Camping is an experience that many people have not yet had. For those who are beginner campers, it can seem a little scary at first to sleep in the wild and enjoy nature without any of the comforts we often depend on every day.
But camping with your family and friends need not be daunting!
Our team of experts has put together this ultimate guide to camping for a beginner. This guide will help you get started with camping and make sure that you are well prepared for your first time out in the wilderness.
We’ll share our best camping tips and tricks so that you don’t have any surprises on your first trip!
Here’s how we do it…
Camping For Beginners Part 1: Planning Your First Camping Trip
Unlike other types of travel like staying in hotels or visiting family, camping requires a bit more planning.
And in order to plan a successful camping trip, you must first choose the right camping style, the ideal campground, and what season would be best to embark on this adventure.
Choosing the Right Camping Style For You
Here are 6 most popular camping style.
Tent Camping is the most common type of camping, typically at a campground in a state or national park.
Most tent campsites have restrooms with running water and allow you to drive up to your campsite.
In some areas it’s possible that there will be paths for hiking through nature trails; others may provide access into rivers and lakes.
Car Camping can have different meanings to different people. Some define it as camping in a place where you can drive your car right up to the campsite and park next to your tent (like tent camping above).
But, the version we’re referring to is actually sleeping in your car, which can be a great option if you are looking to enjoy the outdoors but still have access to some comfort.
Simply fold all of the seats in your car down, blowup an air mattress (futon mattress is recommended for extra comfort), and slip into your sleeping bag without setting up a tent.
RV or Trailer Camping
RV or Trailer Camping is a great way to take your accommodations with you on the road. Boasting everything from converted vans, cars and RV’s alike; this method of camping offers something for everyone.
Primitive Camping requires a little more preparation than just packing for one night of fun. Although there are designated spots to set up your tent, primitive campsites may not have bathrooms or running water nearby so be sure to pack accordingly!
Dispersed Camping is the perfect way to find your own scenic campsite for a night or two and enjoy some of America’s most stunning landscapes. There are certain parks that don’t allow dispersed camping but if you’re in the forest or a BLM land, then it’s fair game to camp for free.
Backcountry Camping is the most adventurous type of trip, requiring you to hike in with all your gear. If you’re looking for a remote escape from crowds, this might be right up your alley.
Choosing the Best Time For Your First Camping Trip
Camping is an experience that benefits from the perfect weather. Check out what kind of climate a campsite will have by looking at monthly temperatures for your campsite before making reservations at your campground of choice.
There are many factors that you’ll need to take into account before booking a site, including:
How much rain does it get in what months?
Is there snow on the ground during winter or unbearably hot in summer?
Be sure to research these things and anything else beforehand so that you can enjoy yourself without any worries!
Picking the Ideal Campground For Your First Camping Trip
Once you have chosen the right camping style, the next step is to choose a campground, ideally for a night or two.
For beginners, we suggest finding a campground close to home so you can get back quickly if need be.
We suggest that you pick a campsite that is closer to sea level but not in the desert for your first camping trip as the temperature can significantly drop at night. This will also help you save money as you don’t need to spend a load on expensive gears just to stay warm and comfortable.
For your first camping trip, you may also want to consider campgrounds with restrooms, running water, and even a shop.
When picking a campsite in the campground, you should:
- Pick a campsite further away from the restrooms, garbage cans, and RV parking spots, particularly if you’re a light sleeper.
- Pick a campsite large enough to accommodate your group.
- Make sure you have all the amenities you’d need. The standard amenities include fire pits, picnic tables, and food storage lockers.
- Pick a campsite with good water drainage in case it rains. Look for flat, level grounds or grassy areas to pitch your tent as this will be an important element for a comfortable, good night sleep.
- Look for campsites with great views. We use the website Campsitephotos.com to check out the campsite before making a reservation.
Book Your Campsite Well In Advance
You should book your campsite in advance. Most national park reservations are done through Recreation.gov, but for state or local parks you can check their website to find out how the booking process and reservation window works as they may vary by location.
Camping For Beginners Part 2: What Do You Need For Your First Camping Trip
When shopping for camping gear, one of your top priorities should always be durability – you want to invest in high quality items that will last for years.
These pieces may be a bit more pricey upfront but they will save you money and time down the road by lasting longer and not breaking as often.
