Why does food taste better when it’s cooked over a campfire? Why is a star-filled sky the best nightlight ever made? Why is the call of birds the coolest concert around? Why does a body of water simultaneously excite and calm us?
The answers may be elusive, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the great outdoors beckons us all. Some seek the tranquility of a solitary hike through the forest. Others prefer the thrill of a raft splashing them through the rapids. Some want a fish on the end of a line while still others delight in the sight of a majestic elk or curious bear cub. Few can resist the sound sleep that comes so naturally at the end of an active day.
It’s time to get outdoors. Use your sense of adventure. Dust off your ability to wander and be awed. Hike. Fish. Camp. Canoe. Swim. Bike. Kayak. Look for geocaches. Have fun. Make memories.
Find the perfect spot to camp
Some 45.5 million people went camping in the spring of 2016, according to statista.com. Their favorite camping spots are not as easy to quantify.
Everyone seems to have a list. Camping World notes that the top five most-visited places for campers are the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota, Disney World in Florida and the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
Esquire.com lists what its contributors consider the “best, most beautiful campsites in America.” FoxNews.com offers “9 best places to camp in the U.S.,” and TravelChannel.com adds one more to come up with the “top 10 best family-friendly campgrounds.”
Few could argue with any of these choices, but perhaps you want to find “your” spot — a place that uniquely suits your needs, desires and interests. Where do you turn?
Karen Brost, avid camper and frequent blogger for GoCamping-America.com, says that while it’s good to get recommendations from others, she encourages people to develop their own lists of favorite campgrounds because we all have different needs and interests.
“Some campers want to have easy access to great hiking trails while others may want to participate in water-based activities such as canoeing, kayaking and rafting,” she says. “On the other hand, families with young children may be interested in campgrounds that offer organized activities for kids or amenities like a pool or splash pad. Or, they might want to search for a campground that is conveniently located near a theme park or other attraction.
“Once people start searching for a campground, they might be surprised by the diversity that they’ll find. For example, there are campgrounds that offer special theme weekends, live entertainment, day spas or hot springs, festivals or extreme adventures like zip lining. For those who don’t necessarily want to rough it, there are ‘glamping’ experiences that combine camping with resort-like amenities.”
The one commonality is that more and more campers today are now using online resources to find the best campgrounds for their needs.
“Searchable online directories enable campers to really tailor their searches based on the geographic location, amenities and services that are most important to them and their families,” Brost says.
GoCampingAmerica.com offers one of the largest online databases of privately owned campgrounds. Campers can pinpoint their exact needs or compare parks along their route by searching in broader terms. The National Park Service has more than 130 designated campgrounds and backcountry locations available for camping. Go to www.nps.gov/subjects/camping. GoRVing.com also has a good list that includes RV parks and campgrounds, public lands, national scenic byways and inspiring destinations. You can find many others by searching the internet for camping databases. There are too many sites to list.
Before beginning your search, Brost says it can help to take a few minutes to define what’s really important to you. Ask yourself these questions:
Is there a certain geographic area you’re interested in?
- Do you want to be near the beach, mountains, a river, historic site or other attraction?
- What type of site, hookups and services will you need to accommodate your RV?
- Are you looking for a kid-friendly campground or one that caters more to adults?
- Will you need a campground that’s pet-friendly?
- How about amenities? Many campgrounds offer a wide range of organized activities as well as recreational perks such as pools, water parks, canoeing, kayaking or fishing.
Those new to camping may also want to “test drive” the camping experience before investing in a lot of equipment, she says.
“One option is to consider renting an RV,” Brost says. “Many campgrounds also offer furnished accommodations such as cabins or park models. Some even rent yurts, teepees, vintage Airstream trailers
and covered wagons!”
The bare necessities
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” according to popular idiom, which might well have been written about RVs if there were such things back in the 1869s when the phrase is believed to have been coined.
For campers, this remains true today, but despite the vast differences in what each camper considers essential, there are items most would call necessities. According to Kevin Broom, spokesperson for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, here are the top necessities every camper should have on board:
- Adapters for 30 amp and 50 amp outlets
- Bottle, can openers
- Camera and memory cards
- Dishes, cooking utensils
- First-aid supplies
- Flashlights, lanterns
- Folding chairs
- Grill and fuel
- Heavy-duty extension cords
- Insect repellent
- Maps and GPS
- RV toilet paper
- Nature field guides
- Pillows, blankets, sheets
- Picnic basket
- Plastic bags (large and small)
- Pots and pans
- Road flares
- Rope and bungee cords
- Shovel (small folding type)
- Soap and toiletries
- Sports equipment
- Tool kit
- Trash bags
- Water hose (white potable water type)
Debra Gibson Isaacs has been a writer and photographer for more than 30 years. Based in Lexington, Kentucky, she is an avid adventurer with a passion for animals, particularly black bears, dogs and alligators.