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How to Start First Time Camping
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Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
How to Start First Time Camping on 05/17/2008 21:49:02 MDT Print View

In discussing getting started in training with Huzefa it occurred to me that anyone who has never gone camping might find it very confusing and difficult to know where to get started completely from the beginning by looking here at BPL.

I am thinking of putting together a community service class for people in my town, most of whom have never even been inside a tent. How might people here recommend that newcomers get started if you have to start from the very beginning, but you also want to instill the basics of going light?

I'm thinking of bringing in my traditional gear and UL gear, setting them all up, and showing the differences, having people try them out. I think though that I wouldn't recommend people start with UL gear until they have used some lighter conventional gear first, though staying as light as possible.

I haven't used conventional gear in quite a while though and my own traditional gear is old and quite heavy. Any recommendations?

Edited by butuki on 05/17/2008 21:49:35 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: How to Start First Time Camping on 05/17/2008 23:16:12 MDT Print View


Why scribble unnecessarily on a blank slate?

If these are truly virgins -- just start them with light weight gear right from the get go! Introduce them to light weight tents that provide all the protection they need, light weight bags that provide all the warmth, light weight pads that provide all the comfort, light weight kitchenware that work just as well, etc. -- and finally light weight packs that can hold everything in comfort and ease.

Assuming you will be guiding them on their first trip(s) -- they will soon acquire the experience and confidence with themselves and their gear. And they don't need to know what other hikers used to carry before they knew better. :)

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
How to Start First Time Camping on 05/17/2008 23:44:50 MDT Print View

I agree. Don't waste their time with conventional equipment. If you are dealing with clean slates, you can instill the care needed with the lighter equipment. I wish someone would have saved me all the time and money to get where I am now.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: How to Start First Time Camping on 05/18/2008 00:45:28 MDT Print View

In the last few years I have introduced a number of people who backpacking / camping. We talked about ultralight -vs- light weight and I encouraged them to go as light as they were comfortable. Most ended up going light weight, with a mix of ultralight and light weight gear.

I wouldn't bother talking about "conventional" style backpacking. Get them started in a good direction. Go ahead and mention that some people feel compelled to carry 2x the weight they will, but other than getting a more rigorous exercise, those people have no advantages.


Jon Hancock

Locale: Northwest England
How to Start First Time Camping on 05/18/2008 03:47:15 MDT Print View

I'd be tempted to keep to the more conventional end of ultralight, using light versions of recognisable items rather than some of the more innovative/weird products. Even with people who have never been camping they likely have a vague idea of what sort of things campers use. And don't skimp on the sleeping mat (assuming that you'll actually be taking these people outside of the classroom). In my own teaching experience people will put up with all sorts of novelty and oddness as long as they get a good night's sleep, so save some of the truly minimalist mats for later.

Edited by bigjackbrass on 05/18/2008 03:48:48 MDT.

jim bailey
(florigen) - F - M

Locale: South East
How to Start First Time Camping on 05/19/2008 10:18:40 MDT Print View

In agreement with others, clean slate with UL gear seems to be the best way to introduce folks to our preferred method of back country travel .

Had the opportunity this past weekend to bring out two friends who had never backpacked before. They were both outfitted with UL gear, base weights between 7 & 12 lbs. Their only experience in the past was car camping in Florida and the thought of traveling to a remote area in the N.E. mountains with camping gear was a bit of a mystery to them. Gave them a list of items to bring which only included clothing and then we hit the trail.

As we hiked along had the opportunity to explain the use of the equipment we were carrying and how multiple use items would be used. One benefit which was noticed right off the back was the ease of traveling up steep terrain and their comfort on the trail which they had both questioned before hand not knowing how far they could go at their fitness level.

Made a point of taking breaks for photo ops, rest breaks and cooking tasty meals, all this combined with UL gear seemed to only enhance their total wilderness experience in a most positive way.

Both enjoyed this trip and are now looking forward to many more trips traveling in there newly found ultra light style.

Tim Heckel
(ThinAir) - M

Locale: 6237' - Manitou Springs
Light on 05/19/2008 11:41:47 MDT Print View

Miguel, In June I will teach a beginning backpacking class that will consist of about 8 hours of classroom training followed by a weekend backpack trip. I will focus about 1 hour on traditional equipment followed by about 1 hour of lightweight equipment discussion. The remaining time is all about technique. I encourage you to focus on technique as well as equipment. Keep them safe. Tim

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Light on 05/19/2008 14:29:03 MDT Print View

Good point on covering backpacking techniques and safety.

Edited by ben2world on 05/19/2008 15:03:03 MDT.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
First timers on 05/23/2008 09:48:05 MDT Print View

Talk about lightweight gear, but mainly emphasize the importance of just plain not taking too much stuff, too much extra clothing, too much cookware, too much fuel and GORP or lunch snacks, too much first aid, extra batteries...etc.. I would also discuss body heat management. Most have a tendency to start off at the trailhead wearing too many clothes. Then they do not want to stop and take of a layer for fear of holding up the group, so they overheat, get sweaty, end up with wet clothing. Discuss the pace of hiking and how best to keep slow and fast paced hikers together, or how best to separate. Limit your mileage. Most are probably looking forward to the "camping", not the hiking. Sounds like a great project. Have fun.

