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Camping for Beginners: What You Need to Know to Go Camping and Love It

by Jan Schroder
woman camping with dog

Confession: I compiled all these tips for camping for beginners for myself as I seem to be overturning my life-long no-camping policy. This despite the fact I generally ascribe to my kindred spirit who said, “Camping: The art of getting closer to nature while getting farther away from the nearest cold beverage, hot shower and flush toilet.

Here’s how it started. “Let’s go camping,” my husband said. “Look at this cute Airbnb,” I said. It worked. He wanted to spend time at property we bought at Lake James, North Carolina, so we stayed in a darling cabin 10 minutes away.

It had the following things: kitchen, bathroom, bed, air conditioning. I know enough about going camping to know these things are not found in a tent.

He knew I wasn’t a camper. Early in our relationship he said, “When was the last time you went camping in a tent?” After a few seconds reviewing my scouting career, I said, “That would be never.”

One year he asked me to go to Bonnaroo, a big annual music festival attended by 80,000 people in a big field in Tennessee. A majority of them are camping out and he was planning on doing the same.

“So you sleep in a tent with no shade and no easy access to running water, electricity or bathrooms and you’re surrounded by tens of thousands of people 24 hours a day. Which part of this sounds like me?”

I managed to keep my no-camping record, craftily warding off all suggestions that I abandon my policy. Until lately.

Maybe it’s because I’m a sidelined travel writer who misses waking up with a different view that has opened my mind to the possibility. Or perhaps it’s because I miss shopping and there are so many fun things to buy when contemplating a camping trip. (See our related story on camping essentials if you’re camping for the first time or just need a few ideas: Camping Gear for Beginners: What You Need For Sleeping, Cooking and Hanging Out)

Whatever the reason, I’m now open to trying something I’ve successfully avoided for my entire life. A big believer in research, I set out to do my own the best way I know for this type of thing. By crowdsourcing.

I received hundreds of first-time camping tips, several stories on camping mishaps, warnings not to go and suggestions that included, “Get a new husband.” One woman credits surviving her camping trip to “Jesus and tequila.”

I learned camping basics like how to keep wildlife away, how to light up your campsite, how to find good recipes and how many items should be on my list of demands for my husband.

I’ve also included a few stories from camping experiences that didn’t go so well and why some people are scarred for life by the experience. You’ll find those in the Just Say No section. Enjoy our guide to camping and wish me luck!

Camping for Beginners: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

dogs lying inside tent
Margie Swope shared her tent set-up, which includes personal bed warmers.

• Bring an air mattress.
This was by far #1 tip from dozens of people, considered non-negotiable by many campers. Although there were a few people who prefer cots as being more comfortable and allowing for storage of items underneath.

Mary Thompson warns that you should keep your air mattress far from the campfire. “Our first night of camping I was sitting inside the tent on the air mattress with the door open, maybe six feet from the fire. The fire popped, a spark hit the mattress, the air mattress deflated, and we spent the following nights sleeping (or rather not sleeping) on rocks.”

• Put a mattress cover or a foam pad on top and a sleeping pad on the bottom.
An air mattress will take on the temperature of the air outside and can be cold so it’s good to add an extra layer to keep you warm. If the ground is cold you will want a sleeping pad for the same reason.

• Put on clean clothes before crawling into your sleeping bag.
This will help keep your sleeping bag smelling nice.

• If it’s clothes, put your clothes for the next day in the sleeping bag with you.
Leah Stansbury shared this tip. “That way, when I quickly get dressed in the morning, the new clothes are warm. There’s not much worse than freezing cold underwear and socks.”

• Get a tent large enough to be comfortable in.
“I demanded we get a bigger tent than the 2-man pillbox my boyfriend was trying to squeeze us into,” Theresa Conway said. “He thought I was being ‘extra’ and it was the best decision. It was nice to have the space for our queen-size air mattress and all our bags and coolers even if it took a little longer to set up.”
Sandi Bowen said, “A pup tent is only suitable for a puppy.”

2 tents on dock
My husband has been sleeping in the tent on the left. When I said I would try this thing called “camping” he bought the one of the right. This is the dock where we will be for my first camping trip, which will happen when the weather gets cooler.

