First Time Camping Advice from a Tribe Elder

First, a tent. I recommend an instant tent. They work great. I can put one up in 5 minutes by myself in the dark. The ones with the tent poles requiring assembly and such are no fun—especially in the dark. The Coleman brand is better than the others. I wore out a Coleman 6-man instant tent. Decided to buy a cheaper one. It is cheaper. Saving $8 was a bad idea. Academy, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Costco carry the Coleman instant tents. BassPro and Cabela’s do too but at a much higher price. The Fall and Spring campouts are tough ones potentially because of the temperature range. One year it was in the 20s overnight and 50s during the day. The next year it was 50s overnight and 80s during the day. Watch the weather carefully in the days immediately before the campout. Remember, any forecast is likely for the nearby town and not 15 miles away on the lake. Take the forecast low temp and subtract 10–15 more degrees for the effective low at the park. (Assuming no cloud cover. Heavy cloud cover will preserve more of the day’s temp.) If it’s going to be cold, bring heaters and/or electric blankets. There’s little worse than being cold enough that you just want the sun to come up and it can’t come up soon enough. I use a Mr. Buddy Portable Buddy heater with the 20 lb propane cylinder adapter. Any heater with a fan will work though. I don’t recommend a radiator style heater. Tents are too thin to hold enough of the heat to warm up.

Sleeping bags are essential. If it’s hot, sleep on top of it. If you’ve got cots, bring those too. But if you don’t, get a couple of inflatable air mattresses from Academy for $9 a piece. Also, get a pump to inflate them with. Good cots are around $90 but worth the money, but air mattresses work just fine and are easier to transport.  If it will be warm, I bring an oscillating fan on a pedestal.
Extension cords for a heater or fan are a plus.

Clothes depending on the expected temps. Also, bring a couple of changes of clothes. The girls have been known to get filthy dirty. No nice clothes either—sometimes the dirt gets ground in. Same goes for shoes. Don’t wear the latest, nicest, cleanest shoes.

You’ll bring too much food the first few campouts. But it’s better to have too much instead of not enough. But the girls don’t eat as much as you’d expect—they’re too busy. Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast are usually tribe activities so those are covered (check with the chief of your tribe). For some tribes, depending on when you’ll get there you’ll need Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast and lunch. Saturday lunch usually isn’t a big event—you have to make the girls stop to eat it. Friday night usually involves meat cooking over fire in a somewhat communal fashion. Saturday breakfast is an on-your-own, whenever-you-get-awake-enough sort of thing that often becomes a communal, pot luck affair (again this varies from tribe to tribe).

Don’t worry about a bunch of cooking stuff. Bring what you want, but we’ll have the tribe trailer there, and it’s full of stuff. Stoves, skillets, utensils, eating utensils, paper goods, cups, coffee pots, and stuff. If you want to bring your own stuff, do, but you can use the tribe stuff too. There’s a communal effort to much cooking and eating and cleaning.

Bring lots of water, hydration is important. The girls want stuff that’s not water too. My daughter isn’t a big fan of milk, but I bring a couple of pints of it anyway. I don’t bring sodas, but you surely can. I do bring a lot of Capri Suns and, if it will be warm, Gatorades. I bring a 5 gallon cooler with disposable cups and set it up for communal use. Water is like beer at an IP campout—essential.

You can never have too much firewood, if you have some bring it.

The tribe has coffee pots in the tribe trailer so don’t worry about that. If you’re first up and need some lifer’s juice, start one perking.

If you forget something, no worries; there’s either a Walmart close by or someone else probably has it or an acceptable substitute.  We’re a very friendly bunch. Just ask.

– Elder Unknown