With October coming to an end, it's pretty much my favorite time for camping. It's cooled down enough that the campfire you build is cosy and warm, and there's something to be said about the lack of bugs, noise and other people at campsites this time of year.
I enjoy spending time in the outdoors with my family as it forces me get away from the laptop and my phone, where I can enjoy the simple things in life like roasting smores over a campfire, or laying out and just looking up at the stars.
My family and I take at least 20 camping trips a year, so today I'm going to cover my tips and tactics to enable you to get out a little more, and enjoy all that mother nature has to offer.
Figure out what to bring
If it's your first time camping you may have a hard time knowing what to bring. My advice is to sit down and write out a list. There's a surprising amount of things you'll need if you're planning a comfortable camping trip, and if it's your first time a little luxury isn't a bad thing. A couple of splurge items I always like to bring are a stack of foam floor tiles for inside our tent, as well as a couple of bunches of fresh sage to toss in the campfire to keep the mosquitoes at bay.
Pack a camping kit
You'll never leave the house if you've got to spend four hours collecting everything you need from every corner of your house. It's just too hard to do it regularly. My advice, is to buy a big plastic tub with a lid, and keep all your gear together. You'll need to pack it the first time yes, but afterwards anytime you feel a desire to camp, you can just grab your kit and go. Mine's got my tent, sleeping bags, all my lights, and my kitchen gear, as well as a couple of big jugs for water. Oh and throw in one of our survival grenades too. It's got 15 essential survival tools, as well as fishing gear, needles and even a firestarter should you need it. This kit has both filled my belly and saved me from a cold night on more than one occasion, so definitely pack it in.
Once my camping kit is in my car, I just need to stop at the grocers for a little food and firewood and I'm set to go.
Choose the right campsite
Now my family are pretty nature-friendly, but I wouldn't take them to a remote location for more than a night or two, as my girls would get bored out of their mind. Do a little research online, and you'll find many of the state parks have websites that cover exactly what you can expect at a particular campsite. Some are by lakes with great fishing, others are a little more mountainous and have great hiking trails. Campsites range from those with full amenities to ones where's you'll need to "rough it," so pick a campsite that has the right mix of nature, entertainment and convenience for your family. Camping is meant to be a fun, bonding experience, you don't need to be playing survivor every time you leave your home.
Oh, and don't venture too far. If you're headed out for a night or two only, find a campsite that's within two or three hours of your home. You want to ensure you've got plenty of time to enjoy the camping experience, not being stuck in your car all day.
Be ready for nature
One thing I've learnt is that you've got to be ready for whatever mother nature throws at you. A nice sunny morning can turn to thunderstorms in the evening, so ensure you've got the right clothing. Shorts and a t-shirt for the day, with waterproof trousers and a warm coat to keep you cosy at night. Having the right clothing will make all the difference, it's not going to be fun if you're soaked through and shivering all night. In addition to my tent, I've got a few smaller tarps that I always bring. Strung up above my tent, they help with a little more protection from the sun, wind, or rain. You've got to have backup plans when you're out in nature.
Keep your camp well-lit
This is a personal preference, but I find that my family enjoy camping far more when it's bright and lit up. With only a campfire and a headlamp each, we quickly found this wasn't bright enough. I've got a couple of solar-charging lanterns that I leave at key spots around camp, to light up the area and make it a little more comforting. Strategically placed lights at areas like your tent, inside your kitchen, and perhaps even lighting the path to the toilet are all easy ways to make your campsite a tad more inviting.
Invest in a good pillow
While I've slept many nights on the ground, being uncomfortable and not getting a good sleep is one of my biggest complaints with camping. Maybe I'm just a big softie, but my logic is that if you don't need to rough it, you shouldn't have to. I bought an ultra-light inflatable pillow that's covered with about an inch of memory foam. It's a pure luxury item yes, but it helps me get a great night's sleep so I'm up bright and early and ready for another great day of activities.
I've had a love of camping instilled in me from the youngest age, and I encourage everyone to get out and spend a few nights a year under the stars. You'll feel life slowing down and build a connection with both nature and your family, and it's dead easy to get started. Follow these steps to make the most out of your next camping trip, and go enjoy the outdoors before the snow starts!