Camping is a lot of fun, but not all who want to go are ready for the experience. There is a world of difference between spending the night in a shelter called Hilton than in spending the night in one called Coleman. For this reason I think we should discuss what is actually needed to spend some time camping out. Since I am going to be writing this for those who are not seasoned campers, or for the parents out there who would like to take their children camping and enjoy some quality time, we are just going to go over the basics. The essentials of camping gear consist of pretty much just shelter, something to sleep on and things to eat. The quality of the equipment you purchase will depend on your budget, your experience and if this becomes more than an occasional hobby.
How to choose a tent
Unless you have an RV or rent a cabin in the woods, you are going to have to bring along your own shelter, this is usually a tent. In the beginning you probably will not have to worry about the weight of things you are getting for this adventure as most beginning campers mostly just throw their gear in their cars and take off, more often than not camping within a few yards of their vehicle. Choosing a tent has a lot to do with where you live and the weather in that area. When you get into advanced camping in more remote areas, weight, strength and material will make a big difference but for now we can go cheap and functional. For relatively inexpensive tent you need something that can battle the elements such as wind, rain and have fine mesh screening to keep out evil bugs such as mosquitoes and noseeums. You will have to decide on how many people will sleep in the tent so you know to buy one large tent or a few smaller ones. If you are carrying them any distance smaller tents are much lighter.
When choosing a sleeping bag, again we are going to consider you as a car camper and not be overly concerned about weight, but you need to decide on what temperatures you are mostly likely going to be sleeping in. Many people I know buy sleeping bags that can handle harsh winter temperatures yet they only camp in the summer months. Just get an inexpensive sleeping bag that you can use as a mattress if it gets a bit too warm for you. A sleeping pad is a good idea as it can make it quite a bit more comfortable when sleeping on the ground in a tent. I have friends that will merely use a very cheap pool air mattress. But as your abilities and distances that you hike to your chosen spots increase you will seriously want to consider durability and weight.
What food and equipment to bring camping?
Sitting around a campfire is one of the best ways to share quality time with your family and friends, but hotdogs and marshmallows on a stick will just take you so far, so you should have an idea of what equipment and utensils are need to actually do some campground cooking. As a beginner, make it easy on yourself; a small charcoal grill or propane gas grill will be just fine. Don’t try to cook over an open fire as it really does take practice, and even those who hike to remote places prefer to pack miniature gas stoves for cooking. But since as we keep mentioning, you will be near your car a cooler filled with ice and some hotdogs, hamburgers and perhaps even a juicy steak will hold all you need. If you really want to get into the camp cooking mode you can try bringing along a pot and some utensils and try cooking your own stew. If you need to think about what type of utensils to bring you maybe should consider staying at a motel 6 near the woods!
One thing many people who don’t often get the chance to camp forget is that if you are not camping in an area that has a community bathroom or shower you need to bring your own, toiletries such as toilet paper! You should also think about a portable table and folding chairs. You do not want to make your first few camping trips so uncomfortable that you don’t want to go again.
Car camping is the easiest form of camping; you can bring what will make you comfortable and not worry about having to carry it to far. This means take plenty of water if you are not sure if there is running water available and some lanterns that will help alleviate the fear factor after the sun goes down. Take your time learning what works for you and what doesn’t. If you find you have outgrown your current gear you can always sell it on outdoors gear websites such as OutdoorsBid.com and get new equipment more to your current abilities and needs. But the most important thing is to make it very simple and easy at the beginning so you can just go out and have fun!