• If you’ve never used your tent, set it up at home before you camp.
That will ensure you have all the poles and pieces you need and also that you know how to set it up, according to Mitch Leff. “There’s nothing worse than trying to figure out how to set up a tent for the first time as the sun is setting on your campsite.”

• Small tents are better when it’s cold. They retain heat better.

• Sleep in socks and bring a wool hat that ties under your chin to stay warm.

• Think about the one thing you need most to sleep well and bring it.
My brother Greg Richey shared this story. “When Connor was little, we often went camping by the Russian River on the Sonoma Coast in California. This was car camping with a vengeance. We eventually required a dolly to wheel all the boxes of our gear to the campsite, and our approach became more like setting up a luxury base camp on a safari.

“We had a queen size air mattress and a portable kitchen. Maybe not altogether roughing it. From the deep recesses of those memories I have not entirely suppressed, I recall that everyone has different critical needs. What is the thing that you most can’t live (and especially sleep) without: figure that out. For me it was pillows. Of course with a queen bed it was not much of a stretch to toss in a few pillows.”

Best Camping Tips for Navigating Your Campsite and Hanging Out

campsite to demonstrate set up for camping for beginners
Here’s our setup! That big room fits a guest blowup and I take real sheets and comforters for glamping or I just don’t go! We cook for several days and freeze and use dry ice and eat from top of cooler down so food stays fresh while traveling. – Dorothy Walker

Several people, including my brother, recommended finding a Sherpa to carry all the gear we’ll be schlepping along. Judy Bass also had another good suggestion, “My best suggestion is to go with other people at first, preferably experienced campers who have all the gear!”

• Take bug spray.
This was probably the #2 tip I got when I asked how to camp.
“Don’t wear hairspray, perfume, or anything likely to attract bugs,” Hope Philbrick said.
“Depending on location, learn to accept the scent of 100% DEET into your life. Your bed, your food,” Greg Richey said.  

Sue Campbell suggested using BuzzAway if you’d prefer the non-DEET route. “It’s most effective and won’t kill you.

• Check the water levels around you.
Sandi Bowden suggested checking to make sure that cute creek doesn’t rise in the night. “It makes for a very damp morning. Also make sure that the cool Army surplus sleeping bag does not have a creepy crawly the size of Texas in it.”

• if you don’t have electricity get a power charger to keep your electronics charged and for an air pump if you use one.

• Take comfortable camping chairs and a camping table.

• Take a camping hammock.
A hammock is fun to relax in during the day and may even be an option for sleeping in if the weather is good.

campsite with hammock
A hammock is a good addition to a campsite. Photo by Haley Albers.

• Always have a dry pair of socks.
“Keep these in your sleeping bag and do everything you can to make sure it never gets wet,” said Kate Hamm.

• Check the restrictions regarding fires and bans before leaving.
“This is one of the best parts of camping,” said Jennifer Evelyn. “Taking wood, axe and paper/lighter fluid and something to spark the fire with are essential.”

• Make sure you have enough light.
We are taking a lantern, head lamps and some LED lights that can hang from the tent. And just for fun, some solar-powered color-changing wind chimes.
“We bring Christmas lights to string up around the campsite for lights,” Margie Swope said.
Allison Gillis Brownlow had this suggestion, “If camping with kids, glow sticks from the dollar store make great nightlights in the tent.”
My brother Greg Richey recommended the headlamp flashlight. “Once the sun goes down, it gets rather darker than most of us city types expect. Not having to use hands to hold a flashlight at night helps more than you might imagine.”

(See the headlamps we purchased along with other basic camping gear in our related story: You Need These Things for Your Next Camping Trip.)

JoAnna Voyles Davis fancies up her campsite. “Years ago I got a little chandelier and as silly as it sounds and looks it’s the perfect way to add light inside the tent.”

• Bring tubs or boxes to haul things to your campsite.
“After our first camping experience we bought rolling Rubbermaid tubs to haul things from the car to the campsite to avoid four hundred trips and to make things easy to find,” said Allison Gillis Brownlow.

• Wear comfortable shoes with good tread.
“If you’re planning to get your feet wet, buy a pair of Keens or Tevas, as they dry easily,” said Dana Marcellus Hardesty.

Kate Hamm’s campsite in Patagonia, Chile.

