Ahh, the peace and tranquility of camping in the great outdoors! There’s nothing like it. The fresh air, the sounds of nature, the beautiful lakes, and sleeping under a blanket of stars.
Oh, wait — don’t forget the biting bugs, the risk of getting lost in uninhabited wilderness, and the lack of toilet paper and running water. On second thought, maybe camping isn’t quite the summer vacation you had in mind. But, before you roll up your sleeping bag and pack up your cooler, give Mother Nature a second chance. Camping can be a great vacation option — and it’s fast becoming one of the most popular activities.
In fact, with uncertainties about the economy, falling home values, rising food prices, and a big decline in consumer spending, many people are looking to their own backyards for a “staycation” getaway — otherwise known as a more affordable vacation spent at or near home.
When you consider the fact that for less than the cost of a hotel room and meals in restaurants, a family can enjoy a weekend getaway camping, it’s not surprising that last year alone, nearly 33.7 million Americans chose to visit local campgrounds for backpacking, hiking and camping, while many others chose to pitch a tent right out their own back door.
If you’re one of the millions who’ll be roasting marshmallows over an open fire (or over the BBQ in the backyard), you may want to think about a few small investments that can make your camping experience memorable and fun without breaking the bank.
First, let’s talk about the most important piece of equipment for any type of camping excursion — the tent. It’s the staple of your outdoor stay — regardless of where you’re staying.
Tents can vary in size, shape, weight and price, and Dunham’s has something for everyone. From smaller tents like the Coleman Sun Dome and the Eureka! Apex 2XT, to a family tent like the Browning Cottonwood tents or the World Famous 18 x 10 tent, you’re sure to find one that will fit your needs.
Keep in mind, if you’re camping away from home, it’s a good idea to practice putting up your tent in the back yard before the trip. A dark rainy night is not the time you want to try to figure out which pole goes where!
Sleeping bags are also a necessity. You’ll want a bag that will keep you comfortable in different climates, so unless you plan to camp in the extreme cold, Coleman suggests a three-season bag that will handle temperatures that drop to about 30 degrees. That said, if you’re someone who likes to pile on extra blankets at night, you might want to opt for a bag that is colder-rated.
Regardless of where you’re camping, you’ll also need a place to cook your food. If you’re doing the backyard thing, your BBQ grill is a handy option. However, if you’re staying at a campsite, you’ll need to bring your own stove or use a grill that’s located on the premises. (While many sites do have grills for use, you’ll want to make sure to pack your own charcoal, lighter and lighter fluid.)
Speaking of cooking, you’ll want to make sure you have paper plates, napkins, utensils (disposable or metal), and of course, some sort of table to eat on. While most campsites have picnic tables available for use, there are several inexpensive folding tables on the market should you choose to purchase one. Again, if you’re roughing it in the backyard, your patio table will make a great picnic setting.
Flashlights, matches and lanterns are also important to have when camping. And, while you backyard campers can certainly use your porch light, an “official” camping lantern makes the experience feel more authentic.
So, now that you know the basics of what you’ll need to pack, have you figured out what you’ll do once you’re there? Well, here are a few suggestions to help make your family camping trip (home or away) a fun experience for everyone:
Make s’mores. Everyone loves them, and they are easy to make. Just toast marshmallows over a fire and then place between two graham crackers and a piece of chocolate.
Give your kids 10-15 minutes to go on a nature hunt. Have them find things like “the biggest green leaf,” or “the smoothest rock.” Gather back at the campsite and talk about what you found.
Play flashlight tag. Every player gets a flashlight and everyone runs around the yard — or campsite, hiding from the flashlight beams while trying to spot other players with flashlights.
Remember, with a little preparation, and the right equipment, camping can be an exciting, inexpensive vacation option for the whole family. So lace up your hiking boots, pack up the cooler, and get ready to enjoy the great outdoors. It will be a trip you’ll never forget.
Important tips to keep in mind when camping away from home:
Pack items that have multiple uses — this cuts down on the amount of gear you have to take. For example, a poncho packs easily and can be used as a rain jacket, a windbreaker, a ground cloth or a mosquito shield.
Wear comfortable shoes — a hike in the woods could turn into a host of blisters if your shoes are too tight — or not the appropriate material for the terrain.
Dress in layers — this way, you can take clothing off if you get too warm — and put it back on when the weather starts to cool off.
Always let people know where you are going and when you plan to return — chances are, everything will be fine, but if something does happen, someone will know where to send help.
Other things to pack:
–First aid kit (bandages, cold compress, calamine lotion, antihistamine, aspirin/similar pain reliever, antibacterial ointment)
–Plastic bags (storage for food, wet items, outdoor objects you find)
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