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Originally published Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 7:09 PM

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How to be a happy camper

Tips for new tent campers.


The Associated Press

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New to camping? Here are five things you might be worried about, along with ways to cope.

SLEEPING

Forgoing a comfy mattress for a sleeping bag may not sound appealing, but there are ways to lessen the ick.

Driving versus hiking to a campground means you can stuff your vehicle with provisions — including a tent you can stand up in for maximum comfort. Make sure to have a self-inflating mattress, like a Therm-a-Rest, or an air mattress you can inflate with a pump. Another option is a collapsible camp cot. And you can bring along a comfy pillow from home.

UNPLUGGING

These days some commercially operated campgrounds offer Internet access. But if you’re heading to wilderness-type parks, you may not even have cellphone service.

You can always bring an external battery pack and angrily play Candy Crush for hours, but that really defeats the purpose of being outdoors.

Channel the great naturalist Henry David Thoreau, and remember that the Internet will still be there later. Play cards, eat, drink, breathe in fresh air, hike, build a campfire and enjoy the company of others — in person instead of online.

CRITTERS

You love food, and so do animals, including squirrels and bears, whose sense of smell overshadows ours and who may find your fragrant dinner supplies irresistible.

Never leave trash, toiletries, dirty dishes, food or drinks unattended. Don’t leave trash and open containers in your car or around the campsite. Look for metal lockers to store trash and food on-site.

As for ticks and mosquitoes, insect repellent works. For major bug phobias or when biting insects are thick, outdoor-supply stores and websites sell inexpensive, lightweight mesh jackets that cover you up (including your hands and face if need be).

BATHROOMS AND ELECTRICITY

You can live without electricity, a full-length mirror and private bathrooms without sacrificing hygiene or general spiffiness.

Most vehicle-accessible campgrounds have communal bathrooms with drinking water, sinks and showers, but check in advance.

Try gas- or battery-powered lanterns for preparing food and hanging out in the evening. A headlamp works well for reading in your tent and midnight bathroom runs, and for reading as a makeshift night-light hung in a tent.

MEALS

Leaving your smoothie blender home doesn’t mean you can’t have delicious food.

Get a decently sized cooler that can keep your food cold for a few days before the ice needs to be changed out, and a small basin to wash dishes. Bring a propane gas-powered camp stove with one or two burners. In campgrounds with grills, you can fire-roast anything from portobello mushrooms to zucchini.



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