• Create your list of demands.
Hope Philbrick offered this advice. “Make your husband promise you at least three things before you leave the house. (Make your own list of demands. Mine would include the fact that I do not assist in tent assembly, I do not wash dishes in the river or lake, and I do not protect him by serving as bear bait.)

• Have your husband set everything up for me.
“My first camping experience our friends completely set up everything for us, said Dominique Budgen. “They said they wanted us to like it from the start and not be frustrated/turned off camping before we started. Maybe suggest to your husband he set it all up while you are off elsewhere enjoying yourself. You’ll arrive when the wine is ready to be drunk and steaks ready to be grilled.”

This may be possible as one of his best friends is an experienced camper and his wife, our friend Laura, said, “I have so much camping experience and I love it. But it is easy to love when you have Tom Calk because he knows how to do everything. I can mostly sit on my chair with my feet in the river and drink wine and water color.”

• Put a tarp over your tent to extend your shelter if it rains.

• Take a fan
“Get a battery operated camping fan if you won’t have electricity. Tents can get very hot during the day and if it’s hot at night it will help with sleep. It can also help to keep the flies away while sitting outside,” advised Maria Myers.

• Think about where you put your shoes.
I got a lot of different advice about where to keep your shoes at night.
“Leave your shoes outside pointing away from the tent entrance so you can keep the tent clean and slide them back on first thing in the morning,” said Lisa Rotell.
Judi Engbers agreed and said if it may rain, you can slip them inside a plastic bag.
Others said it’s better to leave them in the tent so they don’t get wet and to keep a pair by your bed for nighttime bathroom trips.

• If you have a pickup truck you can pitch your tent on it.
Jackie Ames and her husband camped with their pickup truck. (photos) “Having the bed in the pick-up bed is much nicer than being on the ground. And the other tent works as a living room/ dressing room/ utility area. We get a site with electric so we can have a fan, microwave, charge phones. It’s pretty good!”

Best Camping Tips for Food and Cooking

• Prepare some food beforehand.
Do as much as you can at home, like chopping vegetables and preparing marinades. You can also pick up prepared foods.
Laurie Rowe said, “I’ve only been glamping once, so am in no way a camper, but the prepared meals from Publix were great – like the kabobs.”
Jennifer Lukich said, “I pre-make a lot of stuff to just throw on the grill or campfire and make pasta salads that can be eaten any time. Here are some great recipes to follow. 
DoAnn Bui Carreth said, “Take premade foil packet meals (throw meat/veggies/seasoning in foil, wrap up and place in cooler until you’re ready to cook over fire.) Fajitas are super easy with this method and it makes cooking/cleaning easy.”
“Preplan your meals and freeze what you can. It will keep other stuff cold while they defrost,” said Kelly Cerveny Conrad.
Leah Stansbury said, “Bring the first meal already cooked or at least prepped, so you can set up camp and eat without having to worry about cooking right away.”

• Cook your own hot meals as much as you can.
“Food always tastes better when it’s cooked in the woods,” Mitch Leff said.

• Find good camping recipes by searching for one-pan camping dishes.

• Take a small camping stove.
While some people cook over campfires, others prefer a small stove. Chris has a two-burner stove that we’ll be using at least to make coffee in the mornings. And maybe some other things if I add them to my list of three demands.

campsite with camp stove
Isn’t it impressive Katie Schmidt make popcorn on their camp stove?

• Bring all the kitchen that you can fit.
“Nothing is worse than not having a good knife, paper towels or kitchen soap, etc. Also, bring a clothesline,” Toni Werner said.

• Bring more food than you think you’ll eat.
“I’ve found that while camping, I’ve gotten more hungry and thirsty than I thought I’d be,” said Sarah Jane.

• Put a tarp over your eating area.
You’ll have protection from the sun and the rain during preparation and dining.

• Secure your food.
If bears are an issue you need to keep your food in a bear box, if supplied, or if you are car camping, keep all your food in the car when you aren’t preparing or eating a meal. However, if there are a lot of bears, lock your car doors! Bears can get inside and destroy your car.

“Here in Alaska bear protection is a must and you NEVER put your food inside your tent,” said Christa Huf. “Seriously, don’t do it unless you want a very big and furry visitor in the middle of the night!

