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In these uncertain times, camping is an economical way to vacation. Due to COVID-19, the last few months have caused us all to change our way of thinking. One of the areas of our life that has changed, at least temporarily and possibly forever, is how we vacation.
Amusement parks are closed, flying on a plane is difficult, and staying in hotels can be scary. As a result, many people are turning to camping as a social distancing alternative. We have been avid campers for several years, and we love that camping allows us to sleep in our bed with our own linens every night. Sleeping in your bed is even more critical when the potential for catching an infectious disease is at an all-time high.
Getting started camping is easy. We recommend beginning with a tent or a pop-up camper. Pop-up campers and tents have a significantly lower initial cost than jumping into a large recreational vehicle. The average weight of a pop-up camper is only 2,000 pounds, and you probably own a vehicle that can safely tow one. Many pop-up campers weigh less than a thousand pounds, and the largest weighs around 4,500 pounds. A lot of these campers have room inside to sleep, eat, cook, shower, and use the restroom.
Beyond the social distancing benefits of camping, it is a great economical way to travel and enjoy nature while spending time with your family. We began camping for two primary reasons. First, we loved the idea of bringing everything with us and sleeping in our own bed every night.
Secondly, it is an economical way to see the country. We want our children to have the opportunity to experience the varied regions of the United States. We have traveled the eastern seaboard to Maine, and we also camped our way to California. These trips would not have been financially possible if we were not camping.
Our family does a lot of destination camping, where we like to see the sights. However, we also do a lot of camping where we never leave the campground. We cook at the campsite and enjoy time with the family participating in activities such as hiking, swimming, and fishing.
Getting started, I would recommend visiting a nearby campground. State parks are a great place to start. Most state parks will have activities such as hiking and lakes for swimming, kayaking, and fishing. While visiting state parks, enjoy time with your family learning how to pitch a tent, build a campfire, and other family activities and games (Check out our article on family fun activities). We also love sitting around the campfire and enjoying each other’s company.
Most state parks in Georgia have water/electric sites so that you will have access to water and electricity while you are camping. Some also have sewer so that you can dump your waste while at your campsite. If you are tent camping, you will have access to electricity for fans and lights as well and water for cleaning. You can stay in a state park with water and electric hook-up for around $30 per night.
In addition to state parks, many areas have Army Corps of Engineers Campgrounds for approximately the same price. Most of these are located on large bodies of water, and they are beautiful. The great thing about state parks and Corps of Engineers campgrounds is that you do not have to travel far to feel worlds away.
Some campgrounds offer swimming pools, miniature golf, pickleball, basketball, and tennis courts. Many private campgrounds are full resorts, with lots of amenities such as inclusive water parks. While these RV resorts are more expensive than state parks and Army Corps sites, rarely do you see a campground priced over $100, and most are $50.00 to $60.00 per night. The cost is far less than you would pay for a hotel with the same amenities. Several discount programs are available that will reduce the cost of camping (Check out our article on discount camping programs).
One of the best ways to begin camping is in a tent. Tents are economical, do not require a special vehicle, and are a great way to spend time traveling and seeing the wonders of the world. Most people who now have a camper began with a tent. We have many friends who found out how much they loved the freedom of camping in a tent and eventually purchased a camper.
There are a wide variety of tents on the market. The cost of a tent can run from less than a hundred dollars to several hundred dollars. There are several factors to consider when buying a tent.
How Will You Use the Tent?
Are you going to car camp? Car camping is driving to the campground in your car or truck, setting up your tent, and not moving the tent from that location. Car camping is the most popular option for campers. If this is how you intend to camp, then you can get a larger, heavier-duty tent. If you plan on backpacking and setting up camp wherever you end up for the night, you will want a smaller, lightweight tent that you can carry all day.
4 Essential Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Tent
Size is probably the most important factor when purchasing a tent. The larger the tent, the more comfort you will have. Campers and Campfires suggests that you purchase a tent that is larger than you need. Larger tents are sometimes referred to as cabin tents. We recommend purchasing a tent made for at least 2 to 3 more people than you expect will be camping with you. If you are a family of 4, buy a tent made for 6 to 8 people. A larger tent will provide you more space as well as room to store gear/luggage that you carry on your trip.
If you are backpacking with your tent, then we suggest purchasing a tent that is precisely the size that you need to minimize the weight that you carry while backpacking.
The weight of a tent is important, especially if you are going to carrying one in your backpack. If you are a backpacker, purchase an ultralightweight tent that is carried easily. If you are remaining stationary at a campsite, we recommend purchasing a heavier duty tent that might weigh more, but it will last longer.
The third important factor to consider when purchasing a tent is the weather. If you intend to camp year-round in colder climates, you may need a four-season tent. A four-season tent has thicker walls designed to withstand harsh winters. However, despite its name, a four-season tent is not the most comfortable while camping during spring or summer because of the lack of airflow.
