I’ve been hearing how camping is experiencing an upswing again, which got me wondering how it all started. Thanks to Google and a research paper on the American Camp Association’s web site, I learned organized camping got its start in the late 1800s because people were worried about the effect technology was having on their kids and the environment. When the 1920s roared in, people fretted over spectatoritis. That disease, maybe the pre-curser to nature deficit disorder, was thought to be the result of people so oriented towards being spectators; they ceased being active participants in their own lives. Camping was again a suggested cure as it was in the 1970s when anxiety about the environment and children’s sedentary lifestyles sparked a resurgence.
Here we are today, in the part of the cycle where we’re again worried about our nation’s children, the economy and the environment. As a result, we’re going camping in droves. While there’s nothing new about the need to camp, there are a lot more options now for when, how and where you’ll do it. Mary Burnham, co-author of “Car Camping for Everyone,” breaks it down so your future trips are exactly what you want them to be.
Mary, who has co-authored six books and hundreds of magazine articles on hiking, paddling and camping with her husband Bill, reminds us there are millions of camping options on public and private land. You just have to know what you want. Following is her check list to help you plan your first or next trip.
Where and when to go camping
- Think about what destination you’d like to camp at: lakes, beaches, forests or mountains.
- Consider how far you’re willing to travel. Do you want to treat your peepers to a completely new vista? Or are you searching for rest and relaxation within an hour’s drive of home?
- Who is going on the trip? What interests do they have? Some parks offer planned activities for families while at others you’re on your own to entertain yourself.
- Decide what amenities you need to have. Do you want a secluded site with a picnic table and fire ring? Or do you need a hot shower, cooking grill and water and electrical hookups?
- How much do you want to spend? While camping is a low cost vacation, fees vary depending on whether you’re at a public land campground with few amenities or a private campground with a marina, self-service laundry and recreation room.
-Factor in who you’re going with. Is this a family trip or a large group camp out? That will determine what site or sites you may need.
- Once you’ve selected what scenery you’d like to enjoy over your morning cup of coffee, you can narrow down your final destination to public parks, public lands or private campgrounds.
- National and state parks offer great campgrounds, often with many amenities.
- Public lands such as national forests, wildlife refuges and Bureau of Land Management property offer campgrounds that may have fewer amenities but may be cheaper and less crowded.
- Search for public land campgrounds at:
- Check out your state park agency Web site as well.
- Check out private campgrounds at www.gocampingAmerica.com or www.koa.com
- Read online reviews of prospective campgrounds to see what others thought of their experiences.
- If you want to avoid crowds, pay attention to dates and locations so you don’t end up camping near an event such Bike Week or a NASCAR race. Also, consider going mid-week, when everyone else is at work.
- Finally, wherever and whenever you decide to go, make sure you reserve your site and avoid the disappointment of pulling into a campground that has its no vacancy sign out.
*You can reserve national lands sites up to six months in advance at: <http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/reservations/nrrs.shtml>
*You can reserve many state park campgrounds up to 11 months in advance at <http://www.reserveamerica.com>
If you want more great camping advice, I recommend checking out Mary’s book. What I love about it is the layout makes it easy to find and absorb the information. It packs a lot of tips in lists and short bullet points under pertinent photos. The chapters are logically organized and specific so you don’t have to read the whole book. Just find the information you want and dig in.
The Burnhams specialize in hiking in Virginia. To find a great hike, go to http://www.burnhamvirginia.com/hike.html
You can follow my updates on Facebook at facebook.com/tammy.sapp2 and Twitter @TammyDianeSapp.