Perhaps you’re new to the Pacific Northwest and new to camping. Or perhaps you’ve lived here all your life but never felt the need to sleep in a tent — until now. Either way, here are some handy tips to help make your first camping trip a success.
Pack a warm sleeping bag and an assortment of layering choices. Temps can be variable in the Northwest, and a tent only provides so much warmth. Bring an appropriate sleeping bag and a variety of clothing options — think a raincoat, a cozy fleece, and a warm hat and socks. Athleisure-style sweatpants and a pair of camp sandals can also be nice. If you’re a light sleeper, consider investing in a substantial sleeping pad; self-inflating is easiest for newbies. A pillow can make the tent experience more comfortable, but in a pinch, so can a folded-up sweatshirt. (Also essential: a reusable water bottle, a basic mess kit, and plenty of snacks.)
You need a flashlight or a headlamp. Yeah, yeah, your phone works, too. Until the battery dies and you need to get to the bathroom to brush your teeth. You need a flashlight or a headlamp.
Remember your rain fly. One of the best things about camping in the summer is not bothering with your tent’s rain fly, the tarp-like layer that keeps out the damp. But if you’re camping in the fall, make sure to use one. Waking up to unexpected drizzle is no way to make your camping debut.
Follow the rules. Burn ban in effect? No grilling for you. Quiet hours after 10 p.m.? Good night. Unattended fire on the beach? NEVER. State parks are a public service, and playing by the rules means everyone can enjoy them. Plus, I really have seen people get kicked out by camp hosts.
Talk to people. There’s a pleasant communal vibe that sets in at a giant campground if you let it. Once, at a bachelorette party camp-out, I made friends with two strangers in a bathroom line. They shared all the hottest campground gossip with me; it was like walking into a small-town bar. I’m an introvert, but leaning into this convivial atmosphere can be a way to break from routine and feel casually connected to your surroundings. Make the effort.
Put it in easy mode. Camp stove acting up? There’s no shame in driving to the nearest brewpub for a burger. Didn’t remember your walking shoes? Reading at a picnic table can be just as pleasant as a hike. Not sure where the recycling goes? Ask a ranger or fellow camper. A huge part of camping is remembering to roll with the punches. When things don’t go to plan, it’s fine — and smart! — to strategize in a way that fits with your needs and your comfort zone.