Lessons Learned From My First Camping Trip

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January 29, 2018

first camping

My first camping trip taught me the importance of a little planning — and the having the right gear.

first campingFor many RVers, first camping experiences usually involve tenting in the great outdoors. For most, it’s an exhilarating adventure that soon becomes a regular summer activity. However, such was not the case for my first camping endeavor. Suffice to say, mine was less exhilaration and more consternation.

It was mid November as the skies in southern Ontario Canada were filled with gray, churning clouds. Winter was soon on its way. Well, that was when I decided that a trip to the sunny south was in order. But as my girlfriend and I didn’t have much extra money, I needed to deal with the budget for such a vacation. It was around then that a friend I worked with suggested that we could save money by camping once we arrive in Florida. He further offered to loan me a tent, which he had never even used that his father had given him some years back. Great, the trip was financially doable.

Camping in the Keys

first camping

The following week, having picked up the tent, we were flying down I-75 headed for the Florida Keys. We drove straight on down, stopping only for a quick snooze in the car. We arrived at an oceanfront campground in the heart of the Keys.

I selected a large campsite that sat right on the beach by the water’s edge. I was sure I needed a big site as the bag containing the tent was about the size of a navy torpedo and weighed a ton.

Once at the site, it became apparent that the beach was solid rock, not sand. I soon learned that “Coral” was what Floridians call rock!

Well, we wrestled the heavy tent out of the bag and started to figure out how it sets up. The tent pegs were difficult to place given the rough rocky surface. We had to resort to using a cooler, our spare tire, our suitcases, and rocks to support the tent lines.

But, that wasn’t the worst of it. The tent was very small. It measured just over 4-feet square with a peak height of about 42 inches. I didn’t need a calculator to determine that not all of me was going to fit in.

First Camping Trip Draws a Crowd

Well, with our feet sticking out and only a towel for a mattress we were soon the talk of the camp. People chuckled, they took photos, paraded down for a closer look, and just plain watched from their shiny trailers and assorted RVs.

For the next five days we learned things like canvas leaks if you touch it when it’s raining. Tents can fall over in even light wind. Saltwater crocodiles that some campers warned us about do exist in the Keys, but are rarely seen. Just the same, I kept an eye open while I slept.

The final humiliating show, not counting backing over the cooler, was trying to stuff that heavy canvas tent into the seemingly small bag. The bag had obviously shrunk. I loaded it into the car with about half of it sticking out. Seems fitting!

As we drove out I heard someone say, “Those Canadians sure are entertaining”. Hmmm……Now, years later, I think roughing it is camping without satellite reception.

Peter Mercer – With a not-so-great outdoor adventure

Clueless on where to go on your first camping trip? Why not check out Good Sam’s top-rated campground finder?

Be prepared for your next camping trip: visit GanderOutdoors.com for all the gear you need for a great camping adventure.

Prefer to camp only in an RV? Camping World has what you need.

Leave a Reply


  1. Peter Mercer

    It seems you have graduated from basic camping to the luxury of today’s private coach travel. As one moves from one level to another they would probably never go back. The class “A” coach amenities seem kinder on our aging bodies. It sounds like you are really getting everything out of your Newmar DS. Enjoy, and thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  2. Anonymous

    The first time I went camping was in the Scouts. Had a ball the next time was after I married and we used the same BSA Tent. My wife said never again. I ran across a deal on a Camper and she said she would try it again. We went to the mountains and then to the beach of NC. As I was a drag boat racer, we used the camper on the racing weekends. Having to pull a trailer and her having to pull the drag boat didn’t last long. I got a deal on a class A and that was like night and day. Almost fifty of years of camping and three wives later, my wife and I enjoyed a trip across the USA via Rt 66, and back via I-10 on the trip back. Since then we have done some NC short trips. But this late summer I want a lobster in Maine and a Rum Runner from the Keys. If you see a Dutch Star pulling a Army Green JKU give us a wave!! SDHA Sucking Diesel and Hauling Away

  3. Peter Mercer

    Thanks for sharing your first to present camping style experience. It is amazing how today’s camping rigs turn what used to be misery to living the luxury camping venue.

  4. Anonymous

    I was raised in a family where “roughing it” was going to a Buffet instead of a sit down restaurant. My husband as a boy like to throw down a blanket in the woods and sleep. My first real tent camping adventure was a 3 day canoe trip. Camping in wet sand gave a whole new meaning to miserable! Two days of rain, eating and drinking sand, peeing in the woods, wearing cold, wet clothes, cooking over an open fire and getting sun burned the third day almost cured me of ever wanting to camp again. But my husband was persuasive and I tried again, this time at our local state park. I found I liked cooking on a Coleman stove and being surrounded by nature although I still hated air mattresses that always were flat by morning and using outhouses! I was ecstatic when we got our first popup even though the twin size bed was a little small for 2 grownups and a large dog. At least I had a decent mattress. All of this was more than 30 years ago. We just bought our second fifth wheel and I love my home away from home. When someone tells my husband that we’re not “really” camping, he says “Okay!”

  5. Peter Mercer

    The tent actually blew away? That’s too funny! Thanks for sharing that with us.

  6. Anonymous

    LOL, I grew up camping but the first time I talked husband into getting a tent (he was amazed it had a floor) we set up in Kissimmee and it actually blew away. We ended up in a hotel…