 “Be SURE to secure all your trash and food before going to bed or you’ll wake up in the middle of the night to critters helping themselves to both,” said Ruth Sykes. “And trust me. Coolers that zip or even latch closed, if left outside, don’t count as ‘secure.’”

Melanie Wirken McClintock learned this by experience. “We headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains for the weekend with a cooler full of good food and drink. After we set up camp, it started to rain lightly so my husband went back to the car to get us rain protection. As I sat by the fire, I thought I heard my husband return. When I turned toward the noise, I saw an adult brown bear that was interested in our closed cooler. I screamed as I watched him pick it up, turn it over and drop it on its lid to open it.

campsite with two tents
Stephanie Taylor sets up two tents – one for sleeping and one for hanging out.

“Three young soldiers camping in the area came to rescue me. They were followed by my husband who then proceeded to throw rocks at the bear who eventually left. After cooking and returning the cooler to the car, we went to sleep in a tent. The bear returned looking for food. We packed up and went home the next day. Did very little camping after that but kept the red Coleman cooler with the bear claw scratch marks on the top, which was a great conversation piece at picnics in future years.”

• Take a spare snack.
Kim Schneider learned this the hard way. “My then fiancé (now husband) and I tried tent camping along a gorgeous river bank. We swam in the current then made a fire and got ready for dinner. He took care of the food. The one packet of ramen noodles might have been plenty had we not tipped our single burner camp stove. Good for a relationship to always pack a spare snack!”

• Make a fun banana snack.
This came from Dani Schroeder, “Bring aluminum foil: slice a banana longways in the peal, fill with chocolate chips and/or peanut butter chips, wrap in foil and put directly in the fire coals for a couple minutes. Be careful opening as it’ll be hot but it’s delicious!”

• Go gourmet. And don’t forget the Champagne!
Bringing the right food can change the experience. Sharon Quaintance said, “I was once a reluctant camper, but my husband Tom made the process fantastic with great equipment and fantastic food. Steaks, baked potatoes and corn are easy with a firepit. He also brought caviar, cream cheese and Carr’s crackers with Champagne. It was glamping before that was a word. We always did s’mores after dinner.”

campfire with roasting peppers
Debbie Reed sent this photo of them roasting peppers on a grill.

I wouldn’t have thought of Champagne, but I was one of many suggestion to take alcohol. No worries there – we’ll make sure to have gin, wine and beer. I’m thinking of starting a tradition of a nip of Fireball before retiring for the evening. As Hope Philbrick said, “Sleep is optional while camping, but alcohol is not.”

Maria Carola echoes those sentiments. “I always enjoy the taste of fine wine under the stars.”

And Jennifer Evelyn had other uses for it. “Copious amounts of alcohol is great especially if the trip ends up a mosquito ridden infestation – alcohol solves all problems as well as a great first aid in disinfectants and resolving pain.”

One of the Top Camping Basics: Always Be Prepared for Bad Weather

Maria Carola’s tent has a tarp over it to protect them from the rain.

Writer Dave Berry said, “It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against, prevailing winds, for the opportunity to rain on a tent.” No matter what the weather calls for, you should always be prepared for rain.

• Bring extra tarps and raincoats.
“I’ve never been camping when it didn’t rain,” said Maureen Burke. “Also bring layers as it may be warm during the day and cool off at night.”

• Don’t touch the ceiling of the tent.
Butch Cooper said, “My first camping experience, probably when I was around 8, was at summer camp. We slept in an Army surplus tent. They told us the main thing is if it rains, don’t touch the ceiling. It poured and my tent mate prodded the ceiling. I never like camping.”

• Bring a shovel.
Nick Wolfcale shared this tip. “I remember camping with my dad, a WWII vet, at Smokemont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. He dug drainage channels around the base of our tent. That effort paid off as we had lots of rain.”

Be on the Watch for Wildlife

bear getting into trashcan
Never underestimate the ability of a bear to break any barriers when it comes to food.

I got warnings about bears, skunks, snakes and ticks. Along with the warnings were a lot of practical tips.

Although I don’t believe there have been many bear sightings at Lake James, I did read a story about a woman who was doing yoga by the lake and said a bear walked up and licked her neck.

Chris has concocted his own plan when sleeping on the dock at night. “I have the kayak right by the tent so if a bear comes, I’ll jump in the kayak and paddle away.”

