If you’ve never camped near a body of water, the prospect may seem daunting. This guide will help take the mystery out of it.
When to go
With good reason, campsites near bodies of water are most popular during the hottest months. Summertime campers should plan to arrive on a Wednesday or Thursday to enjoy some peace and quiet before the weekend warriors arrive. If you have the flexibility to visit during non-summer months, you’ll enjoy more privacy and solitude.
What to pack
You’ll need to bring the basics required for any camping excursion, but you’ll want to add a few extras, depending on your interests.
If swimming, paddling or boating is on your itinerary, don’t forget life jackets. Pack a pair of thick-soled water shoes or old tennis shoes that you don’t mind getting wet too; stepping on a sharp rock or shell could cut your adventure short.
Planning to fish? Check beforehand to see if your camp offers a cleaning station. If it doesn’t, in addition to your pole and bait or tackle, you may need a fillet knife, scaling tool and bucket.
Seasoned campers won’t leave home without a dustpan and brush—their secret weapon for keeping the tent clean by brushing away sand.
Sunscreen and insect repellant are essential, as pesky mosquitoes love the water as much as we humans do.
Where to set up camp
Once you’ve arrived and it’s time to select a spot to pitch your tent, safety trumps scenery. Observe the water line, which indicates how high the water can rise on a body of water. Plan to set up camp at least 100 feet beyond this high tide marker. Consulting a tide chart will also help you set up camp with confidence.
As pristine as that lake or river looks, before drinking any of its water, you should purify it by boiling it or using a water purification tablet. To play it even safer, stick to drinking water from home instead.
Have younger kids in your party? Insist that the little ones wear life jackets whenever they’re walking near the edge of the water. It’s a simple safety measure that helps relieve inevitable parental stress.
If you’re planning to boat, avoid a novice camper mistake: using a single anchor line. Double your boat’s security by using two lines—one on the bow and one on the stern.
If available, dump stations and slop sinks should be used to dispose of wastewater. Otherwise, make sure everyone in your group washes dishes, clothing, etc. at least 200 feet away from any freshwater sources; this allows the ground to filter any wastewater prior. When it comes to soap, a biodegradable version is strongly recommended. Check with your site for rules about human waste.
Call about permits
It’s always wise to call ahead of time as rules about where to swim and which licenses and permits are required for boating and fishing, etc. vary widely. Any lingering questions should be directed to onsite rangers or guides.
Call it a (memorable) day
The best way to end a day spent in the water is with a tasty dinner of freshly caught fish. But if the fish weren’t biting, make up for it with a hearty prepped-at-home meal and fireside s’mores followed by a card game. May we suggest Go Fish?