Camping Tips for People Who Don’t Like Camping

Whenever people ask me how to save money on vacations, I always encourage them to consider camping instead of staying in a hotel. We do it often – in fact, I have some very fond memories of camping in Olympia National Forest and on Mount Rainier during our Seattle vacation in ’04 and camping near Gooseberry Falls, MN during another vacation in ’06 (perhaps my favorite camping stops ever, which is why I’m mentioing them).

Some people take this advice and run with it. Camping saves a truckload of money over a long trip and it can provide a unique story, too. Yet some people look at camping and see nothing more than the loss of comforts of a hotel, never mind the savings and the incomparable perks of camping.

This tip column is for that latter group. Here are some ways to make camping much more enjoyable without breaking the bank in any way.

Bathrooms, bathrooms, bathrooms Toilet, sink, and shower service are often the thing that separates a good camping trip from a bad one for people who want to use camping as a substitute for hotel visits. A campsite with inadequate areas for personal hygiene will often get a big thumbs down, as it makes it impossible for people to start off their day with the normal hygiene routine, which is key for many (if not most) people.

So how do you solve it? My first recommendation is to start with – and focus heavily on – state and national parks. You can find tons of them at dto.com (short for discover the outdoors). Focus on parks that have a shower house near the destinations you’re visiting. You can also reserve sites with electricity – perfect if you have devices you wish to plug in (like an alarm clock, for example).

Camping after flying What if you’re flying to your destination? My suggestion is to take the tent with you on the flight. Repackage it in a large box along with sleeping bags, pillows, and other essential items for camping – these all compress surprisingly well. For the return flight, you might find that it’s less expensive to shop the tent and camping materials home via UPS or another shipping service.

When you arrive, purchase a small short-term use styrofoam cooler and pack the food items you wish to keep cold in that, as it’s less expensive than shipping a cooler (unless you can find a great way to pack it in your large box). In other words, one of your first stops will be at a grocery store.

Speaking of eating…

Tactics for eating well while camping Most meals can be cooked really well over a campfire by simply putting the ingredients in aluminum foil, tossing them straight on the coals, then retrieving them later with a stick. Thus, all you will need for dining utensils while camping are some paper plates (which can be reused for kindling the next day) and silverware.

Here’s an example. For breakfast, I will often pull out a sheet of aluminum foil, make a bowl out of it, then crack three eggs in it. Then, I’ll add some beans to it and perhaps some chopped-up vegetables, too, and maybe a sprinkling of cheese. I then fold this up tightly in the foil, wrap it again, then toss it straight on hot campfire coals for ten to fifteen minutes. When I’m done, I have scrambled eggs, perfectly hot. You can make toast in a very similar way, though I often use a pair of sticks to hold a few pieces of toast over flame.

You can make all sorts of different meals using the same exact logic. Use your imagination.

Sleeping comfortably This seems to be one of the biggest complaints about camping – it’s hard to sleep comfortably. I have back concerns myself and, quite honestly, they seem to crop up more from hotel beds for me than from camping, so I confess to not fully understanding this complaint. Instead, I’ll share with you my routine for sleeping in a tent.

First, I often gather leaves and sprinkle them in a pretty thick layer in the spot where we’re going to pitch the tent. In the summer, this often means retrieving them from low-hanging branches. This, of course, works well in some parks but not in others.

Second, I’m picky about my sleeping bags. One lesson I learned from my grandmother is that the place you sleep is a place where you don’t skimp, because it forms the successful basis for the rest of your day. Study them carefully and get a well-padded one that works.

Third, I usually use a sleeping bag pad. This is a very small, thin air mattress that rests under the sleeping bag directly on the floor of the tent.

Finally, and this is probably the biggest thing, I sleep with the windows open when camping. The clean night air makes me sleep very deeply and I almost always wake up feeling refreshed, even if getting to sleep took me a little bit. I tend to sleep better when camping than I do any other night.

Finally, camping’s savings really pop up when you’re on a longer trip rather than a shorter one. If you’re just staying for a single night, the time investment of setting up camp probably undoes the savings from camping. However, if the trip is a long one, the time cost per day is reduced and the cash savings per day is increased, making camping progressively more worthwhile. If your trip is short, it might actually be more cost effective to just stay in a reasonably-priced hotel, but over a long trip, few things beat the savings of camping.

One final note about camping when traveling: the aesthetic beauty of our nation’s state and national parks is an enormous perk when camping. There simply is no hotel on earth that can take your breath away like stepping out of your tent in the morning in the middle of a national park.

Good luck.

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  1. lurker carl says:

    This is funny, having to use these tips are exactly why some people don’t like camping. They just don’t want to put that much work into eating and sleeping and shelter and toilets and bathing – particularly on a vacation where the focus is relaxation rather than domestic toil.

  2. J says:

    “shop the tent”?

    A National Parks Pass can save serious amounts of money if you are going to hit a few national parks in a year. Also, if you are going to camp in a national park, make sure to get a reservation. Also, understand the rules and regulations of the parks with regards to fire — depending on where you go and what season it is, the NPS can be very restrictive on campfires (and for good reason!)

    I’d encourage people to skip the morning campfire altogether. Just have cereal, granola bars, or other cold food. Or splurge and actually pay for breakfast if it’s available. Making a campfire and then properly putting it out takes a lot of time, not to mention it’s highly dependent on weather.

    If you want something hot to eat, pick up a single burner gas stove that uses the propane container as a base. You can find them at Wal-Mart, as well as cheap skillets or kettles. You can also go upscale and get some very nice stoves from outdoor stores, too. This also helps when you want to eat dinner but you don’t want to wait for the campfire to be ready.

    Another thing that can make the camping idea tolerable for those who aren’t into camping is to build in a few nights in a hotel along the way. We did a trip of the Southwest, staying in national parks for part of the trip, but in the middle we stayed in a hotel for a couple nights.

  3. Paula says:

    Do you seriously tear leaves off of the low branches of trees so that you can be more comfortable? And you recommend that others do the same? Trent, how long do you think it would take humans to strip the lower canopy of a park campground and the surrounding woods if everyone took your advice? What happened to the idea of leaving the campsite as you found it, beautiful, serene and ready for its’ next occupants??? Pack an extra roll of foam to put under your bag and leave the park unmolested!

  4. AC says:

    Generally good advice, but please, don’t encourage people to buy, use, and dispose of more styrofoam.

  5. J says:

    I will concur with Lurker Carl, though — taking someone who doesn’t like camping on a camping trip (particularly your spouse/S.O.) for your “vacation” can consume a LOT of “points”. To enlist a cliche, it’s like taking your wife to a ballgame or taking your husband to see the ballet — they will go to do something together, but they aren’t going to like it as much as you do.

  6. Trudy says:

    I understand the savings that can be had from tenting camping but my husband and I gave that up years ago. Food wasn’t an issue as we have a mini propane stove we use along with coolers, etc. Bathrooms weren’t an issue as we stay at a great campground – still do in a park model they rent out.