• Don’t be too worried about bears but bring something to chase them away.
Ed Wetschler says not to be concerned about bears. “Bears are not your enemy. Unless you’re standing between a bear and its cubs, just yell at a bear and it’ll trot away. Save your fear for ticks that carry Lyme disease.”

“Put a few rocks in a water bottle to scare them away,” advised Dawn Marie Seeley.
Jeannine Hutty said, “Bring noise makers in case a bear does show up. My aunt banged two pots together and they ran away.”

Patty Carrillo agrees with the pots and pans. “I camped on an active volcano once and was visited by the camp bear one night. Didn’t sleep the rest of the night. Lesson learned, take pots and pans to bed with you to scare off the bear.”

• Watch out for skunks runs when you set up your tent.
Fran Kaplan said, “On our first outing as young marrieds, we borrowed a pup tent and managed to pitch it in a skunk run. All night long they were brushing past us. Luckily, no one got upset (except us, totally clinging to each other while freaking out inside the tiny tent). We loved the experience anyway and became lifelong campers.”

• Learn to tell venomous snakes from non-venomous snakes.
Mason Barge suggests taking a large tube of prescription strength cortisone ointment and some pepper spray. (He also suggests making sure our wills and powers or medical directives are up to date.)

Mitch Leff said, “If you’re getting close enough to a snake to see what kind of eyes it has or the shape of its head, you’re probably already too close! Just back away.”

Tips on How to Handle Hygiene for First-Time Campers

hand washing station at campsite
Danielle Morales always sets up a hand-washing station at her campsites.

• Bring lot of baby wipes and hand wipes.

• Set up a hand-washing station.
Danielle Morales always sets up a hand-washing station for her family when she camps.
Suzanne Jordan suggests buying a large water container with a spout. “It’s like having running water you can cut a hole in the top and reuse it.”

• Get a solar shower.
Chris said he used one at Bonnaroo and it made a big difference in how he felt to wash the dirt off. My brother Greg Richey also suggested a camping shower as an easy way to wash your face and hands.

• Bring a bar of natural soap if you are staying in the woods with no running water.
That tip is from Cassandra Ott who said, “Expect to get dirty! And stay dirty until you get home.”

Lucy Holstertron Holt said, “A small shallow dish washing bowl that you can fill with water from the kettle and a flannel for a quick body wash is handy. Start with your face and move down. Makes you feel a bit less feral if you’re going away for a while.”

• Put dirty and wet clothes in a pillowcase so they don’t get sour.
I bet you remember what sour clothes smell like, right?

• Take a portable toilet with biodegradable bags.
“A pop-up tent and portable toilet with biodegradable bags makes it better,” said Laura Schilling.

How to Select the Right Campsite for You

woman and dog at campsite
Marisa Altieri at her campsite.

Think about what you need for your camping experience. Do you need access to a shower and bathrooms? Do you want to car camp or go hiking? Do you need to be near stores and restaurants or looking for a remote location?

See our related story: 2 Ways to Find Your Dream Campsite/Yurt/Cabin/Farm Stay. We recommend two fabulous ways to find camping spots on public and private lands.

Here are a few more recommendations.

My absolute favorite is Grayson Highlands State Park in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, near Mt Rogers. Wild ponies! Need I say more?
– Judy Bass

I love camping, especially in national parks. Here’s one on the best campsites I’ve had. I even have a blog post about camping in national parks for beginners.
– Lori Gay Blalock

Stay at established camp grounds that have toilets, showers and electric outlet.
– Mary Williams

The campground itself is key. We loved Dinosaur Valley State Park outside Dallas because the children could be left to explore with the instruction “Don’t cross the road or the river.” In summer the river was about 4 inches deep, so enough to cool off but not drown. We also liked Blackrock Mountain in North Georgia.
– Sharon Quaintance

The few times we camped we chose campgrounds (with hot showers and flush toilets) by rivers in our favorite national parks.
– Mimi Slawoff Mendelson

I judge a campground by their bathrooms and showers. There are some great campgrounds in National & State Parks too.
– Beth Casey Murphy

The best camping is when you’re out of range of cell towers and the internet. Oh, and camping near a lake is awesome. We recently camped on West Point Lake in Georgia. You can’t beat waking up to that view.
– Mitch Leff

