By Brandi M. Seals
Whether you have never been camping a day in your life or you did it once in awhile as a kid does not really matter. If you are jonesing to get back to nature and spend some time in the wilderness you need to know what you are getting yourself into before you take one step into some tree-filled forest.
Before you even decide where you want to go camping, you will want to pick up your basic camping gear at an outdoors outfitter. Generally that means picking out a tent, some lanterns, and a sleeping bag. However, each person is different. Your dream camping trip may take place in a campground right next to a big city or along a trail 6 miles from the nearest road. There are inherent differences in the supplies needed for these two different approaches to camping. The key is that if you want to backpack, you will need to invest in extremely lightweight materials and keep your supplies to a minimum.
For those looking to visit campgrounds, you may want to consider stocking up on the following supplies:
A Tent -
Get whichever tent your heart desires. Keep in mind that a manufacture's listed capacity may not be the same as your own. Let me explain. Although a tent may be labeled for 6, it may only fit 4 once you add in your belongings that will be sharing the space with you. Generally the manufacture's suggestion is a little low for anyone who likes a little space between himself and the person sleeping next to him.
On a side note, those that wish to backpack should keep in mind that you will have to carry the tent you purchase. You will want to invest in the smallest, lightest tent that will meet your needs. However, try to get a tent that can easily blend in with nature. Shoot for those that are green or blue and avoid bright colors like reds and yellows. Other backpackers may not light to see their fellow travels from several miles off. They tend to like to enjoy nature as if no one else is there.
Camp Stove -
Many campers like to cook on a camp stove. They generally run on propane and can heat up quickly. They are also easier for first time campers to master than the art of cooking over an open fire or using coals.
Sleeping Bag -
Sleeping bags come with different temperature ratings. Those that say 30 degrees mean they can keep you warm at temperatures of 30 degrees and up. Decide when you will be camping and where you will most likely be. If you live in the South and plan to camp in the summer, there is no need for such a warm sleeping bag. Opt for one rated for 50 degrees. Just take the average temperature of where you will be into consideration before you buy a sleeping bag.
Buyers will also choose from mummy style bags or a traditional style sleeping bag. Those that will be in cooler climates and who will backpack will probably prefer the benefits of the mummy bag. If you plan to cuddle up with your husband or wife, opt for the roomier traditional style sleeping bag.
Everyone using a tent will want to have a tarp on hand. Lay it out under the tent to block out moisture and to prevent sharp sticks and stones from making holes in the tent floor.
Sleeping Surface -
Campers can choose from multiple types of sleeping pads, air mattresses, and cots. Backpackers will need to stick to sleeping pads as the others are too hard to transport. But everyone else can find what suits them best.
If you plan on bringing anything perishable with you, you will need a cooler. Same holds true if you plan on catching some fish. While a giant cooler may sound grand, keep in mind that they can get awfully heavy. Try to find a cooler that can hold approximately two days worth of food for you and your family. That way you know your food is fresh and will stay cool.
With these basic camping supplies in hand you are ready to set out for your first camping adventure. Don't go too crazy the first time out. Make it a short trip close to home in case you run into any unforeseen problems.