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  • Writer's pictureTrail Guide Joe

Introducing a First-Timer To Camping

If you've gone camping as often as I have, the trips really are innumerable at this point, you have long forgotten what it was like to go camping your first time. Maybe you were fearful of the things that go bump in the night (read: bears), maybe you were stressed trying to think of what to pack, and maybe the whole idea of giving up a few nights of creature comforts really seemed like the end of the world! At some point, you may find yourself with someone you would like to take camping (read: significant other?) but you really don't want to blow it so you want to make extra sure they have a positively memorable time. Taking these steps will help you ensure the intended outcome!


Consider What Your First-Timer Might Want To Do Or Experience

For someone who has never gone camping before, it's likely to be surrounded by feelings of uncertainty at the very least and overwhelming feelings of terror and anxiety at the very worst. The truth is, it doesn't have to be awful! All you really need is some careful and considerate planning to make the experience more warm and inviting! This doesn't mean bombard them with ideas of what to do every second of time spent camping. No, what I mean is plan for flexibility! You don't have to have an activity for every second of the day, unless your first-timer is really wanting something that like. Plan for some down time just in case everything catches up with them and they really need a serious break. It's absolutely OK to plan on just kicking back and taking it easy. That's what camping should be about, relaxing and enjoying nature at whatever level feels most comfortable at the time.

Are There Amenities That Can Make Things More Bearable?

As much of a shock as it might be, not everyone enjoys hiking to the same degree. In fact, some people don't even like hiking at all. If your first-timer is one of these types of people, you might be scratching your head thinking of what to do to pass the time. At this point I would like to plug for Missouri State Parks, or really any state parks, as they tend to have various amenities that can be enjoyable to anyone! Whether it's scenic overlooks, history museums, swimming beaches, or educational learning events, you can always find a park with something to be enjoyed by all!


Stay For At Least Two Nights

This should be more of a suggestion than a solid assurance as every first-time camper will feel differently about this. The reason for making this a longer trip of two nights, rather than one, is because it can feel too hurried or rushed. First you arrive, get setup, and, depending on when you got there, you might be heading to bed before too long. Next day, depending on checkout, you might not have a lot of time before you are back to packing up and rolling out again. This is hardly a relaxing experience if you ask me and will likely bring undue stress on your first-time camper. Besides, when do you get to make s'mores? Two nights affords you one complete day of just soaking in the experience. That said, two nights might be too much for some who fall victim to homesickness. Despite your best intentions, homesickness can and will strike and when it does, it might be unrecoverable. Use your best judgement as to when enough is enough but creating a better experience is the best way to battle homesickness!


Create a Packing List

For someone who has never gone camping before, it's a daunting task to pack for the trip. How do you pack for something you've never done before? For one, you can use the official Endless Trails Packing List to make sure you don't forget anything important! A first-time camper will not necessarily have or need everything on this list just to have a good time. Point out the basics, clothing, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, toiletries, etc and take care of the rest so long as you are able. This will take much of the burden of what to pack off your first-time camper by keeping it simple and even familiar. Yep, packing for camping, in it's basic form, is really no different than packing for a sleepover or other informal trip! That can be a comforting thought to your first-time camper as well.


Plan Your Meals & Snacks

Comfort food is powerful. Very powerful. In fact, it can be so powerful, if your first-time camper should start to have a bad time, for one reason or another, you might be able to turn it around just by having the right foods on hand! Have something interesting, have something delicious, whatever you have, make it enjoyable! A good meal will go a long way in turning your first-time camper into a happy camper for sure. What's going to put you in your best mood if not comfort food?


Setup Camp ASAP

A first-time camper is already going to have a lot of anxiety trying something so new and unfamiliar. On top of that, not knowing where you'll be sleeping can be unnerving. It's generally in the best interest of all to setup camp as soon as possible as, in most cases, you are only going to get more tired and it's only going to get closer to nightfall. Do yourself and your first-time camper a favor and get your tent stood up and your sleeping bag rolled out as soon as you are able!


Prep Your Site Before You Go On Day Trips

Nothing will ruin the experience for your first-time camper like returning from a day at the beach or a scenic hike and finding your campsite turned upside-down by hungry wildlife. Worse than that, they may have even destroyed personal gear in the midst of their relentless pursuit of food! How off putting would that be if this was your first camping trip ever? I would say it would be devastating especially since I know how expensive camping gear can get and, in a matter of hours, it was rendered useless by field mice, raccoons, or some other vermin of the woods. Teach your first-time camper the right way to enjoy camping by cleaning up the campsite before leaving.


Happy Trails!

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