    Sleeping – BIG problem!!! We go in the summertime with fmaily (the end of July to be exact)and my husband couldn’t sleep without air, espceially on those upper 60s and 70s nights. Tired husband = cranky husband = bad day. It’s worth every single penny to us to spend the extra couple of hundred dollars for the week trip to get a room, sleep comfortably, and have a great vacation. We are there to relax, not bicker and fight because we are so tired we can’t stand ourselves. As you said in the article sleeping sets the basis for the next day…

    Besides, I can not stay in a tent under trees during a thunderstorm. Makes for hard time sleeping for my husband with my head buried in his back…

  7. Jules says:

    Any advice for fending off deranged serial killers?

    I swear, that’s my mom’s main reason she won’t go camping: she’s afraid of the psychos living in the woods. Frankly, I think she’s watched one too many horror movies, but…there ya go.

  8. Scott says:

    Thanks for posting this Trent. My family and I already love camping and we always encourage others to get out and enjoy the outdoors as well. We have three young boys (7.7 & 4) so the woods and outdoors is a GREAT place to let them spend some time, burn off some energy, learn about God’s creation, etc. I’ll acknowledge, it is hard work but there is even enjoyment in the work. Plus, I’m constantly adding to our gear assortment so every trip gets easier I think.

  9. Cents says:

    The wife loves comping… I don’t. Needless to say we end up going camping a couple times a year. An air mattress is something I could absolutely not go with out.

  10. Johanna says:

    I agree with lurker carl. It’s great if you enjoy vacations like this. But for those of us that don’t – or for me, at least – this list of tips doesn’t make camping sound any more appealing. Here are some questions you might have answered that might have been more helpful:

    – What if your destination is a large city, or a densely populated area that doesn’t have a National Park nearby? I know that some cities have campgrounds within their limits, but I don’t know much more than that.

    – What if you want to do a carless vacation (flying or taking Amtrak to your destination, and then walking or taking public transportation)? Is there any way to make camping work in that situation?

    – What do you do when the weather’s bad (strong rain, wind, or uncomfortable levels of heat or cold)? Can camping be comfortable under those conditions, or do you have a backup plan?

    – What’s a padded sleeping bag, where do you get one, and how much of a difference does it really make? Last time I went “camping” (really, just sleeping on the floor indoors), I got a cheap inflatable mattress but used my regular thin fleece sleepsack, and slept terribly. I guess I did it wrong. How do I do it right?

    – What are the shower houses like? Are they generally well cleaned and well maintained? What do you do if they’re not?

  11. Scott says:

    By the way, I’m going to try your breakfast idea next time, GREAT idea!! I’ve done similar things for dinner with potatoes & meat, but not for bkfst yet!

  12. Jon says:

    To prevent “critters” from invading your camp, always dispose of trash from food as soon as possible. I usually have plastic grocery bags that I use for every meal and immediately throw them in the animal proof trash cans that are usually available.

  13. cathmom says:

    I don’t like camping, and really, this did nothing to make it sound more appealing. Jules, security concerns *are* one of the reasons camping makes me uneasy, especially if I were going with little children.

  14. psychsarah says:

    I am among those who don’t like camping. We go once a year to satisfy my husband. The thing I enjoy is that we go with a big group of people that we love, and that makes the extra work worthwhile. It would be quite prohibitive to find a place for this group (about 25-30 people usually) to get together other than at campgrounds, and (although I’d deny it to my husband) it probably wouldn’t be as nice to be indoors somewhere. We cook together, chat, go for hikes/swims, nap, read, play games/cards, have big campfires each night, and generally just hang out and have fun. We ensure we go to a provincial park (we’re in Canada) to ensure adequate bathrooms (I just can’t do without-city girl, sorry!) and we go for 4-5 days, to make all the set-up and tear-down worthwhile. Despite my general dislike of camping, I do recommend it for a cheap holiday with lots of friends/family.

    PS: The little portable bbq grills can make cooking easier too.

  15. J says:

    I can’t say anything to the “conditions” questions — you will be sleeping in a tent, on the ground (albeit with some padding). You will need to share a bathroom. The shower might be coin-operated. And so on. Generally I’ve found camp facilities to be reasonably clean and well maintained.

    As for the security concerns, one of the benefits of most campsites I’ve been to is that you are generally within 20-30 feet of other campers, and campsites are generally pretty full, so there are lots of people around. A deserted campsite is pretty rare in my experience, and I have yet to encounter a deranged serial killer. Most people that go camping are pretty much like you. They bring their kids and they keep to themselves mostly. Also, camps will have quiet hours enforced by the rangers to keep people from being rowdy too late.

    Johanna’s point about having a back-up plan is a good one. After one absolutely miserable weekend spent in a torrential downpour that never let up, we reserve the right to cancel the trip (and lose the money for the site) if the weather is looking to be horrible all weekend. If you are traveling far away with someone who already doesn’t like camping and the monsoon is coming, you better be ready to spring for a hotel room — because you will NEVER hear the end of it if you make them live through a miserable camping experience. And they will never go again.

  16. Lisa says:

    Ah, I’m so excited to read this that I’m coming out of the woodwork to comment.

    There are some people who will NEVER go for camping as a way to save money on vacations, and that’s totally ok. But for those who are already comfortable with camping, I think this is a great article. I know plenty of people who would never consider flying somewhere with a tent and sleeping bags, but I’ve done it. I expected it to be a hassle and totally inconvenient, but we easily fit a four-person tent and two sleeping bags in a large suitcase (and flew Southwest so there was no fee to check the bag).

    I spent a week at the Grand Canyon this way shortly after graduating from college, and camping is what made the trip possible. We camped four nights and spent two nights in cheapy hotels and it was amazing. And inexpensive. (Though I will confess we did not usually cook over the campfire — we purchased dinner, and bought basic groceries for bfast and lunch.)

    So I think the other commenters are correct that this will not convince those who are anti-camping, BUT if you like camping, definitely consider camping as a way to make a bigger trip more affordable. It’s worth it.

  17. Laura says:

    I’m glad you posted this. My bf and I love camping and it’s my favorite way to save money while traveling! For us, staying outdoors is a treat and we just love the flexibility of camping. We’ve just started venturing into after-flight camping trips outside the US and have found it really works well for us.

    We use backpacking packs to carry our camping gear, including an air mattress. The air mattress makes a big difference with sleeping comfort and is definitely worth the weight! I totally agree that the bathrooms can make or break a campground – I do not want to deal with bad plumbing or giant spiders in the shower! This becomes a bigger concern outside the US, in my experience.

    As for breakfast I agree with using a canister stove to heat up some coffee and hot cereal. Be aware that you can fly with the stove unit itself, but not the fuel canisters. A stove also expands your dinner options to include soups and pastas. Check to see if the fuel will be available to purchase at your destination.

    Keeping food gets a little tricky with fly-in camping, but a pop up cooler is a good alternative to disposable styrofoam. We try to be flexible during our camping trips with a few camp bbqs, some easy meals like soup, and some restaurant meals.

  18. Excellent tips, Trent, and I’m sure I’ll be linking. I’m interested in the comments – your readers definitely know how to spark a discussion. :>) [side note, is there a way to subscribe to comments? I don't see one.]

    I don’t like camping because I’m a light sleeper, and even ear plugs and sleeping pills don’t always help. I’m with Trudy’s husband and I don’t sleep well when it’s too hot and humid, which are sadly most nights during the Nebraska summers anymore. And packing up a wet tent is 1) nasty and 2) you have to set it back up sometimne to let it dry out.

