One common theme you may pick up on as I write these blog posts, is that I am not the outdoorsy type. Living in Michigan, its either too cold, too wet, too hot, too humid or too many damn mosquitoes for me to want to do anything outside for extended periods of time. Which brings me to an incredibly popular hobby around these parts, camping. I have had zero interest in going camping as I felt I’ve gotten my fair share of it out of the way back when I was in Girl Scouts. Last time I went camping, it was April, which meant cold and rainy and just plain miserable. I never wanted to go camping again.
Evil Husband has been pestering me for years to go camping and this past summer I finally caved and we took our first family camping trip. It all began with a Father’s Day Amazon wish list comprised of mostly camping gear… he is not subtle at all. We had nothing as far as camping stuff goes, so we began with a tent and added gear here and there for birthdays & Christmas. The majority of stuff we found on Amazon & purchased when it went on sale.
The most important item to begin with is a tent. I hate bugs & wetness, so finding a good quality tent is a must. Even though it was just the 3 of us, we purchased a 6 person tent to have room for air mattresses and space to breathe. The tent we ended up with fit twin size & queen size mattress with easily 3-4 feet between. We also brought a plastic tarp as a barrier between the ground & tent to prevent the bottom of the tent from getting damaged by rocks and keep things dry.
We also brought a mat to keep sandy & muddy shoes on when going in & out of the tent. Which brings me to the most important rule to of camping, especially if you hate bugs, is to keep the tent door closed all the time. You don’t want to wake up to find these guys inside your tent.
The reason for writing about this in February is that campsites are usually booked around this time for the summer. In Michigan, we can pay for a recreation passport which grants access to all state parks & we picked a state park for our first camping trip. The Michigan DNR has a pretty decent website for booking a campsite & even has pictures for each site so you are able to see what the site looks like before you book. I would check out your state’s DNR website to see if they have similar options. Many campgrounds are on Trip Advisor as well, which I highly advise checking out & reading reviews before deciding on a location. We originally wanted to go camping at the Traverse City State Park, but learned after reading reviews on Trip Advisor that the camp sites are very close to the main roads & parking lots, and the airport is very close by as well. We wanted something a little less in a touristy area and quieter. We ended up deciding on Interlochen State Park, mostly thanks to Evil Husband realizing I would like a place that wouldn’t have gross bathrooms & showers. They were very well maintained and had plenty of hot water.
One of the big perks of camping is the cost. We arrived on a Friday and left on Sunday, and it was only $52 for the site. You might be able to find a motel that cheap, but not sure it would be one you’d want to stay at. We brought coolers filled with ice, food & most importantly beer. We planned out our meals a bit before shopping and we honestly ate some great food that weekend. I think I ate the best baked potato I have ever had. We bought a fire grill & a portable propane stove to cook veggies and breakfast. We also brought a party tent to put over the picnic table where we prepped food, cooked & ate.
Our first day we spent setting up the tent & camp site. We spent our evenings cooking dinner & relaxing by the fire, cooking s’mores. On Saturday, we visited the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to climb the sand dunes & took scenic tours around the Lake Michigan shoreline. Honestly, if you get the chance to ever visit Michigan or you live here & have never been, please add it to your travel bucket list. It is a beautiful place. Sunday was spent packing up & short visit to Traverse City & the best ice cream place in Michigan, Moomers. Below are some gratuitous pictures of the dunes. Scroll further down for the Camping List.
So the camping verdict is that I enjoyed camping enough to make it an annual family trip every summer. Below is the camping list I recommend of things to bring along to make it comfortable & enjoyable if you aren’t into the whole camping thing. I linked to the some of the items we actually purchased for our camping gear. We store it all in storage bins that we can just throw in the back of the van & go.
Before I get to the list, I am going to have a soapbox moment. Where ever you decide to go camping, please leave the campsite cleaner then you found it & don’t be those jerks that burn plastic & garbage in the fire pits. Please consider using reusable dishes or paper products in place of plastic & styrofoam. Clean up after yourself & be respectful of the environment.
Ultimate Camping List
- Tent, poles, stakes
- Tarp for under tent
- Repair kit for pads, mattress, tent, tarp
- Rubber mallet
- Sleeping Bags
- Pillows, blankets, fitted sheets for air mattresses
- Air Mattress
- Hand broom & dustpan
- Outdoor mat
- Flashlights & LED lanterns
- Extra batteries
- Extension cords (if you have electrical hookup)
- Matches or lighter
- Firewood (please check with your local campground firewood requirements. Here you cannot bring in outside wood to the state parks)
- Portable Propane Grill
- Pots & Pans
- Cast Iron pan
- Coffee Press (cannot live without coffee)
- Reusable dishes & silverware
- Water bottles Cutting board
- Paring knife, spatula, cooking spoon
- Roasting sticks for marshmallows, hot dogs
- 2 plastic bins for washing/rinsing dishes
- Biodegradable soap
- Sponge, dishcloth, dishtowel,
- Dish drying rack
- Food-storage containers, bags
- Trash bags
- Paper towels
- Clothes for daytime
- Shoes: hiking/walking shoes, easy-on shoes, water shoes
- Extra layers for warmth
- Shower flipflops/shoes
- Insect repellant
- First-aid kit
- Prescription medications
- Toothbrush, toiletries
- Shower caddy to carry toiletries
- Campsite reservation confirmation, phone number
- Maps, area information
- Bikes, games