By Mari O’Grady
I am not a very outdoorsy person, and I envy those who come by it naturally. They all seem tan, fit, and oddly calm. I suppose it’s because they’ve found nature, or whatever. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I went camping for the first time. And while I love it, that love comes with a healthy dose of nerves.
If you’re more of an indoor cat like me, here’s how to make your first camping trip bearable.
Know your location.
Read about your campground and nearby activities. And let’s be real – your activity will likely be hiking. Read about the hiking, and bring appropriate footwear. No one should get stuck on a ledge in Skechers if they can avoid it.
As for the campground, chances are good you’ll be in a state or national park. The campground’s website will list basics included at each campsite as well as campground amenities. Look for a campsite that has space for your car, because car camping is the easiest way to break into this whole living outdoors business.
If any of the following words describe your campsite, you’ve booked a more advanced site: primitive, dispersed, walk-in, backcountry. These sites require hiking off the path and into the woods to find them, or they may be solo sites or ones with only a few other spots nearby. They are not car friendly, and they are generally quite isolated. Have fun with that.
Accept the grease.
Maybe I’m just lazy, but I don’t care about skipping the shower for a few nights when out in the woods. All it means is that I can go right to comfy clothes in the evening, and after the first 24 hours, my hair is crazy enough that it stays up nicely while hiking. If you’re a diva, you have two options: either book a campground with showers, or suck it up, buttercup.
Also, the worrier in me suggests you use unscented dry shampoo and baby wipes, or skip them entirely. You don’t want to smell like dinner while sleeping in the woods, right? Right.
Mitigate the gross.
I mean, it’s camping. Outside stuff is going to get in your space, because you are in their space. Follow my basic, slightly paranoid rules:
First, clear your tent area as much as possible. Your goal is to set up on a dirt surface, no leaves or branches. And keep your tent door zipped – who cares if it’s hot in there? Everything gets colder in the woods at night, so you’ll be fine in a few hours.
Second, I have no shame in admitting that ticks are my 2017 Camping Paranoia topic of choice. Minimize your chances of getting bit by wearing light colored clothing and keeping your hair braided or in a bun so no loose ends are swinging around. At night, keep your hair up, stick a headband on your head and over your ears, and if you want to go all out, put on a lightweight hoodie and pull it up over your head. 2017 Camping Paranoia topic of choice, people.
Third, use common sense. Spray yourself and your tent with mosquito repellent, and set up citronella candles on the picnic table. Choose clothing that is comfortable, but not super loose, and wear socks at night to avoid mosquito bites on your ankles. And keep all footwear inside your tent to avoid insects, and morning dew. Wet shoes while in the woods just sucks, man.
Know the woods are noisy.
Nighttime in the woods is loud. Loud. Leaves fall and twigs snap and nocturnal creatures prance around. All of it can sound like a horror movie when you don’t know what’s outside your tent. Once a leaf fell onto my tent and I almost jumped directly into the car via the moon roof. If you find yourself unable to sleep, stick in your earbuds and turn on a playlist. Sometimes it’s helpful to talk to whoever you’re with – try to identify everything you hear to take away your fear of the unknown. Plus, any animals out there aren’t really interested in you. They’re just raccoons going about their raccoon lives.
Aside from music, my other solutions are to adopt a “screw it all” attitude and force yourself to sleep, or pray for rain. Sleeping to the sound of raindrops is glorious.
Side note about animals: for the love of Britney and Beyoncé, put your food in sealed containers and put the containers in the car, lest you risk a visit from the third B (hint: it’s bears).
Despite my wariness, I’ve grown to love camping. It’s like my husband used s’mores and leggings to trick me into becoming slightly outdoorsy. The woods are beautiful, the food is delicious, camp chairs are fun. I get to have weird, wonderful conversations with someone I love, and I get to do it next to a pretty fire.
One of the best parts about camping is breaking away from screens and deadlines to talk about the parts of life that are important. Or if you’re not into that, it’s a great time to have a few drinks and tell embarrassing stories about each other. Either way, you’ll come out bonded on a new level. And that, my newbie camper friend, is the whole point.
In the comments, tell us: Do you love camping? What are some of your camping hacks?
Mari is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.
Featured image via Unsplash.