Today I would like to talk about being prepared before you head out, especially if it’s an area you aren’t familiar with. I don’t want you to be afraid to camp, but you need to be aware of the possible dangers in the wilderness and prepare for them.
I recommend looking into predators, snakes, and spiders in the area where you will be camping. Do not count on your buddies warning you. I don’t know why, but it seems like guys find it funny to see their buddies get into a bad situation. For instance, we went camping in Indiana a few years ago over Easter weekend. It was cold! So we weren’t expecting any issues and hubby’s buddy didn’t say a word about possible issues in the area. My husband took our son to the the bathroom late on the first night (there weren’t any lights and the bathroom wasn’t heated), but it was full of Black Widow spiders! Hubby said it looked like Arachnophobia! Fortunately, he grew up in rural areas and knew to look before he or our son sat down. We now carry a portable toilet.
Waterfront campsites are beautiful, as long as they’re not in Louisiana, Florida, Southern Alabama, or Southern Mississippi. We have gators. They probably won’t mess with you, but it’s not worth the risk. Especially if you have children or pets. We camped at Davis Bayou in Mississippi a while back and we chose a site that we thought was away from the water. Our kids, 8 and 18 months at the time, played at the picnic table by the treeline all weekend. When we were loading up to head home I saw something glistening through the trees, there was the bayou where we had been watching gators swim from the opposite bank. There could have also been copperheads or moccasins.
In Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee you have black bear. As long as they don’t have cubs they should, should being the operative word, leave you alone. This is where you need to store your food so that they can’t see or smell it. I have read where people left a cooler uncovered in their vehicle and the bears trashed their vehicle trying to acquire it. Take a blanket and cover your cooler.
There’s always wildlife when you’re camping. Even at Disney World! We saw possum, rabbits, armadillos, a turkey the size of an ostrich, and there were bear warnings. Just be vigilant and don’t let your guard down. This applies to RVs and cabins, too. Animals are naturally curious and roam where they please. Stay away from them. If they’re a safe distance then it’s okay to get a picture. If they’re not, get a safe distance away first!
Checkout your campground before you go! Read reviews, ask online, visit if you live close by. We stopped at an RV park an hour outside of Disney so that we could get to the park early the next morning and we got there way after dark. The next morning we realized why the nightly rate was so cheap, most of the RVs had been broken into at some point in time! So, at the very least, arrive at your campsite before dark and have a backup plan.
Know federal, state, and local regulations before you arrive. Make sure you know the campground rules so that you don’t bring something you can’t have. Some campgrounds don’t allow open fires, so they don’t have firepits. This is a huge inconvenience if you’re planning on cooking in a Dutch oven while you’re camping. You can’t even make a real S’more! If you really want to stay at a campground like this then you will have to buy a camp stove. We have the Ozark Trail 2-Burner Camp Stove. It’s great because it’s cheap and has good reviews. My husband has seen campgrounds that don’t allow tent stakes. They make sandbags that you can use instead, but I don’t trust them as much as a solid steel tent stake, so we don’t camp in these campgrounds.
If a campground advises that they have sandy soil, or you’re camping on the beach, you will need sand/snow anchors for your tent, tarp, and guylines.
You also need to make sure that the campground accepts tents. There are a lot of RV resorts these days that don’t allow tents. I don’t know why, but I have my assumptions. Just make sure you ask before you get there and they ask you to leave. Also, some don’t allow pets in tents, so you’ll need to ask about that, too, if your furry family member is a camper. None of ours like to travel so I can’t vouch for anything in relation to them. lol
A lot of campgrounds no longer accept out of state firewood, it has to be certified, heat treated. A little bit ironic there, isn’t it? It’s because of diseases and insects affecting trees in some states and they’re trying to contain it. So leave the logs you harvested at home where you found them and use them in your firepit there. (If you don’t have one, some times memorial makers give away marble that you can stack and make a beautiful firepit with. That’s what we did. I’m weird so the names are facing up to give it an eerie feel. lol) You can pick up sticks, tree limbs, etc off the ground at most campgrounds, just ask first. We’ve even been to some campgrounds where wood was left at the campsite for the next camper’s use. If not, firewood bundles tend to be around $5.
It’s also a good idea to be familiar with hardwoods (oak) and softwoods (pine). Any kind of open fire cooking, even hotdogs and s’mores, softwoods aren’t good for due to the sap. You don’t want to cook with poison oak by accident either. So be sure you know which woods are safe!
Be sure and look for local attractions before you head some place. There may be a museum, historic site, festival, carnival, or something that appeals to your family. Also, when you are checking in, there are three questions my husband always asks, I recommend you do it, too, you will not be sorry!
- Where is the best place to eat? Local, not fast food or a chain restaurant.
- What are some must see things around here?
- What do the locals do for fun?
You never know, you may find a lot of stuff not found online or mentioned in a book! So, ask!
I hope that you have found this informative. Camping is a lot of fun as long as you stay safe. Really, that doesn’t just apply to camping, it applies to everything. So do a little research before you head out and make it an awesome trip.