Campers and Campfires recommends purchasing a great three-season tent. Three season tents are not designed for winter camping, but they will work well during spring, summer, and fall. Three season tents generally have mesh sides allowing for airflow, which makes for a more comfortable experience during the warmer months.
Tent campers should also consider rain. Chances are you will get caught in a rainstorm while camping, and you want to make sure that your tent has a rain fly. A rain fly is like an umbrella that goes over the top of the tent and keeps the tent dry. There is always the potential that your tent will leak. We recommend using a seam sealer (Check it out on Amazon) to keep the inside of your tent dry. Most tents will come with a rain fly, and if not, you will want to purchase one as an accessory.
Ease of Set-Up
The last important factor to consider is the ease of tent set-up. How long will it take to set-up and take down your tent? How many people will it take for installation? These are essential factors to consider when purchasing a tent. If you are backpacking and setting up the tent daily, you will want to ensure that the process is quick and easy. If you are staying stationary and have several people to help, ease is not as important.
The most popular budget-friendly tent on the market is the Coleman Sundome (Check it out on Amazon). You can get a Sundome tent made for six people for about $100, making it economical for the beginning camper. The tent has a built-in rainfly and can withstand winds up to 35 miles per hour.
The Coleman Montana (Check it out on Amazon) is another excellent economic entry-level tent. It is larger than the Sundome, and you can generally get the larger 8-person tent for less than $200. The Montana has an awning over the door, a rain fly, and set up takes around fifteen minutes.
If you need an even larger tent, Campers and Campfires recommends the Core 9 Person Instant Cabin (Check it out on Amazon) or the Core 12 Person Instant Cabin (Check it out on Amazon). These are great tents for large families or just those who like to bring a lot of gear while camping. These tents are a great value and hold up well against the weather. Best of all, they easily set-up in a matter of minutes.
If you are looking for a backpacking tent, we recommend the Alps Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent (Check it out on Amazon). This tent is lightweight, easy to set-up, and perfect for backpackers looking for a place to stay for the night.
Alternatives to sleeping on the ground
Some people refuse to sleep on the ground. If you are new to camping and are a little wary about sleeping on the ground, there are other options available. In our years of camping, we have seen many people use hammocks (Check them out on Amazon) to sleep in trees.
There are tents made to fit in the bed of your pick-up truck (Check them out on Amazon) and those designed to mount on the roof of a car or an SUV (Check them out on Amazon). Roof-mounted tents give an experience similar to sleeping in a treehouse. Not only do these options get you off the ground, but they allow you to set-up camp just about anywhere that you can park your vehicle.
When you are first getting started tent camping, you may need a few accessories. Campers and Campfires would recommend buying a grill for cooking if you do not already own one. The Weber Go Anywhere Gas Grill (Check it out on Amazon) and Weber Go Anywhere Charcoal Grill (Check it out on Amazon) are both lightweight, portable grills that are durable and easy to transport. Check out our article on Camp Cooking for other options.
You may want to sleep on an airbed rather than the ground. Most larger tents will hold at least two queen size airbeds. We recommend the Intex Elevated Mattress (Check it out on Amazon). This mattress has a built-in pump and is not too tall for most larger tents. The mattress is very comfortable, and the integrated pump makes it handy to use at campsites with water and electric hook-ups.
If you choose not to use an airbed, you will need sleeping bags. The type of sleeping bag that you may want will vary depending upon the conditions. They make sleeping bags for both cold and warm climates. The Yodo Compact Warm Weather Sleeping Bag (Check it out on Amazon) is suitable for camping in warmer climates. This sleeping bag is lightweight and will not overheat you at night. However, it will not keep you warm on cold nights either. The Coleman Brazos Cold Weather Sleeping Bag (Check it out on Amazon) will insulate and keep you warm on those chilly nights.
Rent an RV
A great way to gently move into the world of camping is to rent an RV. Even if you have a standard-sized vehicle, many pop-up campers are available to rent. Renting an RV allows you to learn more about camping without the financial investment of purchasing a camper. Outdoorsy facilitates peer to peer rentals. First, learn about the different types of campers (Check out our article on camper types) as well as floorplans (Check out our article on floorplans). After deciding what type of camper will work for you, search the Outdoorsy site to locate a camper that you desire. If you are interested in staying in a camper rental but do not have a tow vehicle, many owners on the Outdoorsy site will tow their camper to the campsite and set it up for you.
If camping interests you, even temporarily during COVID and the slower economy, camping is a great option. For a minimal amount of money, you can still enjoy the sights, enjoy nature, and most importantly, enjoy your family.
Do you have any tips for getting started as a camper? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment in the section below.