    The almost-three-year-old is not a great sleeper either. We use a blow up air bed, which I actually prefer on my lousy back to our regular bed. We brought a pack & play for her. I think my hubs is considering a pop-up camper, which aren’t prohibitively expensive and can be equipped with A/C. I think they can also be towed behind a regular car, but I’m not sure.

    The last time we went camping, we ended up with a TON of mosquitoes in the tent. Unfortunately they all congregated by my toddler, who woke up miserable with more than two dozen bites. I guess I should have sprayed her bed with mosquito repellant? I didn’t put any on her as I didn’t want the chemicals soaking in her skin all night. But she was really itchy for more than a week with the bites, poor thing.

    I *want* to like camping… it just seems to present more problems for me than not…

  19. Jodi says:

    I wouldn’t feel safe camping. No, I don’t think Jason or Michael Myers is going to come after me. But what’s stopping a drunk camper or thief from stealing or endangering my family or I during the night? A hotel housekeeper could be a thief (which is why you should never leave valuables in a hotel) but I’m not worried about someone wandering into my room as I sleep either.

  20. KC says:

    I’ve got to agree with #1 comment. If you don’t like camping you can’t really improve it. Although I suppose if you had a kid who liked camping then parents, who don’t like camping, might take your advice in order to bond with their kid. After all I know my parents endured a lot of classical music concerts that they “just didn’t get” because of my interests and talents. That’s what parents do.

  21. Vicky says:

    I love this post :)

    My husband and I are about to go on a 3 day camping trip at Dry Tortugas – a desert island 70 miles off the coast of key west – for our anniversary.

    We aren’t allowed to bring a stove, there is fortunately a toilet… but there is no fresh water on the island. You must bring everything yourself.

    We’re excited! No cell phones, no radio, no TV. Just us, the sea, and the sky!

    And if you had more camping cooking tips, I’d really appreciate it!

  22. Michael says:

    Camping rocks!

    For comfort, try sleeping in a hammock! It’s more comfy than the ground and the nylon ones pack up much smaller than a tent + sleeping pad. String a tarp above you if it looks like rain.

    For comfort, don’t sleep in a hammock if you’re camping with rambunctious boy scouts. They may cut your rope in the middle of the night. That’s a terrible way to wake up.

  23. matt says:

    I’m getting too old to travel like a student. My advice; If you cant afford to spend your vacation in at least a cheap motel, you cant afford to go on the vacation, and should reconsider your trip. I’ve done the camping thing when younger, we did disney world, cedar point etc. It was a miserable time then, and would be even miserable now that I dont bounce back after sleeping on the ground and have back cramps for weeks. I usually agree with you trent, but heres a frugal tip for you, dont take vacations, they are expensive in general, saving a few bucks while spending buckets on gas or airfare or tickets… etc doesnt make sound sense. If vacations are ‘important’ to you and you have to take them, then you should be able to justify spending on a hotel.

  24. Laura in So Cal says:

    We’ve both car camped and backpacked in the past. We are currently mostly car camping because of having a small child. However, we’ve done really well camping as part of road trips. My husband and I went to Alaska for a month for our honeymoon and camped about 1/2 the time spending the rest of the nights in B&B’s and motels. We saved tons of money this way and you see a lot more of the countryside. We did this a few years ago as part of a trip to Oregon to visit my in-laws camping in places like Pismo Beach, the Oregon Coast, and Lake Shasta.

    I will say that a good mattress pad is REQUIRED for us. Also, just a note that a lot of camping equipment (lanterns, propane stoves, water filters, etc.) can double as emergency preparedness items.

    My favorite camping food is baked apples. Before you leave home, peel, core and cut into thin pieces a Granny Smith Apple. Put each apple into aluminum foil with a pat of butter, some brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Wrap it up tight and store in a cooler. Put on a grill, turning frequently for maybe 15 minutes? Open and EAT. YUM!

    Laura in So Cal

  25. Crispy says:

    Just a few tips and comments:

    – Please don’t disturb leaf or ground cover when setting up your tent site – especially retrieving leaves from trees. Invest in a good quality firm ground pad to sleep on, as it will last a lifetime and help preserve the fragile environments of most national parks.

    – I second the suggestion about using a bbq grill or small gas stove for cooking. I LOVE cooking on the fire, but there isn’t much you can’t cook on a BBQ, including breakfast. Plus things stay much cleaner, including yourself. We routinely stay in campgrounds when visiting places, and not having to whip up a fire in the morning helps keep us (and the kids) tidy when it is time to head into town.

    – There are all-weather campers and fair-weather campers. Know which kind you are. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to camp in the rain; just don’t push yourself or your spouse or friends to stick it out through rough weather when it just makes you miserable. You’ll only end up creating more hatred for the camping experience.

  26. amy says:

    One other tip for sleeping: you can take an air mattress and a blower that works off of batteries or through your car’s cigarette lighter. Then only think about the temperature range of the sleeping bag and don’t worry about padding.

    Also I agree with the suggestions to get a little propane stove to cook with also, rather than relying on the campfire completely.

  27. Kara says:

    Some parks also have cabins that you can rent, or leantoos but they usually go fast..

  28. Thanks for the tips Trent. I have friends that I want to go camping with, but they have this image of it being too privative. Maybe using this tips will help.

  29. Michael says:

    What do you do when the weather’s bad (strong rain, wind, or uncomfortable levels of heat or cold)? Can camping be comfortable under those conditions, or do you have a backup plan?

    “What’s a padded sleeping bag, where do you get one, and how much of a difference does it really make?”

    Pretty much any sleeping bag rated to 0 degrees or below will have enough fluff to feel padded. A sleeping sack’s purpose is essentially just a sheet, it doesn’t contribute to the comfort much. A sleeping bag is like a nice duvet.

    “Last time I went “camping” (really, just sleeping on the floor indoors) I got a cheap inflatable mattress”

    In my experience indoor floor have less give than the ground does, unless you were on nice carpet. I have never, NEVER, been comfortable on an inflatable mattress. It’s like sleeping on a waterbed — too much shifting and moving to sleep well (unless you’re used to it).

    “What are the shower houses like? Are they generally well cleaned and well maintained? What do you do if they’re not?”

    Facilities vary by campsite. You should bring flip-flops. Some I have been to were pristine and new with nice tile. Most were in clean, serviceable but old condition. A few have been cobweb filled, slightly stinky and reminiscent of a gas station bathroom.

    Bring a washcloth and clean up enough so that you can stand yourself on the drive home :-)

  30. Anastasia says:

    If you enjoy camping, go camping.

    I enjoy things such as air conditioning (or heat if it’s cold), and broadband. Therefore I do not believe camping would be a fun way to spend a vacation.

  31. Sarah in Alaska says:

    My dad goes to a 4 day music conference every year. Most of the participants stay in B&Bs or bring their 5th wheel. Dad takes a seat out of the mini van and lays down a sheet of egg crate foam to sleep on. Mom and my kid brothers sleep in the tent on air mattresses.

    They cook breakfast and dinner over a propane campstove (to make sure Dad doesn’t smell like smoke at the conference). Lunch is cooked over the fire so my brothers can have that fun. While Dad is “slaving away” learning new music, Mom and the boys go beach combing, clam digging, swimming, bike riding, etc. The state park offers flush toilets and free hot showers.

