Okay, you’ve managed to setup your tent, gotten your sleeping gear arranged how you like it, and otherwise have things settled at your campsite. What do you do now? Whatever you want! Maybe you’ll want to start a fire and get hypnotized by the dancing flames. Or your burning up from the heat so a swim is in order. Or maybe there was a trail nearby that is just begging to be walked.
This is one of the beauties of camping — you get to decide exactly what you want to do. Just don’t forget to take pictures of your first camping experience. You’ll be able to relive your fun for many years with them, and they may inspire your next trip as well.
You’ve had your fun, enjoyed your marshmallows and drinks, but now it’s time to pack everything up and head back home. Now, the easy thing to do would be to just shove everything into your car, truck or van and get going. But don’t do that! Now is when crucial steps should be taken for future outings, not to mention keeping friendships with those whose equipment you borrowed.
Probably most important is repacking the tent. You were taking mental notes when you set it up a few days ago, weren’t you? If you’re like me, you’re probably snorting in derision at that question.
However, it isn’t too hard to figure out how it should be repacked. You know how wide the tent should be folded because the duffle it came in is only so long. The key is to roll it as tight as possible, because those duffles are notoriously small. Once you have the tent cleaned up, start packing the rest up.
Put away sleeping bags properly, outdoor games should be packed up as nicely as possible, etc. You might not want to put in the effort and think “Nah, I’ll do this all when I get back home”. Trust me, you won’t want to do it when you get back home either, so suck it up and do it now.
You’ll be happy you did when you get home, tired and not wanting to do anything but sit on the couch. When you think you’ve gotten everything, take a walk around your campsite. Often you’ll find pieces from things that you missed picking up. You’ll also find some garbage that needs to be taken care of.
You should leave your campsite better than you found it, a way of paying it forward to the next camper to enjoy that site. If you want, take a few final pictures to remember your first camping adventure.
Don’t Go Alone
Going camping is a great way to have a nice little vacation with just you and your family, but it’s also a great way to spend some quality time with your friends too. However, being the novice to camping that you are, I want you to succeed at it and have a good time while learning more about tent camping.
This is why I strongly advocate for you to go tent camping your first time with a more experienced person/couple/family. Yes, you are fully capable of figuring out how to do all of this on your own.
But with so many people already experienced with camping, why not take advantage of their knowledge to ramp up your own knowledge base faster?
Hopefully, you will have a friend that goes tent camping often and can end up going with him or her for a time or two. If you don’t, look around for different groups that do group camping; they are always looking for new members and enjoy sharing their knowledge. You could always post a request on Facebook or Craigslist looking for someone to go tent camping with as well.
In any case, but especially with the requests, you will want to meet these people at least once before you actually head out to camp so that you can see what they are like, what their experience level is, equipment they have, and to discuss who is bringing what for the camping excursion. Being a novice at anything is a humbling experience.
You want to be able to contribute, but you just don’t yet know enough to offer workable suggestions. My advice to you is to come into your first camping experience with the mind of a sponge.
Try to soak up as much information as you can, and also be willing to lend a hand with the many different tasks that are required. Even if you are just being the ‘gopher’, you’ll be participating in the process and watching what happens.
Some things might be obvious and easy for you, which is good, but also be willing to admit where your skills or experience is lacking, and don’t be afraid to ask for help with something. Also remember: you aren’t the only one learning during this first outing. Those that are with you are also learning.
They are learning how to be better teachers, how to explain things clearly so that they are readily understood.
They are also being challenged to think through some things that they normally wouldn’t give a second thought to because they’ve done them the same way for a long time. Your questions may help them to become a better camper, so don’t think that it’s a one–way street.