Bugs are also real
Seriously. Bugs. When you’re in your house, you’re probably not worried about a constant barrage of blood-suckers attacking your every body part, exposed or clothed. Mosquitos have no shame about biting you through your jeans, your sweater, or even your hat. And they carry West Nile virus. And their bites itch. And for some of us (me), their bites also swell up like crazy.
The best defense is to–and I am not exaggerating–douse yourself/your spouse/your dogs/your stuff in one of these natural repellents. Also, invest in some powerful citronella candles and, possibly, mosquito coils, which burn like incense and actually do a pretty good job of fending off the biting, stinging, horrible cretins. Also, bring something in case you do get bitten. Benadryl, hydrocortisone, or one of these natural anti-itch remedies will do. Because, while you hope for the best, you always want to prepare for the worst.
Yes, prepare for the worst
Yes, it is, as Adam likes to remind me, supposed to be a vacation–but bad things do happen, and it’s good to be very, very prepared.
Did you ever see the Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin’s family went camping and it rained the whole time? Prepare for that. Have you ever stumbled on a trail and sliced your knee in a very painful and prone-to-infection manner? Prepare for that. Are you allergic to something, possibly, maybe, that you’d never encounter in the city? Prepare for that. Are you 100% positive that the campsite has potable water? Prepare for that. Think of the worst thing that could go wrong and prepare for it as best you can.
Speaking of campsites, do your research
The last time we went camping, I assumed that we’d reserved a site. Adam assumed we didn’t need to–and he was in charge of planning. That’s because sometimes, you can even reserve a spot online…but most often, it’s first-come, first-served, so you need to get there before lunch, and on a weekday, if possible. We were fortunately only three hours away from our spot, so we just got up early.
Here’s another important tip. Basically, there are two types of campgrounds: Those that are provided and maintained by either the U.S. Forest Service or your own state’s department of parks, and those that are privately owned. Privately-owned ones tend to be designed more for RVs, while Forest Service or State parks campgrounds are usually just a place for a tent, a picnic table, a fire pit, and possibly a grill. They usually have some kind of water service, though flushing toilets are certainly not a guarantee. And there is probably not a shower, either.
Go online and check our what’s in the area you want to visit, and then, when in doubt, call and ask a ranger or other local law enforcement/Forest Service employee. And, you know, communicate with your partner about who’s in charge of planning what.
Food poisoning is just the worst
Rookie mistake: bringing a bunch of food that needs to be kept cold, and then not keeping it cold enough. Bring a cooler, and keep it full of ice–but if you’re going for more than one night, know where you’ll get your next batch of ice. Because the funny thing about ice is that it melts, and then your food can grow bacteria which can be seriously hurtful…or just seriously uncomfortable.
Also, bring a lot of dried goods. Powdered milk, dried grains, hearty produce that doesn’t need to be kept cold. It’ll save you from potential foodborne illness.
Camping can be kind of boring (but that’s why you’re going)
As a generation of kids who grew up with AOL and texting, there’s always kind of a moment when, after the tent is staked and the fire is going and everything’s done when Adam and I turn to each other and go “So…now what?”
But that’s why you have to do what people did before they had all of the gadgets we have now: Spend time together.
Adam and I like to go camping, now, to, as they say, get away from it all. We get to spend time just talking, or playing games (Uno, dominoes, and Scrabble are good ones), or just kind of getting to not be distracted by other stuff. Which was really the selling point, and really what makes it enjoyable–even for someone who doesn’t tend to like bugs and bears and the potential threat of bacteria-laden food. The relaxation and ease of it–if you have all the right stuff–is totally worth it.