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By Dallas Shewmaker
LowerGear Outdoors, Tempe, Ariz. 

Camping In Arizona Beginners' Guide

The Memories Can Last A Lifetime


Beginners' Guide To Camping In Arizona

Among the many benefits of living or visiting Arizona is the wide range of year-round camping opportunities. From pine trees and mountain streams, to the raw beauty of the Sonoran desert, you can enjoy time away from the hustle of the city.

John Muir said it best: "Keep close to Nature's hear t... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." Not bad advice, and easy to follow within a short drive from anywhere in the state.

The number of camping options in Arizona is staggering. As a start, there are 31 state parks, 6 national forests, 13 KOA campgrounds, 6 county parks just in the Phoenix area, many thousands of acres of BLM land, and 22 National Parks and Monuments. While camping availability at each such location varies from none to nearly unlimited, there's obviously no shortage of options.

For those considering what to take on their first camping trip, Dallas Shewmaker, owner of LowerGear Outdoors in Tempe, a retailer that rents and sells gear to many first-time campers, offers some advice.

First, learn some basic terminology about camping that will come in handy:

Developed campground - one with designated camping spots, usually for a fee, with amenities that may include rest rooms, showers, potable water, hosts, and sometimes electric and even wifi connections,

Dispersed camping - generally free, undesignated spots found in BLM and national forest areas as example, but without any support services or amenities,

Car camping - not sleeping in your car, but generally the car is near your camp site (developed or dispersed), as opposed to,

Backpacking - consider it camping with everything you need on your back, with no expectation of support or amenities - definitely dispersed.

Shewmaker suggests a good first camping trip is car-camping at a developed campground with amenities, not too far from home, for just one or two nights. This is a safe, easy learning environment to prepare you for greater adventures next time out. There are many detailed "take-this" lists available online, but he breaks his suggestions into five broad categories:

Shelter - This includes appropriate size tent and your personal clothing options, suitable for the time of year and location,

Sleep system - For most, that is an appropriate-temperature sleeping bag and mattress pad,

Food and water - Some developed camp sites are near restaurants, but part of the charm of camping is sharing a rustic meal. Carefully calculate the amount of food your party needs for the time out, and have room for a cooler, small propane stove, and several bags of snacks. Take along a few gallons of water jugs just in case. Don't forget storage baggies, trash bags, and utensils.

Lighting - It's dark out there in the wild, so lanterns, flash lights, or head lamps are required.

Personal items and tools - Remember, those handy medicine cabinets, closets and tool sheds are all left at home, so bring toiletries, prescriptions, glasses, duct tape, basic tools, paracord, and a sharp knife.

Perhaps the most important thing to bring is patience and perspective. It might rain a bit, there might be a temporary glitch somewhere along the way, but the relaxing memories with family and friends can last a lifetime!

LowerGear Outdoors is located at 2155 E University Dr #112, Tempe, AZ 85281.

For more information, visit call (480) 348-8917.


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