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How I Plan for the Perfect Camping Experience

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These are some of our favorite views from the weekend.

These are some of our favorite views from the weekend.

Preparing to Camp (Or Glamp)

This past weekend my family (which entails my husband and our two dogs) went camping in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, which was absolutely amazing. It's about a 45-minute drive from the center of the city of Denver, Colorado.

I'm a planner, so I planned everything. From the campsite to the necessary equipment to how far the trail we wanted to hike would be from our tent—I had it down to a T. I went into the weekend prepared for an amazing couple of days of hiking, and that made me want to help other people prepare. Those who, perhaps, have never been camping or haven't planned a trip in a while.

In recent years, there has been an explosion of travel-related apps that can really help you plan and coordinate your trip. The most popular is probably Airbnb for accommodation and activities, but there are many more to help you find hiking trails and campsites.

Let me tell you a bit about the apps I used for my weekend in Colorado's Golden Gate Canyon.

Tiny mushrooms!

Tiny mushrooms!

Tentin' It

First, you must decide to which level of camping you're willing to commit to doing for a few days. There is the tried and true camping experience which involves pitching a tent, peeing in dirt, and eating cold Spaghettios out of a can if you aren't willing to set up the miniature propane cooking kit.

If you are wanting to take this route, you can do so by either reserving a camping spot at an official campground, researching an ideal place for off-road camping, or you can investigate alternative places to pitch a tent if you don't particularly want to go off-the-grid and all the nearby campgrounds are full.

If you are looking for a campground near a particular park or trail, there is typically a website on which you can choose from available sites. Look up the park you are going to and, especially if it is a national or state park, should be pretty clear about what's available, the cost, rules and restrictions.

Camping in Colorado

For Colorado, there is the state's official Parks & Wildlife site, where you can find a ton of information about where you're looking to go. If you're interested in learning more about Golden Gate Canyon, visit the link, and you'll find information on fees, maps, park activities, and, of course, lodging (which includes camping, cabins, yurts, and guest houses).

In regards to going off the grid, this tends to be a more intense camping experience, but can also be very fun if planned well. For these, make sure you know the area you are in fairly well. Even if you haven't been there before, research nearby resources in case anything will be needed for your stay.

Also be sure to bring solar charging equipment, cooking equipment, and bare necessities like a compass, flashlight, etc. Don't catch yourself in a situation you cannot easily navigate out of!

This was our campsite at Golden Gate Canyon State Park!

This was our campsite at Golden Gate Canyon State Park!

Glampin' It

There is also always the option to have a "glamping" experience, in which you are technically still camping, just with a little less work and some more amenities.

You can do this by staying in an RV, finding containers or shelters to stay in, or renting a cabin-like lodge.

Personally, we use an app (or website) called Hipcamp, which allows us to search from available A-frames, cabins, tent-sites, tree-houses, storage containers, you name it. There are some really neat ways to experience a "glamping" vacation, and I love finding unique places to stay.

Many platforms are similar to Hipcamp, and they can essentially be thought of as Airbnb for camping. Some hosts even create themes for their available campgrounds, and there are also ways to tailor your experience depending on your priorities.

For example, do you prefer having a heart-stopping view? Or is it your preference to have an enclosed area nearby for your dogs? Or perhaps, your main concern is having privacy. There are many options to select from that enable you to find your optimal vacation site.

So far, we have used this app to stay in a unique A-frame built in the Colorado mountains, as well as our recent campground in the midst of Golden Gate Canyon State Park. We have loved both of our stays, and I have nearly 20 other spots on my wishlist.

Perks of Glamping

Either way, we love to glamp. For one, it's so much easier for us having dogs. One time we were camping in a tent and woke up in the morning in our Arkansas campground to find our tent zipper had busted—and our dogs were running around nearby! Thankfully our dogs are relatively well behaved and stayed close, but ever since then, we've loved not having to worry about a tent and staying in more of an actual dog-proof shelter.

Staying in a shelter also has the benefit of being warmer in the colder seasons, especially if it has an outlet that can be used for a space heater. Additionally, these small enclosures typically come with some basic necessities like cooking supplies, toilet paper, and sometimes even games.

Glamping can be extremely unique if you are wanting to mix up your camping routine!

Here was our glamping A-frame. It had spectacular views, a porch, and some cooking equipment and games.

Here was our glamping A-frame. It had spectacular views, a porch, and some cooking equipment and games.

Hikin' It

So, you've used my tips above and have decided how you want to enjoy your camping experience—but what if you are wanting to add in some hiking or other recreational activities? There's an app for that (of course!).

For hiking, I like to use AllTrails, which is an app that details nearby trails. It gives you information about trail distance, level of difficulty, whether it's pet-friendly or not, etc. They have information on literally thousands of trails around the world.

You can search for specific trails, look at maps of state and national parks, and find the perfect trail that suits your capabilities and personal preferences. Just as an example, here is their page on experiencing Golden Gate Canyon State Park, where we just spent our weekend.

There is a list of hikes within the park, park hours, maps, and even a place for users to ask questions.

There are many different apps to use for this same purpose, and I suggest using them to make your trip all the more enjoyable. Hiking is a great way to further explore the world in a deeper way!

No matter how you are wanting to experience nature, there are ways to make it the perfect trip. Exploring the world is a beautiful way to connect with it spiritually and ground your brain from all of life's distractions. I hope some of these tips help guide you to plan your next adventure!

© 2022 Robyn