So, you’ve decided that you want to try this whole tent camping thing, huh? That’s great! And now you’re asking what you need to do next. Well, since this is your first time (either first time ever, or first time in a long time), I will tell you something that you shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t go out and spend a lot of money on things like a tent, sleeping bags, a cooler, a lantern, flashlights, headlamps, camp stove, or any other number of pieces of equipment that you would expect to find at a campsite.
Nope, that’s a bad call, mister. Why would you spend a bunch of money on something that you may not end up liking?
Then you would be stuck with a bunch of stuff that you needed to unload, and you wouldn’t get your money back out of it. So don’t spend money at this point, unless you absolutely, positively have to.
Okay, you’re asking me now, if I’m not supposed to spend money to get the tent camping equipment, how am I supposed to go camping? I need a lot of that stuff that you just told me not to spend money on.
Yes, you will need it, but the best option is to borrow what you need. Odds are that between what you have in your own home and the family, friends and neighbors you have, you probably could get a lot, if not most, of your equipment for your trip. If you still come up short, then I would start utilizing your social media network.
Look on CraigsList.org to see if anyone is selling anything, then offer to rent it from them. If it turns out that you like camping, and you like that piece of equipment, you can offer to buy it from them. It’s a try-before-you-buy situation. You could do the same with the Facebook groups that exist for buying, selling, and trading items. Post on there to see if you could rent some equipment from people, and again it might be something that you would buy from them if they are looking to sell.
The whole point is not to invest any money, or as little as possible, until you are sure that you like tent camping. Once you find that you enjoy it, then you can start to wisely invest money into the things that will have the most impact on your enjoyment of the activity.
Let me address finding things through social media a bit more. You might find what appears to be the perfect tent for a ridiculously low price. Yes, that could be legit, but you need to make sure about it before the money changes hands. Whatever item you are looking to buy second-hand, make sure the seller shows you how to set it up and use it. All of the pieces need to be there, and if they aren’t, the seller needs to find them or possibly discount the price more if the item isn’t vital to the operation of the item. Plus, you can then see just how to set the item up, which is handy if you’ve never done it before.
Ask questions if something isn’t making sense to you. And if you still don’t feel good about the deal, then just apologize and walk away. Lastly, if you can, take someone else with you who is more knowledgeable than you on tent camping equipment, that will help to make sure that you are getting a solid piece of equipment. So, what sort of equipment will you need for your first time? It really isn’t as much as you think. For a successful outing, these are the few items that you will need: + tent (large enough for everyone in your family) + a tarp (for under your tent) + blankets or sleeping bag (1 per person) plus pillow + cooler (for all of your refrigerated foods) + clothes (plan accordingly for the weather conditions) + lawn chairs (for sitting around fire) + basic cookware and utensils Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “But I don’t have all of that!”.
I’m willing to bet that you have much of this right in your own home. You already own clothes, and you already have various pots and pans, plus silverware and plates. I’m also willing to bet that you have some lawn chairs in your garage, basement or storage space, and a cooler of some sort. Plus, you have some blankets if you don’t have a sleeping bag. You’ve practically hit everything on your list and you haven’t even broken a sweat!
The tent is probably going to be the one item that you don’t have. So where are you going to get one? Ask around with your friends and neighbors, see if they have one that you could borrow for your first excursion.
Better yet, see if they would go camping with you. Going camping with someone else who is more experienced than you are is a great way to help make sure you aren’t forgetting something or doing something wrong (or even possibly illegal). Now, what I listed above is just the major or big things.
Once you have these things in place, you can start building around this list with the smaller bits. Some of these things you might want to consider including in your outing, unless you are going camping with a more experienced camper who may already have these: + matches, paper (for starting fires), and wood (if possible for you to bring, check your local laws; otherwise plan to buy firewood once you get to the campground) + jugs of water + camp stove (propane or white gas) + EZ-UP or other portable shade/shelter + small container for washing dishes, etc. + lantern + flashlights/headlamps + insect repellant Additionally, unless you plan to just sit in your chair all the time or sleep the days away, you’ll want to have some activities planned while you are camping.
There are plenty of things to do, and this provides a great opportunity to pursue some of the things that you have been putting off. Here are a few ideas to consider:
+ outdoor games: frisbee, bocce ball, football, lawn darts, etc. + bicycle, roller skates, hiking boots + outdoor hobbies: photography, drawing/painting, binoculars and bird book, fishing equipment + books, newspapers and periodicals for reading
Before You Leave
It always happens, so you better plan on it: you’ll forget something. Now, the best way to avoid this happening, especially with the important stuff (remember that tent thing I mentioned earlier?), is to make yourself a list. The above lists are a good start, but some of these should be broken down into sublists.
Take your food for example. If you are planning on several meals over the course of a weekend of camping, you’ll want to list out all of the cold food that goes in the coolers, plus make a list of the rest of the food that can go in grocery bags.
Clothes is another area where sublists are helpful so that you don’t forget your sleepwear, windbreaker, etc. So before you head out to the great outdoors, make a quick checklist to make sure that you have everything that you want to take. You’ll thank yourself later for heeding this advice.
Another thing that you’ll want to do before you head out for your first camping trip is to actually set up the tent that you’ll be using. You might think this a foolish activity, but imagine this: you leave in nice weather, but when you get to your campsite it starts raining.
You figure you can get up the tent quickly and start tossing things into the tent before they get too wet. Breaking out the tent bag, you dump out the contents on the ground and get to work. You unfold the tent, and then start looking at the poles, then scratch your head wondering where they all go.
Meanwhile, your head is getting wetter, as is the tent. You try to work quickly, and after getting a couple of poles together and slid into place, you realize that the poles aren’t in the right slots at all. And then the rain starts coming down harder.
You see where this is going. By the time you get the tent together, the whole thing is wet both inside and out, and you’re soaked and muddy.
You can’t help but drag in some of the water and mud into the tent as you move your gear. It’s better if you can get an idea of how all of the parts fit together when you’re not under pressure and during nice weather. You can take your time and not force things, which means you won’t ruin something inadvertently. Find a nice area at your home, or go to a small park and set up your tent.
This will also provide you the opportunity to pack everything back up in the nice, neat package it came in. Do it a few times if you can, because practice makes perfect.