An outdoors-y girl that doesn’t like tents? How does that work?
You’d presume that a girl who wasn’t too good with tents wouldn’t go on a two-week camping holiday, right? So, so wrong.
The first hurdle to get over is the actual buying of the camping gear. On Trek America, they provide the tents and sleeping mats for you so you don’t have to bring any of that, but what you do need is: a sleeping bag, a pillow of some sort and warm clothes that you can layer up. Even in California in the middle of July, the nights can get cold when all that separates you from the outside world is a thin sheet of nylon and a rain cover.
Then comes the tent itself. I’m just gonna say what everyone thinks but not many backpackers will admit – TENTS SUCK. They are one of my least favourite things in the whole world. They are cold, flimsy, let any hint of moisture in and just will not keep you protected from any of the elements no matter how much you spend on it. But when you’re camping, you gotta make do. My tent, Big Ange, was pretty alright for a tent. It was a REI Half Dome 4-man tent for two of us, so we actually had quite a lot of room. Apart from that, it really was just a glorified piece of nylon that we stuck in the ground with poles. Major tip: don’t set up on a slope unless you want your toes to go numb and to have a headache for the next 3 days.
Luckily for me I had an incredibly warm sleeping bag which kept me warm the whole time, but it’s a good idea to check that your sleeping bag is at least a 3 season one, preferably four season, just to make sure that you’re not going to freeze in the night. I also brought a blow-up pillow, which ended the trip in the bin at my hotel in Seattle: not because it was so terrible, but because I was just plain sick of it. Having to blow it up every night and then let it down every morning was irritating, and I was jealous of the girls who had brought an actual pillow. Even worse off however were the boys that hadn’t bought a pillow at all, and were sleeping on a folded-up jumper…
I also learnt on my first proper camping trip that campground bathrooms aren’t the most pleasant of places. They’re often covered in mud, dust and dirt, with no loo roll and the hot water in the showers nearly never works. Always wear some sort of flip flops or sandals in the bathrooms, because if you don’t, that’s just plain gross and you’ll end up bringing all sorts of weird things back with you on your feet. Bring some kind of small bag that you can haul all your stuff to the bathroom in too, preferably one you can hang up on the back of the bathroom door. This will make sure that you never forget anything, and don’t have to do the awkward run in your towel back to camp because you forgot your hairbrush and toothpaste.
A first aid kit is also a good idea. You never know when you’re going to need it, and even if you think it won’t come in handy, you can guarantee that the moment you chuck it will be the moment you hurt yourself. Case in point, I didn’t bring any antiseptic creams or wipes on my trip, and one night I managed to slice my finger open in the bathroom (cue very dramatic yelling, a lot of blood in the sink and me moaning about how I was definitely going to get Hep C). Thankfully my tour guide Emily fixed me up in the morning, but without her first aid resources I may be missing a finger today.
It’s also helpful to know both how to start, and how to finish a fire. Luckily on my trip one guy adopted the fire making as his little hobby so we were sorted, but on cold nights a fire makes all the difference. They’re also a necessity for making s’mores – the key to any good camping trip.
Have a bank of campsite-friendly recipes at your disposal so you don’t have to wander round Safeway for an hour wondering what you’re going to cook for everyone. Remember that yo’ve probably only got a weird kettle, a make-shift stove and a few pots and pans, so you’ll gave to get inventive in your cooking methods. Also remember to cater for everyone’s dietary requirements, I didn’t appreciate having to eat cold beans and wet salad when a group made tacos and didn’t have any options without meat…
Tent lights are also incredibly useful: don’t go without one, you can get a basic one for about £2 from a gas station. hardware store or your local outdoor retailer.
As you can probably tell, I’m not exactly a camping expert: I barely even know how to put up a tent. What I do know now is that even camping can grow on me. I actually became pretty attached to sleeping outdoors and felt like something was wrong the first night I spent in a bed afterwards. If I can learn to like camping, anyone can.
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