    For those worried about security, my dad has been stopped a searched by park rangers because he fit the description of kidnapper – there is security at these locations and most serial killers don’t hangout in campgrounds with flush toilets.

    Also, in addition to car camping, check out http://www.recreation.gov for cabin rentals. We are able to rent a cabin on a private lake for $35/night. Yes, there isn’t any running water, but it’s definitely worth it.

  32. Lissa says:

    A camping tip if you’re using a tent: Please, please, keep your tent “door” zipped up at all times when you’re not actually going in and out. Some tents have “screen doors” that you can keep zipped while still allowing ample air flow. Whatever – just please don’t leave access to your tent open unless you’re actually going in and out – especially if you have children.

    My parents took us camping when my siblings and I were young. I knew even back then that I was NOT an outdoor, “camping-type person” – but I had no choice in the matter. Each morning upon waking, we smoothed our sleeping bags and fluffed our pillows, so that the inside of the tent would look “neat” enough to suit my mom. At some point one day, the “screen door” to the tent was left open. Nothing was noticed until nighttime – after the campfire. Time for bed… as I scooched down into my sleeping bag for the night, my bare toes felt… FUR! I flew out of my sleeping bag, screaming loudly enough to wake the entire campground. Fortunately, it was only a cat that apparently lived around the campground and was used to being touched by people. I hate to think how the night could have turned out if it had been a raccoon, skunk, or even a feral cat, startled and feeling “trapped” at the bottom of a sleeping bag. Even if an animal in a situation like that doesn’t attack, it can still carry lice, worms, and any number of other parasites or diseases.

  33. Kathy says:

    In the state parks I camp in, they create an area where they want you to pitch your tent. At the parks I frequent, this area is gravel and sand, which also promotes drainage. You do not want water or moisture pooling under your tent. For this reason, I second the idea of buying a pad to put under your tent. You can also get a waterproof tarp to put underneath your tent.

    If people hate the idea of camping, then they are not going to enjoy it and they should consider other types of vacations. Although, they should consider that camping is no longer just pitching a tent in the woods. Some campers and RV’s are so nice and loaded with amenities (such as fully stocked kitchens, heat and A/C, TV, living room, shower and toilet, master bedroom with a real bed and mattress) it might feel just like you are staying at a hotel.

    I enjoy camping because I like the outdoors. I also enjoy it as a vacation because it’s a chance for me to unplug and relax. You don’t realize how much our modern lives and how our modern technology has a hold on our daily lives until you have the chance to unplug. Not everyone can do this and camping is not for everyone.

  34. Michele says:

    We camped for years when the boys were at home as a big part of our regular vacations (except for skiing- yeah, I know it can be done,but there’s a limit somewhere and tent camping in 20 below 0 weather is my limit) but now that they have grown up, we camp at the Holiday Inn Express…especially with my husband’s very bad back. I do camp on the floor of my Mom’s living room about twice a year- she doesn’t have any extra beds, so I bring a blow up and it’s quite nice.

  35. Kathy says:

    I forgot to put in my last reply that as I am getting older, we are looking into the cost of renting a simple pop up camper for the weekend in place of the tent because it’s getting more and more difficult to sleep on the ground. Some people can’t sleep on the ground or an air mattress and if that makes them uncomfortable, then their trip isn’t going to be fun, either.

  36. dp says:

    A great post, though I have to agree, if you don’t like camping its hard to change that.

    If Trent and others have any more tips for camping after flying I’d love to hear them. My husband and I are planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest (from ohio) for August. We’ll be flying there and would love to camp while we are there to cut costs and because we enjoy it. If anyone has any more ideas to pass along I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!

  37. Elaine says:

    Might not hurt to mention, for those without significant camping experience–or gear, that most universities and sports stores will rent you gear for a low price. Or borrow some gear from buddies. That way, if you just didn’t really enjoy your experience, you haven’t invested in it. This also works for the camping saavy to test out new gear before making the purchase.

    Great post, Trent. But I’ve already got cabin fever, so now I am even more eager for spring!

  38. Kris says:

    I’ve done this lots, but I find it much easier on car trips then on plane trips. I’ve even converted my boyfriend… our 15$/night rate in Newfoundland sure helped!

    I still haven’t mastered the stove aspect of flying – especially when flying to another country (ie the US). The two times I’ve tried to bring my stove along and purchase a fuel tank at our destination I’ve never been able to find a camping store that carries something compatible.

    I prefer not to have a fire, instead I make something in a single pot for dinner, and just boil water for oatmeal & a thermos of tea for breakfast. It’s fast and I’m up and sight seeing as soon as possible :) – Are their any disposable type camp stoves available in the US for that. The k-mart didn’t seem to carry much last time I tried. Maybe REI needs to be my first stop? Is that country wide?

    And as for state parks – best camping ever. A few of my highlights were Blue Springs State Park in Florida, and Hapuna beach state park in Hawaii. National parks can be excellent too – I loved the Everglades (although not the campground), and the Indiana Sand Dunes!

  39. Richard says:

    When I think of camping, I always scared of snakes and bugs at night. Is this normal?

  40. Richard says:

    When I think of camping, I always scared of snakes and bugs at night. Is this normal? or what should I take care of to avoid snakes :)

  41. Marinda says:

    Mike and I just came back from camping in Miami, in the center of Sunny Isles, on the river/bay in a cabin for $50 dollars. They had air conditioning, but no heater, so we still used our sleeping bags.

    BMX trails, kayak rentals and Cuban food, with the beach to walk and sun on, for $50 dollars a night. We had a blast. We also stayed at Grayton Beach and several other state parks. We use our canvas truck camper with an inflatable air mattress and jersey sheets to protect it. We always bring netting to keep bugs out and sleeping bags.

    We have camped in all the parks out west and many of the ones in the South. We did it with kids, dogs and now, with just us. We have done public, state and federal parks and KOA campgrounds and had wonderful and not so great experiences. But the fantastic memories and the great times outnumber the not so great.

  42. jgonzales says:

    Some of my favorite memories growing up are of camping. It’s something I’d love to do it with my kids.

    I’m not sure about flying, though. I think if I were to plan a far distance I’d either plan it so that I can ship it to a friend or family member nearby and pick it up after flying in or just driving the whole trip. Of course, we’re obsessed with cars around here.

    Yes, there are bugs and snakes and all sorts of other parts of nature we’re not happy with, but you’ve got the great parts of nature too.

    If you are looking for camping gear, I suggest Coleman. You can get some of their stuff in your local big box store, but for things like a good mattress pad that folds down to practically nothing you should check your local sport or outdoor store. REI is a chain that carries quite a bit.

  43. Michelle says:

    “what should I take care of to avoid snakes”

    1)Keep your tent completely zipped up unless you are entering or exiting. That will keep out snakes and most bugs. You can unzip the window panels for fresh air, the mesh should allow plenty of air and keep out the critters. Another thing, don’t keep food in your tent, anything will claws can scratch its way in and that sucks. 2)For the most part, snakes are not aggressive. If you see one, just walk away, it won’t bother you. And watch where you step, that’s where most people get bitten, when they aren’t being careful and step on the snake.

