By learning some very basic guidelines, you can soon be on your way to a fun and adventurous experience, just like the millions of people who have come to enjoy camping each and every year.

The following camping-tips for beginners should help get you for a great outdoor camping experience:

1. Plan Ahead

As a beginner, we recommend you start out by choosing a campsite closest to your home.  We’re taking small steps here until you get more camping experience underneath your belt, or you until you feel more comfortable in traveling longer distances while leaving behind most necessities you typically can’t go without for a couple days.  Perhaps there is a lake nearby? What about a state park?  These are excellent choices as many of these sites will be properly maintained.   Go online and find some nearby camp sites for your area—you may be surprised at what you find.   You’ll want to know when campsites are available as some parks are not available year round.  In addition, find out what sort of amenities they provide (i.e., restrooms, swimming, hiking, fishing, etc.).  This will give you enough information ahead of time so you can plan your camping trip accordingly.  If you’re not able to find this information readily online, give the campground a call and let them know you’re interested in a campsite and ask them for suggestions and tips as a beginner.  They will be more than happy to assist you.

Keep in mind, when doing your research; it may help to write down some of your requirements.  Meaning, if you would like to go hiking, make certain they have some hiking trails for you.  If you would prefer to fish, see if they offer fishing.  Or maybe, if you’re like me, you just want to spend time with your friends and family at the campsite and cherish all those moments together.  It’s totally up to you!  Just be sure you ask the campgrounds what amenities they provide, so you can prepare in advance. For example, do they provide BBQ grills onsite? If not, then you know to dust off that little hibachi you received as a gift but never used.  Yeah, that’s right, I said it.  Once you find a campground that meets your needs, go ahead and make a reservation.  You may find that there may not be many spaces available, if any.  Keep calling around until you find an open campsite.  Once you find one available, go ahead and reserve it, but do try to give yourself several days before actually making your trip.  This will ensure you have enough time to make final preparations just before hitting the road.

2. Camping Gear

As a beginning camper, there’s no need to run out and start making expensive purchases on all sorts of equipment.  Let’s just keep things simple and stick to the very basics here.  You will, however, need the following items:

  • Tent

Sleeping underneath the stars may sound like a nice idea, but, remember, you are sleeping in mother nature’s house, and mother nature has a way of showing her welcome with things like the cold, gusty winds, rain, bugs, and other various forms of wild life—think wolves/mountain lions.  Now, don’t let this scare you one bit, but you get the point.  The idea is to be prepared. (By the way, pop up tents should not be used as tents.  Use the right tool for the right job, and in this case, you will want a tent.  Use the pop up tent for keeping tents dry or providing much needed shade on a hot sunny day).

The kind of tent you need may depend on your own individual circumstances; camping with a family of four, you and one other person, or just yourself?

TIP: Tents are not water proof.  Crazy huh?  Use a tarp to cover the tent at night to keep the tent dry.  This is especially important if you’re in the mountains or near the coast due to the mist that rolls in.

  • Sleeping Bag

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to keep your entire body wrapped in a warm snuggly blanket all night, while also preventing any unwanted insects from slipping through the covers?  That’s what the sleeping bag is made to do.   When choosing a sleeping bag, pay attention to the temperature ratings.  Sleeping bags generally come in a few temperature ratings:

 

Summer Season +35° and higher
3-Season Bag +10° to +35°
Cold Weather -10° to +10°
Winter/Extreme -10° and lower

 

For example: Choose the Summer Season sleeping bag if you will mostly be doing summer camping.

TIP: While sleeping bags have some padding, it’s not enough to keep you from feeling rocks while you sleep.  This is where your house blankets come in.  Even better, for less than $9.00, you can get a moving blanket from Harbor Freight and fold a few times and get excellent padding, as they’re already thick!  Use the moving blanket for other projects/chores around the house for double duty, and save your house blankets.   While you’re at Harbor Freight, grab a couple blue tarps, a hammer if you don’t already have one.

