Newbie's guide to camping in Georgia

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Newbie's guide to camping in Georgia

June is National Camping Month but since we live in Georgia, most of the other months of the year are pretty good for camping too. If you've been putting off a camping adventure then it's time to change your tune. So what do you do if you're new to the game? Keep reading for three Georgia options welcoming you to the great outdoors.

First Time Camper program through Georgia State Parks. Georgia State Parks recognizes that new campers might not have the knowledge or the equipment for their first camping experience. Let's face it - that initial camping gear purchase will not be cheap. Luckily, in a partnership with Coleman and REI, participants of the First Time Camper program need only bring a sleeping bag and pillow.

The program, offered only to those that have never before camped at a Georgia State Park, provides participants with two nights' stay at the campground, borrowed gear and expert advice. Park staff greet campers upon arrival, give tips on setting up the tent and offer a Camping 101 lesson. Equipment includes a family tent large enough for six people, four sleeping pads, two camp chairs, a camp stove with fuel and a lantern. When you are ready to leave, pack up the gear and return it to the main office.

Tent camping prices vary by individual park.  Many are about $20-30 per night. If participants do not already have an annual state park pass, then a $5 parking fee also applies. Currently, 6 state parks participate in the First Time Camper program and 5 of them are pretty close to Atlanta.

Ready, Set, Camp! through Stone Mountain Park. Stone Mountain Park assists first time campers via their Ready, Set, Camp! package. For $99 campers arrive at their lake-view campsite to find a four-person tent, with four sleeping pads, already assembled. The best part? The tent and sleeping pads are yours to keep for your next camping adventure.

Campers will still need to bring additional gear such as sleeping bags, pillows, cooking supplies, a lantern and personal items. Additionally, this price does not include site rental, which can range from $26 to $41 per night. Park admission is an additional $15 but an annual pass is $40, so if you love Stone Mountain the annual is a great deal.

Outdoor School through REI. If you are ready to make the investment in equipment and want to ensure you are purchasing quality products, the right products and only those you need, then check out a class through REI. Their Introduction to Backcountry Skills class is perfect for beginners. It covers planning, equipment and other backcountry skills. Other classes: Backpacking Basics , Introduction to Backcountry Cooking and occasional group camp-outs.

Classes are offered at all five of REI's metro Atlanta locations, as well as a number of outdoor sites.

After taking a few classes and borrowing gear, if you decide that tent camping still isn't for you, then try these eight alternatives.

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