Over the years I've come to learn that the outdoors is for everyone, some people just don't know it yet. I believe every person has a wild side within them, it just needs to be drawn out slowly. From my experience turning city dwellers into Bear Grylls wannabes, I've put together a simple guide to taking your friend, family member, or significant other on their first camping trip. Follow these 7 steps and it won’t be their last!
- Understand Their Experience
First and foremost, find out what experience your guest has with the outdoors. Did they grow up in a rural area or in a city? Have they gone camping in the past? What are the details of the trip? Did they stay in an RV with a TV and shower or was it in a tent and they used baby wipes as their shower? Usually people always say they have been on a camping trip where they were "really roughing it!" Obviously err on the side of caution because roughing it for some people may be a full-blown survival situation and for others it may be going without phone service for a few days.
- Start Small and Simple
Once you have an idea about how far you can push them, you have to use the acronym KISS to plan a trip! Keep It Simple Stupid! You might be a bushman who can live by the knife and in a single bound or pull salmon out of the river with your beard, but remember that your guest may not even know how to set up a tent. You can start small with some “glamping” to ease them in. Rent a cabin, an RV, or find a campsite with all the amenities like hot showers, temperature control, clean bathrooms, etc. The shorter and simpler the outdoor adventure, the less chance for things to go wrong and more likely that your guest will have the desire to return. Plan short hikes that aren't difficult or drive to the great view instead of hike.
- Make Them Overly Comfortable
Now that you have the perfect plan and you've got them outside, make their outside experience as cozy as their home. Whatever everyday items your guests just can’t live without, find a way to bring that into the outdoors. Many campsites offer electrical hookups and showers which can be a lifesaver for someone who isn't used to roughing it. Bring pillows and extra blankets to place in the tent to keep it soft and warm instead of just the old ground pad and sleeping bag. If your friend has a coffee every morning, bring your favorite camping coffee set up and make them a fresh cup of Joe in the morning. Get creative with the cooking and take the kitchen outside. This also gives you the chance to show off your cast iron cooking skills that your guest will rave about. Nothing smells better than bacon and eggs on a cast iron grill over an open flame! Help your new camping buddy feel right at home by getting a power inverter for your rig that will enable them to use all their 240v stuff when they are roughing it.
- Teach and Be Taught
Be a supportive mentor first, then learn. Most people like to learn new skills and are excited, but people are usually nervous or embarrassed when trying something they don't know. Don't act like a know-it-all and boss them around. Be humble and teach them the cool skills you know and love. Show them the best way to pack a bag, set up a tent, or make a fire. On the next night, give them a shot at making the fire or setting up the tent. Explain the sounds of the wild to them. Explain the different animal tracks on trial. Nothing is cooler than your friend heading into work on Monday to brag about all the new stuff they learned.
- The WOW Factor
This tip is the icing on the cake! Make sure that first adventure has a WOW factor somewhere in the trip. Find one visual scene that will burn a lasting memory in your guest's mind that will have them itching to come back for more. Whether it’s a beautiful sunset or sunrise, a sprawling salt lake, endless night sky or chance encounter with wildlife, make it EPIC! One amazing experience will completely overshadow any memories of mosquito bites or dirt under their fingernails.
- Surprise and Reset
This part of the trip can be as simple as extra candy on trail, or as extravagant as a night at a 5 star hotel before heading home. It's up to you, depending on the difficulty or duration of your adventure, to determine when the best time to use this will be. It may be earlier than later depending on how hard you push your guest. Once you have hiked all day, camped multiple nights in the bush, or lived off freshly caught fish, execute the Surprise and Reset. Take your guests into town to grab a beer and a sit down meal, order a pizza, have an extra box of chocolates for them that you pull out when they’re down, or ditch the tent for a warm cabin to cap off an amazing trip. Whatever you do, surprise your guests so they aren't wondering when all this nature will stop. Let them have a brief, relaxing moment that will reset them from all the new outdoor experiences.
- Prep and Push The Envelope
The final stage is to prep and push the envelope. Once you are on your way home, reminisce about the great times you had and the funny mishaps. Motivate your guest, explain how impressed you were with how they handled their first camping trip and prep them for the next adventure. Push them a little further each time and do whatever it takes to get them back in the outdoors. Follow this guide and you will have given someone the greatest gift of all. A love for the outdoors!
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