Go to Cloudland Canyon [a state park in Georgia]. It’s beautiful up there with hike-in campsites, ones with parking, and even yurts.
– DoAnn Bui Carruth

I’ve done a camping tour in Africa. Not the most glamorous but it’s much more affordable and you see the same scenery and animals as people who paid a ton more.
– Jacki Jiao

I love tent camping! I stay at state park campgrounds since they tend to be quieter.
– Stephanie Taylor

Just Say No and Never Again

funny note about camping

There are several things I’ve found to be polarizing. One is cilantro – while some people love the flavor others think it tastes like soap. Another is gin. We love it but find some people can’t stand it. My late mother-in-law used to say, “Gin makes people mean!”

It seems camping is similar in that I got a lot of pros and cons to camping, with lots of passion demonstrated on both sides when I asked for tips for camping for beginners.

I got a lot of advice to stick with my no-camping policy. Shira Crittendon helpfully supplied a link to the St. Regis Atlanta. Allison White Postell said, “Just make sure your tent has a bed and indoor plumbing and you’ll be fine!”

Fran Folsom said, “Over the years I’ve camped many times and am not doing it again. Now, my idea of roughing it is no hot water at my hotel.”

Susan McNeal Ballou falls into the Scarred For Life By Camping category. “In college, my bff & I thought it would be fun & an easy A to take the ROTC survival class ­ BIG MISTAKE. The “highlight” of the class was a camping trip two states away. Did I mention that we had to hike up a mountain & pitch our own tent in pouring rain? Our tent collapsed in the downpour. Never again will I go camping – I’ve been scarred for life. I didn’t even get an A in the class – I got a B just to add insult to injury.”

Allan Lynch said, “The last time I stayed in a tent it had a glass shower tube, mahogany furniture and room service.”

tent at campsite
Photo submitted by Lori Gay Blalock.

Cathy Enright suggested having a reservation at a nearby hotel as a backup.

Sherri Messersmith said, “I loved to camp when I was young. After hitting 40, I love NOT camping!”

Erica Chandler said, “I have paranoia about sleeping somewhere that I can’t lock a door. I’ll sleep in my car before I’ll sleep in a tent.”

“I love hiking, hate camping… low maintenance. Husband loves camping, hates hiking. So basically in order to do either, we need to do both,” said Tawnya Petrie Shumway. “I am too f*%*ing old to sleep on hard cold dirt anymore (blow up mattress does crap), freezing to death. And I refuse to set up, cook & clean… BS as I can do that at home!”

“My idea of camping is the JW Marriott without feather pillows. Hate camping,” said Mary Bergin.

campsite by creek
Doesn’t Kristen Fishel’s campsite look inviting? Do you think it would change the mind of anti-campers?

Erin Callahan Bara isn’t a huge fan either, “Camping in general isn’t terrible. Hiking to the middle of nowhere and camping gave me PTSD after we got stuck in a storm that three people died in (not part of our group) and we had to squat in lightning position for hours in the middle of the night. Also not a big fan of having to dig a hole when you have to use the restroom.”

“I hate camping and only agreed to it with a camper recently. I will say a comfortable chair matters and instant lattes are not that bad. Sitting in the morning with a latte in a comfy chair and a blanket is actually super nice,” said Anna Kulseth

“Oh, never ever go camping in Wales with English people,” said Sandi Bowden.

 “Even my English hubby had to bail after two nights. Having said that the US has a lot of lovely campgrounds but you might want to check availability of nearby hotels in the case of creekside incidents.”

Wendy Guarisco said, “I used to love camping in my youth, and then I watched one too many ‘Datelines’ about serial killers in the woods and I haven’t been back since.”

Because I posted my request for tips mentioning that my husband wanted me to do this thing called “camping,” I also got some unsolicited relationship advice, including one suggestion that I divorce him.

My friend Bruce Cohen just wrote, “New husband?”

Susan Nicholson said, “OMG, how awful. Is he trying to kill you??” while Keith Ivey said, “Have you considered finding another husband? Spend a weekend in the wilderness and you might find this a worthy idea to ponder.”