Remember, it’s better off investing in high-quality items that will last you for years to come than ones of lower quality which may not withstand long use or unpredictable weather conditions.
Tips To Choosing the Right Camping Sleep System
Beginner Camping Tent
The first thing you’ll need for camping is a camping tent. It’s the most important and should be one of your top purchases if it isn’t already.
There are thousands of camping tents to choose from, suitable for every type of camper, weather conditions, party size, etc.
For beginner campers, 3 season tents are great to start with (and they’re suitable from Spring-Fall).
Invest in a larger one than what you think will be necessary, for example if 2 people are going on the camping trip then go with 3 person tent – enjoy all that extra room!
If possible opt for lightweight and easy-to-setup tents as they can make set up feel much quicker.
Here are some additional points to consider when choosing your ideal camping tent:
- How many people will be sleeping in the tent?
- Do you need a tent that can withstand high wind, rain, snow, etc.?
- Do you need extra room for your pets?
Beginner Camping Sleeping Bag
Spending the night camping in the wild is a great way to get some time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, but in order for this to happen, you will need to have the proper sleeping gear.
Besides a camping tent, a sleeping bag is another important piece of camping gear as it provides your body with warmth and comfort. It’s essential for a good night’s sleep, so make sure to buy one that’s rated appropriately for where you will be camping.
Down vs. Synthetic Sleeping Bags
There are two types of sleeping bags – Down Sleeping Bags and Synthetic Sleeping Bags. The difference between the two are the materials they are made from.
Down Sleeping Bags
Down sleeping bags are filled with fines under the feathers of ducks and geese, which are capable of trapping warm air and retaining heat. It is also much lighter and is easier to compress to a smaller size for packing.
The downside of down is that it can easily absorb moisture when used in wet conditions, resulting in loss of heating properties. It is also takes longer to dry than synthetic bags.
- Excellent heat retention
- Wider comfortable temperature range
- Long lasting if taken care of
- Easier to compress to smaller size
- Loses heat when wet
- Takes longer to dry
- Needs special cleaning
- More expensive
Synthetic Sleeping Bags
Synthetic sleeping bags are made from synthetic man-made insulation materials, such as poly-fibers.
They do not retain heat like down bags and are heavier and bulkier, but they can perform better under wet conditions.
Synthetic sleeping bags are usually cheaper and easier to clean than down bags.
- Keeps insulating even when damp
- Faster drying than down
- Less expensive
- Easier to clean
- Bulkier and heavier than down
- Less warmth for its weight than down
- Less durable than down
Here are some things to consider when choosing a sleeping bag:
Sleeping Bag Temperature
Sleeping bags are usually rated by temperature ratings: Comfort rating and lower limit.
Comfort rating is the lowest temperature at which the sleeping bag will keep the average cold sleeper comfortable, whereas the lower limit rating is the lowest temperature at which the sleeping bag keeps the average warm sleeper comfortable.
*Tip*: It’s always better to be too hot than too cold. If it’s too hot, you can unzip and use the bag as a blanket or use it as an added layer of cushion for better comfort. But, if it’s too cold, then you may have a hard time falling asleep or worst yet, you may put yourself in danger.
Sleeping Bag Shape, Size, and Weight
Rectangular Shaped Sleeping Bags
Rectangular shaped sleeping bags give you more room to move and is suited for warmer temperatures. If it’s too warm, you can always unzip it to form a duvet but they are usually larger and heavier.
Mummy Shaped Sleeping Bags
Mummy shaped sleeping bags are the warmest option and are generally smaller and lighter, but doe not allow much movement.
Double Sleeping Bags
Double sleeping bags are best for couple or families wanting to sleep together as body heat keeps you both warm, but it can be bulky to carry.
*Tip*: Think about your trip and whether you’ll be carrying your camping gear. If you’re able to take your car alongside, then you probably don’t have to worry. But if you have to carry your gear for long periods of time, like a long hiking trip, then you might want to consider something less bulky.
Air Mattress or Sleeping Pad
You can also opt for an air mattress, but keep in mind that they rely on electrical access to blow up and are more susceptible to leaks than their specific designs.
The next thing you should invest in is a quality sleeping pad. A sleeping pad provides cushion and insulation between you and the ground, so it’s important to find one that suits your needs best!
Again this is another essential that you’ll need if you want a good night’s sleep.
