Camp Ambassador teaches a young child about local wildlife

NY Offers Free Camping and Gear Lottery

Tents, sleeping bags, stoves, firewood, and more: New York will award some lucky first-time campers a fully stocked camp experience.

Camp Ambassador teaches a young child about local wildlife

The two biggest hurdles to enjoying outdoor adventures are lack of know-how and insufficient gear. To overcome these deficits, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will hold a free First-Time Camper lottery. The prize? A suite of camp gear to use for a weekend and some wilderness 101 with outdoor experts.

The lottery builds off a pilot program the state launched last year. According to the DEC, “the success and high demand” of 2017’s initiative led the state to expand it this year.

As result, 65 families will receive all the gear and instruction for a free camp weekend to “see if they enjoy sleeping under the stars.”

Camp Ambassador guides a nature hike through New York park

New York Free First-Time Camper Lottery

The First-Time Camper weekends are open to New York residents only. If you’re not new to camping or if you have your own gear, don’t apply. The idea is to get more people amped about being outside. Residents can enter here between May10–13.

“Camping is an affordable and rewarding experience that connects families with nature and one another while experiencing the great outdoors,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Last year, more than 150 people participated as first-time campers, and I encourage anyone that hasn’t gone on a camping adventure in New York’s peerless natural areas to take advantage of the First-Time Camper program and give camping a try.”

NY Camp Ambassador instructs a first-time camper how to set up a tent

According to the DEC, winners will receive a campsite stocked with a family tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp chairs, camp stove, lantern, and firewood. They will also meet with a “Camp Ambassador,” who will help them set up tents, build a fire, and provide any other guidance.

Plus, families will have access to outdoors experts over the weekend to teach them about activities like fishing, hiking, bird watching, paddling, and more.

Thirteen campgrounds will participate in first-timer getaways within the Catskills, Adirondacks, and a handful of state parks. See the full list here.

In all, the state will place lottery winners in public campsites between July 13 and August 24. Anyone interested should check out the DEC First-Time Camper signup page when it opens May 10. Registration runs until May 13, and winners will be selected randomly.

Adam Ruggiero

Adam Ruggiero is the editor-in-chief of GearJunkie and a fan of virtually all sports and activities. From biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming — if it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.