If you really think about it, camping is deeply ironic. The whole point is to live simply, escape the hassle of everyday life, and get back to nature… but “living simply” can get pretty expensive.
You need to spend at least $30 for a decent tent, add on another $20 for a mattress, and $20 for a sleeping bag… and this is just for the basic stuff, we’re not even talking about a nice tent or a nice sleeping bag. And then there’s cooking gear, flashlights, chairs, and all of the other things you need to really enjoy the trip. Basically, if you’ve never camped before but want to try it, the start-up cost is not insignificant. And, as always, the more you spend, the more likely you are to be more comfortable and have a better time.
But the benefits of camping are very real, too. It can decrease stress, help with depression, you get fresh air and sunshine and exercise, and if you’re with friends or family, you’ll get to bond with them. Plus, those who spend time in nature are more likely to be dedicated to environmental causes.
For those that have never camped, but are interested in trying it out without investing an arm and a leg, Vermont and New York are some of the states that have you covered with programs to lend gear to first-time campers. The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation has partnered with Burlington’s Outdoor Gear Exchange on their program. It’s proved wildly popular so far; more than 600 people signed up for the 30 available slots, which are taking place on weekends in July and August. The lucky campers get to borrow a tent, cook stove, lantern and some sleeping pads and were able to purchase sleeping bags at a super low price. Staff at the parks also give the newbies a tour of the park and then help them set up their campsites.
New York’s First Time Camper Program had a successful trial run in 2017 and is back in 2018. Since only about 52% of people in the state of New York even take advantage of the many of outdoor activities across the Empire State (seriously, have you guys SEEN the Adirondacks?) the program is valuable for introducing beginners to the outdoors. Their program lends gear to newbies and matches them with a “camping ambassador” who not only helps with campsite set-up but can also help beginners learn about activities they’re interested in trying out, like fishing or hiking. New York also selects first-time campers via lottery, which runs during May, for trips in July and August.
These kinds of programs seem to actually work, too. In 2017, New York’s First Time Camper Program got 150 people outside, and of those, 100% said they were satisfied with the experience; in fact, 90% said they were “extremely likely” to camp again. So if you’re hesitant to start camping, borrow some gear from a friend and don’t be afraid to even buy some stuff, even if it’s second-hand… chances are, your first time camping won’t be your last.
More camping tips and tricks…