  44. chacha1 says:

    I have managed to never camp so far in my life, and since I caught up with DH at the end of his most adventurous phase (i.e. willing to embrace considerable discomfort to save a buck) I doubt I’ll ever have to.

    That said, we LOVE going to national and state parks, and there are puh-lenty of cheap motels near most of them; some also have cabins or lodges within them. If you plan ahead, you can stay in a motel for very little more than it would cost to reserve a campsite and buy or rent all the gear you’d need. There’s also the option of renting a small RV – not advisable in some parks, but definitely possible for many.

    If you are NOT vacationing with kids, choosing a lodging that is slightly more expensive will ensure that you don’t end up feeling besieged by *other* people’s kids.

  45. jim says:

    I don’t find any of that compelling in any way. I’m just not interested in camping. Especially when I’m on vacation. I’m happy in the outdoors but I like the convenience of buildings and electricity and all the other stuff we’ve invented post middle ages.

  46. Joanna says:

    There don’t seem to be too many fans of camping leaving messages, but for anyone who likes camping and has never wanted to deal with flying to a destination–if you have an REI membership, you could also rent things like a stove, tent, sleeping pad (reserve ahead of time and pick up at an REI near your destination). It would add cost to camping but maybe not as much as shipping/checking a big box of stuff. There are tons of stores on the west coast, especially.

  47. Amy F says:

    To Matt #18: For many (like myself), camping is not about the inability to afford a hotel, but a genuine appreciation for nature and wanting to be closer to it. I have been to Europe for four out of the last five years and have loved every minute of it. However, last summer, I drove three days across the country to Utah with some family members where we camped for two weeks it Bryce and Zion canyons. It wasn’t about ‘traveling like a college student’ – it was about being close to one of the most beautiful places on earth. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great hotel and all of its amenities, but I also love to camp with my family. And, funnily enough, all of that fresh air and activity makes me sleep better than when I’m at home. There’s nothing like waking up after a night of sleeping outdoors. It’s truly one of my favorite things.

  48. EGD says:

    The camping experience is often as good as the campground you choose (especially for families). On family trips when I was little, we got to choose our campground each night out of a huge phonebook-style directory — I believe it was called Woodard’s, and I would imagine there’s an online version of it by now. It had detailed listings and rankings of amenities of each place.

    Also, keep in mind when planning trips that tents are not permitted in all areas — I remember having to find a last-minute hotel in the Pacific Northwest, where local campgrounds would not accept tent campers because of the bears!

  49. Little House says:

    I love camping. But I definitely don’t “rough it” when I go. I use reserveamerica.com, it’s a great way to find a campground with nice restrooms, but book WAY ahead. These campsites usually go quickly!

    I also take a blow up air mattress, yes that’s right, a queen size blow up. It’s so comfy. My husband and I have invested in our camping gear over the last 4 years, so we have an air compressor, stove, huge tent (my husband can set it up in 20 minutes), rubbermaid storage bins, sleeping bags, and a cooler. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things.

    As for safety, I have to say that we always camp with in an hour or two of Los Angeles and we’ve never run into psycho-killers in the woods. And seriously, we camp right outside of Los Angeles! Can’t get any scarier than that, right?

    Oh, and as for bad weather, we went camping last spring and it snowed. Our tent held up great, and luckily we had bought a buddy portable propane heater that kept us warm. Just be careful with the propane heater in the tent (fire, suffocation, etc.)

    I love camping!

  50. Emily says:

    We have tried camping – 2 or 3 times and we do not like it. Instead we’ve opted to rent little cabins…campgrounds like Jellystone rent them out and they are cheaper than a hotel – more expensive than a tent. But…there is a bed and usually a private bathroom. That’s become my family’s solution – we cook outside on the grill or campfire, and do all the other camping “stuff” but we upgrade a little bit :o)

  51. J says:

    Next in this series: Tips for Watching Sports for People Who Don’t Like Watching Sports.

  52. Candi says:

    I am ok with the concept of camping with good shower and restroom facilities. Luckily I don’t have to test my “okayness” as my husband refuses to do anything close to camping. All of his “camping” experiences have been in tents in some lovely third world countries for the military and now he is unwilling to even consider the experience again!

  53. lostAnnfound says:

    #34 EGD – The name of that book is Woodall’s and it is still around. Also, as Little House mentioned, reserveamerica.com, as well as recreation.gov. In addition, most states (I believe) have an organization that lists campgrounds within that particular state; go to a state’s website & it’s usually listed there.

  54. Kai says:

    I disagree. You can’t make camping fun for people who don’t like camping. And there’s no reason to. There are reasonably priced hotels, and many ways to save on other things on vacation. For many people, the ease and comfort of a hotel is part of the vacation.

    To enjoy camping, you need good-quality gear, and the interest and background knowledge to assess what constitutes that. Many people just don’t want to have to go to all that trouble on vacation – and that’s a reasonable choice.

    Now I’m to the opposite extreme – I don’t know why you would want to live in a place with no natural stuff left, and another tent (or likely RV) a few feet away. And campgrounds with showers are for sissies.
    I spend my vacation time backpacking, far away from civilisation. Where you don’t have showers, unless you include the glacial creek (which I do!), and you don’t have air mattresses or pillows or any of that fluff.
    And you sure as heck don’t cook with aluminum foil and a fire, or pull leaves off the trees to make an underpad for your tent.
    I am quite appalled to hear of this destruction of nature, actually. If you need a comfy spot for your tent, look harder, or bring thicker pads (you might look at the Exped downmats). Do NOT mess with nature for it.

  55. Steven says:

    Great Post Trent!!!!

    I’m a hardcore Hiker/Camper and I can’t understand why anyone would sleep in a hotel over sleeping in a tent. It’s a mystery to me…

    A couple of comments…

    1) Serial Killers??? Really??? You are more likely to be in a car accident than attacked by a serial killer.

    Listen, there a stories of terrible things happening to campers or hikers. No doubt about that. There are also millions of people going camping and having a great time. The statistics don’t add up. I wouldn’t worry about it.

    If your only looking for perfect weather. If you can’t handle heat, cold, rain, snow… well…. thats the fun of camping. It’s about loving the elements and making the best of your situation. It’s about being optimistic. I’ve camped on plenty of nights with perfect weather. I don’t remember much about those nights.

    But the time I camped in the down pour? Ohhhh man, I got some good stories for that one. Good experience.

    Seriously, there is alot you can do to enjoy light camping on a budget. Many National Park Services have huts or cabins that can be rented. In the White Mountains, A room in a cabin can cost between 70 and 90 dollars but they include two LARGE meals (I’ve stayed there several times if I’m not packing in gear or if I’m hiking with someone who doesn’t enjoy camping as much), and you get to hangout with all the other hikers who ALWAYS want to talk. It’s great for people who want both the solitude of nature and the fun of a community dinner (all meals are served family style. So you eat with all the other people who are staying at the cabin that night.)

    It’s a good time

  56. That Other Jean says:

    I love camping, but I’m old and out of shape, and I really like to be comfortable. I camp in the tallest pop-up tent I could find, eight feet square. I sleep on a good, extra-wide, seriously fold-up cot, on/in a big enough sleeping bag, depending on the weather. Tent manufacturers grossly underestimate the amount of floor space a person needs. Backpacking in the wilderness calls for minimal equipment, but ordinary tent camping doesn’t need to be cramped and uncomfortable.

