Though I’m not very experienced with camping and surviving outdoors, I do have one experience from which I’ve learned. When I was a sophomore in college, I went on a trip with my sketch and improv comedy club. At the time, the University we went to owned a wilderness retreat area called Dippikill. Thanks to dues and other fees, we got to rent a cabin near the Hudson River. I got to experience something completely new and learned a lot because of that.
1. Be Prepared and Pack Smart
As someone who had never gone camping before, I didn’t pack well for this trip. I think partly that was because it was a last minute decision. I went out and bought a new sleeping bag for the trip, even though I knew we’d be in a cabin. In my haste to pack “camping things,” I forgot to pack a pillow. A folded up jacket made a decent substitute, but a pillow would have been much more comfortable. I also didn’t have lots of clothes to wear or food to snack on between meals. My biggest mistake was that I didn’t budget enough time to sort these things out beforehand. So what I learned from that experience is to think ahead when packing. Part of that means giving yourself time to do research and consider what you’ll really need to avoid rush packing or forgetting important items. Sometimes being smart also means bringing more than what you need just in case you need it. You know the saying, “better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it.” This advice also applies to more than just camping. Hopefully it’ll help you prepare for your first trip.
2. If You Go with People, Enjoy the Company
When I went on this trip, I was at a point where I was still finding myself. I was on a path of self-discovery, learning new things about myself everyday. I think this was an important step on that path. Being with friends from a group I really enjoyed being a part of and admired let me feel at ease the whole time. Having those connections with them and being in their company really made the experience memorable too. If it is something you are able to do, go with friends or loved ones. Take camping as an opportunity to spend quality time together and find new ways to have fun. You can enjoy the novelty of the experience together and deepen your relationships. Even when things go wrong, having someone who makes you laugh and smile can make it all that much easier to handle.
3. Remember to Breathe
At the time of the trip, I was a full-time student. I had just switched majors, so I was under a lot of stress from having to catch up with my peers in credits. I was overloaded with work from multiple writing courses. Even though it was only a weekend long, it was a nice break from my daily routine. Somehow, there was peace AND excitement in that. My advice to anyone preparing for their first camping trip is to enjoy the silence. In saying that, I mean take the opportunity to step out of your thoughts on work or school. Clear your head and enjoy the peace of being disconnected from everything. Take in the sights and spend some time reconnecting (or connecting) with nature. Seeing the Hudson River up close and walking through the woods was beautiful. It was even more beautiful because I left all my daily stressors at home.
Your first camping trip may be a bit overwhelming at times. It might feel like no matter what you do or what steps you take, you’re not prepared enough. That feeling is natural with experiences like that. The truth is, if you haven’t been camping before, it’ll be different from what you’re used to doing. Embrace that difference. I did and I may go back to Dippikill someday to recapture what I loved about the first time. I’ll definitely take those lessons and use them as I explore even newer places. Hopefully you will too.