How to go camping: Part 1 – Introduction

I’ve recently noticed a disturbing trend. On Monday mornings, people ask me what I did over the weekend. I tell them I went camping, and they say “Oh, I’ve never been camping before.” I find this absolutely incredible. Occasionally, they decide they’d like to try camping sometime, and ask me where to buy a tent.

Running off half-cocked to the sporting goods store is a sure recipe for unhappy camping. So, I thought I’d write a series of blog entries explaining how to go camping for complete novices.

First off, let’s define what camping is, and what the point of it is. Camping is when you go outside and sleep over. The point of camping is to escape from your house. Your house is full of all sorts of bullshit that you’re better off without, at least for a short time. There is television, phone calls, bills to pay, leaky faucets that need fixing, Facebook, etc. The point of camping is to say “fuck all this bullshit” and get the hell away.

This is an important thing to remember when you’re deciding what to bring with you on your camping trip. The more stuff you bring, the less you’re getting away from.

You can’t get away from it all if you bring it all with you.

Bring as little as you need to be safe and comfortable for the conditions you are likely to encounter. The more time you spend setting up and tearing down your campsite, the less time you have to actually be camping.

No Campers!
Do not buy a camper. This is worse than not camping at all. Now you’ve got a whole other house full of bullshit to worry about.

I think it’s best to imagine a mythic, idyllic camping trip that requires absolutely no gear at all, and work your way up; only bringing the gear necessary to mitigate problems that are likely to arise when the real world differs from camping paradise.

The Idyllic, Mythical Camping Experience:

  1. It never rains.
  2. There are no mosquitoes.
  3. The ground is as soft and comfortable as a feather bed.
  4. The overnight temperature is warm enough to sleep naked with no blankets.
  5. The forest is full of fruit trees and wild berries, so you never have to cook or do dishes. Bears will not try to eat your dinner.
  6. You never have to go poop.
  7. You are a Zen master — totally content to sit and commune with nature. You never get bored.

The Real-World Camping Experience:

  1. It sometimes rains.
  2. Sometimes there are mosquitoes.
  3. Sometimes the ground is hard, cold, and/or lumpy.
  4. Sometimes it gets cold at night.
  5. You’re probably going to get hungry, and hungry forest creatures might try to steal your dinner.
  6. You will have to go to the bathroom.
  7. You might get bored.

In the Idyllic camp-out, you simply walk naked and empty-handed into the wilderness, sleep on the ground, and walk home when you’re done. You need no equipment at all. In the real world you will probably need one or two pieces of gear.

Not to worry, though. The problems presented by the real world require surprisingly little equipment to mitigate. My kit for an overnight trip in the woods weighs about 20 pounds, and fits in a small backpack. I can carry essentially the same kit in my bicycle panniers, or in the bilge of my kayak.

I’ll go over what you need and when you’ll need it as we go along.

Next up: What if it rains?

5 thoughts on “How to go camping: Part 1 – Introduction”

  1. Not overpacking is so important. It can really make your camping experience a nightmare as you have to unpack, deal with, and then repack everything. If you need to pack a TV, air mattress, laptop, and on and on, then camping might not be for you. Camping is all about roughing it for a while. What you lose in general comfort and technology, you gain in simplicity and connection to nature.

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