This past fall break, a group of our friends took a trip up to the Blue Ridge Mountains, more specifically Lake Toxaway, N.C. In our collegiate minds, we would bring loads of beer, large tents, grills, food, guitars, pillows, pans, chairs, and all that other stuff that makes life easy. Little did we know that when we arrived, the two-mile hike to our site — the one that we imagined would take no time at all — would end up being a nightmare haul, featuring sprained ankles and crying fits.
We got there at 4:30 p.m. and had no clue where the campsite was. After piling as much stuff on our bodies as possible, we were so eager to get to our site that we forged on ahead without really reading the map at the entrance. This would be one of the many wrong moves we made over the span of those four trying days.
Here's a list of things that we learned — the hard way, of course — on our epic camping adventure:
Do not over-pack. If you really care that much about changing clothes, camping is not for you. But if you plan on going skinny dipping, leave your clothes on a dry rock or you'll be toasting your underpants on a stick over the fire for a long time.
Carpool. Cram as much stuff and as many people in your car as you can without making yourself a road hazard. It's eco-friendly and way more fun.
Don't venture out to find your campsite right before dusk. Roots come alive at night, in case you didn't know, and get a kick out of tripping strangers.
Make sure that your hiking trail is appropriate to your experience-level. If Ranger Bob tells you that the trail is for intermediate to experienced hikers, believe him. Don't assume that you can make the trek with copious amounts of crap and four cases of beer.
Don't buy firewood. You will be surrounded by an abundance of dead wood and trees, so buying wood and carrying it until your fingers blister is just silly.
Burn everything biodegradable. It's less to carry back and prevents late night visits from your furry neighbors.
Bring peanut butter, bananas, and bread. They make a nutritious and delicious sandwich.
Avoid pancake batter in an aerosol can. Although cooking flapjacks seems woodsy, it's bad for the environment and prone to exploding all over your belongings.
Bring liquor, not beer. Also, put it in Camel packs for easy storage. And make sure your alcohol-to-water ratio is equal, otherwise the hike back to the nearest convenience store is going to be one bad, delirious trip.
Bring liquid Castile soap. It's okay for the environment, and you can use it for just about anything. It also saves you space in your pack.
Do not bring more than one book. You will not be reading that much. Find other forms of entertainment that don't weigh anything.
Bring less TP and paper towels than you think you will need. You won't use all of it, we promise. If you do, leaves and water are great substitutes.
You do not need a five-piece set of pots and pans for cooking. The fewer pots and pans, the better. If anything, a light-weight double-boiler would be a good choice. Even better, get one of those sets that stacks on top of itself, the kind the Boy Scouts use.
Bring your own sleeping bag. Even if you feel like sharing. Those things are only so big.