5 Ways to Camp in Central Texas

David Leo Veksler
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We all have different variations of how we define “camping.” Here are five common ways to camp, and the best type of place to use each method in Central Texas. The below are rated in terms of difficulty and experience. If you are new to camping, start with glamping and then proceed up the numeric ladder. Or start where you feel comfortable, it's up to you!

1. Glamping

Glamping in a teepee
Glamping in a teepee m01229

Don't want the ruggedness of really getting back to nature? Try glamping! Glamping means glamorous camping. Choose a  teepee , cabin,  yurtrailcar , or a permanent A-frame tent where (maybe) breakfast is served and the restrooms are nicer than the ones at home. Check out  Glamping Hub Texas for more options. There is a larger price tag associated with glamping because amenities such as food are often included.

2. Car Camping

With car camping, you get the benefits of having a portable storage unit (your car) while still being outside. For your sleeping environment, you can either purchase a low-cost tent or sleep in your car or RV. You can always sleep in your tent and run back to your car once it starts getting too cold/hot/stormy/balmy/mosquitoey or when other campers start getting too loud.

Most state and national parks have plenty of designated sites for car camping. Sites will vary by cost and whether or not they include potable water, electricity, and a restroom or latrine. Great places to car camp in central Texas include Pedernales, Garner, Inks Lake State Parks, plus Enchanted Rock and Lost Maples State Natural Area. But reserve early since parks book up quickly, sometimes up to six months out.

3. Outfitters

Backpacking in Big Bend
Backpacking in Big Bend RootsRated

Leaving the car camping world catapults you into the backpacking world. This enables you be mobile and explore more wilderness areas where less people are camping. Backpacking shows you nature scenes that you thought only possible in calendars and magazines.

Outfitters typically provide gear, cook the food, and plan the route of your trip. This is a phenomenal, low cost way to test if you truly enjoy backpacking. Locals to Central Texas can try Backwoods Austin.

4. Backpacking with a tent, hammock, or tarp

Tent camping at Big Bend
Tent camping at Big Bend Patrick Denker

You have now crossed the threshold for "this is a serious hobby" and "yes, I would spend my vacation doing this."  Welcome !

Now that you are backpacking, you should consider weight as your top priority. Your 6-pound tent for car camping wasn't a big deal when you had a car to store it in. But when you have to carry that tent for 50 miles over the course 5 days (or longer!), then you start carefully analyzing each item that goes in your pack and and considering ways to shed needless weight.

Since sleep systems are often some of the bulkier items, researching and investing in higher-end shelters is important. You can easily find tents, hammocks, and tarps that weight less than 2 pounds packed. You may also forego the tent altogether and just use the rain fly and footprint ("fast fly" system). Keep in mind though that there are tradeoffs for ultralightweight ("UL"). A UL shelter may not keep you dry in the rain and it might not block the wind from all angles in a bad windstorm. It's about finding the system that works best for you.

5. Cowboy Camping

Texas heaven
Texas heaven Gino

Grasshopper, you are now what the sages call " hardcore ".

Cowboy camping means sleeping under the stars without a shelter. Some long-distance hikers, such as those trekking the Pacific Crest Trail or Appalachian Trail, try to save weight by not carrying a tent. Cowboy camping works well when the weather is nice. Try cowboy camping in the spring when it is not too hot or cold and check the rain forecast.

If you cowboy camp on a new moon and a clear night, you will get a perfect view of breathtaking stars without the light from the moon obstructing your view. When it's raining, you will probably get wet, unless you have a backup shelter or can find shelter under a tree or lean-to (see #4 Hammocks and Shelters).  I recommend cowboy camping if you are a backpacker with several long hikes under your belt.

However you choose to camp in Central Texas, just do it. We have such prime open land, big skies, and beautiful waterways, and they're all worth experiencing. Your soul will thank you.

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