10 MUST Know Tips for First Time Campers

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This past weekend we took my mother in law and the rest of the family on their very first camping trip. It was Jovany, his mom and step dad, 3 teenagers, myself, + 3 dogs! What a weekend (LOL). While everyone had a great time, give or take 1 or 2 teenagers, I noticed first time campers (as with anything new) have some difficulty getting the hang of things that with experience, are very quite simply. Seeing them struggle with their sleeping bags, not bringing the proper sleepwear, etc. really got my attention and thus, the inspiration for this post! Here are some tips that I think are CRUCIAL for first time campers!

  1. STUFF YOUR SLEEPING BAG

    I love seeing people take their sleeping bags out, set them out for a comfortable night’s rest to then FREAK in the morning because they can’t seem to fit it back into it’s bag! How did this even fit in there?! How is it possible?! You probably try to roll in into a tight ball like the way you took it out of it’s brand new bag! WRONG. Stuff that sh*t! Seriously…. Grab one end of the sleeping bag and STUFF it into it’s bag. While you’re stuffing it, you can push out all the air that is currently in your sleeping bag taking up space! This is a much easier and faster way to pack your sleeping bag.

  2. BRING ‘PROPER’ CLOTHING

    Even in the Summer months, most places (with a few exceptions… hello, Miami), will get pretty chilly at night. Do some research prior to your trip so you know what the weather will be like. If you’re camping in the mountains, the weather can change in an instant so be prepared. Bring clothing for all types of weather! Many people also assume that since we’re in the summer months, it will be HOT. While this is different for some people, it usually gets pretty cool at night and your shelter will most probably not hold in heat. Bring clothing that will keep you warm and comfortable at night, whether you’re someone who loves the old or not. You never know how cold you may feel until you’re shaking in your tent at 3am in 50 degree weather. Also, make sure you’re sleeping OFF the ground. If you don’t have something such as a sleeping pad or inflatable mattress, it’s going to get really cold at night on the ground!

  3. BUG SPRAY?

    Do you really need it? Are you terrified of bugs? Well, if you’re going camping, you’re GOING to see all types of bugs! Bug spray may help keep them OFF of you, but they’re still going to be around. I recommend learning about some bugs and how they help keep ecosystems in balance. Bugs will be around and most of the time, you’re not going to need heavy duty bug spray. With this in mind, I recommend purchasing a natural bug spray made out of essential oils. Studies have shown that Lemon Eucalyptus is great for repelling mosquitos and other flying insects, including ticks. Unless you plan on rolling in the dirt, I do not think you should be too concerned with bugs. Wearing proper clothing can help keep bugs off of you too, so make sure you bring long socks, long pants, and closed shoes. If you’re still concerned about ticks, you can choose chemical sprays, but they do come with many possible adverse reactions. Many will argue that the rates of bad reactions are LOW but I try not to use the bad stuff unless i’m going deep in the Everglades, where I know mosquito clouds exist. With this in mind, I recommend doing research on where you’re camping. Is there an increase in bugs during the summer months? Are you camping near a wetland? Is it usually hot and humid? These are things to consider and I recommend calling your campground for more info.

  4. FOOD + EQUIPMENT

    Look up recipes on Pinterest prior to heading out. Make sure you buy all the necessary equipment, in case your campground does not have a grill. Test out any equipment you may have. Don’t forget to bring the necessities… utensils, napkins, plates, and cups. Single use is not the best for the area because 1. you’ll have to buy a lot of garbage bags and store all of that garbage in your car. and 2. you’ll be contributing to landfills. There are many great options that can be reused over and over again on all your camping trips! Also, find a supermarket near your campsite and buy food there! This will provide you with fresh, delicious food and you won’t have to carry it all on your trip to the camping area! You can set up your tent and then go purchase whatever you need! Make sure your campground has potable drinking water, if not, you will need to bring your own!

  5. PRACTICE SETTING UP YOUR TENT

    Sounds like common sense, but many people think setting up a tent is super easy! IT’S NOT! It can be really complicated depending on your tent! Make your camping adventure a stress free one and practice setting up your sleeping area prior to leaving! Set up EVERYTHING! Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad or inflatable mattress, lights, etc. You’ll thank me later.

  6. FIRE SAFETY

    It goes without being said…. Always practice fire safety! If you want, bring a fire extinguisher or have a large container of water nearby (just in case)! Some campgrounds do not allow you to cut or move wood from the area or even bring your own wood sometimes. Double check before purchasing or moving anything! Make sure to put your fire out before going to bed and never any fire unattended. Forest fires often result in the carelessness of individuals. Don’t be that guy….

