A program available at Chapman State Park aims to make camping more accessible.
Gander Mountain, a store carrying outdoor gear, has partnered with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to offer equipment rentals to first-time campers.
Jim McCorkle, park manager at Chapman State Park, said Chapman is one of the parks participating in the program.
In total, 19 state parks in Pennsylvania are participating. Equipment available includes tents, chairs, sleeping pads, camp stove, lantern, flashlights, batteries and propane.
Also, campers who rent the gear receive a coupon for a 10 percent discount at Gander Mountain. So far there have been two participants at Chapman, McCorkle said, and they were both from the Erie area.
"The idea is to get people who have not camped at all into the outdoors," McCorkle said. "That's our job at DCNR."
According to McCorkle, part of the organization's mission is to facilitate outdoor recreation for visitors. Through this program, he said, it's a good way to accomplish that.
By allowing people to get in touch with nature, McCorkle hopes equipment rental will encourage people to be conservationists and good stewards of the land. Today, he noted, a lot of kids don't get the chance to get outside.
One of the people renting was a lady who came with her son to spend the weekend. Campers who have participated really enjoyed it, McCorkle said.
Compared to what it takes to camp, McCorkle said the rental equipment is minimal. Participants would have to bring their own plates, utensils, pillows and sleeping bags as those items would need to be washed after each use and so aren't practical for the program.
Staff at the park assists renters by showing them how to set up the tent and light fires. Campground hosts also answer any questions and address any concerns or needs.
The program is now in its second year across the state, McCorkle said, but it is the first year for Chapman. McCorkle said he plans to continue participating.
"I'd certainly like to see more in future years and even the rest of this summer and into fall," McCorkle said.
Gander Mountain has also helped with Winterfest in the past, particularly the fishing event. A rental of the equipment for two nights costs $20 and includes a campsite reservation compared to the couple hundred dollars McCorkle estimated it would cost to buy.
Anybody wishing to rent the equipment can contact the park office at 723-0250.