If you have ever driven through a campground and seen families having great fun camping together and thought, “that looks that a great family activity”, you are right! Camping is one of the most wholesome, fun, affordable and bonding experiences a family can get into. But if you have driven along looking at all the equipment and skills needed to learn camp and thought, “I can never learn to do all of that”, you are wrong. It really isn’t that hard to learn to camp and every step along the way is lots of fun for everyone.
So how do you get started learning to camp? There is no question that there is some equipment involved and learning to set up a camp, use your gear to enjoy a night of eating and sleeping in the open spaces and then get home safe and sound requires a bit of a learning curve. For many parents that want to start camping to give their children those experiences, the idea of buying all that equipment is intimidating. And you don’t want to get the wrong equipment and then have to buy it all over again. Those kinds of mistakes can kill your enthusiasm for expanding your camping hobby into a passion for camping.
So one of the best ways to learn to camp and to try out camping equipment is to camp with someone who is good at it. Many experienced camping families have excess equipment or know other families who will loan you equipment to try out on your first camp out. If one of your friends or friends of your children are experienced campers, you will find them to probably be evangelistic about it and happy to let you tag along on their next camp out to show you the ropes. If they can help you borrow some equipment, you can learn to use it and try out different camping options so when you are ready to buy your own equipment you already know what you like and don’t like.
Another great way to get some camping experience without buying a thing is to get involved in camping organization. If you have children, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are organizations geared for building life skills in children and who are heavily dedicated to camping. Most scout troops have an extensive arsenal of camping gear and the leadership are almost always seasoned campers with a flair for teaching.
It is the mission of the scouts to train new recruits in the fine points of camping so you can tag along on some camp outs and learn some great camping skills. Also scouts actively encourages parent involvement so dad and mom can learn to camp right along with their children. Who knows but you may get involved with the scouts just to harvest some camping skills and find yourself hooked and becoming life long Boy or Girl Scout enthusiasts. There are worse things children or a whole family can be involved in for sure.
After getting some exposure, you will want to think through what kind of tents, sleeping bags and other camping gear you will want to buy as you launch your family camping hobby. Many two-man tents are economical and easy to transport, put up and break down. But if you are going to have the entire family in one tent, you may want to look into a larger family tent that mom and dad can stand up in and that provides plenty of room for gear and children as well. But look ahead in your camping life. As the children grow older, they may want to move out into their own tents to think of how your first starter tent will fit into the larger scheme of camping as you grow in your camping ambitions.
Another consideration is whether you will need electricity and water facilities at the camp grounds you visit or if you will provide for those things yourself. Many beginning campers prefer to use electricity and water hook ups to make it easier on parents who are learning the tricks of the trade of camping. But remember to take extension cords and water hoses so you can bring those resources into camp and even right into the tent with you.
Also think about the space in your vehicle for camping gear and how you will transport your new gear to and from camp. You probably don’t want to buy a vehicle just for camping at first so learning to pack light and only take what is needed will be an important skill for you throughout your camping career.
Take it slow as you learn each new method of camping and begin to use new tools that you see other campers use. One way to slowly expand your camping gear is to plan to buy one new piece of camping equipment each season so you find your knowledge and skills at using that new gear grow at a steady pace as well.
Take it slow in how ambitious you get in your camping plans. Don’t drive two days to the deep mountains and take on a primitive camping adventure if you are new to the sport. Start out with one night camp outs close to home. Yes, your first camp out may even be in your back yard so you can do a trial run with your equipment but be close enough to run inside if things go wrong. Then slowly expand the number of nights you are out and how far away from home you get.
You will find camping to be an addictive passion and it’s an addiction that you will be glad your family got hooked on. By using some common sense and developing your skills steadily, you can expand your vision and take on more and more aggressive and ambitious camping adventures over time. Then when you have graduated from beginner camper to seasoned old pro, you will look back at your progress and get some real gratification that you took on something new and made it your own. You will be proud of yourself and your kids will be proud too because they will have a love of camping that will serve them for the rest of their lives.