This summer, the Department of Conservation and National Resources (DCNR) and Gander Mountain are partnering to provide first-time campers with essential gear and a reduced $20 reservation fee for a two-night stay at participating Pennsylvania state parks.
The Minnesota-based company will provide a four-person tent, rain tarp, flashlight, lantern, camp stove, four sleeping pads, camp chairs, and hot dog/marshmallow sticks. Campers must provide their own food, utensils and bedding, and all gear must be returned upon their departure.
Terry Brady, deputy press secretary for the DCNR, said camping gear can be a little costly for families and providing the essentials should encourage them to make a reservation. "When you add that up, it gets a little prohibitive perhaps for a young family just starting out, so with these newly-found products they are invited to stop in at of our state parks and also save some money on the reservation fee."
Brady also noted that the best times to come are the parks' quietest periods during the summer. "Everyone wants to camp around the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. That said, some of our nicer camping experiences come later in the summer, especially in the later part of August," Brady said.
This is the second year the DCNR is offering the program, which includes hands-on instruction on camping. Last summer, 180 reservations were made and roughly 500 people camped in a state park for the first time. This year, five more parks will participate, in addition to the original 14.
The program will begin Memorial Day weekend and will continue throughout the summer. The regular base cost for a one-night stay at state park campgrounds is $15 for residents and $17 for non-residents.