We have been camping as a family and with the Boy Scouts for 35 years. Here are some tips that will allow you to have an enjoyable and safe Memorial Day camping experience.
- 1. You must plan ahead. You will have to take everything you need to live comfortably three or four days in nature. You can’t run to the supermarket, convenience store or pharmacy when you’re sitting out in a primitive camp site. It takes some effort but the results will be a more enjoyable camping experience. A week or so before you begin your trip, get the family together and make a check list of what you will need: food, water, kitchen items, flashlights, first aid kit, medicine etc. There is a balance here. Take enough but not too much. Experience is the only thing that allows you to get it right but there’s always that first time. Don’t forget the cell phone and chargers for any electronic devices you carry. I’d suggest that you carry two bathing suits for everyone. If you swim in the morning and want to go waterskiing in the afternoon, it’s no fun getting into a wet bathing suit.
You have to ask the “What If?” questions: what if it rains, what if it’s cold, what if someone gets a headache or cold, what if someone gets burned, what if someone gets cut, etc, etc.
- 2. Check to make sure that the campsite that you are planning to visit is actually open. With the current budget cuts, many national and state sites have been closed to campers. Also check to see if you need a reservation and if there is a fee. Many popular campgrounds require reservations especially during national holidays like Memorial Day. `
- 3. Make sure your vehicles are services and all fluids topped off. Make sure you have fuel for your generators and cook stoves.
- 4. If you will be camping in a camper or motor home, check to see if the campsite will have electrical power .If not you’ll be running your generator all night to keep the AC going.
- 5. Plan to arrive early at the campground. If you are going to a campground that doesn’t have reservations, it’s first come first served. Arriving before noon on Friday will probably allow you to get the campsite of your choice. Arriving late Friday or Saturday might leave you with no place to camp. Plus, arriving early allows you to set up your campsite without having to fight the dark and gives you a chance to look over the amenities at the campground.
- 6. If you are tent camping male sure you get a tent that has an integral (sewn in) floor and doors and windows that zip closed. It keeps out the critters and water if it rains. Make sure that you have a rain fly for the tent and eating area. It’s no fun eating and sleeping wet. Even though tents may claim they are waterproof many times that proves to be false, especially if the tent is not new. One touch on the roof without a rain fly and you have a drip.
- 7. I’d say the best camp stoves are those that use propane as fuel. The connections are simple they are easy to start and burn clean. A stove with a liquid fuel is messy. You have to have a filtered funnel to fill the tank and you inevitably spill some fuel anyway. Then you have to pump air into the tank to make the stove work and keep pumping even while you are trying to cook. It’s also hard to transport highly flammable liquid fuel. You have to have a really secure fuel can and you still get leaks and spills. There is also the possibility of contaminating your food or clothing.
- 8. If you are planning to sit around the campfire at night you’d better plan on taking your own firewood supply. Most campgrounds frown on or forbid campers chopping down tress or cutting limbs for firewood. You’ll also need to check with the Ranger or Forest Service as many campgrounds prohibit open fires. There is the danger of these fires spreading to other campsites or the woods.
- 9. Protect your food from wild animals. Animals that live around campgrounds have lost their fear of humans and have found an easy food source at campsites. At night I’d suggest locking your food in your vehicle .If you are backpacking, keep everything you have inside your tent at night. I once had a family of raccoons rip the top off of a very sturdy plastic cooler that was padlocked.
- 10. Plan to take your trash home with you. Be prepared by bringing some large sturdy trash bags with you. Some campground have trash pickup but with national, state and local budget cuts, trash pick- up is something that’s easy to eliminate.
These are things we’ve picked over the years of camping. If this is your first time, you probably won’t get everything right but keep at it. Camping in our family has been one of our life’s real joys.