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QUESTION

Me and my wife have never done camping before and always wanted to do it. This time we are planning to go for a small camping trip but have no idea how to prepare for it. We like to hike and are beginners in that too!

Is there a guide for starters or any other resources we should look into?

{ asked by Gaurav Sinha }

ANSWER

Others will tell you exactly what to bring, maybe even recommend brands. I'm going to cover things at a much higher level, with a few specific tips.

The basic requirements of camping match the basics of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:

  1. Physiological needs (food, clothing and shelter)
  2. Safety needs (hope for the best, plan for the worst)
  3. Self Actualization (you're doing this to have fun, right?)

If you're going camping you're going to need to provide yourself with food, clothing, and shelter.

Food

The three main factors are:

Weight: The lighter the food, the easier (and more) you can carry. Water is the largest source of weight in food (1L of water is 1kg of weight) and often readily available (in lakes, rivers, taps, and faucets), so many campers use dehydrated food when weight is an issue. Tricks to avoid the issue of weight include car camping, using a boat, or having food prepared/delivered by others.

Quantity: It sounds silly, but can you imagine running out of food? You need to make sure you plan enough food for all of your meals. Always err on the side of caution, you're going to be exerting yourself! With practice you can bring less. The longer your trip, the bigger role food plays in your trip, so start with a simple overnight trip and work your way up.

Preparation: How you prepare and eat your food will govern how simple or complicated your camping trip is. The easier it is to prepare your food, the happier you will be. The less waste you have after, the less hassle you'll have. This is why there's a whole industry around ready-made food in pouches. The simplest options require the addition of hot water. This abstracts cooking down to the art of boiling water. Do you have the tools to do this?

Clothing

Staying dry and warm is your main goal. Protect yourself from the elements appropriately. Be aware of the weather around you, realize that conditions can change, that temperatures drop in the evenings, and that altitude impacts temperature. Layers are the key to success: Too cold? put on another layer, Too hot? Take a layer off.

Cotton is the worst material for this as it does not keep you warm when it is wet, and takes forever to dry. Synthetics dry quickly but don't always offer the best warmth. Wool works well in hot and cold weather and takes a while to dry but stays warm when wet. Footwear is just as important.

Open-toe shoes are a bad idea, support and comfort are more important than anything else. Wear wool socks instead of cotton socks and you'll decrease the chances of having miserable feet (I've seen hundreds of army recruits with mangy feet and blisters because they wore sport socks in their army boots, learn from their mistake!)

Shelter: there are many options. If you're providing your own shelter, then start with a tent (for shelter), a sleeping bag (for warmth), and a mattress (for comfort).

If you buy or borrow a tent, take the time to put it together and take it apart at home once so that you understand how to do it under ideal circumstances. When you get to your camp site the first thing you do is put up your tent. Clear the ground of rocks and sticks before you lay your tent. Keep the doors closed to keep out bugs and rain. Keep your tent away from the camp fire. Keep your tent away from the intersection of two glacial rivers (brrr!). If it's raining, avoid touching the walls of your tent, once water goes through, it keeps coming through. Don't forget to dry out your tent at home, or else it will go mouldy.

You can avoid using a tent (and carrying it) by renting a hut or cabin. The advantage here is you may not need to bring certain things (tent, mattress, cooking supplies, utensils, be sure to confirm in advance from the location, not second hand).

Sleeping bags are either synthetic (cheaper, warm but don't pack down as well and wear out over time) or down-filled (more expensive, pack down well, last longer). People will tell you that a wet synthetic bag is warmer than a wet down bag, but a wet sleeping bag sucks so much you won't care what it's made out of. Start cheap and work your way up. Realize they have a temperature rating and that the comfort level is always about 5 degrees off.

Safety
Self Actualization

Why are you camping? To enjoy the wilderness? To sit around a fire? To see a sunrise or sunset? To get away from others? To get closer to others? To challenge yourself? Figure out why you want to go camping, and make sure you set everything up so that you can accomplish that goal.

{ answered by furtive }
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