The Essential Guide for Inexperienced Campers
In my mind, camping is one of many ideal outdoor activities. There are a lot of things you can do outdoors that are really fun and get the blood pumping, but with camping, you can combine all of them into a single event over as many days as you want. You can go out on an evening and set up camp for the night, sharing stories around a fire or looking up at the stars above. Then, after a good or fitful night of sleep (You can go either way with camping and still have a nice time), you can head out and start doing some cool things like swimming in the lake you camped beside or heading up a ski lift to get some skiing done. Even better, camping is easy. All you need to do is live outside for a day or two and you are good to go. It only really gets hard in the winter or when weather conditions are particularly bad. However, that does not mean you can just jump into camping and have a good time. You want to have a good experience your first time or the entire activity can be less than ideal, and you may never want to go out again. With that in mind, here are some things you might consider to ensure you know what you are doing and that you have some fun.
There are two major forms of camping. Car camping and backpacking make up the two largest and most significant categories. Car camping is the easiest place to start and does not mean you are sleeping in your car as it sounds. It just means that you drive your car to the campsite and keep it very close for the duration of your time there. You can keep everything you might need for the nights you are going to be away from home on hand and easily accessed and you have a way to get out of the campsite in an emergency situation. You have a nice safety blanket and you can pretty much take whatever you want with you camping as long as it can fit in your car. With backpacking, things get a lot more difficult and inconvenient. It is basically, as the name suggests, taking everything you need to survive in a backpack and going somewhere deep in the forest or mountains for your outdoor adventure. You need to make sure everything fits in a single pack and that you have all of the food, water, maps and equipment that will get you the night or nights that you are out in the wilderness.
Cooking can be a little bit of a problem for each of these forms of camping, though as with most things, backpacking is definitely the most difficult of the two when it comes to preparing and eating food. For car camping, you can keep things pretty simple. A fire can help you cook a few simple things like hotdogs or pretty much anything that just needs a little time with some heat. Propane and butane stoves can help you if your fire creating skills are not up to snuff yet and if you have a big enough stove with enough fuel you can scramble some eggs in the morning and cook up some simple pancakes. For backpacking, if you are just going out for a day and are not going very far, many of the same meals can be made as when car camping. As long as you have the ability to keep things cold for long enough and you have the space to carry what you need, you will be fine. For longer excursions without the option of picking up new food items, you might want to consider dehydrated meals. It is easy to bring quite a few of them in a pack and they are simple to prepare and eat. Naturally, the taste will leave something to be desired, but it will not be too bad. Growing up, my dad had a number of surplus MREs (Meals Ready to Eat that soldiers take into the field) and they were tasty. Make sure to go for the newer ones, though. If enough years go by they can be pretty awful.
You are going to want to bring quality and useful equipment with you. As I already mentioned, there are a few essentials for cooking and the like and you want matches or lighters that can help you get a fire started (You probably will need to bring wood or coals for fuel as well. Most places do not let you burn the wood there). Next, a good tent is mandatory. You want something that will keep you warm, stand up against the wind, and keep the rain out of your sleeping area. Most modern tents do all of these things and are pretty easy to set up, but I recommend doing a dry run set up in your backyard or somewhere there is space for it. A tarp is also important to put under the tent to keep water from soaking through the bottom and cold from radiating up. Next, a sleeping bag is another essential. They make sleeping bags to be comfortable or adequate for certain temperatures, so it can be a good idea to have something light for warmer times of the year and something heavy for when it starts getting cold. Luckily, light sleeping bags are pretty cheap, though heavy ones can be expensive. A pad is also a very important part. A sleeping bag on its own does not keep the rocks below from poking you and the cold from seeping through the material of the bag. Even if you have a cot to keep you off the ground, a pad will make your night much more comfortable. If you put all of these together along with whatever else you feel you need to be comfortable and stack up enough food and water to keep you hydrated and well-fed, your first Idaho camping trip is going to be a lot of fun.