Camping Newbie

I think I want to try camping.

Setting up this tent!

As a kid I never had the opportunity to go camping though I loved being out in nature. I used to hang out in Druid Hill Park, which had a freely accessible zoo at that time. As I grew older and bolder I spent time in Gwynn Falls/Leakin Park which had a bunch of trails. I saw my first wild snake there, a large copperhead.  Escaped being sprayed by a skunk there as well. 

I did camp out several times in Namibia. My friend, Lysias Uusiku, loved throwing a tent up, striking a fire and roasting fish whenever we traveled. I did learn a few things from Lysias, but I don’t feel confident enough to proclaim myself a camper (happy or otherwise).

So, I intend to remedy that and do whatever I need to, buy whatever I need to and go wherever I need to to gain that confidence so that if the occasion arises and I need or want to camp, I can and feel good doing it.

To those of you who have experience with tents and cookstoves and are thinking that there’s nothing to it, you need to understand that though I did a lot of traipsing around the woods as a kid, I never spent the night out there. I’m sure I can figure out how to set up a tent, but I also need to know where, or more importantly, where I shouldn’t set up that tent. The same goes for making a fire, outfitting myself with sleeping gear, even shoes and clothing aimed at outdoor living are new to me. I need to examine all of that. 

There’s a great place near where I live called Travel Country Outfitters, its an outdoors shop that sells everything from kayaks to crampons. I went there to see what they had to say to a camping newbie. I’ve been a patron of Travel Country Outfitters for some time now and felt confident that they wouldn’t start grabbing the most expensive but ineffectual gear they had and throwing it in my cart telling me that I needed it all to make the most of my initial experience. Instead I was told that I should continue researching gear, techniques, and experiences of others to refine my needs then I could come back as a more learned customer, someone they could more easily work with.

I had done some research before seeking advise from the Travel Country staff. I knew, for instance, that I’d need some basic gear: tent, sleeping bag, backpack, but I hadn’t discerned which of the vast number of choices I should go with. After spending more time reading reviews I settled on a few items: A North Face Storm Break 2 Tent, an EcooPro LW250 Sleeping Bag, a Forceatt Ultralight Sleeping Pad, and a Cocoon Camp Pillow.

Travel Country had suggested that I wouldn’t want or need a backpack immediately and it could wait until I was comfortable using the other stuff I bought. So, last weekend I spent the night out in my yard with my new gear, and it was a surprisingly good experience. Surprisingly because I am prone to get bug bites. Mosquitoes seek me out in crowds, fleas nosh on my ankles and run, spiders think they’ve noted the biggest catch of their short lives. When I decided that camping is something I wanted to do I had to come to terms with the fact that I may lose a substantial amount of blood to bugs with each outing. It’s just something I’ll have to live with.

But I didn’t get one bug bite while I slept in complete comfort in my bag, on my pad, inside my tent. The only slightly annoying thing was the pillow, which would not stay put under my head. Its back is plastic and the pad is plastic so there was a lot of slipping around. I may have to rethink the pillow.

Still, it was such a good experience thatI intend to take this experiment further and camp in a real campground.  I’m currently researching local spots that allow tents, there are plenty here in Central Florida, so I should’t have a problem. I might even get a camp stove and victuals. I’m told that if I can boil water I can eat a decent meal. Could be fun!

Anyway, for those of you who are like me and can barely tell a carabiner from a CamelBack, I intend to publish how-tos on everything I encounter and learn, starting with setting up the tent I bought. Even if you’re comfortable around campsites the videos and reviews I’ll be posting may be of use to you as well. 

Here’s the first video: Setting Up The North Face Storm Break 2 Tent

All the more reason to…

Stay tuned.

Vern

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