City Girl Goes Outdoors Again: If You’ve Never Camped Before (and how to do it)

It’s July, there’s no question that summer is finally upon us, and camping season is in full swing. But, if you’re anything like how I used to be, you haven’t a single clue about how to camp, what to bring camping, where to go and simple camping etiquette.

Now I don’t claim to be any kind of professional camper, but many of my close friends are pros at it, and they took me camping for the very first time in Colorado last summer.

Colorado summers are truly one of a kind. It’s warm during the day, and cools off at night, there is zero humidity in the air, hardly any bugs, and it is Jeep season. I own a 2015 Jeep Wrangler and I love driving it all over in the summer, especially when going up into the mountains, but for this particular camping trip (my first one ever) my husband and I decided to take his tiny little Jetta. I forget the reason why, but it was a big mistake. Just northwest of Poudre Park, there’s a campground called Pingree Park right next to the Poudre river. As soon as you exit the main road, you’re driving straight up, on dirt and gravel roads, and it’s almost mandatory to have a backroad vehicle with four-wheel drive up there.

Once we made it to the Tom Bennett campsite inside Pingree, dust in our lungs and all over the car, we set up camp and got to cooking. If cooking outside is a foreign concept to you, and you’re not sure what to bring and don’t want to spend a whole lot of green, just pack a cast iron skillet from home, some real silverware and a bio-degradable rag for cleaning. You can cook just about anything in an iron skillet and if you use real utensils, there’s less to keep track of.

My friends got a little fancy and made chicken and bean burritos and fajitas, but my husband and I like to keep it simple. We had ravioli and chicken vindaloo in our Jetboil Flash cooking system. Jetboil cooking systems are not only great for backpacking, they also work well for camping. Using a small fueling system, the Jetboil boils water in 90 seconds, so if you’re feeling lazy about cooking while camping, just bring a few dehydrated bagged meals. The Jetboil can also heat food up too! Just don’t forget the gas cannister.

Another great rule that shouldn’t has to be said is: always keep your campsite clean, even if it isn’t your mess! Dogs are allowed at most campsites in Colorado, but if you can, try bringing a lead line for them so you’re not stuck holding on to a leash the whole time. Always bring a cooler and trash bags that can be stowed away in the car. You don’t want bears getting in your tent or near your campsite in the middle of the night.

On the day we went camping the temperatures in Fort Collins were well over 100 degrees, so naturally, we weren’t thinking about bringing coats and gloves and hats with us up into the mountains. When we pulled into the campsite around 7:30pm, it was 55 degrees. By 10pm, it was pitch black and the temperature had dropped to 41 degrees. My husband and I had a three-season camping tent that we borrowed from a friend, two thin sleeping pads, the summer clothes on our backs, one zero degree sleeping bag, and one fleece sleeping bag – we were freezing! The ground was so cold, and it was so windy, that all we could do was cuddle together with our yellow lab puppy, but it was useless. At 2am, we finally gave up and slept in the car, heat blasting for most of the night. By 7am, the sun was out, and it was 75 degrees and sunny. I wasn’t happy about not getting any of sleep that night, and to my surprise, my friends weren’t well prepared either.

If you like the idea of camping but aren’t keen on the idea of spending a lot of money on supplies to do it, try borrowing gear from a friend first. Sierra Trading Post has some killer deals on tents, sleeping bags, campfire chairs, and even backpacks, plus they carry many brand names.

So the next time you’re ready to visit the great outdoors, remember these few guidelines:

  1. Try to take a vehicle with four-wheel drive
  2. Use eco-friendly cooking products while on the trails
  3. Keep your campsite clean
  4. If you’re bringing a dog, don’t forget a lead line
  5. You can never have too many warm clothes and sleeping gear



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