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Camping 101: Things to Know Before You Go

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

Summer is almost here! With all the warm weather and all these great outdoor spaces to explore after being cooped up inside all these months, camping is going to be a great way to get away this year. Unless you're Montana, then it might snow this week.🤷‍♀️ If you're just starting to get into this camping thing it might be a little daunting to know where to start. So here are a few things to know before you go.

Where are you camping?

This one might seem obvious but spontaneous campers know that they don't always have a plan for "where" when they set off down the road. In the past, this was a great way to go camping affordably because first come first serve camping was cheaper than the spots you would reserve ahead. This is how my bestie and I spent a week and a half in Canada enjoying the spectacular Kananaskis Country and Banff National Park.

However, times have changed and you need to be aware of the guidelines for your state. For example, in Wyoming, you have to reserve your camping spot if you're staying in a State Park but you might still find first come first serve camping in the National Forest and for now there is no camping allowed in the National Park. So you need to know where you're camping before you go.

What amenities will be available?

If you're camping in the backcountry you'll be digging a hole for your restroom but if you're camping in a campground there might be outhouses available. In the mountains you might bring a solar shower or body wipes to keep smelling rosy but closer to the road there may even be showers provided. Then you have to think about water, firewood, and what is realistic to pack. If you're backpacking it may be better to bring a tarp and twine or sleep under the stars rather than pack a heavy tent.

Then you have to think about your preferences like what activities will be available nearby. Do you want to fish, ride horses, or sled on summer snow not quite melted from the mountainside? What about where you're going to hang up that hammock?

What will the weather be like?

I know this one can be hard to predict but it's important to be keeping an eye on that forecast. No one wants to be camping when it will be raining all weekend trapping you in your tent or trailer. Then we're back to thinking about what's realistic to pack... The days may be perfect, warm, and sunny but in some places, the nights can still get down well below a comfortable temperature and you may want to pull on that winter coat.

Are there any extra guidelines you should be aware of?

This could range from what wildlife is active in the area to what you personally are allowed to do. Gathering deadfall for your fire in some spots is fine but be prepared to pay an expensive ticket if you're caught doing so in a place where it isn't allowed.

Think about Yellowstone National Park, I wouldn't recommend taking your dog there because they're not allowed off the leash or even on many of the trails and boardwalks. Those who've broken this rule have found out the hard way it was for a good reason when their best friend dives in some hot pool where they didn't belong.

There are some areas where you can only camp in a hard-sided trailer because bears are too well known for getting into altercations with campers in the area.

In addition to those concerns, you'll want to know what the fire warning is. Especially late in the season or in a dry year, you may not be able to have a campfire at all. A propane stove comes in really useful in these cases. You'll notice that most of these photos have a great deal of smoke in them and that's because we visited Canada during wildfire season. We weren't even able to go all the places we wanted to because of the wildfires cutting off roads and choking the air quality.

Who will come to rescue you if you're gone too long?

I've said this one before but it bears repeating: you need to let someone know where you will be just in case something happens. This person should know your general itinerary so that if you get lost or hurt they will know where to send the rescue team when you miss your check-in or return home time. Everyone thinks it won't happen to them! I promise you will camp with a more peaceful mind knowing you have this back up in place.

What advice would you give beginner campers? What is one thing you wish you knew before going camping for the first time? Where is a great place for beginner campers to dip their toe in the water?

Thank you, fellow adventurers! You can follow the lilmissbearpaw blog page on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @lilmissbearpaw for sneak peeks into upcoming posts and my adventures. This will also be a great place to share your own adventures!


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