Sleeping pads are rated by R-value, which measures how much warmth they provide. As beginner tent campers, you should get one rated at 2 or 3 R-value for an adequate level of comfort.
If you plan on sleeping on an air mattress, it is a good idea to put a blanket over the air mattress to keep warm, especially during the fall and winter months. And always clear the debris underneath the air mattress to prevent it from being punctured.
When you think about the sleep systems, most people only focus on their sleeping bag and mat. But a high-quality backpacking pillow can also make or break your night’s rest on the trail.
There are three main types of pillows that fit the criteria of what the best camping pillows should be:
- Compressible – most comfortable but often heavy and large
- Inflatable – least comfortable but light and packs down small
- Hybrid – a combo of the above that can be a good compromise
Many people take their own pillows when they go camping. These are usually the most comfortable type of camping pillow and most closely resemble a regular bed at home.
Compressible pillows provide for more comfort than other types, but can be bulky to carry around or pack into a bag with your gear on the road-trip back home from campgrounds in far off lands!
Nowadays you can have a comfortable rest on the go with an inflatable pillow.
These pillows are generally made from TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and laminated with soft polyester or similar material, making them lightweight to pack down small for travel.
When it’s time to fast asleep after your long trek through nature, just blow air into a valve at the top of this cushion until it is inflated enough for comfort!
A hybrid camping pillow is a great all-rounder, perfect for car campers and backpackers alike.
This clever combination of soft top surface with an inflatable bottom provides comfort in any situation without taking up too much space or weight – making them the best option if you’re looking to be comfortable whilst maintaining your packable needs!
After you have the sleeping essentials, the next step is to invest in your camp kitchen. We have to admit, cooking at camp is not as easy as cooking at home but we’re here to help. And once you get a hang of it, it’s not too bad.
First and foremost, decide how you’ll want to cook your meals ahead of time to prevent overpacking unnecessary gears. When it comes to camp cooking, you have a few options but it depends on your campsite’s amenities and what you plan to cook.
- Campfires are great for all-in-one foil wrapped meals or roasting. Many campsites even have fire pits with a grill on top so you can grill your meat and vegetables.
- Charcoal grills are the typical grill you find at picnic areas and the barbecue grills you use at home. They are great for cooking meats and vegetables.
- Propane camping stoves are best for preparing meals cooked in skillets or pots.
- Dehydrated meals are great for backpackers since you don’t have to carry all the cooking equipment and deal with the hassle of cooking and cleaning. Just add water and BAM! You got yourself a meal!
If you’re relying on just the campfire or a charcoal grill, make sure you bring a backup camp stove or a tarp to put on top of your campfire in case the weather is not on your side.
First and foremost is getting a camping stove. Camping stoves are practical as they are run on propane. There are single and double burner stoves available depending on how many people you are cooking for.
Although we highly recommend a double burner stove as it will be much easier and more convenient, you can get away by cooking one pot meals on a single burner camping stove. One burner stoves are ideal for backpacking as they are lighter than the double burners.
Canister fuel stoves tend to lose their punch at high elevations, so cooking takes longer and therefore you may need more fuel.
Liquid fuel stoves, on the other hand, are ideal with higher elevations. While liquid fuel are heavier, it’s more cost-effective and can cook faster than canister fuel stoves.
Fuel for Stove
Don’t forget to get the fuel for your stove and make sure you bring enough. We suggest bringing more than you need and make sure to turn off the gas when not in use.
Most states do not allow propane to be shipped so head on out to the camping section at your local sporting goods store or Walmart to pickup your fuel.
If you forgot or ran out of fuel, you can always start a campfire but obviously, you will need matches or a lighter.
Camping Dishware and Kitchenware
For your first camping trip, you don’t need to spend money on getting camping kitchenware yet. Instead, bring what you already have at home. When you really think camping is for you then buy your dishware during big sales.
My camp dishware and kitchenware includes an iron skillet, pot, spatulas, utensils, reusable water bottles, collapsible bowls, cutting board, paper towels, aluminum foil, cooler, and trash bags.
You may also opt to use paper plates and plastic silverware, but obviously it’s less environmental friendly.
Don’t forget to bring dish towels, a scrub sponge, 2 camp sinks and some dish soap to wash those dirty dishes.
