Make Plans to Camp
Our long pandemic Winter has left many travel lovers longing for outdoor adventures. As the weather warms comes the time to seek satisfaction.
Further fueled by watching this year’s wonderful Oscar-winning film “Nomadland,” about life in a van, travelers are ready to hit the road for a genuine camping adventure – whether they’re planning to set a tent in the woods, park a camper by the seashore or hook up an RV as a comfy home away from home in some amenity-clad campsite.
Are you ready to get going on a camping trip? It's actually quite simple to plan, even if you’re new to the travel genre. Just pick a date, find a convenient and appropriate campground, choose a route to get there, prepare your gear, go grocery shopping, and head out.
Planning actually gets easier each time you go through the process.
Finding the right setting is most important. There are private and public campgrounds, and each has its advantages, often depending upon whether you’ll be staying in a tent, a camper or an RV. You’ll find useful to research campsites via resources such as the AAA and a range of camping websites and magazines that list campgrounds by region, and five reviews and ratings for each.
Public campgrounds, including those affiliated with our national parks, are often quite rustic, but they also offer a fairly wide variety of options for outdoor recreation, including wilderness hiking and bike trails and guided nature walks, all sorts of water sports, fishing, game courts and the like.
Actually, every state has national and state parks that offer wonderful camping opportunities. The parks and campsites are our country’s treasures, and you should use them frequently. You’ll find a list of locations stretching from Alaska to Florida and all of their essential information at https://www.nps.gov/subjects/camping/campground.htm/
In contrast, private campsites are quite resort-like and are more likely to feature ‘comfort zone’ amenities such as hot showers, flush toilets and the like, as well as electricity and internet access.
Most campsite listing and rating resources provide detailed information about each site’s amenities, but if they are not described sufficiently, you should call the campsite to inquire before selecting it as your destination.
Reservations are always a good idea, and many campgrounds actually require them. Others, however, operate on a first-come-first-served basis. If you don’t have a reservation, be sure to arrive very early in the day – especially if it’s at the beginning of a popular long weekend holiday.
In addition to finding a campsite that best suits your style of travel and is set in a suitable location, you might want to time your camping trip to an event at the site – a cultural festival, a sporting meet up, a gathering of quilters or other hobbyists, or a personal reunion with friends and family. Check the local tourist board for a list of festivals and events. Or, perhaps you belong to a hobby group that knows of meetups at various campgrounds.
Of equal importance to picking the right campsite is gathering the appropriate gear. You’ll need a checklist to make sure you've got the basic items that are absolutely essential.
Of utmost importance are a comfortable, warm and safe place to sleep - a sturdy tent, lightweight but warm sleeping bag and, essential for comfort, an inflatable mattress.
Also essential is cooking and dining gear, including pots and pans, a scrubber, a camp stove, bowls, utensils and a sizable water container.
Food and water are also essentials, and you should budget each, making sure you have enough supplies to last an extra day or two – just in case.
Also gear up with rain slickers for everyone, a sheathed and/or pocket knife with compact tools, and a lantern and flashlight (or one that serves as both), extra batteries, a first aid kit with an EpiPen, and a sufficient supply of your daily medicines and nutritional supplements.
Plan to get to the campground early in the day, so you have the best and most diverse choice of accommodating spots for your camping set up. The first order of business is to check in with the campground manager. Then you should scout out a spot that looks comfortable – one with a flat bed of earth, sheltering shade trees, proximity to flowing water and some sense of privacy.
Set up your tent and sleeping bags and your ‘kitchen.’ Make sure that your food is carefully stored so as to protect it from being poached by wildlife.
For an extra bit of safety, draw a map of your location and send it to friends and family who are keeping track of your whereabouts. This is especially important if you’re backpacking and are hiking from camp to camp on a daily basis. If you are backpacking, bring only essentials with you so you can avoid having to shoulder extra weight. Many backpacking trails feature pre-set campsites with lean tos or other shelters. Do take advantage of these, and leave a record of your visit wherever log books are provided at the site.
Before heading out on a backpacking trail, visit the park’s ranger station to get maps of the trails, updates on current terrain conditions and wildlife warnings, and find out how to call for help in case of emergency. Safety first!
Of course, camping in an RV is an entirely different experience. Your RV is actually your home away from home, and has everything you need during your camping adventure.
RV rentals are available from agencies located across the United States, and many agencies will deliver the RV to your home. The cost per night varies from around $80 to $500 per night, depending upon the amenities included in the vehicle. Top of the line RVs are the height of luxury.
With an RV rental, make sure that the agency is providing you with sufficient coverage for mechanical issues that might arise while you’re on the road, and that you have accident insurance.
With RV camping you must make campground reservations in advance to make sure you get the hookups you need. And, you’ll want to get there early so you get a site with a nearby dump station.
To get set, you just drive to the campground, sign in, find your reserved spot and hook up to the site’s electric and water sources. You can stay put for a week or two, or roll on to another location after a few nights.
If you want to have a vehicle to use for seeing the local sights, you can put you’re your automobile or motorcycle in tow. Or you can tow a small boat if you intend to spend time near a lake or river.
No matter what style you choose, camping is great fun. Enjoy your adventure and make sure that you help others to enjoy theirs, too – by respecting their need for privacy, peace and quiet and by making sure that you leave your campsite clean and ready for the next campers who roll in.