Learn: Camping

I decided this is the year I'll try camping in the great outdoors.

My first exposure to camping was one summer afternoon in Italy, when my (maternal) grandfather brought home a tee pee like, cone-shaped camouflage tent. My parents and grandmother seemed a little flummoxed at the time, based on their expressions as I peered up at them. I didn't realize it was for me.

Grandpa and I tried it out together in the garden.We then crawled halfway in and lay on our backs with our butts and legs sticking out the front opening. Some tiny ants began entering and walking on the yellow floor and up the walls. Is this all there is to it? I wasn't impressed, but I loved spending time with grandpa.On another occasion my dad set up the tent for me in the TV room with my crib mattress inside so I could camp out indoors. It was a tight squeeze.

Much more recently, I joined a church where there is a great appreciation for the outdoors and sustainability. There is a small group that goes camping at Illinois' famed Starved Rock State Park in mid to late July every year. If you plan on attending, you have to pay your own campsite reservation fee, bring out all your camping stuff for a typical car-camping experience, and then join the group for Saturday and Sunday morning hikes and campfires and conversation at night. It sounds idyllic. And I'm all for joining them this year.

Yes, siree. This year, I'm going all the way baby. I began researching outdoor camping, car camping, tents, and sleeping bags. It took me seven days. Seven. I changed my mind on what tent to buy about three times. I finally settled on an igloo-like tent for four by Coleman.Since I don't plan on camping in winter or cold weather, I looked for a rectangular sleeping bag that is good up to 35F. this was a much easier decision to make than the tent.

I perused Wal-Mart, Target, REI, Dick's Sporting Goods, Google Shopping, Blain's Farm and Fleet, and Amazon. I also looked up several product manufacturers' websites, particularly Coleman. Amazon proved to have the cheapest prices and free shipping for qualifying purchases over $25. At the time I started my research Amazon featured a sale with special coupon code for money off Coleman products.

Among the amazing and useful information I found out, is the fact that you should accommodate around 1.5 people more than those who are camping with you in your tent. In my case, I am planning on taking advantage of the extra tent space because I'm planning to camp with my dog and significant-other unit.

We'll probably want to keep some of our camping equipment inside the tent with us so it's safe from the elements and wildlife at night. Plus, I wouldn't want my boloney sandwiches, homemade trail mix, and favorite protein bars flying away across the state park :)

Did you also know that your food should be hung from a tree, 10' off the ground and the same distance off the tree trunk, rather than storing it in your tent or car? Animals and insects can get into your stuff and cause mayhem. No, not the funny mayhem from the insurance commercials on TV, the real one.

There is a lot more I could share, but unless you need to know or are interested in learning more, it can probably put the typical civilian to sleep. Wake up.

I've made a wish list on Amazon especially targeted to camping needs. The significant-other unit made a very generous gesture by purchasing the very basics, off of the list, as my birthday gift (still a couple of weeks away). The boxes have started coming in this week (!).

I'm planning on my first weekend camping trip at a nearby county forest preserve camp ground, this spring. It's my test run before my official camping adventure in late July with our church group.

I also signed up again for the Northern Illinois Becoming an Outdoors Woman weekend program in early June, up in Oregon, IL. I've missed the Fox River and can't wait to go back to visit. This year, I signed up for classes (with second and third choices) which can help me prepare for camping.

I've actually started mulling around a potential camping trip through Utah. But it's still in the mulling-over phase and not yet solidified, but it looks potentially doable (!).

I'm very excited with this new camping initiative. I like being able to explore, learn, and put into practice new skills that can come in handy or are just fun as a side hobby. I hope it turns into a great opportunity to enjoy nature safely, and make some new friends.

I learned A TON about what it is to go camping and what equipment you really need versus what you want to have along. Here's a rundown of my top resources so far: