So you want to go camping out in the mountains, good for you. Camping is fun this time of year. At least, camping in Oklahoma is only fun this time of year.
Believe me, I've been on a handful of camping trips over the years, and anytime between June and September is usually the worst-case scenario. While you could argue that the scenery is the best during the warm season, the heat is a real killer of fun.
One cannot comfortably sleep when the air temp remains in the 80's overnight. That's why winter camping is king in Oklahoma.
Here's the biggest mistake people make... GAS - Gear Acquisition Syndrome. They like the idea of any new hobby, so they immediately start spending all of their money on stuff they see other people use on media outlets like YouTube and Facebook.
That's OK, it's human nature, I do the same thing with my hobbies. It's easy to become convinced you need something when someone who's being paid to tell you says it.
Following me here? So let us go over the bare essentials to get you enjoying the outdoors.
When you hear the word "camping," you probably envision a tent. That's a good start. Everyone needs shelter from mother nature. That being said, while you could just go to the grocery/big box store and pick up a tent on the cheap, here's is where the savvy begins. You'll need a tent, so buy a good one. Something reviewed by others as a piece of quality that will keep you comfortable during your experience in nature. Above all, pick something that's both lightweight and will last. You don't have to break the bank either, but a tent is something you shouldn't skimp on.
All the same, it's not something you should splurge on until you've gained the experience to know you want to do this a lot more with better gear.
While you could feasibly grab a canvas tarp and some sticks to cover yourself, it's hard to ignore the things in nature that find their way into your sleeping bag. So something with a floor is ideal your first time out.
A sleeping bag is a given when it comes to camping, but I'm sure you can go about finding your own choice out there online. There are millions of top-reviewed choices, and since we only see limited nights below freezing, most any bag will probably do. More importantly, you should focus on a sleeping pad.
Sleeping pads are important because of this... A sleeping bag will only keep you warm over the top. If you're laying on the ground, the ground will keep you cold down below. It's just how insulation works. If you're mushing all that insulation down below you, you aren't insulated. As air is pretty much the best insulator on the planet, you might look into something that inflates, but I've never been a fan of them. Sure, they're really light and very compact, but you have to blow them up. When you finally inflate and seal off your pad, as it cools in the cold air, it will shrink. Thermodynamics play with you like that, so you have to continually blow up your pad.
Alternatively, and the tradeoff being space and weight, you can find self-inflating foam core pads that will meet your needs. Let's be honest, in the Wichita's, you're going to camp near your vehicle, so space and weight don't matter nearly as much as your comfort.
While you could go hog wild buying those crazy bagged MRE type meals, nothing beats actually cooking real food over an open flame. It's a signature thing you think of when your think about camping. This is another category that goes zero-to-one-hundred really quick. There are tons of different stove types out there, I used to make my own out of aluminum beer bottles, but simply put, most campgrounds have their own stove/grill setup. Still, if you want, there are ton's of cheap wood stoves online made for hiking and camping. More importantly, focus on your dishwares.
Pots and pans can often double as cups and plates, at least most experienced campers will tell you this. The stores will sell you as much as they can, no matter how many pieces it contains. A good stainless cup for beverages and soups, a quality stainless plate can double as a skillet. All the same, much like the sleeping quarters conversation we had, you'll likely be close enough to the car to pack whatever you want.
Also, when it comes to food storage, it's really easy to spend a ton of money on a foam filled cooler. While I'll agree that quality is always worth the price, there are lots of cheaper options in this category that will offer you similar performance at a fraction of the price. This time of year, you don't really need to focus on summertime ice performances... It'll stay cold on it's own.
All in all, if you have shelter and water, you're good for a few days. Yes, you'll be hungry, but you can't live without water. Because you'll most likely be camping near your vehicle, take a case of water with you. If you want to really experience camping in the wild, try your hand at carrying it. Keep in mind that water weighs eight pounds per gallon, so you're not packing a whole lot. Still, if you can find water where you camp, even better.
While drinking water in the wild is marginally better than drinking none at all, keep this in mind. If you're pulling water out of a pond, lake, stream, river, puddle, etc... It should be boiled.
Water, especially wild water, contains microbes and bacteria. Those little germs can really do a number on your gut. Boiling it kills them. Additionally, I don't know anyone who feels comfortable drinking the water around Fort Sill. There's no telling what is in that water.
There are water filters out there for purchase, but after years of research, the acceptably good ones are shockingly expensive. Alternatively, you can pack in a case of water as long as you also pack out your trash.