New to camping? Some states loaning first-time campers tents and gear for free

Camping stock photo by trickofthelight via Flickr

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - To try to get more people into camping this summer, Vermont is offering first-time campers free equipment and campsites at various state parks, as New York is also doing.

More than 600 people have signed up to be picked for 30 individual slots for happy camper weekends offered in July and August at various Vermont state parks.

"We are always looking for ways to encourage more people to spend time outdoors with their friends and families because it's fun, relaxing and rejuvenating, and it's good for people's emotional and physical health," said state parks director Craig Whipple. "All the positive benefits of outdoor recreation can be multiplied when people spend the night outside in the woods."

The parks loan the winning campers a tent, cook stove, lantern and some sleeping pads. Staff then help the campers set up their campsite and give them a tour of the park on Friday evening.