A cooler with reusable ice packs are a must if you want to keep your food cold when camping.
We recommend getting a hard shell chest cooler as it provides better insulation than a soft cooler bag. However, a soft cooler bag is preferred if you have limited space or tend not to spend more than a couple of days at a time camping out.
While most campsites have drinking water, it is always a good idea to bring along your own. There are two options: 1) buy a reusable water container and pre-fill it or 2) buy water jugs while you’re picking up your grocery list.
For those summer days, we usually keep a bag of ice in the cooler and toss a few cubes in our reusable water bottles so we have ice water when camping.
Camp Chairs and Tables
While most campsites have picnic tables and chairs, you should buy a few portable camp chairs to sit around the campfire. We suggest getting the ones that are collapsible and foldable.
Firewood for Campfire
If you’re planning to have a campfire, make sure you grab some firewood. You can usually pickup some local firewood along the way. You should pickup some local firewood as they are typically cheaper.
One of the most important things to do when you are camping is make sure that your campfire has been put out. Cover up any embers with dirt and douse the fire in water before going to bed.
The last thing you want on your first trip is starting a forest fire, which can happen if fires don’t get extinguished properly or if one starts spontaneously after it goes out.
Everyone has their own toiletries that they need, but below are some basics that beginner campers should bring along to their camping trip:
- Floss, toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash
- Face wipes or face cleaning pads
- Makeup remover
- Moisturizer, lip palm or chapsticks
- Dry shampoo
- Baby wipes
- Toilet paper
- Contacts or glasses
- Hand sanitizer
- Essential medication
- First aid kit
- Eye mask and ear plugs
- Bug repellent
What to Wear Camping
Wearing the right type of clothing suitable to camp in the weather is incredibly important. You also want comfortable yet durable apparel that lasts. Here are a few tips to help you pick your camping apparel.
- Wear durable, moisture wicking, quick-drying materials that are odor-resistant and avoid heavy, moisture absorbing materials like cotton and denim.
- Bring a sweater or fleece for chilly nights
- Bring a rain jacket in case it rains
- Bring hiking shoes if you plan to hike
- Bring comfortable sneakers if you plan to do recreational activities
- Bring slip-on shoes or sandals for casual nights around the campground and worry-free about lacing up in the dark for bathroom runs.
Camping for Beginners Part 3: Camping Tips for Beginners
Organizing and Packing Tips for Beginners
Once you have all your gears, you need to organize it and get it packed for your trip. The best way to store your gear is in clear plastic bins or heavy duty container totes.
These bins are great as they are inexpensive, sturdy, help you organize, conserve space, and allows you to see what is in the bin without unpacking it.
We suggest you get two 70-quart bins – one to store your camp kitchen gear and the other to keep your tent, sleeping gear, lanterns and headlamps, and other accessories.
We also suggest using duffle bags and backpack to keep your clothes and toiletries rather than a suitcase. Although suitcases are great for travel, they aren’t good for camping as they take up a lot of space in the car and tent.
Headlamps, Lanterns, and Flashlight
Camping is a great way to reconnect with nature. There are some things you can do in the dark, but most people find that they get tired and frustrated when trying to live without light for an extended period of time.
Headlamp and lantern help immensely because it not only keeps your hands free so you can explore, work or cook; it also allows others around the campsite.
Make sure the headlamps and lanterns are functional before leaving the house and always bring extra batteries.
Food for Camping
While can food is easy to make meals, you don’t want to resort to eating cheap cans of food for every meal. The truth is cooking outdoors isn’t much different than cooking at home, as long as you’re prepared and bring along the right kitchenware.
Here are some tips we want to share to make your camp cooking simpler and easier.
- Cook simple meals with fewer ingredients, preferably meals that you have cooked before
- Build a meal plan to include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even snacks – once you have a meal plan put together, make a detailed grocery list so you know what you will need to buy at the store. You will want to avoid forgetting to get something or buy too much.
- Prepare the ingredients at home and ahead of time – getting the ingredients ready and organized can save you lots of time when camping, especially during the first day. We usually marinade the meat, wrap them in aluminum foil and store them in food containers or reusable silicone bags. You can chop the veggies, season them, and store in food containers as well.
- Cook while there is still daylight since you can see what you are doing.
- For those of us who wants to do it super-simple, you can skip the cooking at camp by bringing along cold food such as sandwiches, fruit, salad, etc.
