VIRGINIA STATE PARKS CAMPING MADE EASY – Tips and inside knowledge to make your camping experience, safe, easy, and enjoyable. Whether you are a veteran camper, or you are just getting into this great outdoor recreation, this series will share some wonderful tips and suggestions to truly make your campout a relaxing experience.
Choosing a State Park to Visit
Use Virginia State Parks website, www.virginiastateparks.gov, early and often to find exactly what you want to include identifying Amenities you and your family want Busy Park vs. Peaceful Park Coastal Park vs. Piedmont Park vs. Mountain Park Backyard Park (within 1 hr. of home) vs. Destination Park. Call the park directly if you have a specific question or the Reservation Center at 1800-933-PARK (7275).
Making a Reservation
We take reservations 11 months in advance, so the earlier you know when you want to go, the better your chances of getting a spot. For holiday weekends, the earlier you get to our parks the better your chances for a prime spot. Consider starting your stay on Tuesday or Wednesday prior to the holiday before the crowds arrive. Know the cancellation policy and avoid losing money by moving your camping date and/or the state park you are camping at, if you have enough advance warning that you can’t make it.
When tenting in sandy soil, bring extra long tent stakes to get a better anchor hold in the soft ground. For ultimate protection from moisture, place a tarp below the tent and one above the tent with enough over hang to carry moisture away. Get a foam type cushion to place between the bottom of the tent and your sleeping bag. Avoid a blow up type mattress if sleeping with others, because when one moves you all move, causing a sleepless night.
Keep a pair of easy to slip on shoes and a flashlight by the door of the tent for that middle of the night run to the bathroom. Place a small glow stick or florescent tape on the zipper of the tent so it is easily found in the dark. If tenting in the summer, take a fan (battery operated if there is no electricity). It will help circulate stagnant air and drown out sounds, leading to a great night of sleep. Keep food out of the tent to avoid hungry animals or nasty insects visiting you.
If moisture is on your tent, avoid touching the walls, it may cause the tent to begin to leak. When setting up, find a level, soft ground with no roots, rocks, or pine cones making for a better surface to sleep on. (Note Almost all Virginia State Parks have designated tent pads already established for your use.) Absolutely no open flames inside a tent, including lanterns or smoking.
Great Fire Starters: Small dead branches, pine needles, hemlock branches will burn wet or dry, pine sap, straw, dry leaves, lint from dryer, candles, or just go to a store and buy a fire starter log if you aren’t ready to really test your fire building skills. If it is raining, use the campfire grill to your advantage by placing a metal cover or even stacking wood on it and then build your fire underneath. Take 2 sources to start your fire, matches and a lighter. You’ll avoid that bad feeling of having no backup when either your matches got wet, or your lighter won’t start.
Keep a variety of sizes of wood ready to use throughout the evening. Adding smaller wood periodically enhances the beauty of a campfire as it reaches skyward. Designated fire pits are provided at Virginia State Parks so there is little choice in where you will build your fire. But take note of the predicted wind direction and position tents so they won’t end up full of smoke, or worse hit by a hot coal from your campfire. Don’t ever leave a campfire unattended, too many bad things can come of this.
When trying to extinguish a campfire alternate pouring water, then stirring the coals into the water until there is no longer any indication of hot coals. Especially on cold nights, be aware of how close plastic and other synthetic clothing is to the heat. Lots of shoes and coats have melted when campers were a bit too close.