You probably love summer camping. We love it, too. But there are some things we don’t always love, like excessive heat, persistent mosquitos, and fully booked campsites.

If you’re new to camping—or usually prefer resort beds to sleeping bags—these tips will help ease you into close encounters with nature that will bring discovery, joy, and a sense of accomplishment. You might even see a shooting star.

Where to camp

Location—whether in a national park or recreation area—can make or break a camping trip. “As you add requirements, location gets more important. What I mean by that is if I have a family and a dog coming on the trip, they all need to be comfortable and safe,” says Ryan Fliss of The Dyrt, a popular camping trip planning website. Some campgrounds require reservations in advance, but plenty allow for walk-ins.

Use maps: When looking at a map of a big-name park, zoom out and look around to find other places nearby. For example, near Great Smoky Mountains—which has consistently been the most visited national park, with a total of 12.5 million visitors in 2019—is Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Its views and spaces are almost identical, if a little less mountainous, but with only a fraction of the visitors.

Stay local: Consider exploring your own backyard. Hipcamp, an Airbnb-like website that helps people book camping stays.

What to bring

Pack lots of water: Pack lotsNo matter the season, packing lots of water is a no-brainer. You’ll need it to drink, cook, and clean. However, the possibility of dehydration is greater in the hotter summer months, especially when participating in activities like swimming where you may not even realize you are becoming dehydrated. Packing larger jugs to keep at the campsite and smaller bottles for daily excursions is also a good idea.

Be prepared for cold weather and rain: Unless you’re camping way up in the mountains, the summer months are typically going to be hot. However, nighttime temperatures can dip low quickly. Make sure you’re prepared with extra blankets and warm clothing including socks, coats, and hats. Also, summer can bring about some torrential storms, and if you’re tent camping, lightning and thunder would amount to a no-doubt-get-out situation. However, a little rain doesn’t have to end your adventure. Pack extra tarps. They are affordable, easy to pack, and versatile.

Modify your first-aid kit: Packing a first-aid kit is essential when camping with the family, however, you will want to modify it to support summer-specific ailment possibilities. Sunburn, bug bites, and encountering poisonous plants are at greater risk during the summer. 

How to keep safe

Why it matters: “The highest level of risk [for the virus] is indoors, and being outdoors automatically eliminates that one piece of it,” says Hanrahan, but precautions still need to be taken. Campers should assess how popular a particular place is going to be, as well as the amount and type of exposure to other people they’ll have. Using CheckMyTrip you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.

Stay in touch: Whether or not you’re camping with other people, always let someone know where you’ll be and if you plan on doing any other outdoor activities while camping, such as hiking or swimming. Share your phone’s location with other people, which is a great way for loved ones to check in to see if you’re safe and sound. Always bring a portable battery, which will come in handy if anyone’s cell phone runs out of juice. However, cell phone signals are notoriously weaker the further into nature you go, which can be tricky if you’re using it to navigate. The Google Maps allows users to download maps to use offline.

Keep your distance: Embrace the outdoors but give wildlife their space. Research a place ahead of time to see whether there are issues with dangerous insects or animal sightings.

Sources: The national Geographic, Tents n trees

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