So, on Friday afternoon, we did something we’d never done as a family before: we went on a three-day camping trip at a state park with our community group from church.
Yes, we stayed in a tent.
A tent. Not a hotel. Not even an RV. A TENT.
If you know me well, you know how this is not my normal deal. Not. at. all.
In fact, the last time I’d been tent camping was when I was something like 6 years old?? But I couldn’t say no to this family adventure since it’s my Year of Yes and all.
I was nervous and apprehensive, wondering whether or not this first camping trip would be our last camping trip.
But you guys: The whole trip was great — from start to finish. For years, I had convinced myself I didn’t like camping… but that was because I’ve never actually been camping since I was 6 years old!
Yes, it was a lot of work to plan and prep for. Yes, there were a lot of bugs. Yes, the bathrooms and showers weren’t as clean as a hotel. Yes, it’s not as comfortable to sleep in a tent as it is to sleep in my own bed.
However, I shocked myself by genuinely LOVING the camping experience!!
We stayed at a gorgeous state park (the Natchez Trace State Park). It was incredible to be out in nature and be serenaded to sleep by the frogs. It was so fun to see our kids having a blast without any sort of screen for entertai
nment. And I savored the opportunity to be unplugged, to soak up the sun, to sit around the campfire, to read in the hammock, and to laugh and talk and make so many memories with our community group.
I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but it’s true: I’m ready to go camping again very soon! (In fact, I already pitched the idea of us doing a three-week camping trip visiting various state parks!)
Many of you have asked me if I would write a post about what I learned from our first camping experience and what helped to make it a success. So, I’m going to take the next few days to share what I learned as a newbie camper and some of the ways we prepared/things we brought that allowed us to enjoy our camping trip so much more…
1. Do Your Research
Since we were so inexperienced and I was nervous about “roughing it” like this, I did a LOT of research ahead of time. I have a fear of the unknown, so I’ve found the best way to combat that fear is to over-research and over-prepare.
First off, I asked you all for advice. Once again, you proved that I have the best readers on t
he planet. You SHOWED UP with advice. Loads of it. And it was good stuff.
I pored over your comments and suggestions and made a long list of ideas. I specifically looked for things that experienced campers suggested over and over again.
I want to say a huge thank you to you all for your camping advice and suggestions of what we should bring. I may have gotten teased for being over-prepared, but we couldn’t believe that there wasn’t anything we wished we would have brought that we didn’t. And I owe it to you all for sharing your experience and wise advice.
I would have never thought to bring some of the items you suggested or to pack like you
advised, but it really made a difference and made the trip so much smoother and more enjoyable. And next time, it will be so much easier to pack and prepare since I have my trusty To Bring On A Camping Trip list now (I’ll be sharing that list on Friday!).
2. Make a Plan
Not only did I make a big list of what to bring, I also researched the best way to store everything and have everything set up while we were camping. Someone suggested this post on tent camping organization and it inspired us to buy plastic bins to pack our camping supplies in.
This proved to be a fantastic idea. Not only did it keep everything really organized when packing and at the campsite, but it also made packing up our campsite and unloading the vehicle at home so much easier.
Plus, everything was protected from rain, bugs, and wind — and we ended up having some rain, some wind, and LOTS of bugs!
In the spirit of being prepared, we also practiced setting up the tent the day before we left to make sure it would be big enough to fit all five of us. We ended up deciding that it was a little too small and we went out and go
a second tent that night from Walmart, just to be safe.
The kids slept in one tent and Jesse and I slept in the other tent, and we were glad we ended up going with two tents. It gave everyone more space, it gave us more privacy, and I think everyone got better sleep since we weren’t all stacked on top of each other in one tent.
…To be continued! (Tomorrow I’ll be sharing 5 important lessons we learned on our first camping trip and then on Friday, I’ll share my Master Camping Packing List). Stay tuned!
Have you been camping before? What are your best tips to prepare for a great camping trip?