Jennifer Price felt my pain. “Noooooo! LOL. I married a camper. We once went on a hike in a marshy area and hubby got a chigger bite in a sensitive area. This bite got infected and he had to have the pus removed. This area now flares up with pus every couple of months. We haven’t been camping since.”

Susan Lanier-Graham is in the Just Say No Camp. “Run. Just say no. I spent the first 15-20 years of my marriage camping. I hate it. I can’t pretend otherwise. So he goes camping and I stay in a hotel. Lol.”

Hazen Dempster helpfully posted a link to a book called “Sex in a Tent: A Wild Couples Guide to Getting Naughty in Nature.” Sierra Magazine’s review: “Being dirty and talking dirty gloriously commingle in this guide to coupling in the great outdoors…”

Parting Words – Memories, Advice and Encouragement

campsite with car
Cindy Wren Marshall’s campsite.

I camped in a swamp, pooped in a hole, survived by the grace of tequila and Jesus.
– Sarah Jane

Take a sense of humor, a willingness to persist through some discomfort/lack of ease, and pragmatism to know that sometimes it’s okay to calling something off if everything goes wrong.
– Leah Stansbury

Don’t let kids over indulge in s’mores or they might vomit all over the interior of the tent 10 minutes before you all go to bed. Especially exercise caution if you are allergic to air freshener that you just sprayed in the tent to rid the smell of vomit or you could end up in serious trouble.

Definitely take games, hammocks, campfire materials, and books because once the sun goes down and you can no longer hike or swim it’s still quite a while until you want to go to sleep and you end up creating memories you will have for life. Don’t be afraid to leave the rain cover off and enjoy the stars, sleep outside in a hammock, or even throw a blanket down on the sand at the beach and listen to the waves all night.
– Raylene Gill

I’ve been camping forever. It feels good to leave to comfort of home and sleep outside. Just embrace it and you will have a great time.
– Haley Albers

I’m 58 and have enjoyed camping all my life. Keep an open mind and explore the great outdoors!
– Dana Marcellus Hardesty

I thought I would hate to camp but it’s wonderful solitude.
– Christine Fodor

Christa Huff at campsite
Christa Huff and friends.

Take good gear and a positive attitude.
– John Waddy

My husband introduced me to camping very early in our relationship. I am a big fan and we have spent many long weekends and even full weeks camping with our children who now have a lifelong love of camping.
– Gayle Terry

Just remember that everyone does camping a little different and remember to pack all of your essentials. Most importantly, try to enjoy the peace and quiet the wilderness can bring and just have fun!
– Christa Huff

My boyfriend loves camping. I had never done much of it, but since we can’t travel right now, we went for it. We just got back from an AMAZING week camping. We rented a converted sprinter van and then camped in the Finger Lakes in NY, in Grand Isle State Park in VT, along the Saco River in NH and then in Bar Harbor, ME.

We stayed in the bed in the van half the time, and the tent half the time. I had such a great time. I made sure that the campsites we rented had good bathrooms and definitely brought a few fans with me so I didn’t get too hot. We had a great time hiking, kayaking, reading, etc. I wouldn’t have changed a thing, except for maybe buying a better cooler and bringing a few more beers.

I didn’t know how it was going to go. But the van helped a ton. It was cool in there, we could stand up and change, etc. I’m used to staying in nice hotels so this was new for me. If I can do it anyone can.
– Caroline Maguire

carolyn maguire and friend at campsite
Carolyn Maguire said, “If I can go camping, anyone can do it.”

I love camping! Typically I will backpack/camp in the backcountry but car camping has its place and can be much more comfortable … even “luxurious” with the right set up.

I’m pushing 43 and still love camping, so many beautiful spots. I often do it alone or with my dog. I hope you enjoy it!  
Marisa Altieri

I lay in my poofy bed with a down comforter and wish I was somewhere in a tent. Enjoy it!
– Jennie Freed

I love camping but found a couple of summers ago when we primitive camped, that I love running water and flush toilets even more. Choose campgrounds with decent amenities like showers and toilets, you’ll thank me.
Judi Engbers

Have fun, don’t get nit-picky and most importantly learn how to set up the tent. Happy camping.
– Genefa Paes

