what you need to know for that first trip.

Find your destination

Don't assume you will find a spot available when you get to a campground without a reservation. The most popular campgrounds are booked months in advance for any long weekend. Do a search on the web. Back when we started, a search meant finding tourist information pamphlets and phoning each campground. these pamphlets are still a very good resource to find a new place. Nowadays you can do research on line for most campgrounds or parks.

plan your gear

How many are going? How long are you staying? What are your planned activities? How are you getting there and back? All these questions should be answered before heading out. The following is a list and tips of the minimum items you will need:
  • Tents can never sleep the number of people indicated unless the occupants  are all 5 feet tall and weigh 100 pounds. We are a couple with an 80 pound dog and we need at least a 4 man tent. We are comfortable with a 6 man. A single normal couple needs a 3 man tent as a minimum.
  • Sleeping bag rating temperatures are offset by at least 10C (32F). A -10C sleeping bag might be OK down to 0C if it's nearly new. If you are doubling sleeping bags for a cozy couples night, expect your partner to roll and grab everything. I suggest you  zip your side to prevent this.
  • Coolers need to be cooled somehow. You'll need ice or ice-packs to keep everything cool. Don't assume that ice will be available where you are going. If it's a long weekend and you get there late on Friday, you will probably not find any ice. Load up with ice before heading out.
  • Stove, stove fuel and a way to light it. There is nothing more heartbreaking than waking up in the morning with eggs and bacon in the cooler and no way to cook them.
  • Plates and utensils are a must, unless you want to cook and eat with your fingers or only have liquid meals.
  • Toilet paper or paper towels, need I say more.
  • Garbage bags, you ARE packing all your garbage back out aren't you
  • Pet food if you are bringing your pet. Otherwise you will have to feed them from your own food stock. This is not recommended if the pet is sleeping in the same tent as you. You will get either lots of gas or lots of waste (coming from either end).

Gather your gear 

Don't wait until you get to your destination to find out you forgot plates and utensils. Eating spaghetti with your fingers on the cardboard pizza box that you brought is not the way to go. Get your gear together a few days ahead and figure out what you are missing. Each trip can be different depending on your destination. A -30C sleeping bag is probably not needed if your only going for a weekend trip to a sunny and warm region. But it would be needed for a deep woods trip at the end of the season when snow is coming.

plan on your arrival time

Your first trip should be done in daylight. Setting up at night is not the easiest way to start your first camp out. You will never see that godforsaken root(or rock) that will rack your back out after sleeping on it for a few hours. BTW, you do know that you are only going to sleep for 1-2 hours on that first night don't you. And those few hours will only come when the sun is coming up and starting to heat up the tent.

pack out what you pack in

Every camper should leave nothing behind. All the garbage should be brought back out or disposed of in the campground containers. There is nothing more frustrating than getting to a beautiful spot only to find  that the previous campers left all their garbage behind. I'm definitely not an environmentalist, but I do have a lot of respect for nature. If you don't respect nature than stay the hell out of the woods! And this goes double to those "environmentalists" that are all on a "save nature" trip but are the first to leave a boatload of garbage behind thinking that nature will recycle it! A true camper that has respect for nature will leave no evidence of his passage.
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