Let’s get this straight right off the bat: I’m no camping guru.
Even so, I’m going to write a list of camping tips that may (or may not) assist fellow campers whose experience level is similar to mine (= little). My geological-engineering boyfriend, Jordan Altekruse, on the other hand, has lots of experience backpacking and camping in all sorts of environments. When we went camping this past weekend, I advised him to take the reins.
This is my version of Camping for Idiots (I wanted to say Camping for Dummies, but, alas, infringement).
Take lots of beer, preferably Hamm’s.
There are multiple scenarios in which having an ice-cold Hamm’s is fitting, and there are some scenarios when it’s required. Camping is one such scenario, and “camping” is an umbrella term for a variety of related activities such as hiking, hammocking, sitting around a campfire, swimming in a lake or playing card games. All of those things can be done with a refreshing, malty beverage in hand or nearby. If you don’t drink alcohol, you could consider making fun mocktails, for which I know no recipes.
Paper towels are essential.
Paper towels are such versatile products. You can use them to start fires, blow your nose, wash your dishes, remove bugs and so much more. They’re maybe not great if you’re trying to reduce waste, but if you’re not an expert-environmentalist-camper-person, they’re a lifesaver.
Take a pair of flip-flops or sandals.
After a long day of hiking or swimming or whatever activity you’re doing, it’s nice to return to the campsite and strip off your active shoes. You can lounge around in flip-flops that go on and off easily when transitioning from outside the tent to inside the tent. If you forget a pair of slide-on shoes, never fear: I’ve discovered a way to make some. In Utah a couple years back, I crafted a pair of sandals from paper plates and duct tape. It can be done.
Airplane mode is your friend.
Altekruse says, “You’re not happy when you don’t have service, and neither is your phone.” Turn on airplane mode to save your phone from the constant search for service. That way, you save battery power to take photos to let everyone know how much fun you’re having. Or, maybe you’ll need some directions if you get lost, and if you happen to get service in the middle of nowhere, it can be quite important to have some battery power left.
Keep an open mind.
“Get uncomfortable and enjoy it?” Wise words from Altekruse. Maybe you haven’t camped much, so it might be out of your comfort zone. The question mark signifies the open-ended nature of the endeavor and your mindset: maybe you won’t enjoy it in the end, but applaud yourself for trying.
Pick out a flannel.
Essential. If you didn’t wear a flannel every day, did you even go camping? Some campers have a single, special flannel that they wear specifically for camping and other outdoor activities. Wear yours when “you plan on letting your outdoorsy flag fly,” Altekruse says.
I didn’t think of this one either (rolls eyes). If you’re on an extended trip, you may begin to long for home. Prepare for this moment, and comfort yourself with a Snickers. You’re not you when you’re homesick.
Be ready to barter.
When you don’t have familiar, readily available services, it may feel like an apocalypse is going down. Maybe you need directions to the nearest store. Maybe your car breaks down. Maybe you run out of bug spray. Maybe an actual apocalypse happens. You may need the services of nearby campers (if there are any). In exchange, you could offer your own goods and services. Just this weekend, a man asked for our leftover bug spray and offered $2 in exchange. Perhaps we made a profit. Help each other out.
What should you take?
Tent. Sleeping bag, blankets, pillows. Sleeping pad if you’re feeling extra. Chairs in case there’s no picnic table or bench. Sunscreen and bug spray (both highly essential items if you’re like me and burn after three minutes outside or have type O blood – mosquitoes love it). Cooler and ice. Food. Water bottle. Firewood. Hammock. Backpack for hiking. Hiking shoes. Swimsuit. Flip-flops (or your choice of sandal). Flashlight. Sunglasses. Hat. This is an intensely basic list, but it’s a start.
You don’t need fancy gear to have a good time.
Altekruse is right yet again. You don’t need a camper or expensive equipment to have fun camping. More adventurous folks could probably throw a few things in the trunk and just drive somewhere.