With planes and big crowds out of the question, 2020 is *the* year of first-time campers. If that’s you, thanks for flattening the curve even on vacation, and trust us, you won’t even miss that fancy hotel. (Well, maybe a little bit). Now it’s time to start packing, checking off lists, and making sure you know how to set up a tent — it’s harder than it looks.
If you’re an experienced adventurer, you’re already well aware of the joys that come with the original social distancing activity, but it never hurts to have a camping refresher.
Decide on a Camping Destination
As long as travel restrictions and social distancing rules are in place, that bucket-list trip to Mt. Everest (#roofoftheworld) will have to wait. Plus, you probably want to start with something that won’t cost you thousands of dollars.
Local state parks are great for camping beginners. You’d be surprised at how many hidden gems there are in each state; California has 118 state parks, and even Kansas has 55 (who knew?!). Find a list of parks and their camping rules here. If you want to go bigger, National Parks are a great choice. (Or, you know, you could always pitch your tent in your backyard to first decide if you even like sleeping outdoors.)
Get Your Camping Gear
Picking where to hike, camp, and be all outdoorsy is the easy part. After that, there’s way, way more involved. Don’t own camping gear? It can get pretty pricey. Ask your outdoorsy friends if you can borrow some of their stuff, especially if you think this camping trip is a one-and-done-type situation. If all your friends are more city than country, local and regional outdoor outfitters will usually let you rent everything from stoves to tents to hatchets.
Not sure what the hell you’re supposed to bring? Here’s our complete checklist of camping necessities. Pro tip: It’s also a good idea to actually know how to use that gear before you head out and don’t have a cell signal. So practice putting up the tent, turning on the stove, and balling up that hammock to make sure it fits back in its case.
Choose Your Camping Clothing Carefully
You’re not going to be wearing tons of sleeveless tanks if you’re backpacking in the middle of winter. So, pack accordingly. Think light materials in summer, layers in winter, and quick-drying items year-round. We always like to overpack things like socks and undies … just because.
Good shoes are a must on any camping list. Even if you don’t need super-rugged, fancy hiking boots, make sure you have a closed-toe pair of tennis shoes, if only to avoid poison ivy when you’re making a middle-of-the-night bathroom trip.
Plan Like a Pro
There’s nothing more delicious than s’mores with charred marshmallow oozing all over everything. But your camping trip food has to involve more than marshmallow and melty chocolate, or you’re going to end up seriously hangry. Do what you do at home (unless that thing you do at home is winging it): Come up with a meal plan you can actually cook, and pack some protein-heavy snacks.
Make sure you bring more than enough food — but not so much that it weighs you down — just in case. Keep perishables (eggs, cheese, fresh fruits and veggies) in a small cooler, and aim for easily portable snacks (nuts, beef sticks, trail mix). Just make sure you follow local regulations to keep bears and raccoons from eating it, too!
There’s nothing like sitting next to a crackling fire while star-gazing at the sky. And the sound of nature? It’s pretty cool, too. And, hey, if your camping adventure involves a nice cabin or a five-star hotel on the edge of a state park, that’s OK. You do you. No matter where you’re headed, adventures await!