Today we share a guest post from husband and wife duo Tiffany Soukup and Chris Brader, of Vagabond Way. Tiffany and Chris camp a lot on their travels around the world, and because this can be a great way to travel for free (or pretty damn near it) – as well as a lot of fun – we asked them to share their camping tips with our readers.
Chris and I have brought our camping gear with us all around the world and saved thousands of dollars enabling us to travel for months on end. If we were staying in hotels, maybe we could have gone a month or so. Camping does not have to be this nightmarish event with leaking tents, spiders, sore backs and misery. Camping can be a budget friendly, entertaining and allow you to see the world through a unique perspective.
Whether you are a beginner or an advanced camper the four main elements of camping remain the same:
- Have good essential gear
- Be aware of safety issues
- Have proper food
- Have fun
No matter if you’ve been under the stars a thousand times or if this if your first time, missing any one of these four elements will dramatically impact your experience. So let’s take a look at the basics of what you need to get started camping and saving money.
Tent. A good tent is critical. The type and quality you’ll want to invest in depends on how you plan to use it. If you are planning a big road trip and you will be car camping, the weight of the tent won’t be much of an issue for you. If you are hopping on air planes and lugging your gear around with you, you’re going to want a light weight tent. My favorite is the MSR Hubba Hubba. This tent totally rocks. It’s big, roomy, light weight, held up in severe storms and lasted us over five years with heavy use. It retails around $330 and I repeatedly buy this tent. It’s amazingly cheap rent.
Sleeping pad. Basically you have three choices: roll up mat, self inflating or blow up mattress pad. When I am car camping or doing shorter trips I go with Thermarest self inflating woman’s trail pro. If I am going on long term trips and I need every ounce of space in my pack, I will go with a blow up mattress from either Therm-a-Rest or Big Agnes to save on space and weight.
Clothes. The ability to add layers and take away layers is essential. If you are cold you will be miserable. I pack light weight, dark colored, quick drying clothes. EMS techwick shirts have held up well. Tip: browse the racks carefully at thrift shops (especially in the kids section if you can) for quick dry clothes. I find a lot of bargains there.
Socks and Shoes. Don’t overlook thick, quick dry, hiking socks. These you’ll have to drop some money on, but they are essential to keeping your feet healthy. Shoes will depend on what your planning. I often struggle with space and weight when packing for our adventure treks into jungles and mountains and we need solid hiking boots, regular walking shoes and sandals. If your not planning serious trekking, I would get a good in between sneaker/boot and pack a sturdy sandal. My sandal preference is Teva.
Pack. This can be one of the most tricky and expensive pieces of gear in finding your preference. I’ve been going with Osprey Ariel for the past couple of years and really love that design. I can’t access the middle of my pack and neither can anyone else keeping items secure. Take some time, shop around, ask questions – there’s a lot of good packs out there with endless designs. Find one that will suit your style and you won’t regret the investment.
Headlamp. You need a headlamp. Get one. Look for something lightweight. I also use rechargeable batteries and save more money that way.
Stove. This can be tricky traveling on airplanes, getting the right fuel, carrying that safely in your bag – so assess if your trip warrants a stove. If it does, hands down for years I have used the MSR International. Fearing rumors that it was finicky I cornered a sales clerk in REI and made them show me how to take the entire stove apart and put it back together. After that I felt confident I could fix any potential problem that could arise. The stove can take multiple types of fuel, I’ve made meals in all types of weather and this is an excellent piece of equipment.
First Aid. Carry a first aid kit and know what’s in there. Don’t carry around expired medicines and 20 dozen Q-tips. Have a small, well thought out first aid kit with useful items for the worst case scenario.
Food safety. Know the risk around you. Just because you’re going off camping in the woods does not mean a bear is going to attack you (in reality you have small animals like mice to be more worried about) – but – knowing how to set up a bear bag and mouse proof your food will keep you from being hungry if a critter were to chew on your food.
The Area. Know the terrain and local risks. Get some basic knowledge on camping safety such as not setting your tent up next to a dead tree, under a coconut tree, next to a river or at the bottom of a canyon. If others are going to enjoy camping after you it is essential that you learn and follow Leave No Trace principles.
Nature. Be protected from the elements. Make sure you have sunscreen, rain gear and a pack cover. The ability to keep yourself dry is one of the most important safety precautions.
Being well fed with nutritious, high energy food will enhance your enjoyment tremendously.
Make a meal plan. Ensure there are easily pack-able, high protein, energy foods in there such as almonds, peanut butter and dried fruit. Don’t bring bread. Bread smashes, molds easily and then you will have nothing to eat.
Make a meal plan. I know I just said that, but I have seen and been guilty myself of carrying so much extra weight in food. You want to enjoy your trip. Portion out your food and ensure you have one extra day of rations.
Drink water and then drink some more. Make sure you keep well hydrated.
This should be fun. Camping doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing the entire time, but I have more memories from camping than any of the hostels or hotels I have ever stayed in. Often they come from times of extremes, like the night a major wind storm blew our tent across us all night long in Costa Rica or the time we camped in the middle of the wilderness in Colorado and watched one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen.
It’s ok if you’re a little nervous or uncomfortable the first time you go camping. You’re not going to know all the tricks if you’re just starting out. But stick with it, before you know if you’ll have your breaking down and setting up camp routine down like nothing flat.
Once you get out there, you will most likely find others who enjoy camping and will be more than happy to share their experiences and tips with you. Talk to them, share your stories and you will be on your way to successful camping.
To help get you going further with your research here are a few helpful sites:
- Leave No Trace – the camper’s code to ensure we all minimize our impact
- Campmor – look at their ‘super specials’ for great bargains on gear
- Backcountry – sign up for their newsletter as they often will email coupons and free shipping
The biggest obstacle to overcome is to simply start camping. You will soon figure out the items you feel you can’t live with out, your best hiking food and what will become your favorite creature comforts upon returning to ‘regular’ life.
So get out there today, there’s a whole world to explore – and with the money you save on camping you might just make it to more places.
About Tiffany and Chris:
After a year and a half as wilderness therapy instructors followed by three years of living out of a Subaru station wagon, a Mitshubishi van and being a Park Ranger, writer and long term travelers Tiffany and her husband Chris have learned the art of professional camping. From hiking into remote jungles to sleeping in someone’s back yard, they take camping gear around the world and save thousands of dollars on lodging. With the money they save, they are always planning their next adventure. Follow their travels on www.vagabondway.net.