    In my tent, along with the cot and sleeping bag, I have table that packs down to two feet by eight inches, but sets up sturdily, two feet square. I also have a canvas-and-aluminum folding chair. Clothes and supplies fit into two medium duffel bags, stored under the cot. Flashlight, lantern, books and battery-powered clock sit on the table. Honestly, it’s comfortable from late Spring to mid Fall.

    It’s not the sort of gear you can pack into the woods, but it’s fine for pulling your car up to a site, and it fits in a hatchback with a box of food/cooking gear, emergency kit, and another person’s similar stuff. Campmor has some great equipment that packs small but unfolds to full size.

    Camping doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable endurance test.

  57. marta says:

    @Kai (#39): Thank you! I was wondering if I was the only one thinking Trent should leave the leaves alone. Leave no trace, people…

    I do a lot of mountaineering/backpacking myself, so I am used to roughing it up. This talk of boxes, coolers, pillows and whatnot amused me. All of that sounds like clutter. For example, for a pillow you just need to stuff your clothes into a stuff sack, and you are all set.

    If I needed to carry all that stuff with me, I wouldn’t enjoy camping myself! If I can’t carry it in my backpack, I don’t bring it.

    That said, it’s pointless to suggest camping to people who don’t like it, for whatever reasons. Some people want to spend their vacations in the city, enjoying the culture, the nightlife, whatever, and that’s fine. Others like the outdoors but prefer to enjoy it more comfortably — in a hotel, cabin, etc. You just have to decide what you value the most and spend accordingly. I don’t enjoy spending a lot on lodging, so I get to have more disposable money for eating out (trying the local cuisine) or doing some sort of activity.

  58. Melanie says:

    I love camping and love the breakfast idea- never thought of that. I’d much rather use the campfire than have to tote my camp stove if possible! Thanks!

  59. Tammy says:

    I love the idea of camping. Actual camping…not so much. We are rustic type campers who don’t like other people around. (It seems like camping for a lot of people is just an excuse to get drunk outside). So I don’t mind the power and the shower issues…but I will never ever camp again without an air mattress, and I might invest in a bigger tent so my four year old will stop rolling and kicking me all night long!

  60. Gretchen says:

    No mention of putting out the fire 100% when you are done with it?

    That’s why I would never make a fire for cooking breakfast. Of course, if you rip all the leaves off all the low hanging branches, there will be less to catch on fire!

    Also, that tent, “padded sleeping bag” (what?), etc. isn’t free. I’d make sure I’d like camping (we happen to) before I went investing in any camping materials.

  61. Gretchen says:

    I also haven’t flown in a really long time, but Can’t imagine that my tent alone would be accepted by the airlines.
    They do make backpacking tents, but again, you are paying for that.

    Strange topic today.

  62. Mary W says:

    I’m another one with Lurker Carl…this post just reminded me of all the reason that I don’t camp. To me camping wouldn’t be a vacation. I’d rather stay home.

    Good tips for those who do like camping.

  63. welchva says:

    Once I’ve bought all this crap to go camping, I’ve spent more than the hotel-which I’m going to end up at anyway.

    I’m with Gretchen-strange topic today.

  64. Karen M. says:

    I know people have already mentioned this, but DO NOT PULL LEAVES OFF TREES! If you camp and want to site to remain useful for you and others to return to, do not destroy the foliage.

    But I’m of the mind that thinks if you don’t like it, just don’t go. There are hotel deals out there to be found.

  65. Brittany says:

    Another tip for cooking… last time I went, one person with us had a campfire tripod. It was a lightweight, and had a grill that hung directly over the campfire. Even better, you could put pans directly on the grill and adjust the height up and down to affect temperature–makes it possible to cook just about anything you can imagine on a fire.

  66. Glen says:

    I happen to love camping, but I do follow most of the tips above. Leaves I don’t get, but a good sleeping bag and a good sleeping pad are essential (I don’t like air mattresses because they always loose air overnight; get a good honeycomb sleeping pad at Sierra Trading Post). Read reviews of the campsite; they tell you whether the bathrooms are clean, whether there’s poison ivy or oak near by, which campsites are noisy, whether break-ins have occured, etc.

    On our recent trip to Santa Cruz, we picked a state park nearby, ate only breakfast at the camp site, and dined out for lunch and dinner. Nice quiet, clean sites with some good hiking trails. Had a great time and saved probably $125 per night ($25 per night camping, $150+ per night for hotels in that area). Had sales people in Carmel and Monterey pushing art and jewelry on us, so I know we didn’t have that sterotypical “camping look” (dishevelled, smelly, etc.) :-)

  67. guinness416 says:

    Try a different season might be another tip. I generally hate camping because I’m from Ireland and am extremely fair-skinned; I burn badly in the summer (especially out on water) and I get bitten half to death when none of my North American friends are bothered by bugs. I discovered winter camping a while back and absolutely love it.

    Activities are the big draw for many non-campers like me too. Are you going somewhere you can kayak, dogsled, hike, etc etc.

  68. Kathy F says:

    I used to like car camping when I was younger, not backpack camping. It helps to have the right equipment so the trip is enjoyable. We would only make fires at night- too much time involved in getting them going just to have to put them out in the morning after breakfast. I used a small single propane burner that used standard sized propane bottles that you could find in sporting goods stores or Walmart. I also had a propane lantern that used the same type bottle.

    Essential was a sleeping pad- mine was called Thermorest pad. You blew some air into it- but it was not exactly like an air mattress. It did not seem to leak like an air mattress and it gave you good insulation from cold ground.

    I did not like camping in the rain or cold winter conditions. Contingency plan for rain- listen to weather report and know a cheap motel you can stay at for backup.

    Keep all food out of the tent. Get rid of garbage as soon as you can or tie it up high off a tree branch. Clean up all your dirty pots or dishes. Put the rest of food supplies in your locked car at night. Raccoons can open up coolers and can steal things out of a car with open windows, not to mention bears. Raccoon also like bright shiny objects. One camper I know lost his keys he left out on the picnic table after a raccoon pillage. Plus putting things away at night or while you are gone prevents them getting wet from rain or dew or blown away by wind. I have seen flocks of birds visiting on people’s picnic tables with stuff left on them while they were away from the campsite.

    We always preferred the more isolated and rustic spots to get away from crowds of people. Too noisy or kids too rowdy. One of my worst experiences was trying sleep at night with next campsite full of guys drinking beer and yakking almost all night. Sound really carries well outdoors in close proximity. Don’t camp too close to bathroom unless you want to listen to the bathroom door slam all night. Keep tent doors zipped up unless you are entering or exiting the tent, this prevents bugs from getting in.

    I agree that some people are just not campers. It can be some work but if you really like sleeping in the great outdoors and listening to the birds and other critters, it is great.

  69. matt says:

    to #47 Amy F: I have no problem going camping for camping sake, I got on a camping/kayak trip every year stil’, but to say you are going on a ‘destination vacation’ and you have to do camping to save money, I would still hold to you have no business going on a vacation in the first place because you clearly can’t afford it.

