Here at Ardent Camper, we're all about making the outdoors accessible to anyone.

If you think bugs are gross, if you think getting sweaty is no fun, if the idea of sleeping on a foam mat makes your back give a sympathetic shudder — camping can still be for you!

After all, I don't like bugs, I hate getting sweaty and I'd rather sleep in my own bed than anywhere else, thank you very much.

Somehow, all of that seems to fall away when I'm camping, though. And, besides, when I'm not backpacking, I often take liberties to make my experience more comfortable — a mesh screen to keep the bugs away, a pavilion to shade the picnic table, a little blow-up mattress.

Maybe it's not hard-core, but it's my vacation time, so I want to enjoy it! 

What makes camping so worth it for me isn't the act of setting up a temporary home, the joy of watching animals in their natural habitat or the triumph of reaching a trail's peak. The reason I go camping time and time again is my friends — the camping company I keep.

It can be hard to find friends who are willing to brave the elements with you, though, so online forums and meet-ups are a great way to meet people online who share your interest.

Another great place to find an online community of outdoor enthusiasts is Twitter. In addition to the tweets that crop up regularly, every week there are scheduled Twitter chats that center around revolving topics hosted by dynamic users.

Learning how to participate in a Twitter chat can be a bit dizzying, so here's the scoop.

  1. Sign up for Twitter.
  2. Put the Twitter chats on a recurring schedule your calendar — and pay attention to the time zone. It's so easy to forget them otherwise.
  3. Follow the Twitter chat hosts.
  4. When it's time for the chat to begin, run a search for the chat's hashtag.
  5. Make sure the search results show "all" not "top" tweets.
  6. When the chat begins, generally hosts will ask participants to introduce themselves. Do so, and make sure to include the hashtag in your response so it gets picked up by everyone following the chat.
  7. Chat hosts will start asking questions that follow this format: "Q1 [Insert question here] #hashtag," followed by Q2, Q3, Q4, etc.
  8. Respond with "A" and the number of the corresponding question, like this: "A1 [Insert answer here] #hashtag." Again, don't forget the hashtag in your response!
  9. The questions are generally spaced with enough time for everyone to respond and get a conversation going. Take time to favorite others' posts and respond to their comments.
  10. When it's time for the chat to end, if you had a nice time, thank the host and share the information with a friend!

If you're interested in trying a Twitter chat, check out my favorites.

Note: this is not an all-inclusive list! If you're looking for the weekly topic or additional chats, check out Travelogx's listing.

#OutFam (Outdoor Families) 4:30-5:00pm EST Wednesdays
Hosted by @valinreallife and @melissabravery

#ATQA (Adventure Travel Q&A) 5:00-6:00pm EST Wednesdays
Hosted by @AmericanSahara and @themorningfresh

#ParkChat 9:00-10:00pm EST Wednesdays
Hosted by @Flow397 and @59NationalParks

#STPLive (Sierra Trading Post Live) 6:00-7:00pm EST Thursdays
Hosted by @sierratp

#HikerChat 12:00-1:00pm EST Fridays
Hosted by @TETONSports, @BackcountryTees and @HikerChat

Do you love Twitter chats? Have you found other great online communities of outdoor enthusiasts? Tell us more in the comments.

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