Camping is, admittedly, not for everyone, but it’s also not as tough as many people think. You probably are not going to get eaten by a bear or start a forest fire. Here are just a few of the many reasons why camping is totally awesome. It is time to face your fears and get outside! As an avid camper and outdoorswoman, I’ve also included my own tips tips to make sure your first time camping isn’t your last.
- You Are Totally Unplugged: Yes, the Internet is a wonderful place. I, like most denizens of 2013, never go anywhere without my phone and it has saved me from countless awkward conversations. Sometimes, however, it is unthinkably amazing to just turn off your phone and really live in the moment. The second you don’t have to worry if someone texted you or think that a flower would make an exceptional Instagram, you are free to truly enjoy the people around you and the experience you are living. Tip: Actually bring your phone in case of emergency, but leave it off so you don’t kill the battery.
- Peeing Wherever You Damn Well Please: Usually it is illegal and gross to pee anywhere that’s not a toilet, but in nature, anything goes. You can pee anywhere you want! It’s lots of fun, but does require some practice if you’re a woman. It is especially convenient when you’re drinking, which is super great in the woods. Tip: If you do have a vagina, camping is a prime time to get a urinary tract infection. Bring baby wipes or something of the sort with you to keep clean and happy.
- Campfires: Campfires are an obvious perk to camping. They smell great, they keep away the bugs, and they provide some ambient lighting for whatever outdoor activity you have planned after dark. Tip: Check the park you are camping in for fire warnings. Sometimes if there has been a drought, campfires won’t be allowed. Also make sure you get your firewood from an approved place. Bringing outside wood can introduce invasive species and you will ruin the forest. Don’t be that person.
- The Stars: If you live in the suburbs like I do and there are many buildings around, chances are you only see like five stars on a good night. Stars, when visible in full force, are a sight that never gets old. Also, who doesn’t want to be kissed under the stars? Great place to contemplate the insignificance of life, etc. Tip: For a better star experience, try camping next to a large body of water or an open field. You’ll see way more sky that way.
- Camping Is Only As Intense As You Want It To Be: You really, really don’t have to be Bear Grylls to go camping. If that’s what you’re into, you can totally skin your own rabbits for dinner. If more relaxed camping is your style, try car camping. Most campgrounds allow you to drive your car right up to the campsite. That means you can bring whatever you want: pillows, an air mattress, lawn chairs, and as much clothing and food as you want. This also gives you the chance to drive around during the day to sightsee or try out some outdoor day activities in the area. Tip: Just because your car is there, resist the urge to skip the tent and sleep there. Sleeping in your car in the woods is just like sleeping in your car in a parking lot. It will be no fun.
- It’s A Relatively Cheap Getaway: Vacations, even just for the weekend, can be super expensive. Hotels, eating, drinking and activities tend to add up shockingly quickly. Camping out for two nights, however, can cost as little as $12 per car per night. Food can be brought from home, bought at a grocery store, or even caught on the lake if you’re actually good at fishing (which I sometimes have to believe that nobody is). Grab a some beer or wine and you are literally set for the weekend. Tip: Unless you plan on becoming an avid outdoor explorer, it’s usually not worth it to buy too much of your own camping gear. Ask around! Friends or family often have tents, sleeping bags or headlamps stowed away. If you can’t find anything to borrow, you can also rent gear from outdoor stores like REI or Eastern Mountain Sports.
- It’s Completely Acceptable To Go To Bed at 9 p.m.: Although camping is usually action-packed during the day, things tend to wind down quickly once it gets dark. For me this usually means talking around the campfire until an ungodly hour. But if it’s too buggy out or you’re beat from the day, nobody can judge you for hitting the sack as soon as it’s dark out. It’s also a great time to just sit back and read by headlamp in the cozy sleeping bag that you borrowed. Since it’s really hard to sleep in once the sun comes up and your tent is suddenly a sauna, you will feel great and surprisingly well rested after actually getting to bed early. Tip: Don’t bring food in the tent. It will attract critters and that’s definitely not awesome. Keep your food in the car overnight if you have one. Coolers or bags suspended in trees also work well.
- Sunsets And Sunrises: Most people are inside or asleep for these amazing daily events. When you go camping, you are in prime territory for some breathtaking movements of the sun. Tip: Look up the times of the sunrise before you go. It changes every day and you probably don’t want to wake up unnecessarily early.
- You Can Find Campgrounds Almost Anywhere: Camping isn’t always by the water or on a mountain. Even if you live in a city, there is usually camping just a couple hours away. Get to know the camping opportunities in your area by looking up your state’s park website. If you live on the East Coast, hiking a small section of the Appalachian Trail makes for an awesome weekend trip. Tip: Many campgrounds require reservations, especially during the summer, so make sure you don’t just show up with nowhere to stay.
- Nature Is Beautiful And Smells Good: In summer, big cities smell like a butt. Seriously, the garbage is marinating in itself in the sun. Nature, however, is at its peak during the summertime. Pollen has also usually died down by the summer months. Seeing lakes an mountains for yourself is exponentially better than seeing a picture. Not comparable. Tip: Even though pictures aren’t as good as real life, take many! You should have proof to make people jealous. See below.
- Everyone Will Be Jealous: The inevitable Monday question: How was your weekend? “It was alright, went out Friday, did some laundry and saw a movie Saturday. How about yours?” “Oh, I went camping.” Honestly, who would you rather be? Going camping not only shows that you’re fun and active, but also that you’re a bit of a badass. You will also definitely have some cool story to share and your coworkers, friends, or classmates will think you’re awesome. Tip: You will also be awesome.
[Photo of friends camping via Shutterstock]