  70. Mary says:

    I was wafting along in happy agreement until you stepped on the plane. By the time you buy the plane ticket(s) and rent the car, particularly for a family, you’re into the hundreds of dollars. I just don’t think packing your car camping gear onto an airplane is going to turn this into an affordable vacation. I’ve never backpacked, so I can’t address that, but it would be pretty awful if the airline lost the luggage containing the place you intended to stay for a week.
    Having said all that, I’ve enjoyed the camping vacations we drove to. For the newbie, I recommend going with a group of friends and using any cabins, yurts, etc. that the park may have.

  71. Rosa Rugosa says:

    I remain unconvinced!

  72. SP says:

    I love camping vacations. Even better, I love backpacking. I consider camping a vacation.

    Still, I’d never camp as a hotel substitute. Many of my (non-camping!) vacations tend to be in urban areas. I just don’t see camping as a realistic substitute for a hotel in most situations. Camping has to be the goal, otherwise it isn’t fun, even for me.

    PS – Sleeping without an air pad is absolutely awful, and I’m not a wuss. I don’t think a sleeping bag rated to zero (have one!) provides enough padding. But I’m kind of bony, not sure if that matters.

  73. Bill says:

    We do all three,

    We love to camp in tents at camp grounds, but most of them are tent only with pit toilets. We have a giant tent, camp stoves and inflatable mattresses.

    We also like to go backpacking, minimalist, much smaller tent, foam pad, much lighter sleeping bag, smaller cooking gear and mostly no other people.

    We also like to travel in style, we are going to Amsterdam in 3 weeks and staying in an 19th century hotel down in the old part of the city. Then we are continuing on to Bangalore / Benguluru, India. I didn’t skimp at all here, We booked a 5 star hotel that caters to western travelers. Frugal? maybe not, but I’ve heard lots of horror stories about India.

    Then we are returning through Europe and staying in Paris for 3 days. Usually when we travel we like to stay in historic buildings but Paris hotels are very expensive, so we settled for a modern hotel with a view of the Eiffel tower which as far as the map indicates is a good central location for walking to most of the tourist attractions.

    I’m really surprised that someone in this day and age would thing striping leaf’s from tree’s was OK.

  74. Cheryl says:

    By the time the 3rd kid came along, tent camping got to be too much. Wet tent walls, being stuck in when it rained, and tent falling down in the middle of the night made for some memories but not something I’d do for a week of vacation. We moved up a notch and rent a rustic one room cabin in a NY state park. Almost as cheap as a tent site, a roof over your head, a stove and a fridge. Of course, you have to walk to the bathrooms, but at least you are dry! We cook all our suppers on the fire, foil dinners and mountain pies are the best! breakfast is cold cereal, lunch is sandwiches. Lots of hiking, swimming and great fun!

    Even in Florida, you can still hotel it pretty cheap. We were at a Days inn near the orlando mall, and had a 3 room suite with a kitchen for $49 a night, if you shop careful. It had a pool, and a few Irish families the kids enjoyed hanging out with.

    Its 8 degrees here, so it seems funny to be talking about camping…brrr! Send the spring!

  75. Joan says:

    Sorry Trent, reading this post makes me wonder if you even camped. Pulling leaves off trees can get you into a lot of trouble with the rangers. #56 That Other Jean should have wrote this post, she sounds like a real camper. Only thing I would add to her comments is I love the smell of bacon for breakfast in the outdoors; cooked on a propane stove, of course.

  76. littlepitcher says:

    For the contingencies of hot weather, get a battery-operated fan (a two-D-cell) and a solar battery charger. Keep your charger on the dashboard of your vehicle.
    I don’t do propane stoves. Coleman gas stoves can be found cheap at garage sales and flea markets, and will use regular unleaded gas.
    A byproduct of having good camping equipment, even for non-campers, is that it’s always available for emergencies. When my warm Southern city was surprised by a 20-inch snow, I had a tent heater, camp stove, sleeping bag, and ice chest during an extended power outage.
    Survivalists might consider a camp-out near a you-pick farm. Take your jars and do your canning on the stove, in the open. Saves the increased power bill for cooling the house, and that home-canned produce is super-fresh.
    One luxury tip for the camper–take your percolator and gourmet coffee. Nothing will ever taste better than really good flavored coffee with clean, fresh country air.
    My fondness for camping was truly welcome when I had to live in a pickup truck camper for two years. Tents are, indeed, nicer in warm weather, but you can’t beat a 4 cyl pickup for cheap travel arrangements.

  77. Heather says:

    Interesting post Trent. I’ll keep some of the tips in mind if I ever want to take some non-camping friends out…but really you either love it or you hate it and I’m not about to put people I care about through an experience they know they don’t like.

    Personally I love, love, love camping. I have wondeful memories of car camping with my family growing up, and wilderness canoe camping with my boyfriend. For us the perfect vacation is 3 weeks in a provincial park (Canadian) with plenty of canoe routes. You can go almost the entire time withhout seeing a soul, the lakes are your showers and bathrooms are wooden boxes over pits with a hole in the top. Coolers, electricity, cell reception etc. are just not in the picture. It is so freeing to get away from society and just live in the moment – paddling, watching, swimming, moving. The physical aspects are a great departure from days spent sitting at a desk.

    Being in a tent during a thunderstorm is totally amazing. But maybe I’m just weird :)

    But I wouldn’t consider wilderness camping a cheap activity – for it to be comfortable you need to invest in quality gear. We do it because we love it, not because we save on hotel costs.

  78. Sandy says:

    Our family loves camping AND staying in the hotels. We have vivid memories of staying in a South Carolina beach and waking up to the sound of the surf, and having the beach totally to ourselves. And camping in Switzerland and waking up to see the ALps all aroud us. And a vivid memory is waking up (I was on a college trip)in Yellowstone and having a moose staring at me just a few meters away on the hill.
    Now, hotel stays may provide more comfort (and that is perfect if that is what you need), but I have very few vivid recollections of hotel stays. Plus, as the kids have come along, they have gained an appreciation for the out of doors that may not be there if we had stayed every vacation at a hotel.
    If anyone is travelling to Europe, you might want to check out a sports store called Decathlon. We were able to buy some really inexpensive, really well made camping items. The best is this sleeping bag that compresses to the size that can go into a regular backpack, with a little sack for keeping it in..I think it gets down to about 1 foot in length. We have 2 of them, and my daughters use them for sleppovers, etc..and all their friends are envious!

  79. Leah says:

    I love camping, but I’m pretty appalled at your camping ethics here. I agree with some other commenters — tearing leaves off the trees? Do you also cut down trees for your campfire?

    I practice “leave no trace” camping as best as I can. I take a campstove, and I let my boyfriend have a fire one night (it’s a big thing for him). I don’t even need a cooler, as we cook a lot of soup and veggie meals while camping. We do put all our food back into the car whenever we’re not cooking. We’ve got all gear in two big rubbermaid boxes — cooking, cleaning, etc — so we just have to throw those in the car and then go camp for a weekend. We’ve been known to camp at the state park 30 minutes away just so we can spend the whole weekend hiking.

    Last summer, we went all along the North Shore. We spent our first night in a hotel (we drove up after work and don’t like to set up campsites in the dark) and then explored Duluth before heading further up the coast. It was awesome, and we had a really budget vacation despite traveling over the 4th of July in a popular area.

