My boys and I love to camp. I’ve been a camper my whole life and I’ve taken my own sons camping since they were babies. It comes quite naturally to us since none of us has never known a life without the thrill of living in a tent, cooking over a fire, and falling asleep in a cozy sleeping bag to the sounds of crickets chirping.
It’s a wonderful adventure for kids and adults alike. We get the benefits of being outdoors non-stop as well as the chance to explore our lovely state without breaking the bank. But for those who aren’t experienced, getting started can be intimidating and costly.
That’s why Georgia State Parks began the First-Time Campers Program in 2012. Now beginning it’s 3rd year, the program has helped almost 200 families discover the joys of camping. Through this program, new campers get a chance to try a new outdoor adventure with the help of a ranger and without making a big investment in equipment.
The First-Time Campers program is available at eight parks throughout the state and for $50, you will be set up to camp for 2 nights with a tent, chairs, stove, sleeping pads, roasting forks, and a lantern. Of course, you’ll need to provide your personal items and bedding but you’ll get a handy checklist to make sure you’ve got everything you need for a great first experience. The best part of this program is that a park ranger will help you set up and provide some Camping 101 tips to get you on your way as a camping family.
This program is a easy way to get started on outdoor adventures, especially since Georgia State Parks campgrounds are quite comfortable. Campsites are equipped with picnic tables, fire rings and grills, as well as electrical and water hook-ups. Plus the campgrounds themselves have bathrooms, showers, and playgrounds, among many other amenities. Most parks even sell some basic supplies, just in case you’ve forgotten something. This includes locally-supplied firewood since transporting firewood is not allowed for the sake of minimizing foreign pest invasions.
Mistletoe State Park in Appling, Georgia.
Campsites in Georgia State Parks typically run about $25 per night, give or take a few dollars, so at this price you’re essentially getting your equipment rental for free thanks to some generous program sponsors. The First Time Campers program is a tremendous value in and of itself, but camping in general is one of the most cost-effective ways to travel and vacation.
And beyond the budget-friendly nature of camping, your can’t put a price on the experience itself. Participants of the program so far have been amazed by all of the new adventures they’ve had at our state parks including hiking, geocaching, wildlife viewing, ranger-led programs, cooking over a fire, kayaking, biking, and even wagon rides. The rangers have gotten great compliments on their friendliness, helpfulness, and pre-camping instructions, making first-time campers feel welcome and comfortable.
Cloudland Canyon State Park in Rising Fawn, Georgia.
Many first-time campers loved the family time and meeting new people. Those are certainly two of the perks that have always embraced in my love of camping. But whether you bring friends, make new ones, or simply enjoy the company of your family, camping together creates incredible bonds that will keep you coming back for more.
For more information on the First-Time Campers Program, visit the Georgia State Parks website. Happy camping!
Val Joiner is an outdoor and educational travel blogger based in Roswell, GA. The former geologist turned road-schooling mom chronicles her adventures at Val In Real Life. When Val isn’t on the road with her two boys, she can frequently be found honing her Southern Appalachian Naturalist skills in the Great Smoky Mountains.