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For most people, spending a few nights away from the demands of life can give the mind a short vacation, one that is probably well deserved. Vacation can be stressful, especially when you are traveling with a group of people, and similarly, preparation for camping can seem intimidating. However, exploring the outdoors is not quite as nerve racking as some may think, and with a short list of tips and tricks, your future camping trip will be smooth sailing no matter who you decide to adventure out with.
1. Prepare meals ahead of time.
Food can be one of the more demanding aspects to camping away from the convenience of a grill and refrigerator. Create a small chart of what you plan on eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the days you will be gone. Choose simple meals that do not require a ton of cooking or food preservation like oatmeal, eggs, and pasta. Fancy cooking gear is not necessary if you have access to a contained fire. Bring a cast iron skillet to cook on. These skillets are very sturdy and can be placed on hot coals as a form of heat. If you have a portable grill or propane stove, cooking can be one step easier, but if not, no need to fret! Wrap up a potato in some tin foil and throw it on the edge of your fire. This will cook it just like an oven! Cook a hotdog like you would a marshmallow: on a stick! Public camping sights usually have recreational grills but if you choose to venture off the beaten path, creativity can go a long way.
2. Bring lots of water.
Be considerate of how many people are in your group. ALWAYS bring more water than you think you need. In a case of an emergency, water is a necessity. If you have a portable water filter, finding a camping spot near a lake or river can be easy access to fresh water, but don't count on this as your water source. You will need to boil water for hot chocolate or pasta and also to clean the dishes afterwards. You might need it to wash out an injury or clean your hands before eating. Staying hydrated is SO important, especially when you are hiking around and exploring your campground.
3. Always bring a jacket.
Don't argue with me on this. You never know when the weather will take a turn for the worst. It can be miserable being stuck in a rainstorm without a source of warmth. Nights get cold, especially in the mountains, and I know this from bad experiences. Even during the summer when you feel hot, you would be surprised how dramatic of a temperature drop you can experience when you’re out in the wild.
4. Pack a first aid kit.
Use this kit as a small survival pack, adding things like butterfly band-aids, ace wraps, hydrocortisone cream, bug spray, Benadryl, scissors, and other helpful items that could get you through a rash, injury, or unfortunate circumstance. The wild is called the wild for a reason and sometimes accidents happen, but it’s better to be prepared than cut your trip short due to a minor inconvenience.
5. Bring a lighter.
As simple as this may seem, using the old fashioned method of rubbing sticks together isn’t quite as easy as you may think. Half the enjoyment of camping is building a fire and warming up with some s'mores late at night and avoiding the frustration of starting a fire.
Need I say more?
7. Be mindful of other campers.
The most disappointing camping experience you can have is when a nearby camper is being inconsiderate and blasting his hip-hop music as loud as it can go and getting drunk with his friends. Don’t be that guy. Have fun but be aware of who is around and try to make the experience enjoyable for everyone. Give other campers their space and privacy as best you can. Sometimes camp sites can be in close quarters, but don't pick the site right next to someone when there are a ton of other options. They are out on vacation exactly like you are and respect is appreciated.
8. Leave it how you found it... or even better than how you found it.
Take care of the only Earth we get to live on. By picking up your trash and cleaning up after yourself, it saves the park rangers time and shows that you respect your planet. It’s also thoughtful for the next set of campers who will be using your spot. Make sure to have a bag to put all your trash in and avoid littering at all costs. If the person before you left trash, be a good Samaritan and pick it up for them so that the area is clean for wildlife and other people.
9. Turn your phone off.
If I could only give you one tip, this would be the most important one other than basic survival. The point of taking a camping trip is to get away from the busy demands back at home. By turning your phone off and avoiding electronics, your mind is free of all responsibilities and your trip will be so much more enjoyable. Let your coworkers know you will be out of town so they know you aren’t ignoring them. Bring a camera to take pictures with or a book to read. Engage with the people and scenery around you. Trust me, your Facebook friends can wait.
Have fun, stay safe, and try camping more than once. Sometimes camping trips can take a few times to adjust to or be fully prepared for, but just because you have one bad experience doesn't mean you should give up on the entire concept. It can easily become one of the most addicting activities you find yourself doing every weekend.