Check out my books on camping
There are many different levels of engagement when you’re camping. Anywhere between an epic adventure like Man vs. Wild or perhaps one where more creature comforts are brought from home. Either is fine as long as you can physically pull it off and afford it. The goal is to have a good time and enjoy your time. For me, I like to camp with a tent, I’m not an RV guy. I don’t mind taking a shower on the side of the mountain or backpacking in. Sometimes the best way to really see and experience a location is to backpack to the camping site. But, say my wife joins me, she prefers a larger tent, more organization, more creature comforts. If Connie’s coming, then what we bring changes and where we stay may change. For both of us to have an enjoyable time, compromises need to happen. Let’s talk about some different options.
Live off the land for a weekend.
One option would be to head out into the woods with a knife, some tinder, flint and steel, a waterproof jacket, and a wool blanket. The idea is to live off the land for a weekend. If you’ve got the skills to do it and you enjoy that level of difficulty, go and have fun! There are certainly people that thrive on this primitive I’m-gonna-figure-out-as-I-go-build-me-a-lean-to-in-the-woods-and-feel-close-to-nature type of thing. However, keep in mind your skills and your traveling companions. For example, if you are taking your five-year-old daughter and wife who have never been camping, it would be wise to rethink the details otherwise the trip will end quickly. And, the ride home will be the squirmy kind of uncomfortable.
Purchase an expensive RV for camping.
Another option is to head to your local RV store and buy a half-million dollar motor-home, don’t forget your checkbook. Now, you’re probably laughing and about to fall off the couch right now as most people don’t have that kind of money to invest in a hobby. Or perhaps you have the type of disposable income to make this dream come true. With an RV, you could spend a year driving around the United States. If so, enjoy yourselves and send me a postcard.
But honestly, most of us don’t have the means to pay for a million dollar motor home. So as we look at other forms of camping, be aware of what you can afford. If you want to participate in the RV lifestyle but don’t want to buy one, then consider renting one for your trip.
Camping shouldn’t involve stress over money.
Because stressing over money doesn’t equal fun, keep the scope of your camping trip and equipment in-line with your income. If you have to save for a hundred-dollar tent, instead buy the fifty-dollar option and choose the contingency of camping close to home in case a catastrophe happens so you can head home easily. People can enjoy different levels of camping, regardless of their financial ability. Also, consider borrowing supplies from family, friends, or neighbors. Once you decide you want to invest in pieces, you’ll know better what works for you.
Survivor Man versus backpacking.
These are two extremes. One is to hike the Appalachian Trail maybe something similar to doing the Survivor Man thing for five to seven months. For that epic trip, you’ll need to delve into other books to succeed. For this book, let’s talk about backpacking. That means you have what you need on your back, and you’re going some distance. It may be the whole length of the Appalachian Trail; but more likely it’s something like four miles through your local woods.
With backpacking, everyone will bring what they need for the jaunt in their pack. The goal is to have a lightweight and comfortable backpack and equipment that doesn’t weigh much. Consider eating dehydrated food as it is light. If you don’t take these suggestions into consideration you’ll end up hauling a fifty-pound pack instead of a twenty pound one for miles and miles. Trust me, the weight on your back will make a difference with each step. Backpacking isn’t for everyone and may be difficult to pull off with your family in tow, especially if this is the first camping trip.
This is pretty simple. All the things you need are in your car and you drive to the campsite. You unload a popup shelter or tent and a sleeping bag. You might have kitchen items to cook by the fire or you may choose to eat at local restaurants. Whether you build a fire or not, you’re experiencing the version of camping that works for you, so embrace it. I highly recommend this for your first outing, especially if you have a family.
Supplies for backpacking versus car camping.
Personally, I think there’s a good chance you will enjoy the outdoors. Which means that eventually you will end up with two setups—one for backpacking and the other for car camping. Backpacking provisions need to be ultra-light, whereas supplies for car camping can be bulky and perhaps less expensive.
You’ve got to right-size your trip with what your family wants so that camping is a successful experience. You may need to take several simple car-camping trips before progressing further. Or, your group may be content with this simplest kind of adventure. But, maybe it grows into more. Perhaps add a campfire to the next trip, or cooking over the open flame, or a longer more involved hike. The trick is that if it’s a family thing, go slow and let everybody ask for more so they don’t feel forced. I have found the biggest objection about camping is that people don’t want to get out of their comfort zone.
Which means bringing every creature comfort from home. There are different levels of glamping. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I glamp when we go to our place in the mountains because of the luxury items we haul with us. The over-the-top items we could bring are a super-big tent, which we’ll talk about later, a flat screen, an Xbox, a generator, maybe some gilded throw pillows. I’m sure you’ve heard of the glamping sites where you can go live in a tent that’s a lot like your house. They can even have air-conditioning!