  • Flashlight

A flashlight or lantern will work.  While the lantern may provide lighting 360 degrees, it’s best used to light the immediate surrounding proximity, while the flashlight will only light where you point it and may provide lighting for a longer distance than the typical lantern might be able to. So, they both provide slightly different purposes, and it’s recommend that you do have both.  But, the idea is to be able to see in the dark, so either one will suffice.  Be sure you to inspect the flashlight or lantern before leaving out the door.

  • Extra Clothing

You probably have noticed a pattern here.  Preparation is key.  Always, always, pack warm clothes.  Don’t believe for a second that just because it’s hot during the day, that it won’t get cold at night.  Pack a coat.  Yes, that includes packing a coat in the summer!  Remember, you are not sleeping in a hotel.  Pack extra pants, shorts, socks, etc.  The point I am trying to make here is to ensure you won’t have to cut your trip short because you don’t have dry, clean, or warm clothes.

  • Something Sharp

Machete or hatchet works nice. For cutting rope, chopping wood, etc.

  • Matches

To start your camp-fire of course.  (Never leave the fire unattended. Before leaving the camp-fire, be certain to douse with liquid, cover with dirt, sand, etc.)

  • Extra rope

Rope comes in very handy for making a clothing ling for drying wet clothes, tying down your tent from blowing away, etc.

3. Food

Try bringing canned and dry foods where you can.  This saves room in your cooler for other perishable items, such as eggs and meats.  Plan your meals ahead of time.  Write out your list on a piece of paper:  What to eat for breakfast.  What to eat for lunch.  What to eat for dinner.  By planning ahead, you will be certain to have a successful camping trip.  I promise!

Interested in a breakfast burrito with eggs, sausage and potatoes?  Bring some flour tortillas (these do not need to stay in the cooler!)  Plan on bringing enough eggs to make for yourself, guests for each morning, as well as some frozen sausages and potatoes (look in the frozen section at grocery store).   Come next morning, heat up sausages and potatoes in a hot skillet, while you slow cook your scrambled eggs.  Once everything everything is fully cooked, simply add your eggs and sausage/potato mix onto a warm tortilla.  Don’t forget the sliced avocado.  And tah dah!

Lunch and dinner– you are on your own!  Just be sure to bring some pots and pans, utensils, salt and pepper, etc.

TIP: Along with canned foods, think of simple and easy food items such as ramen noodles.  You know how to boil water don’t you?  Bring enough water to rinse your pots/pans etc. and store your trash in the trash bag you brought with you. You did remember to bring a trash bag, right?

Our recipes section contains all kinds of great little meals that are easy to make while camping. It doesn’t just have to be Burgers and Hotdogs.

4. Coolers

Obviously this is easy for you to understand. The cooler is to keep your food items chilled. I like to bring at least 2 coolers when car camping. 1 for Beverages and 1 for food items.

For the food cooler,  I stick several plastic water bottles in the freezer until completely frozen a few days ahead of time.  This will help keep your food items cold without getting all soggy with all those melted ice cubes. If it’s a trip that lasts several days, I will sometimes put some ice in ziplock bags, and refresh them if there is ice available at a nearby store.

But for the “beverage” cooler, I like to fill the cooler with all the bottles, cans etc, and then pour ice ships/cubes etc over top. The ice cubes touch then entire surface of the drink container and really gives you an ice cold drink. And there’s nothing better than an ice cold drink on a hot summer day.

Just remember to keep the cooler(s) in the shade to maximize the duration of the ice.

5. Plants

Try not to touch plants if you don’t really need to.  And more importantly, don’t eat anything off trees/bushes unless you know exactly what they are.

6. Enjoy

These are memories you are making by spending this time with family and friends.  This is living. Enjoy!

Mark Smithers

Mark Smithers

Mark Smithers has been camping since early childhood. An avid fan of the outdoors, he finds himself heading on adventures at the drop of a hat, with not much more than a backpack choked full of supplies and a walking stick.
Mark Smithers

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