Pennsylvania Camping 101: The Beginners Guide

Some of you may be new-ish to tenting or RVing, or you are easing back into the camping scene after a long break and seeking some “Camping 101” tips and refreshers. The Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association (PCOA) provided a few ideas and helpful resources to survive your first outing, or at least save you from total embarrassment in front of your campsite neighbors!

How to Plan Your Camping Trip

Research and reserve your campsite ahead of your trip

Jason Vaughan, PCOA’s Executive Director, says the association has hundreds of parks across the Keystone State, ranging from groupings of primitive sites catering to tents and small campers, to RV resorts with a full complement of services and amenities. But many of those parks may not have open sites if you show up unannounced.

Camping in Pennsylvania is especially popular in July and August, and even into the fall if the weather stays mild like it has the past few years. Demand for campsites has gone up and, much like state parks, there is an uptick in early reservations for sites at independently owned parks, too. So, check ahead for availability.

Consider booking weeknights instead of weekends during your PA vacation, and you may find more site availability at your preferred campgrounds.

Start your research, planning, and booking at at the Pennsylvania Campground Owners Assocation website, where you can find a list of RV parks and campgrounds, request a free printed camping directory, or flip through the interactive directory. There’s also a page dedicated to general camping information, so you can get even more tips on ensuring a successful camping trip. PCOA parks generally follow a basic list of standards that can be especially helpful to new campers, such as having an attendant readily available during normal working hours.

Creating Your Camping Checklist

Actually, you really don’t have to make your own camping checklist. There are a couple lists already created by reputable resources, so you don’t have to figure it all out from scratch, but merely customize for your personal camping experience.

Coleman, the well-known manufacturer of camping gear, has developed The Ultimate Camping Checklist, and even organized it into a downloadable PDF for ease of use. The list includes camping “must-haves” and optional camping items you may consider. Equally handy in this checklist? Suggestions for items you should NOT bring camping (leave those fragrances and body sprays at home, folks!).

Good Sam, a camping industry service provider, has assembled an RV Travel Checklist that will help you organize the supplies, equipment, and miscellaneous items we’re always forgetting. The checklist also suggests safety tips for camping and hiking, etiquette on being a good campsite neighbor, and RV troubleshooting tools.

“Don’t Move the Firewood”

This cannot be stated enough. Don’t move the firewood. Vaughan notes that the invasive species like the Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Longhorned Beetle that are transported on firewood has been hurtful to Pennsylvania’s environment. Pennsylvania has lost tens of millions of trees to invasive species from firewood brought into the state, or even from one region to another. Please purchase your firewood at your campground or a locally vetted supplier, so our parks can preserve their beautiful shade trees for years to come.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has a helpful graphic with simple tips to help protect PA’s trees.

Where to Find Camping Tips & Resources

Your campsite is set up, now what?

DCNR’s Outdoor Recreation webpage is a wealth of outdoor recreation information, including safety tips (always tell people where you’re going and bring a paper map with you) and outdoor recreational pursuits like hiking, fishing, rock climbing, mountain biking, and more. DCNR also provides a guide to responsible outdoor ethics so you “leave no trace” on the environment.

Just like in sports, whether you’re an amateur or professional, it’s always a good idea to practice the fundamentals so you stay sharp out on the field, The same principal applies to camping. And, if you aren’t sure where to start, you can always contact PCOA at [email protected] or (610) 767-5026 and they will be happy to help.

The Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association, headquartered in East Stroudsburg, is a non-profit trade association of independently owned campgrounds and RV parks in PA.

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