Friday, October 5, 2007

It's easy to get so overwhelmed with the variety of camping equipment that you never start the adventure. Take a deep breath; you don't have to break the bank to enjoy nights in the woods. Keep it simple.

TENTS: Dome tents are popular because they can be erected in minutes and by design are less affected by winds than the traditional large, rectangular cabin-style tents. However, dome tents usually don't have as much headroom as the latter. The cabin-style tents take a bit more time and effort to erect but offer plenty of room for gear and people.

Pick a tent with a "number of persons" designation larger than the actual number of people camping. It'll give you extra elbowroom.

Always practice putting the tent up at home before heading out to the woods. And if possible, purchase an extra pole and tent stakes in case one breaks or gets lost.

GROUND CLOTHS: Either a tarp or a painter's cloth, a bit smaller than the perimeter of your tent (to keep water from pooling underneath), will give an extra layer of protection under your tent floor and provide more insulation.

SLEEPING BAGS: If you're cold at night, you'll be miserable, so give some thought to choosing the right sleeping bag. No matter how much your kids love their cute cartoon-decorated slumber bags, those are intended for indoor sleepovers, not a fall night in the woods.

In the mid-Atlantic region, a three-season bag rated to 20 degrees is sufficient unless you're going to be doing real cold-weather camping. You can always add a flannel sheet or fleece lining inside to give extra warmth.

As with tents, check seams and zippers to get a feel for quality of construction.

CAMP STOVES: If the weather is too dry or too wet, or your destination doesn't allow open campfires, you'll need an alternative way to prepare food. Propane stoves are easy to use. A two-burner stove will give you flexibility in meal preparation. Look for one that has a wind guard. Some even come with matchless ignitions.


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