When I think about my first cross-country trip as a 21-year-old, traveling with a girlfriend the same age, armed with a AAA Trip-Tik as big as an encyclopedia, a list of camping sites and youth hostels, a box of mix tapes, gear bought at the discount Army-Navy store and not much else, I am both in awe of our adventurousness and retroactively terrified for us.
Camping has come a long way since then! Those were the days of pay phones, not cell phones, paper maps, not Google Map and asking people for restaurant recommendations, not Yelp.
We made it to California and back, with no real mishaps. Of course, we made a few minor mistakes — hello, sliding down a mountain in our tent in a rainstorm and almost sinking our car in a lake in Utah because we parked in soft sand — but these are the stories we look back on and laugh.
Since that epic trip, I’ve camped many times, and every time, it’s a learning experience.
As the weather warms up and couples start to make vacation plans, camping might be one of the options on the table.
For women who have never camped before and may be doubtful that they’d even consider sleeping outside a “vacation,” never fear! There are plenty of ways to make it fun, enjoyable and, dare I say, comfortable.
Prepare to exit your comfort zone. Here are some of my favorite travel hacks. Who knows? Maybe you’ll become camping’s newest fan.
Choose Your Site Wisely
There is no need for your first camping experience to be an off-the-grid, wilderness journey, where you are bushwhacking miles to a remote spot to set up camp. There are plenty of places to camp that offer some facilities yet feel like you’re authentically experiencing nature.
If the thought of not having a real toilet is a deal-breaker, find a campsite that has bathrooms and showers.
That said, campers should always pack flip flops, toilet paper and a flashlight for trips to the bathroom, all for obvious reasons. I actually prefer a head lamp, so you can have your hands free. Enough said.
Be Smart in Setting Up Camp
I don’t care what your app says, or, for that matter, what your partner says, about the proper way to set up your tent. I have been burned more times than I care to admit due to rushing, laziness or complacency.
Always, always put down a tarp first and then put your tent on top of it.
Always hammer down all the stakes to secure your tent in case of wind.
And, always put up the fly (the part of the tent that shields you from rain).
Do these things every time you camp. Every. Single. Time. Trust me on this.
Another handy thing to do is bring a doormat, which you can place outside the tent for your shoes so you don’t track dirt inside.
Don’t Be Ashamed of a Blow-up Mattress!
If the thought of sleeping on the ground is simply out of the question, a blow-up mattress is the answer. Inexpensive air mattresses can be found in shops everywhere and many come with battery-operated pumps (or you can purchase one separately). An air mattress can make camping an entirely different experience and one that is quite comfortable.
If you don’t bring an air mattress, definitely bring a sleeping pad. You need something else between your sleeping bag and the ground.
My final piece of advice is to make a list. There is nothing worse that being somewhere remote and realizing you forgot a can opener, or worse, a wine opener!
Consider every single thing you need, from utensils for cooking breakfast to soap to wash up with. When you have all of those little details nailed down, you truly can appreciate how much fun camping can be.
And, well, if your first camping adventure turns out to be your last, there’s always glamping!