Go Camping! Getting Started on the Road to Outdoor Adventure

I didn’t grow up camping, so when my husband and kids started camping, the experience was completely new to me. For a while, I took my cues from my former boy scout of a husband, but I eventually became more confident. I’ve planned camping menus, created numerous packing lists (and still forgotten the pancake syrup once and the ketchup another time!). I’ve built campfires and learned how to wash dishes without the benefit of my trusty dishwasher. In short, I’m not climbing Everest anytime soon, but I know what to pack if I ever decide to climb that hill.

After years of family and group campouts, I finally felt confident enough to plan a spring break campout with just me and my teen daughter. We decided on it at the last minute and I struggled to find a nearby Texas State Park with available campsites, but I found a site for us at Goose Island State Park near Rockport, TX. It had been a while since we had pulled out the camping gear, so we laughed at ourselves as we tried to figure out how to set up the tent, but we had a great time and enjoyed bonding without the distractions of electronics. We climbed some trees (well, she climbed trees and I avoided watching due to my aversion to seeing my kids in even the slightest danger), we drove around the tiny park, we told stories while hanging out in the tent during a bit of rain, and we made pancakes with so many chocolate chips in them that we didn’t even bother with the syrup that I had actually remembered to pack.

It’s adventures like this that remind me of why I enjoy camping so much – despite all the hard work involved in planning, packing, and (ugh!)unpacking afterward. For others who want to try out camping themselves, but are a bit unsure of how to get started, here are some hard-earned tips:

  • Join a friend on their camping trip. Don’t know anyone who camps? Check out the Texas Outdoor Family Workshops. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hosts weekend camping skills workshops to help families get started in the outdoors. They even provide tents and cooking equipment for your camping meals.
  • Borrow gear from a friend or buy secondhand. Camping gear can be expensive and might not be worth the expense if you’re not sure you’ll enjoy it. Wait until you’ve camped out a few times before you run out to buy a top-of-the-line tent and sleeping bag.
  • Set up your tent at home before you try to do it at the campsite. Save yourself the stress of trying to figure out how to put the tent together in the dark while neighboring campers watch your struggles. Put up the tent in your back yard a couple of times before you take it to the campsite. You’ll roll into that campsite looking like a pro when you get your tent up in minutes.
  • Set the bar low for your meal plan. You don’t need to master campfire cooking on your first trip. Look for no-cook meals that you can bring, such as sandwiches. But DO plan getting that campfire going for making s’mores if fires are allowed in the area. No camping trip is complete without s’mores!
  • Read about how to go camping. REI has a series of articles about camping basics, choosing equipment, setting up a tent, and more. Or you can check out one of the suggested library books below.
  • Have fun! The most important part of camping is just taking time to relax and enjoy the outdoors

This blog was originally published by HCPL blogger Tracy W. in 2020

Best Tent Camping Texas [2018]

The Camping Life

Family Camping

Kids' Guide to Camping

The Best in Tent Camping

Tent Life