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Camping 101: A Complete Guide

Camping is an excellent way to escape your busy life, unplug and bond with the people you love. A camping trip is also an appealing vacation idea if you are looking to explore the great outdoors. Before you head out on a camping trip, there are a few things you should know.

Camp Close to Home

Unless you camp in the backyard, driving to a site is inevitable. But driving a car filled with gear, hauling a travel trailer or getting behind the wheel of an RV is hard on the environment, especially considering the average camper travels 200 miles to a campsite, according to the Outdoor Foundation.

What Are Some Items to Bring When Camping?

When it comes to choosing camping gear, reusable dishes are worth the investment. Instead of tossing paper plates into the campfire or hauling trash bags out of the wilderness, lightweight plates, bowls and cookware can be washed and stashed in a backpack until your next meal.

Biodegradable soaps and toiletries are the most eco-friendly options for washing dishes and cleaning up sweaty campers. Unlike conventional products with ingredients that can end up in streams, leach into soil and be harmful to wildlife, biodegradables have minimal impact on the environment.

Other equipment you should bring includes a first aid kit, knives and lighters.

What Type of Tent & Sleeping Bag Should You Bring?

There are countless options on the market, so how do you know which are good quality and which are not? When buying a tent, look for lightweight, yet durable materials. You want a tent that won't rip and is easy to transport. Also, don't underestimate the size you will need; it's better to purchase something too big than too small. It is also important to practice setting up your new tent before bringing it to a campsite.

As far as sleeping bags are concerned, make sure whatever you pick is suitable for the time of year. Three-season sleeping bags are designed for every season besides winter. They are not too warm, but not too cool. Also, consider a sleeping pad or air mattress for additional comfort.

Pick the Right Campsite

A park will likely designate campsites with spaces to pitch tents and build campfires. In the backwoods, it's important to choose camping sites that have a minimal impact on the environment.

Michael Hodgson, author of Camping for Dummies (For Dummies), suggests looking for sites that are away from trails as well as streams and other bodies of water, and away from meadows and other places where there is a lot of flora and fauna. A gravel surface or area of packed dirt is a great place to set up a tent.

How Much Food Should You Bring On a Camping Trip?

You must consider how long you will be away and how many people you need to feed. Once you've determined this, you can better meal prep and pack for your camping trip. Be sure to bring enough food for the three meals of the day, plus snacks . However, you don't want to over-pack your food. Leftovers may not keep during the duration of your trip. Some meal ideas for breakfast include pancakes, oatmeal and a egg, bacon and potato skillet. For lunch, consider options like soup, sandwiches and pasta. Finally, for dinner, think about preparing foil dinners that you can cook in a grill or over an open fire.

Stay on the Trail

It might be tempting to venture off of marked trails to explore the backcountry—but it's a bad idea. In addition to minimizing the likelihood that you'll get lost in the woods, staying on marked trails helps protect against erosion while keeping native plants and wildlife safe.

Your dog should stay on the trail, too. Dogs are not wild animals; letting dogs run through the woods can disturb or endanger wildlife and wreak havoc on tender plants. And make sure your dog is welcome; for instance, most national parks prohibit dogs from trails or backcountry areas. Check before you go.

Build a Safe Campfire

For some campers, sitting around the campfire is an essential part of the wilderness experience. Before gathering twigs and lighting a match, remember to use established fire pits and approved firewood (either wood purchased from the concession at the campground or dead limbs that have fallen on the ground).

Build your fire far from flammables, including trees, bushes and tents, and keep the fire contained. A small campfire is easier to control than a roaring bonfire.

Should You Bring Insect Repellent?

Yes. Bugs cannot be avoided when camping, but using insect repellent can help you avoid bug bites. You should especially use repellent at night to avoid mosquitos. Mosquito coils and citronella candles can also help.

Now that you know these camping 101 tips, you're ready to enjoy some fresh air. Visit your local public campground and follow these tips for a fun and relaxing camping experience.

**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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