do build in some plain ol’ relaxation time.
Don’t be afraid to ask your camping neighbors for help/advice. It may take two people to get a fire going, or your neighbor might have some item you need. And while y’all are cooperating, you might make a new friend.
Bring good stuff to eat. Surprise your fellow campers with their favorite foods. Write down a meal plan, then purchase all the items you will need before arriving at the campsite. That way you can spend your time actually camping rather than running errands in the car. Think in terms of not only meals, but also snacks and desserts. S’mores, anyone?
Keep your meals simple, though. And try to involve the whole group. You can cook together, then all bask in the glory of a meal well done. These kinds of endeavors can promote cooperation between family and friends, and is a group activity that doesn’t involve a television/movie/computer screen.
Car campers can bring a cooler, so don’t short yourself on anything that needs to be refrigerated — cheeses, meats, etc. Don’t scrimp on ice, especially in hotter weather.
Bring clothes that will cover your body from sun, wind and cold. Sunburned campers will not be happy, nor will cold campers or chigger-bitten campers. Note to women: Camping can be an excuse to buy a new outdoor outfit — or two!
Bring a lantern to brighten the night, and flashlights, too. Headlamps offer hands-free lighting. That way nobody will stumble over a tent peg in the dark. Bring some kind of fire starter. A campfire brings good cheer and serves as a gathering place. The flicker of a flame has a way of eliciting good stories among family and friends.
Bring something to read. You’ve been meaning to peruse your favorite magazine or finally get to that book. Pull up a chair and remember your reading glasses. Bring your camera and be prepared to make some memories. You might not like a picture of you with mustard on your chin, but it sure will be funny down the line. Consider making videos, especially of your children.
No matter how young/old you are, an air mattress makes the nights shorter. Infrequent campers often toss and turn in the tent. Make sure your sleeping bags and blankets are warm enough. A long night in the tent can get a lot longer if you are chilled to the bone.
Finally, be ready to roll with the punches, for that is what makes life so exciting — you never know what is going to happen!