Connie and I go “economy glamping.” We bring a ten by twenty feet tent. My choice would be much smaller, but it’s all about compromise. I want her with me and happy, so we’ve figured out what each party needs to feel comfortable for a weekend. That includes an inflatable mattress. We don’t wear shoes in the tent, which keeps it much cleaner. There is a small area designated for shoes and dirty clothing. We also have a cozy spot to sit down. These are things we do to make the clean up easier and the space more comfortable. Given these conditions, Connie will gladly come camping with me.
With a big tent, you have room for an air-mattress. In fact, a big tent will usually allow everyone to sleep under the same roof, which goes a long way to a good night’s slumber for all. The more comfortable you can make camping for your loved ones, the better the chance that your kids will want to have epic, hard-core adventures in the future.
Camping without camping, is it possible?
What works for your family? You can always stay in a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast that’s close by to your activities and then do day trips. I’ll argue that you’re not camping per se, but those day hikes and discovering waterfalls, will still get you outdoors. It will allow you to spend quality time with loved ones and set yourself up for those priceless moments with your family. If staying in a hotel and having day time adventures works, then do it!
What will work for you?
As you can see, there is a vast range of options for camping. Are you an RV kind of guy where you plug in at a campsite with power and air-conditioning and running water? Perhaps it’s going to be something simple, where you have a tent and minimal equipment and eat at restaurants. Or maybe you’ll go for something in between. There’s no wrong answer as long as you’re getting everyone outdoors and create those family memories.
What are my goals and intentions?
As you can see, the camping experience can span quite a range from a tent and a sleeping bag, to many of the creature comforts of home. Ask yourself:
- Where’s your comfort zone?
- What do you want to accomplish?
- How much effort do you want to exert?
- How much do you want to spend?
- How much time do you want to be at the site?
Getting everyone together to create memories.
The goal is you want to get your family outdoors and allow everybody to have a great time. Depending on if you choose an RV, a pop-up, or a tent, may or may not affect whether or not you have that priceless moment. I think with an RV you’re a little more separated from things. But people have different comfort zones. If the only way you can get your people to camp is to rent a pop-up or an RV for the weekend, then do what you need to do. You’re achieving some of your goal, everybody’s having a great time, and you’re creating family memories, which make it all worth it.
Don’t feel pressure if camping is new to you.
There’s no pressure to be Mr. Outdoors. Because if you’re the kind of person who has never been in the wilderness before, no one would expect you to build a fire with flint and steel and some cotton you pulled out of your pocket. Feel free to use matches. Keep it simple when you build your first fire, and maybe even your tenth. Later on we’ll talk about some of these other skills. But, my goal here is to give perspective on your different options.
Most of my camping experiences revolve around family trips or Boy Scouts. As a result this book really focuses on family camping. However, the same principles, skills, and knowledge apply to a single person or family. Maybe you are a single man or woman who wants to experience camping for the first time. You could be a widow or widower, or newly divorced. There are many people in lots of different situations that head out to enjoy camping. This book spends a lot of time talking about family interactions and considerations, but the skills and knowledge apply to a variety of life circumstances. If you don’t want to go by yourself, then consider joining an outing club. It’s a great way to go with a group and enjoy the camping experience.
Build up your skill set.
You may need new outdoors skills. Or perhaps it’s time to teach those techniques to your kids or spouse. You never know when you need to build a fire. Your car may break down in a place that has no cell service and the only thing to keep you alive overnight is to build a fire. Does this happen to everybody? No. But, the simple ability of building a fire could be a lifesaver. One reason to continue to camp regularly is to keep our skill set sharpened. This gives peace of mind and boosts confidence. Learning outdoor knowledge improves self-reliance that translates to other areas of life. These regular camping trips build a happier, well-adjusted, better-prepared-for-life family member who is more available to partake in those priceless moments.
It’s not a question of how rugged someone is. The question is what they want. Some people at different points in their lives simply don’t want to spend the weekend working hard outside doing camping stuff. Sometimes you want the fun component and not the work part. So instead of a tent and open flame cooking, they might choose an RV and restaurant food. Or perhaps they’d rather do something at home that weekend.
There are trips when Connie doesn’t come because I am hunting and I’m fine with that. Sometimes it’s nice to be on a solo trip, or a trip with the guys. It’s an opportunity to go with a smaller tent and do different activities. The point is to keep the perspective that there are a lot of ways to get a win out of camping—backpacking, economy glamping, hunting backpacking are just three. They all have their pluses.
First trip could be a solo one.
If you are unsure about camping for the first time with the entire family, then consider just going solo, or with your spouse. Then bring the kids on the next trip Camping can be enjoyed in lots of different scenarios from the whole family going, or individuals without children going solo (or with a group), or situations where only one parent takes the kids.
The key is to figure out what works for you, at this time in your life, with whoever is going camping with you. Don’t feel pressured to be Mr. REI, because that won’t make you happy and it isn’t what your loved ones are looking for. Kids are seeking quality time spent with Mom and Dad. Your spouse is looking for the same thing. Leave your pride and ego at home. Camping is about those priceless moments.