    Another great alternative to camping is to look for hostels. There are many family friendly hostels where you can book private rooms, and it is usually cheaper than staying in a hotel (the only place that wasn’t true for me so far was in NYC). That way, you can stay in a city, reduce travel costs. You don’t have to rent a car so you can stay in a cheap hotel in the boonies.

  80. Krysten says:

    If you liked Gooseberry Falls, the next time you’re out on the north shore check out Split Rock — our absolute favorite campsite, bar none.

  81. cyd says:

    i go camping for 3 weeks every year at the Kerrville Folk Festival. foam pads are fine for folks w/ no back problems or young folks, but for the rest of us, air mattresses, esp the double thick ones, make all the difference in the world. A air compressor is nice to have too, but it’s usually not that hard to borrow one. a rock could be under there, but who cares? you’ll never feel it. my air mattress is even more comfy than my futon at home. i wish i could use it at home, but i think my cats just might like it a little too much LOL

  82. Larabara says:

    Sorry, Trent, I’m afraid I’m in the non-camping camp. My childhood was, unfortunately, spent in poverty and my parents struggled very hard just for the basics like food and shelter. My husband has taken me camping before, but with no electricity, running water, or bed, it felt too much like being homeless! Not to mention the mosquitos! Now when I vacation, I make the most of my dollars, but I stay in a nice hotel (off season) and get myself pampered (using their discount coupons for spa treatments). My idea of “roughing it” is Motel 6.

  83. Lily says:

    This past autumn, my husband and I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip on motorcycles from San Jose, CA to Key West – in all, 8,103 miles. We varied the trip to include a little bit of camping. I planned well ahead by getting advice by seasoned motorcyclists using a motorcycle online forum. There are many pros and cons to camping. The beauty of our great land is, indeed, awe-inspiring. And seeing it on a motorcycle and alternating lodging with camping and hotels is the way to go. Thanks, Trent, for sharing these tips in the middle of winter to get our minds off of the cold and start looking ahead to warmer weather with spectacular views, smells, and sounds of nature.

  84. IASSOS says:

    As I get older – now 70 – I am less comfortable sleeping on the ground. One big problem is getting from the prone ground position to upright, especially with nothing solid to hold onto in the tent. At my age, too, there are bathroom calls in the night which means going out for a hike in the gloom to the toilet. All the rest of it is wonderful! We travel by car, stay in state parks for the toilets and showers, and cook on a propane stove. And yes, I prefer it over staying in a hotel. It’s not about the money.

    As to snakes and serial killers and such, the worst that has ever happened to me while camping is bad weather. My biggest complaint is people with big rigs, and I wouldn’t even see them except that I want showers and toilets. Otherwise I could just beat it back into the bush and set up there. In Minnesota there are at least two state parks where cars must be left outside the camping area in a parking lot. You take your equipment in with a two wheeled cart, and everyone around you will be in a tent only. They also restrict the lake to non-powered boats.

    Over the years I have tent camped in Alaska, BC, Alberta, Ontario, Montana, Colorado, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and probably others that I’ve forgotten.

    It’s nice to have a big group of friends along, but I also enjoy going alone (or with a dog) and just hiking with my internal entertainment running.

    I have an eight year old grandson who is a bit of a handful, but when it’s just the two of us in the wilderness he’s a model kid. He is absolutely fascinated with learning about the animals and plants and edible berries and such. If I could keep him out there for six months he might become a human being.

    Pillow: When I’m alone I just roll up my trousers and wrap my towel around them.

    Food: Adjacent to the campground at Cascade River State Park in Minnesota there is a restaurant – actually within short walking distance. But a cup of coffee while sitting on a rock next to Lake Superior beats the heck out of that!

    Gooseberry Falls: Check out Temperance River.

  85. Vicki in ABQ says:

    None of what you list as “the perks” of camping seem like perks to me! Vacations are supposed to be about fun and relaxation, not more work. My idea of comfortable isn’t sleeping on the ground/leaves/sleeping pad/sleeping bag with only a layer of canvas separating you from anyone/anything else there. Also, community water/shower facilities are not an appealing thought either! As a child and teenager, I was forced to go camping. I’ve been an adult for 20 years now, and have not chosen once to go camping. Yes, the National Parks are beautiful–that beauty doesn’t disappear because I choose to stay in a secure, civilized, modern form of housing with climate control and most of the comforts of home for the night. Plus, I like to do more at night on my vacations than just sleep—having fun at night and sleeping comfortably late in the morning is what helps make a vacation, a vacation. Otherwise, you’re just repeating the same work week routine in a different location. Sorry, but none of your suggestions to make camping seem more appealing would make it seem appealing to those of us who do not like camping. In fact, I’d rather not take a vacation at all if the only choice I could afford was camping—I could be much more comfortable and relaxed at home!

  86. IASSOS says:

    Regarding Temperance River State Park in Minnesota. This is a dangerous place for small kids who run around with heedless abandon! There is a gorge with sheer dropoffs.

  87. Nikki says:

    For road trips in the west get the state atlas and gazetteer. It shows you all the back roads, dirt roads, 2 tracks and most importantly, is color coded to show public land. On long cross country drives, hubby and I will whip out the gazetteer an hour or two before we want to stop, find an area just off the road that is National Forest or BLM land, and pull over. Most federal land you can camp for free, whether there’s a designated site or not. (The exception is National Parks – usually you need to have permits and stay in campgrounds.) We usually set up the tent after dark, get a solid 8 hrs of sleep, and head on our way the next morning. Sometimes we use a gas stove to heat water for tea but usually we just head to the next gas station. Of course there aren’t showers, toilets or water – this isn’t really recreational, just a cheap way to travel when you want to get somewhere else, and on your own schedule without being bound to a motel reservation somewhere.
    For cheap travel when cities are involved, I second the hostel recommendation, and would add hosting websites like Hospitality Club. You make a profile and can find people in the area where you are traveling who will offer you their spare room, or you can host travelers from all over the world. Better for singles or couples than families, but a neat way to get to know places from a local’s perspective. I’ve stayed and hosted and it was a great experience on both ends.

  88. liz says:

    Every year, my friends and I go “geek camping.” We employ the use of many modern conveniences to make camping fun and easy. From air mattresses to cooking gadgets to GPS devices, we make it easy and fun. And we ALWAYS camp near the bathrooms.

    Perhaps we campers are too busy focusing on why non-campers don’t like to camp, rather than simply extolling the unspoken virtues of camping. The real key isn’t about the gear. It’s about the people you take with you. If you get a good group of people together, comfort and fun is what it’s all about.

    For 2-3 days we do nothing but sit in front of a fire, talking, drinking and being lazy while enjoying fresh air and the joys of nature. When we get bored, we play some bocce ball, go on a relaxing hike or find a paddle boat. Active, but not strenuous. When we drink too much we go into the tent, sleep it off and wake up with our spouses for an afternoon delight. When we get hungry we either wrap up a tater in foil and throw in on the fire, crack open a can of Chef Boyardee or open the bag of Cheetos. There’s always someone in the group that has a bit of pyro in ‘em so you probably don’t ever have to worry about the fire.

    Yes, it takes a bit of effort to set up the tent, air up the mattress and cook a few meals but it’s worth it. For two or three whole days there are no cell phones, no distractions and no responsibilities.

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