I’m aware that this is my first article, so before the paparazzi finds this skeleton in my closet, I’m going to openly admit it: I’m an avid hiking, backpacking, disc golfing, kayaking, sleep under the stars outdoors man who somehow fell in love with a girl that’s not any of those things. This isn’t to say that she’s completely set against the idea; since we started dating, I’ve taken her canoeing and hiking and she’s loved it as much as I have. But we’re approaching that big hurdle: The first camping trip.
For anyone that has ever taken a new camper on their first camping trip, you want this camping trip to be as near to perfect as possible so that the first won’t be the last time. The problem is the balancing act that takes place. Close enough to not be too long of a drive, far enough away to be out of the ordinary. Enough wildlife to keep it exciting, but nothing that makes them squeal in terror (or views the new camper as a snack). Weather that’s warm enough to take away any fear of hypothermia, but not so hot that you can cook eggs for breakfast by cracking them on a rock.
Here’s the problem: rarely do the conditions that add up to the “perfect” camping trip ever align at the same time. Which means that the perfect first camping trip turns into the “typical” camping trip. A “typical” camping trip means that something has to go wrong if for no other reason than it gives your story an extra edge for when you get back home. The thing that goes wrong doesn’t have anything really major like a troop of survivalists holding you up for your last bag of GORP; little things add up quickly, but if you think ahead you can get by without any hassle.
A perfect example of thinking ahead saving a trip was the annual Birthday Backpacking trip 3 years ago that my Dad and I went on. The weather was supposed to be 70 degrees in Shining Rock Wilderness Area, but as a precaution me and my dad packed extra winter clothes just in case the weather was a little iffy when we got there. Sure enough, we parked at Black Balsam with near whiteout conditions, temperatures in the teens, and winds gusting around 20-30mph. We threw on the extra clothes, and started hiking. On the way, we passed a college couple who obviously hadn’t thought about bad weather; I’ve never seen two backpackers move faster then when they’re wearing only a ¼ zip fleece and running shorts on in an ice storm.
Now if we hadn’t thought ahead and packed extra warms clothes (which we would have just left in the car if we didn’t need them), we would have had to turn tail and head home and missed out on a trip that we’ll talk about the rest of our lives. You can always leave the stuff you might need in the car, and if you don’t need them them you can just leave them under the seats. So even if the nights aren’t supposed to be below 60, I still pack an extra warm jacket because invariably there’s always one person who can never get warm no matter how hard they try. (*cough-my girlfriend-cough*)
The number one rule for camping, especially with a new camper, is that there is no cheating in camping. Instead of playing Survivor Man and starting the fire with a bow drill, take an instant fire log and 2 boxes of matches; more likely then not the new camper is more concerned with cooking their smores to the perfect golden brown color instead of practicing skills for the upcoming apocalypse. If it’s going to be a little warm and you are in a campground that offers electricity, bring along a box fan or two with an extension cord. We’ve done this countless times on camping trips and it’s perfect for blowing mosquitos away from you while relaxing around camp or for cooling you off on those warm summer nights.
My view on camping is that you do whatever you find the most enjoyable: If wrapping yourself up in a tarp and hiking 25 miles in a day is your idea of a good vacation (because camping is your vacation) then go out and do it. At the same time though, if you want to camp with a 40′ motor home and that’s what you find enjoyable, more power to you. I fall somewhere in the middle: I like to get away from it all, but with enough comforts to where I don’t have to rough it unless I want to.