based on my recent Instagram posts, many of you know that drew and i took up camping this summer! we decided that it was a great way to take advantage of the MN weather, be active, see different places and make memories all under our budget. as i have mentioned many times before, we definitely take pride in keeping ourselves on a tight budget, but we also need (and deserve) to spend time together away from it all.
my family used to go camping when we were young, so i knew what i was in for, but was still unsure how comfortable i was being out in the wilderness as an adult. drew, who is mr. research and Google, started looking into things that we were going to need (and things that he thought we needed). we also spent a couple evenings walking aimlessly around REI talking to the experts. one trip to REI and we discovered how awesome their co-op membership was. for those of you don't know, it is a $20 LIFETIME membership fee and it offers coupons, special member shopping opportunities, a percent refund for every $ you spend and access to their incredible outlet store!
while we were very anxious to get started buying stuff with our new membership, we spent a few days browsing the online outlet store as it is updated every day with new stuff. the research paid off! we ended up finding a fabulous tent originally priced over $500 for $180 all because it was a 2010 model and someone had returned it because 'it was too hard to assemble'. meet Agnes.
yes, that is a 'garage' the extends beyond our tent and also acts a rainfly - how great is that?! after we bought the essential component to camping, we were able to get everything else and still stay under budget. we splurged on a North Face down sleeping bag - it is a 'couple' sleeping (precious, i know), but it has been awesome at keeping us plenty warm and honestly, worth every penny. drew also found it necessary to spend a little extra on a nice cooler. we (mostly him) decided on a Coolman cooler that latches and seals completely shut making it racoon and bear proof. this has been worth every penny as well - having full ice cubes still leftover after 3 days in heat and humidity, pretty awesome. after that, everything else kind of fell into place - my parents gave us their old air mattress and Coleman lamp. we bought a battery operated pump (worth the extra $5 to avoid having to connect it to the car everytime).
>> grill grate - if you stay at State Parks, the fire rings come with a grill, but i guess we needed it nonetheless
>> batteries - bring an extra set for everything!
>> s'more sticks - no explanation needed
>> flashlights - we bring more than necessary because i am an adult who is afraid of the dark
>> bug spray - get the Deep woods stuff
>> bear mase - your insurance card out in the serious woods
>> pillows - thank goodness we have stored old pillows! i also bring an old fitted sheet to put on the air mattress, call me high maintenance
>> firewood/lighter - most of the State Parks sell it out of their office otherwise, you need to buy it from 'approved' sellers. my advice is to check the park's rule and regulations about wood before - you may also want to bring lighter fluid in case the wood gets damp
>> Scrabble on the go - i could have killed drew when we made room for this on our latest camping trip, but i will admit it was a pretty awesome stow-away game. plus, after hours in the woods together, you tend to run out of stuff to talk about...
>> utensils - we brought plastic to avoid have to store and clean them every time
>> towels - paper towels and regular towels
>> hand sanitizer
>> moisture wipes - if you can't shower or fully wash your hands for days, these will become your best friend!
>> garbage bags - bring both big garbage bags that tie and old Target bags, they can be use a garbage bags or protect stuff from getting wet
hmmm....i think that is pretty much it or at least all that i can think of. i didn't forget about food and water which can get kind of tricky depending on your camping plans. for simple overnight camping trips, we stopped at a local sub shop and pick up 2 sandwiches - they are massive and have definitely lasedt us long enough. we also bring snacks like beef jerky, granola bars and fresh fruit (mainly apples or oranges). on our most recent, more serious trip we had to get a little more strategic. for breakfast, we brought bagels and cream cheese. for dinner, i made a crockpot of beef stew (thank you to our CSAs for delivering all the necessary ingredients, it couldn't have been more perfect timing!). the beef stew was full of vegetables, beef chunks and water which was great to help us rehydrate and fill up on protein and nurients. it ended up being very simple to bring in a sealed container and heat up over the fire - can you tell that i am proud of this one? while we were out hiking between breakfast and dinner, we filled our backpacks with beef jerky, apples, oranges and Clif bars. we obviously end each night with s'mores :)
water - planning for water can be crucial for camping since you are being active and it is most likely hot and even more crucial if the site you are at doesn't have running water. while we haven't needed to buy a filtering system yet, we are careful about planning water. we always freeze 3 Nalgene water bottles to put in the cooler for multipurposes, ice when they are frozen and drinking water when they thaw. again, during the simple trips, we just bring several big bottles of water to put in the cooler. during our recent trip, we bought 4 gallons of water and kept them in the car. when we were running low, we just walked back to the car to fill up and keep moving - we actually came home with 1 gallon of water, but it is obviously way better to have more than less!
i hope you find my rookie tips somewhat helpful. it can take a lot of time and planning to get everything and plan trips, but we have had so much fun taking on this new hobby! it has been great to take a long weekend away from the Corporate world and unplug with drew. while camping is FAR from romantic, it is quality, undistracted time that we get to spend together. plus, MN is a beautiful state to live in and even more beautiful when you get out there and see it. we are excited to keep improving and expanding our camping memories, hopefully to other states!
stay tuned for my reviews on our camping trips at local State Parks!
always striving for more,