Accessible camping is fun, relaxing and surprising doable. For those of you who have never done it before, here are my tips on how to be a happy camper:
1. Call ahead to reserve an accessible site
There’s nothing worse than showing up at a campground, not getting the site you need and driving home totally dejected. It is risky to just show up at a campground hoping to get an accessible site. More and more people are reserving spots, in some cases a year ahead of time so you must call ahead. Go online, call ahead first, check for available accessible spots and reserve it.
2. Not all accessible sites are equal
If you want the best site, you must research, research, research. Newbies should start with this simple Google search: <your state> state park. Most offer accessible sites, cabins and other features as well — including accessible trails. Once you find available sites you’re interested in, see if you can find photos or maps that show the exact location and amenities. The more you know before you get there, the easier it will be to relax.
When I went camping for my birthday a couple of years ago, I Googled “best accessible camping sites in Minnesota” and was quickly overwhelmed. I eventually found The Best Tent Camping: Minnesota, a guide written by Tom Watson, who visited every campground in the state and detailed all of the accessibility features. He spoke of a tranquil spot on a babbling creek in Whitewater, and that was how I eventually chose my birthday camping site — and it was stunning. Wheelchairtraveling.com also has a list of excellent accessible campsites.
3. Pack light, pack smart
I hate not being able to help set up the campsite. I usually just sit and watch, delegating tasks. To pull my weight, I help with packing, making sure we pack exactly what we need and nothing more. We love bringing hard boiled eggs, string cheese, robust darker ryes with mustard, granola bars; all kinds of food that don’t need fancy storage yet are filling.
If this sounds too granola for you, then find out what types of stores or restaurants are around the park you chose. If there’s a diner nearby, you can always set your site up and then go eat out. This way you don’t have to pack as much and the first night can be spent relaxing around the fire pit, rather than waiting for those potatoes to finally soften. Also, find out if the park has a camp store as you may wish to purchase whatever items you didn’t have room to pack.
4. Consider tenting
It’s possible to go tent camping if you use a wheelchair. I can just roll into most tents, especially the dome type-tents. All I need is a high-enough ceiling and the front of the tent entrance pinned down so I can roll in without ripping anything. We are able to make most tents work, but the Freedom accessible tent made by Eureka! is worth checking out.
5. Charge up everything, and get car chargers
From power chairs to cell phones, having your electrical devices fully powered up is essential when you’re going camping — especially if you’re going to a remote campground without many people nearby. There are too many nightmare scenarios that could happen. So instead, make sure you charge your chair and your phone completely before going, and consider purchasing a car charger for your wheelchair.
There are lots of wheelers that go camping and lots of groups to go to for more tips, such as When We RV, PVA and the great Candy Harrington. Just try to get out there at least once this summer. Take it from nature girl, you won’t regret it.
What camping tips do you recommend?