I have fabulous memories of camping in tents, then later a pop-up trailer. One vacation was camping around Lake Michigan, starting in Indiana, then North following Western Michigan, crossing Mackinac Bridge, along the Southern shore of the Upper Peninsula, then South into Wisconsin. My mom was a magician in planning, organizing, and preparing three meals a day for all five of us. Camping is a connection to nature … it’s where you can see the immense beauty right in front of you. Or in my case, usually on me. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t pass up the opportunity. You’ll love it.
– Susan Phillips

I’ve started doing so much that I never did in my 20’s – too busy partying and too tired next day to live the life I should have. Just had a weekend of swimming In the Atlantic, hiking a mountain and doing part of the Irish Camino, I’m wrecked as it was bit rainy with misty days but I felt so alive it’s like a second life. I started bits of camping in the last few years. If you make sure to have right equipment it’s super. Go for it. Start a new beginning. (I’m 62 this year)
– Carmel Bergin

I love camping! Go in with an open mind – nature is beautiful and you’ll find things you haven’t seen before.
– Kyla Melberg

Nikki Williams Locky shared this photo her children on a campout.

Have gone camping for years! It’s always an adventure…things NEVER go as planned and you just have to laugh and figure it out! Don’t get frustrated and make the best of whatever comes your way. I’ve been in storms with literal rivers forming under the tent, trees falling around us, bears rummaging through our camp. Days when the best you can do to cook food on the fire results in disgusting mush but you’re so hungry you eat it anyway, getting lost on hikes, etc. BUT we ALWAYS laugh about the trip afterwards. Some of the BEST memories. Enjoy natures peacefulness and have fun!
– Dani Schroeder

I’m not the biggest fan of camping in a tent, I definitely prefer and enjoy car camping! I’ve car camped from Montana to Arizona to Louisiana to North Carolina throughout October and November on BLM land. Never paid for a site, just had to find places to shower (Planet Fitness memberships come in hand for this very reason).
– Stormy Weiss

My mom and I used to take the ferry from Galveston, Texas, to a beach and camp in the back of the truck. We would watch the sunset, then wake up early the next morning to see the sunrise. Then we would spend the whole day at the beach, build sandcastles, swim and collect seashells. She passed away many years ago, so I cherish those memories with her.
– Sarah Jane

Embrace the wilderness!! Take out what you bring in! And leave it better than you found it. If you see stuff left by someone before you, please put it in its place.

Then, eat awesome food. Bring battery-powered string lights and set them up around your site for a little more home-y feel. Bring a cozy blanket to curl up in around the fire. Bring a good pillow. Lastly, bring a good attitude and you will love it!
– Laura Doucette

tent light up at night
We don’t see stars like this in the city. Raylene Gill shared this spectacular photo of her tent under the stars.

I love camping but made the mistake with a few friends to go cheap for a one-week trip with an inexpensive tent. Our first night was super windy and rainy. As the tent was very unstable it was literally lying on top of us the whole night and we got very wet!

In the early morning we wanted to pack up. As soon as we got out of the tent to take it down the wind started blowing and our tent flew away and landed about 20 meters away in a river.
– Thalia Schollmeier

My first camping trip I asked my hubs where the plug was for my electric rollers. A hotel room was found for the rollers. That was also my last camping trip.
– Con Kel

Have fun and remember that it’s 100% okay to be smelly (especially if you smell like smoke because mosquitoes don’t like that as much). Enjoy!
– Debbie Reed

I wouldn’t go. Keep safety in mind always. Established campgrounds for facilities and safety in numbers. Watch out for wild animals (usually attracted by food), and mentally unstable humans. Always have a plan for defense in case of emergency.
– Kathryn Chung

I took off on a 45-day road trip from Indiana in a Jeep Grand Cherokee and I had NEVER tent camped before when I left the house. Best 45 days of my life.. Missouri, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Canada, Montana, South Dakota and home.
– Cindy Wren Marshall

There you have it, our best tips for camping for beginners from experienced campers. I feel like I’ve learned what I need to know to go camping. I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

– Jan Schroder, Editor-in-chief

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3 comments

Christine G. Tibbetts August 7, 2020 - 11:18 am

Comprehensive investigative reporting!

Reply
Jan Schroder August 7, 2020 - 2:53 pm

Thanks – stay tuned for first-hand experience now that I’ve done my research!

Reply

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