Ah, the great outdoors. There's nothing quite like that feeling of sleeping under the stars surrounded by nature — unless, of course, you happen to be one of those people who hates sleeping outside and isn't that fond of nature. Still, just because camping isn't really your thing doesn't mean you have to have a miserable time. It can be a great way to reconnect with family and friends while you disconnect from the day-to-day world.
Here's how to have fun even if you don't really like to camp.
1. Pack smart. The bag you pack for your camping trip should look very different than the bag you pack for your typical vacation. Aside from the gear you will need (tent, sleeping bag, cook stove, etc.) you'll need clothes and toiletries to see you through the trip. But leave the fancy outfits and cute shoes behind. There's no place for them in the woods. Instead, make sure you have good hiking shoes, flip-flops (for hanging around the campsite,) warm pjs, clean socks and undies, a waterproof layer (even if rain is not in the forecast) and layers of clothes that will take you from the heat of the sun to the chill of the evening. As for toiletries, leave the perfume at home and double up on the sunscreen and bug spray.
2. Be prepared to disconnect. No, there will not be Wi-Fi at your campsite. In fact, you probably won't even have decent cellphone reception. In today's world it can feel weird to suddenly be disconnected from your gadgets, but prepare yourself for the fact that this is exactly what's going to happen. It's OK. You will have plenty of other things to do (see below) and the break from technology will give you a chance to reconnect with the people you're with.
3. Make bathrooms a priority. Like it or not, we all need to go to the bathroom, even when we're camping. Bathroom facilities can make or break a camping trip, particularly for those who are on the fence about camping to begin with. A clean, well-lit bathroom can make your stay much more enjoyable. If you're staying at a campground, check the reviews online to see if any comments have been made — good or bad — about the bathroom facilities and consider staying elsewhere if they get a thumbs-down.
4. Fire it up. It's a funny thing that almost any kind of food will taste better when eaten outdoors. Cook your dinner (or breakfast) over a campfire and you may think you've died and gone to heaven. It's not difficult to make a campfire, especially if you're going to a campground with fire rings on site and wood available for purchase. But it does pay to be prepared. Check out these campfire cooking tips so you can brush up before you go.
5. Coffee. If you are a fan of morning java, make sure you have your beans and a way to brew them in the morning. It won't matter how well you ate or slept or how beautiful the sunrise is if you don't have your caffeine hit.
6. Make a cozy nest. A good night's sleep is key to a good camping trip, so make sure you have the right supplies to make that happen. You need a quality sleeping bag that is rated for the weather conditions you will be sleeping in. (You don't need a bag guaranteed to keep you warm at minus 40 degrees F if you'll be camping on the beach in the summertime.) You also need a cushy sleeping pad. Don't skimp on this piece of gear. Buy or borrow the best sleeping pad you can afford. You'll be so glad you did.
7. Check your tent. It won't matter how cozy your sleeping bag and pad are if you have a leaky tent. Trust me, there are few things less pleasant than trying to sleep in a puddle of rainwater. If your tent is brand new, and you purchased it from a reputable company, you should be good to go. But it still pays to set it up once in your yard or living room before you go. This actually serves two purposes — it gives you a chance to check the tent over for tears and holes and also lets you practice setting up the tent before you get to the campground.
8. Get over yourself and use a headlamp. Yes, they look ridiculous, but once the sun goes down, you'll be so glad you have a handy flashlight that you can use to read, make dinner or illuminate your way to the bathroom while keeping your hands free to enjoy your activity (or fend off bears ... kidding!)
9. Bring stuff to do. For some, the idea of spending hours soaking up the solitude of nature is an activity in and of itself. If you're not one of those people, it's probably a good idea to bring along a book, a sketchbook, a writing journal, some board games, a deck of cards, a good camera, or at the very least some headphones so that you don't die of boredom while your friends are communing with the outdoors.
10. Take a moment to take it all in. Even if camping isn't your scene, you may be surprised by how good it feels to put down your phone, step away from your laptop, and take a long, slow look at the world around you. Who knows? You may even start to like it.