Edited by rambler on 05/23/2008 09:50:09 MDT.

Andrew Ronner
(Ronnwell) - F
great idea! on 05/26/2008 07:56:52 MDT Print View

I don't think most people truly have a clean slate because they have a image in their mind what a backpacker should look like (unless they were raised in caves with no access to TV and magazines). Most people cling to this image because they feel its what they "need" to go out hiking. I think a lot of people on this board have been there - I know I was even within the past 5 years.

I actually think that showing conventional gear is a great tool because its something most people understand. If you do a direct compare and contrast with lightweight gear I think it makes the desired point with even more impact. The big thing is to overcome the fear that drives heavy gear usage.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: How to Start First Time Camping on 05/26/2008 08:48:15 MDT Print View

I think showing the traditional gear would help show your students the advatages of UL. It could also be a warning to not yield to the temptation to allow uneccessary equipment from creeping into their packs. We all have seen others using some neat piece of equipment or read about the newest something in an REI catalog, without focusing on the added weight.

Hey, take them on a walk through an REI or other outfitter to show them all of the options and talk about the advanteages/disadvantages.

Glen van Peski talks about letting traditional hikers swap packs with him for awhile to FEEL the difference...I think that's a great teaching tool.


Edited by TomClark on 05/26/2008 08:50:16 MDT.

mike walker
(m_walker) - F
I disagree w/ everyone on 08/15/2008 23:26:59 MDT Print View

I think costs and comfort can prevent folks from looking at outdoor activities especially beginners. I say show them how cheap they can have a really good time. Go buy a coleman $50.00 tent and the cheapest sleepng bags on the market weather providing, and you should take them during the best weather or you'll lose them. Take them to a **nice** campspot via car. Remember you are dealing w/ folks that have never camped before. Do day hikes and discuss the differences between the UL stuff and cheap heavy gear. Making people think they need to buy $900.00 of gear to be smart about it or have a good time is crazy. I have camped all over the world w/ my 2 disabled children and we do it w/ the cheap stuff and have a fantastic time. Best to show a cheap easy comfortable outdoor experience first then move into the more expensive and challenging.

Edited by m_walker on 08/15/2008 23:30:28 MDT.

Kevin Lane
Not that I have an opinion on 08/16/2008 11:14:24 MDT Print View

1. Demonstratively, if there is a workshop, carry in your full throttle traditional backpack. Inside the pack goes the fully equipped lightweight pack and gear along with as much traditional gear you can also fit in. Have folks try the full load on for size then match the items, focusing on the "big three plus footwear" item for item and then compare the two.

2, Advising, "do not buy anything without checking with somebody first" Advise to rent from shops, even if it is heavy, borrow whenever you can from lightweight folks, buy top quality light weight gear only. Post needs here and on other boards. Perhaps shop for one generation removed gear at closeouts, etc., or and the like.

Buying cheap (as opposed to inexpensive) gear is something that I thing has got to be discouraged. It is like golfing, and whether you should buy a cheap set of clubs or good ones. If you buy the cheap stuff you are wasting whatever money is spent on that gear. You will either not like the "game" and not use it again, or you will love the game and immediately start upgrading to better materials.

3. On the trail, if you bring a novice, make sure that there is one experienced person for each novice. Comparing the gear you have with the traditional gear the person has will illuminate the light to lightness


Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: I disagree w/ everyone on 08/16/2008 11:51:31 MDT Print View

You raise a good point. There's no need to outfit for Everest if that person is only going to camp one night once every few years. I certainly don't invest top dollar for every potential hobbie I might invest. There is lots of ways to go cheap and light. Borrowing top of the line UL equipment can be a good option too.

Bob Ellenberg
(BobTheBuilder) - F
How to start Backpacking Light on 08/16/2008 12:05:36 MDT Print View

Lots of good points but some I disagree with. If they are first timers they can't possibly make informed choices about what to buy (don't most of us who are UL still have different opinons on many pieces of gear?) and the cash outlay can be substantial to some. I personally started with used gear and carried a moderate load but with minimal outlay of money. As I upgraded (and continue to) I sell some of my gear but try to keep enough that I can invite a newbie on a trip. I don't think many will be turned off by a moderate load who would have felt differently had they started out very light. What I thought I needed in the beginning was quite different than what I now use.

mike walker
(m_walker) - F
one shoe size don't fit everyone on 08/16/2008 13:20:02 MDT Print View

just get them into the outdoors, the focus is the outdoors not gear right? Once in the outdoors the UL folk will emerge. Not fair to preclude an outdoor experience to only UL folk and as beginners they may think that. Easy to sell any gear they don't want. But on the other hand if the experience is too tame they may not like it either. That was my situation. I have had many outdoor experiences but never got the call of the wild via minimalist UL way until I saw this. Now I want to trek right into that bush for weeks at a time.
bear claws mark territorywatchful sow looks to feed cubs

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Love for Jackie Paulson on 08/16/2008 14:20:39 MDT Print View

I highly reccommend "Lighten Up" DVD, $5.00 from Gossamer Gear. I've got a crush on Jackie Paulson.