Goodbye cabin fever

Erica Crist

Camping offers Spring Break adventures for college students

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Every college student can relate to cabin fever after being cooped up inside all winter. But this year, why binge in the tradition of Spring Break in a pricey hotel when camping is much less expensive and offers not only the clubs, the beach and the restaurants but also a much-needed check-in with Mother Nature?

Camping doesn’t mean peeing in the woods or sleeping on rocks either. Modern campsites offer facilities that make a stay in the forest far more comfortable. And all this at half of what would have been spent on a prepackaged vacation.

“Generally speaking, camping with a tent is much less expensive,” said Laura Sedlock, outfitter and merchandiser at Appalachian Outfitters in Peninsula. “People camp for a whole bunch of different reasons. A lot of people like getting away from the crowds and think it’s nice to be out in a natural environment.”

Experienced campers Bill Meszaros, 38, and his wife Carina, 37, of Hiram, said being outside in nature is definitely their favorite part of camping.

“For us, it’s about cooking on an open fire and breathing the fresh air when you wake up in the morning,” Carina Meszaros said.

Planning a camping trip is fast and easy. The first step is obvious: Decide where you want to go for Spring Break and make a reservation. From Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Panama City, Fla., every state in the nation offers dozens of state parks to choose from.

If an adventuresome Spring Break seems more appealing, there are dozens of national parks that have enough environmental attractions to make camping itself the destination.

National Geographic Traveler and the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations surveyed “some 300 experts in sustainable tourism, destination quality and park management” and asked them to evaluate 55 North American national parks.

The Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and the Haida Heritage Site in British Columbia, Canada, ranked No. 1 because of “archaeological and historic artifacts left to their natural processes” (such as hot springs as big as swimming pools) and “fewer than 3,000 visitors a year.”

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin ranked No. 2 because of “no man-made lights visible” and “authentic Great Lakes atmosphere.”

Privately owned campgrounds, such as Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, are another possibility, though more expensive. Full-service sites, which will mostly be found at private campgrounds or state parks, mean showers, restrooms, grills, RV hookups (electricity and water for recreational vehicles), level areas for pitching tents and usually a playground.

“Commercial campgrounds are much more restricted because they are so compact,” Bill Meszaros said. “We prefer state, or even better, national parks because they are bigger with fewer restrictions. You’re free to do whatever you want anytime.”

The second step – getting the right gear for the trip – is just as important as the first step. Start with the shelter: A tent with poles, stakes, a ground cloth and a rain fly, and sleeping bags, pillows and air mattresses.

Sedlock recommended Eureka! tents for college students who don’t have a lot of money to spend, because Eureka! is “a big name company, so because they deal in volume they can keep the prices down.” She also said Eureka! tents are “reliable and an easy $100 less than other tents.”

At Appalachian Outfitters, a Eureka! one-person tent is $69.95, and a Eureka! two-person tent is $99.95.

“We don’t do any rental, but the Kent State rec department does,” Sedlock said. “That’s where we always refer people.”

Kent State Recreation Services rents out camping equipment for one day, one weekend or one week at a time, with everything from white water kayaks to sleeping bags. A two-person tent with ground cover is $15 a week for a student.

Next, there are food and kitchen supplies. The two biggest things needed are a cooler and either firewood or a stove. Remember not to keep any food in the tent. Bill Meszaros said to also remember “there are a lot of recipes available that are easier than hamburgers and hot dogs.”

For example, cooking spaghetti, chili or stew before the trip and freezing it is an easy meal. Or for a fun dessert other than s’mores, try a banana boat. Cut a banana (still in the peel) long-way and stuff it with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. Wrap it in aluminum foil and throw it in the fire. It will only take a few minutes to melt and then you will have spoonfuls of delicious dessert.

Finally, when out camping, don’t forget to fit a bike ride or fishing into the day.

“Hiking and canoeing are definitely our favorite camping activities because you can go to the same places but always find something new with every season,” Carina Meszaros said.

“The biggest misconception about camping is that people think it’s too difficult,” Carina Meszaros said. “Be vigilant and don’t give up. First timers will make some mistakes.”

Bill Meszaros agreed with his wife.

“But if you’re prepared, it’s easy,” Bill Meszaros said. “Make a list. If you’re out camping and you realize, ‘Oh, I need a knife to cut this onion,’ then add a knife to the list, and you won’t forget it the next time.”

For a list of rentable equipment and prices, visit

Contact assistant features editor Erica Crist at [email protected].