State Park Camping Overview for Beginners
With all of the unknowns of 2021, most people are all ready thinking ahead on how they can get out and enjoy themselves yet practice social distancing. Although there are many people who don’t enjoy being one with nature, there are roughly 40 million people who do camp each year. With that being said there are many ways to enjoy camping, and in this article I will spend time talking about camping in a state park.
If you’re looking for a fun and exciting adventure, but not too sure where to start I highly recommend camping a night or two in a state park. State parks are usually very reasonable in pricing. The average cost per night for a regular, primitive camp site is between $20-30 a night. A primitive site is a camp site with no running water or electric. These sites are perfect for a tent and have a fire ring and some also have a grate that can be used to cook hotdogs and hamburgers. A primitive site price can increase over holidays or certain times of the year. If you have any questions there is usually a DCNR website for the particular state park where you can ask questions prior to arrival. The website also includes a section where you can decide between several different sites types and an area where you can do your reservation online. Most times, if scheduling a reservation you will need to create a login and set a password. Upon doing this you will be able to see all of your reservations that have been made past and present.
Continuing on the types of sites that you can reserve many parks have other types of accommodations as well. Many have small rustic cabins, yurts (a large canvas shell that resembles a large tent) and larger cabins. The rustic cabins are usually just a shell with a bed or two. Many do not have restrooms or running water. These are perfect for campers who love to camp yet don’t enjoy sleeping on the ground. The smaller rustic cabins usually sleep a maximum of 3-4 people. We always enjoyed renting a smaller cabin when it was just the two of us and no kiddos. Perfect for a small weekend getaway with your loved one. You’ll need to bring all of your bedding and essentials. We always bring a sleeping bag to use on top of the sheets as well since the mattresses usually aren’t the greatest.
The yurts are also a very fun option. These are made of heavy canvas, and are larger with an open space with no room divides. Usually a yurt contains a type of bunkbed, and also a smaller bed which is usually similar to a futon. I always said the yurts are the closest thing to camping outdoors and having the true camping feeling. These accommodations fill up quite fast and you usually need to reserve these at the beginning of the season when the campgrounds open. Most state parks that have the yurt option, will also require at least a two night stay in the off season and possible three nights during the prime season. You will need to bring all of your linens, cooking supplies, and obviously personal items. During the summer and warmer times you will be able to use a fan inside the yurt but there are no AC units. Our girls absolutely love the yurts. It is a very fun option for when you want the camping feeling yet still want to camp. Yurts do not have restrooms. Yurts tend to be on a loop with other yurts and will be close to bathroom facilities in the campground.
Most state parks also have a larger cabin accommodation. Depending on the state park they can sleep up to 6-8 people. The larger cabins have electric, running water, and are more like “glamping.” With these accommodations you will once again need to bring your own bedding and your personal items. We also tend to bring a small bucket of items that includes: paper towels, toilet paper, dish soap, sponges for dishes, towels and washcloths, soap, shampoo/conditioner, and any items we will need for cooking such as utensils, pots, and spices. Although Most larger cabins have a smaller kitchen we also bring a cooler with ice to keep items. The larger cabins will have a small bathroom and will be located near restroom facilities in the campground.
State parks also tend to gravitate and have special programs for boy and Girl Scout groups and larger groups of people such as church groups. The site accommodations are usually larger areas on which many people are able to camp together. These sites are very large and are designated to certain spots throughout the campground.
What To Bring:
When we camp in any campground whether it’s a privately owned or state park, we always bring everything we can to make the weekend a little easier. Just remember depending on the type of site you are staying will determine what you will need. We always bring our essentials. Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, and all personal items. I always try and think “what do I need and use daily when I get ready for the day, and what do I need for the kids.” Remember that the bathroom facilities are usually nice but plain. I always try and take my bucket (listed above) and try and bring minimal yet essential items. We always bring a shower shoe or sandal. Always check the weather and dress and pack accordingly. Remember that state parks are going to have hiking trails and bike baths. So make sure to bring comfortable clothing and bring comfortable sneakers/boots. One staple that we bring no matter what time of year is bug sprays and sunscreen. Depending on what type of year we’re having the bugs can be really terrible at times. I always keep some in my hiking backpack. Bring a water bottle for long hikes or if your staying at a park with the smaller beach areas. Some parks that we have stayed at are very nice and have a small snack bar. But like with everything else the prices tend to be higher.
As far as food, we have always done the less is more approach. Bring things that won’t go bad quickly and are fast and easy to make. When we go camping we love to bring the regular camping food like hot dogs and beans. Bring a can opener and small pan if camping primitive. We are a family that enjoys cooking over an open fire. I try and only bring what we need. Obviously with having small kiddos, snacks and drinks for them, but items that won’t need to be refrigerated or frozen. Bring spices and things from home. Packing a larger cooler filled with drinks for the weekend which also includes things like cheese and lunch meat for fast meals and quick easy cleanup. Paper plates and cups as well as utensils. One thing I’ve found that helps me with meals is bringing the small aluminum dishes that you can get at the dollar store. Prepping before hand meals that we can literally take out of the cooler and throw over the fire, and easy cleanup. I will be doing a blog post on fun camping food ideas soon.
Some of the other essentials we bring very regularly are :
*First Aid Kit- We always check before we leave the house and make sure it’s filled with essentials
Backpack for hiking
Axe or something to split firewood (Please note all states are different but most do not allow you to bring in firewood of your own and require you to purchase firewood at the office.)
Extra small propane bottles if cooking with small cook stove
Tarp- We always bring a tarp for extra coverage especially if in a tent
Old newspaper or some dryer lint to help with starting a fire if need be
Lantern or light source for walking at night
Bug Spray- I know I all ready mentioned this but this is a big one
Hat- I always pack a hat for us all. Depending on the time of year (once again) ticks can be bad. I also pack long pants and or a long shirt for this reason as well.
Bring a telephone charger and keep your cell phone battery full. You never know when you may need to use your phone for an emergency.
People used to laugh at me when I told them I always carry mace or defense mechanisms. Being a woman and having kids, my husband isn’t always with us 24/7. I am over cautious most times but I always bring things along to ensure safety.
Always bring trash bags, or something to throw trash in. Do not utilize the fire ring as your trash can. The next people that come to the site don’t want to have your unburned trash in the fire ring. There are many areas throughout the campgrounds in which you can throw your trash out.
Camp chairs or folding chairs for when you’re sitting around the fire.
Games for the kids and “big kids” to play and stay busy. We keep a deck of cards in our camper at all times.
Compass for hiking
Griddle for cooking and a small fold up table or card table for your supplies.
There are so many essentials that people consider their everyday needs. Just remember you’re camping in the woods so you’ll need things that will help you during your weekend stay.
There are always people in the campground that you can ask questions to. These people are called camp hosts. The camp hosts are usually located at the end of each road/street. Their sites are always well marked with a “camp host” sign. If the camp store or rangers are unavailable the hosts are trained to help you. We always enjoy speaking to the hosts as they are full of information and can tell you about the surrounding area and things to see and do. Don’t ever feel as though you are bothering them. That is why they are there, to help.
State parks are a very fun way to learn about your surroundings and nature. They usually have so many things to do and see. If you book at a state park with a small beach or lake they usually also have many fun things to do such as boat rentals, kayaks, and canoes. These rentals are usually an extra charge but reasonable. It’s also a fun way to learn something new for both kids and adults.
Again I highly suggest booking a stay at a state park if you can.
They are so much fun and reasonably priced, and a great way to spend time with family without the technology. Great for family bonding.
Watch for my next blog in which I will be talking about fun camp foods and meals, as well as campground reviews in the future.