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How NOT To Go Camping
Stage 1 - Packing and Planning
I had gone camping many times in my youth, both with my family and on my own as a Boyscout and later as a teenager. This however was my first experience camping as a parent, and being the ONLY experienced camper on the trip.
Going off of memories from more than fifteen years ago I was trying to recall all the things I remembered taking with me.
Enough canned goods to feed a small army for two weeks.
Enough waterproof matches to start three hundred and seventeen fires.
Lanterns, trash bags, hatchet, can opener, the list goes on and on. But in my haste and strain attempting to recall all of the items I skipped several crucial steps which led me to my first two mistakes.
RULE #1 -Research; If you don't know exactly what you should take with you, do some reading on the subject so that you can be well informed and therefore, well prepared.
http://www.4x4campingsite.com/ has some great advice, and a list of all the "camping essentials". You should also take what terrain you're going to and use that as a guide of what you might need.
Mistake #1 - Because I was going on memory (distant memory) and intuition, I forgot about several items that would have been invaluable in the woods. Such as a tarp so that you can cover your eating area, or a gallon jug with soap tied to the handle for a hand washing station.
RULE #2 - Make a list of all your camping gear, and lay them all out to ensure you have everything when packing.
MISTAKE #2 -We were just taking things out of bags and packing them directly into Rubbermaid containers and travel bags. So we learned the first night at camp that we had forgotten some very crucial, but thankfully not critical, items. Such as the can opener, and diapers. Now there are ways around the can opener dilemma, there are other ways of opening cans, they just all take more perseverance. Diapers on the other hand, well, let's just say that at least we picked a campsite that wasn't too far away from town.
DON'T FORGET THE CAR!!
Rule #3 - Don't forget that your vehicle needs to be in tip top shape before going off into the wilderness. Get your vehicle inspected (AAA has a cheap trip inspection plan). Make sure you have a roadside emergency kit, spare tire, fix a flat, etc.
Mistake #3- As soon as we pulled into the campsite area we realized that one of our tires was low. There were a few back roads and dirt roads that were taken (not necessarily the way we needed to go, but that leads me to my next tip/mistake). This being a new van, I expected a spare tire to be mounted underneath the back, or under a pull up panel in the rear. (never bothered to check) SURPRISE, I didn't have a spare. Oh yea, and I loaned my can of fix-a-flat to a neighbor a few weeks ago. We were lucky enough to have enough air in the tire to get to town and pull into a service station before it started riding on rim. $120.00 later, and I had a shiny new tire, hooray, time to go camping.
What's That Daddy? Why Honey, We Used To Call That A Map.
Rule #4- Get a map! Most everyone nowadays has a GPS. That's all fine and good in a large metropolitan area. But guess what. There isn't any service in the middle of nowhere. I know it may seem old school, borderline barbaric, but when you're lost and have no bars on your GPS you'll thank me.
Mistake #4 - If there is one universal truth to the world, is that most people are absolutely terrible at giving directions. Twice on this trip I was given directions to places that didn't exist anymore. And after about a half an hour on a dirt road to nowhere I was kicking myself for not buying that $6.00 road map.
Always Lock Your Windows And Doors When Going Out
Rule #5 - I don't know about you, but (being from New York) this was a lesson that was drilled into my head like my parent's were trying to brainwash me. Every door and window had to be checked before leaving the house. And I know, right now you're wondering, what does that have to do with camping?
Mistake #5 - If you're leaving your camp site for any length of time, don't entrust the job of zipping up the tent windows to your children. About two hours into our visit with some friends it started to rain. Not thinking anything of it at the time we continued our day. Three hours later we returned to camp only to find a flooded tent and most of our belongings soaking wet. A $10 pack of paper towels, $20 at the laundromat, and we were all dried up and ready to go to sleep (at 1:30 in the morning)
Well, after that it was smooth sailing. Got to kick back and get back to nature. We all had fun, and we're already planning another camping trip for next month. Hopefully we can learn from some of our mistakes, and maybe if you heed any of the advice I've given, you're trip will have no mistakes at all.
Be Smart, Be Safe
Be Aware, Be Prepared
Always Pack Out MORE Than You Bring In
Have Fun And Enjoy This Wonderful Planet We Call EARTH.