By: Wyatt Tucker
The snow is melting, and the nights are getting warmer, which means that it is time to bust out your tents and sleeping bags and hit the trail. There are many places to camp in Pennsylvania as a whole; however, the places that we have at our fingertips right here in Warren County are some of the best. We have the Allegheny National Forest practically surrounding us. With five-hundred-thousand acres of land to explore, you are sure to find a place that suits you. On top of the National Forest, there are also many other places that are nearby, such as Jakes Rocks, which has some awesome rock features, or places like the Chautauqua Lake KOA if you are looking for a place that is more organized and has lots of amenities. Knowing that finding a location to camp won’t be a problem, let’s look at some of the options you have for shelter in the wild.
When spending the night camping, the top question is what you are going to do for shelter. If you are going to a place like Jakes Rocks, you may be able to use a natural feature for shelter, and may just want to bring a sleeping bag, or, if you are camping at the KOA, they will likely have lodging for rent. If neither of these circumstances apply, then you have a couple of options. The two most popular forms of shelter are a tent, or a hammock. A tent offers more space for you and your gear, and is typically warmer; however, it weighs more and takes up more space on the ground and in your pack than the hammock. I personally am a fan of the hammock, as it is very versatile, comfortable, and light. The hammock can be warm as well, with a nicely insulated liner, and the tent can be small and light if you buy a compact one. Both options perform well in most scenarios when utilized properly. When it comes down to it, both are great options, and, ultimately, it is a matter of preference. Finally, we have the gear you are going to need to make things more comfortable and easier at your camp.
It is important to plan accordingly when preparing to camp, as there are many important factors that will change the gear required. You should ask yourself questions like: Am I going to cook at camp, or bring food with me? Am I going to have a fire? How long will I be camping? There is certain gear that you will or will not need based on what you are going to be doing. If you are going to be cooking food, you will want a fire, or camp stove, and, since you need a fire, you will need to bring things to start one, like a lighter and some tinder to get one started. There is a limitless list of things that you may need when camping, from hatchets to water purifiers, so it’s wise to do some research on your equipment and the things that you will need to have a successful camping trip.
The Squire interviewed an experienced camper, Jacob Williams. His insight is valuable information, as there are many useful tips you would not find anywhere other than consulting people who have been put through the paces of camping.
The Squire: Where is your favorite place to camp?
Jacob Williams: My favorite spot to camp would have to be the Kinzua Dam.
TS: Do you prefer to sleep in a hammock, tent, or something else and why?
JW:Hammocks; I like the feeling of being above the ground and sort of swaying with the wind. Also, hammocks are very comfortable.
TS: What are three things that you cannot camp without?
JW: I always have some type of fire starter, a knife, and my hammock.
TS: What advice do you have for inexperienced campers?
JW: It is always important to not forget how cold the night can be and to prepare for it.
TS: What is one thing that you wish you had for camping?
JW: Probably one of those insulated sleeping bags you put under your hammock to trap the heat under you.
Jacob provides some good insights from an experienced camper, and certainly some things to think about for people looking to get started. Lastly, and most importantly, campers should consider safety. It is important to have safety in mind for the well-being of yourself, others, and nature. Make sure to read up on local laws and find out whether you can build fires or cut down trees for wood. Even if you can build fires, take in to account the wind, humidity, and how dry things are, in order to decide if you should build a fire. Probably the most important thing when camping is to make sure that someone knows where you are and when you should be back by. It is also very wise to have a way to communicate with others, so, even if you are going on a “bare bones” camping trip, bring a phone for your own safety. Be safe camping, and most importantly have fun. Good luck campers!