  7. WILDLIFE

    Some campgrounds are smack in the middle of bear country. This should definitely not alarm you, i’ve camped in these areas and have never seen a bear. There are also great ways you can avoid seeing bears and other critters, if that sort of thing scares you. First, do not leave ANY food out…. Not even 1 bean! Make sure you pack it all back into your car for the night, wash all areas down, and do not leave trash laying around. Second, DO NOT put ANY SORT OF FOOD into your tent. I put Oreos in my tent for a whole 5 minutes (because hello…. I wanted Oreos!) and even after I took them out and put them back into my car… a Raccoon literally unzipped my tent and went sniffing around for them. Learn from my mistakes please. Three, DO NOT KEEP ANY TOILETRIES IN YOUR TENT. I’ve heard bears love deodorant. Four…. You are sleeping within a wild area and therefore, you may just see bugs and critters. Please do not feed any of them and keep your distance. As cute as it is to feed a duck or squirrel, you’re inevitably harming them by getting them used to humans and human food. Once they associate humans with food, they’ll go after them often and not everyone is nice. Other than that, human food does not provide them with the necessary nutrients they need. Let the animals stay wild and let them be!

  8. CHAIRS

    Bring them…. You’re welcome.

  9. TOILETRIES

    More often than not, someone forgets it. They forget napkins, towels, tooth paste, toilet paper, soap, whatever! This is far from a hotel and sometimes, campgrounds don’t even have toilet paper! Call in advance and pack what is necessary! We always forget towels!

  10. LIGHTING

    Yep…. there aren’t any bright spotlights where you’re going. Pack lanterns, head lamps, flashlights, whatever floats your boat! Headlamps are my favorite because they allow you to stay hands free but try not to blind everyone.

 

BONUS

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Don’t be afraid to GLAMP. Bring an inflatable mattress with comforters and sheets for extra comfort! And of course…. Bring wine or beer! Make sure your campsite allows alcohol and always buy aluminum or glass containers so you can recycle them later! Being outdoors is relaxing as it is, having a glass (or bottle) of wine is the cherry on top! 😉

Florida Keys Wild Bird Center

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As a kid, my parents would drive down to the Florida Keys from Miami every few weeks so we could enjoy the ocean. My sisters and I were really born mermaids because we spent so much time out in the ocean, whether in Haulover Beach, Biscayne National Park, or the Florida Keys. However, one of my favorite things to do when down in the Florida Keys was visit the Wild Bird Center in Tavernier. It’s a small sanctuary for injured birds but it had a huge impact on me since you got to see a wide variety of birds up close. The last time I actually visited the center was over ten years ago so I decided to take advantage of my winter break and visit again. If you can appreciate wild birds such as hawks, owls, egrets, pelicans, song birds, and even seagulls than this is definitely the place for you.

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Most of the birds in the center cannot be returned back into the wild such as their resident Blue Jays, Flip & Flop, which were extremely friendly! However, many other birds are simply recovering and regaining strength to be released back in their natural habitat. This aviary was filled with all types of song birds such as Doves, Blue Jays, Mocking Birds, and even the beautiful White-Crowned Pigeon who’s northern most habitat is the South Florida, mainly the Florida Keys.

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My personal favorite part of the sanctuary is the variety of birds of prey they have such as this Short-Tailed Hawk. The sanctuary also features Red-Shouldered Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, and even a Barn Owl. Most of these birds are permanent residents. As an animal lover, it can be heart breaking to see such incredible animals in these small aviaries when compared to the large open spaces they could be flying out in the wild. At the same time, one must understand that these birds were either hit by cars, shot by some asshole, or found entangled in fishing line/trash but was thankfully found and taken in by this wonderful center! (Don’t be that asshole and pick up your trash, fishing line INCLUDED!)

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As someone who has loved wildlife and nature all her life, I can say that this place is a haven for most birds. Many of these birds are becoming threatened due to habitat loss and pesticide use. Pictured above is a Cooper’s Hawk, which can often be seen flying in suburban areas. Personally, there is one that often flies around my neighborhood looking for a nice meal. Next time you’re taking your dog for a walk, I encourage you to look up and see if you can spot one! (THEY’RE AWESOME, LOOK AT THOSE EYES!)

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Once you travel towards the back of the sanctuary, you’ll see a Vulture aviary and a larger aviary filled with aquatic birds such as Pelicans, Seagulls, Cormorants, Limpkins, and Egrets. The boardwalk will also take you towards the Bay where many Pelicans will be waiting for your arrival. You’ll also be able to see a beautiful wetland filled with Black Mangroves and fish.

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Next time you decide to travel down to the Florida Keys, I definitely recommend visiting this wonderful place. It’s a short visit and I’m sure you’ll leave inspired to look for these awesome birds in your neighborhood! The center is also completely donation based and is always in need of items such as pet carriers, wire cages, towels, sheets, baby blankets, heatings pads, gauze, cotton swabs, and the list goes on and on. You can visit their website http://www.keepthemflying.org for more information.

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I hope you enjoyed reading all about this awesome place! Now get off your phone and go outside.

-Tasha Adventures