Back in college, I finished up my Phys Ed credits one semester by taking Backpacking & Camping, a course that began by showing a bunch of city kids how to set up an A-frame tent and ended with those same kids spending a weekend in Dinosaur Valley State Park, now fully versed on important topics like starting a fire, cooking over that fire and not letting that fire get out of control. But because this was a big, fussy, private university, I paid for the pleasure of learning all of these things to the tune of roughly $1,500. In retrospect, that was an expensive camping course.
You can do better, and you should, this weekend at the Baytown Nature Center. Here, representatives from REI will be demonstrating camping basics on Saturday, September 3, for free. (Disclaimer: You will have to pay an entrance fee to the Nature Center; $4 for adults and $1 for children and seniors. It's totally worth it—especially if you're into bird-watching.)
This introductory course takes place from 10 a.m. to noon and focuses on how to choose a campsite, basic equipment, camping safety and etiquette, and awareness of natural surroundings. And unlike my own college course, camping gear will be provided, so all you need to bring is sunscreen and Off!
Once you and your family have learned the basics, may I suggest putting them to good use at Houston's only city park that allows overnight camping? Lake Houston Wilderness Park is nearby and an excellent jumping off point for beginner campers. And once you've mastered the art of popping up that tent, why not dive into our feature on the best state parks in East Texas for backpacking and camping? Fall is just around the corner, and you'll want to book those campsites while they still last.