Camping 101

Camping has become a very popular activity in recent years. And it’s not just a “pitch a tent and rough it activity” anymore. Camping can be as simple or as luxurious as you like and your budget can afford.

When people think of the word camping, most conjure up images of sitting around a campfire watching the wood crackle and pop while toasting marshmallows and making s’mores. You’re often with family and friends, enjoying casual conversion, laughing, and having a good time.

Camping is very relaxing. There’s nothing quite like packing up your vehicle with your camping gear or getting your RV ready for a road trip to a favorite camping destination where there are open spaces, blue skies, fresh air, breathtaking scenery, lots of nature to take in, trails to hike and bike, and maybe some water to fish or swim or boat in.

For many families camping is an affordable and fun vacation. And it’s easy to find family friendly campgrounds. For example, I live in Wisconsin and Wisconsin state campgrounds mandate quiet time after 11 pm, which means partiers have either party somewhere else or do it very quietly after 11 pm. In addition, no indecent profane activity or language is tolerated at any time so camping in a state campground is always family friendly. And it’s reasonable too.

The camping fee for one night at my favorite state campground in Wisconsin, Peninsula Park State, is less than $20.  

 

Themed camping has become popular recently too with campgrounds holding special themed weekend camping packages such as Tex Mex, Christmas in July, Mardi Gras, Trick or Treating weekend, family weekend, and Fear Factor events to name just a few. There are also many camping clubs around the country where groups go camping together, often creating their own themed weekends to make things more fun and interesting.

Campgrounds are working to cater to more than just families though. There are many biker friendly campgrounds available too where groups of motorcycles can find secure places to park their bikes, pitch their tent or motorcycle popup camper, and enjoy themselves.

Even though I love camping now, I didn’t always love it. My first camping trip was a disaster. It was a college camping trip with three other girls. None of us had been camping before and had no clue what we were doing. But people told us it was fun and we were young and thought we knew everything so we borrowed a tent, a couple of sleeping bags, a cookstove, a cooler, marshmallow forks, pudgie pie makers and off we went. Our first two hours at the campground we were the entertainment for the campers across from us. Then they took pity on us and came over and set up our two tents in five minutes (the ones we had spent two hours not being able to set up). It rained most of the weekend and we had failed to bring any ground cover (no bottoms in the tents we had) so our sleeping bags got wet and our tents got wet because we didn’t have tarps. We ran out of gas for our stove and got the wood for our campfire wet so we had to eat sandwiches most of the weekend. After that trip I swore I would never go camping again.

But six years ago, my brother and sister-in law convinced me to give camping one more try. I said I would but I refused to go tent camping even though I know there are much better tents on the market today than there were 20 years ago. So my husband and I rented a tent camper for the weekend. We loved it! We had so much fun. Camping was relaxing. Instead of rushing around we had time to go for walks, have long leisurely conversations with our own family and with my brother and sister-in-law’s family. It was great.

The following spring, after checking the camper classifieds for a few weeks, I was the proud owner of my own used camper, a Coleman popup that I love. But I hope to trade up to a 5th wheel in the next couple of years. Every spring my sister-in-law and I go to the local camper show to look at campers and pick out the one we would love to own someday. Our favorites are the Class A Motorhomes. They are luxurious! I would probably have a hard time dragging myself outside because they are so nice. But they also require a hefty investment.

When looking for a camper or RV, or just seeing what the options are, a camper show is a great place to look. You can see up close all the different types of campers and RV’s available including: Class A Motorhomes, 5th Wheels, Toy Haulers, Tent Campers (also called Folding Campers or Popup Campers), Truck Campers, and Motorcycle Campers from the major manufacturers including: Winnebago, Gulf Stream, Airstream, Palomino, Kodiak, Hornet, Challenger, Coachman, Jayco, Coleman, Fleetwood, Forestriver, and Starcraft, plus many others. In addition, there are representatives there from private campgrounds in the area and companies showing their latest camping equipment and camping gear. And if you need any camper parts for your existing camper you can usually pick those up too.  

One of the things I like best about the shows is the extra personnel the RV and camper dealers have on hand. They are typically RV and camper owners. They are a great source of information and tips on what to look for in a camper. For example, I used to think I wanted to purchase a travel trailer. But after talking to one of the extra personnel at the show who owned a 5th wheel and who had previously owned a travel trailer I changed my mind. He said the 5th wheel offered much better stability on the road, especially when driving on freeways. And it wasn’t just something was saying. It was something he had experienced.

One thing to remember when you plan a camping trip is to have a camping checklist. That way you won’t forget any necessities and find yourself in the middle of nowhere without something you need. A common thing that people forget to take is extra batteries for their flashlight or lantern.

Although it’s advisable to make your camping reservations ahead of time (essential if you plan on camping at any of the popular state or National campgrounds during peak seasons), sometimes you just don’t know where you’re going to be on a certain day. Although many private campgrounds have openings if you get there early enough in the day, sometimes you may find yourself without a place to park your camper or RV for the night. If you are going to be traveling without making advance reservations, take the time to find out the places to camp for free. For example, many WalMart stores (although not all of them) will allow people to park their RV or camper overnight in their parking lot.

Camping is a wonderful experience. And one of the best part of that experience is the other people you camp with. The people you meet at the campgrounds are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They are friendly and helpful. If you are trying to back your camper into you site, they will come over and help guide you in because they know how hard it can be. When they pass by your site while on their way for a walk, they’ll stop and say hi. It’s one of the many things that makes camping so great.

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