First, if you have friends who are expert campers, ask if you can tag along on their next outing into the world of nature. Ask questions, watch what they do and how they do it, and learn the “do’s and don’ts” of camping. Learn about designated campgrounds, campfire safety, hiking routes to campsites, reading topographical maps, making your campsite bear-proof, and weather safety. Then, put yourself into the hands of an outfitter’s store or web site who specializes in camping equipment and safety. This is a great time to ask your camper friend to accompany you or browse the web with you. All camping gear is not created equal! You’ll want the best quality and safest gear you can afford that will be with you for many years of outdoor recreation and not fall apart or malfunction when you need it the most.
Depending upon your campsite location, you’ll need the following basic gear: a backboard that straps around your shoulders and stows all your camping gear, an all-weather waterproof tent(s) with a plastic floor-liner to keep you from sleeping on wet or cold ground, kerosene lanterns, flashlights, a “bear bag” that you’ll hang from a tree to keep your food supplies safe from hungry bears, raccoons and other night scavengers, fire-starting material, and light-weight cooking gear if you’re planning a camp out of more than two days. About water purifying tablets: never drink from natural rivers, lakes, streams, or ponds! Nature’s water contains bacteria that seriously upsets non-immune human gastrointestinal systems. Unless you want to share your camping trip with a nasty case of diarrhea, treat all water with a purification tablet before you drink it.
Don’t forget necessities like sleeping bags, toilet paper, soap, food prep materials, clothing that can be worn in layers in cold weather, comfortable hiking boots, a sturdy hat, sunscreen, and insect repellant. “Bear bells” can be attached to your backboard or walking stick; bears hear and smell you long before you see each other. Use bells or conversation with your companions, and bears will go out of their way to avoid you. Learn what to do if you should have a sudden, aggressive encounter with a charging bear. A steadfast rule in the camping world is to never have a visual “stare down” with a bear, wolf, or mountain lion; they take this as a challenge and could get you seriously hurt or killed.