- Pitching your tent and getting the campsite setup can be exhausting, so consider pre-cooking the first meal at home
Pitching Your Tent
Pitching your tent in a nice sunny day doesn’t seem like such a headache. But imagine yourself arriving late to the campground, the weather turns against you, or the sun had set, pitching your tent has now become a total nightmare.
To make your camping experience more enjoyable, you should practice setting up your tent or at least read the instructions before arriving at the campsite.
When doing a test run, you can also check for missing parts, tears or holes on your tent. You don’t want to run into any of these scenarios when you’re in the wilderness.
When pitching your tent at the campsite, make sure you find a flat area with matted down grass or dirt. This is a sign that it’s been the home of many campers.
If you can’t find a flat area, pitch your tent perpendicular to the elevated area to avoid sliding down at night.
You should also avoid pitching your tent near the campfire and your camp kitchen.
While you’re busy pitching and setting up your tent, you can delegate jobs to your children so they feel involved and kept busy.
On our first camping trip, we had our children help gather sticks and branches for the campfire, which kept then busy for hours.
Alright, we all hate washing dishes at home and we all love our dishwashers. But when you’re camping in the great outdoors, doing the dishes is an integral part and it’s very different since you don’t have a sink with a drain pipe attached.
Okay, maybe there are washing facilities with running water and drains on the campground that you can do your dishes the way you’re used to doing it at home, except the dishwasher part.
If your campground doesn’t have a washing facility, fear not, you can still do the dishes. You’ll just need 2 camp sinks, a scrub sponge, dish towels, and dish soap.
The way you do dishes in the outdoor is really not all that different than hand washing the dishes at home, here’s how:
- Fill both camp sinks with water
- Mix dish soap in the first camp sink
- Wash and scrub the dishes in the first sink
- Rinse the dishes in the second sink
- Dry the dishes with a dish towel
You see, it’s not too bad.
The last thing you want to worry about when camping is how your food will be safe from bears. If you are worried that a bear might try and break into any campers, then it’s best not bring any perishable foods in with them for the night.
Bears can smell anything they need or wants within miles so make sure all of our other items like toothpaste, soap, etc., stay inside too! The food you have for your camping trip should be locked up away from bears.
If there isn’t a bear canister, then hang the food high in trees to keep it safe and inaccessible by any other animals who might want some of that tasty meal!
Garbage also needs to be properly disposed or stored close-by so as not to attract unwanted critters looking for their next midnight snack.
Even the most seasoned of campers can feel a little nervous about bugs when they start packing for their next camping trip. You may have been able to outsmart these tiny troublemakers in your backyard, but if you’re not prepared before you head out to your first camping trip, then these little critters might be the bane of your beginner camping experience.
In the warmer months, insects can be a major issue for campers. You may come in contact with various bugs while camping including mosquitoes, flies, bees and spiders among many others.
The most common bug campers direct their anger towards is the mosquito which will leave annoying itchy bumps after biting you during your trip to nature’s great outdoor playgrounds!
One thing you should do after pitching your tent is to spray bug repellent in your tent to keep bugs away. You should also keep your tent entry closed and zipped up to keep them bugs outside. The last thing you want is to wake up with mosquito bites all over you.
Lighting a Campfire
To light a perfect campfire, you will need some firewood and a small pile of tinder and kindling.
First, lay four pieces of firewood along side each other then place three firewood on top perpendicular to the first layer.
Then, add two pieces of firewood on top perpendicular to the second layer.
Place some tinder and kindling on top and ignite.
Prepare a Car Safety Kit
When you’re in the wilderness, calling for a tow truck can be a problem. You should prepare an emergency Slime Tire Sealant or a Fix a Flat Sealant in case you have a flat tire.
Your car should already have a portable jack and a tire iron in case you need to put on the spare, and make sure your spare is not flat or under-inflated.
Camping for Beginners Part 4: Camping Adventures and Activities
Camping is a great time to get creative and have fun! One of the best ways to make camping more enjoyable, for adults as well as children, is by coming with plenty of activities.
The good news is that there are tons of activities you can do on camping trips that will make things easier for everyone involved.
And if you think about it, these activities are perfect for any family outing or group trip where people want to have fun together while doing something different from the norm.
We’ve put together this list of great outdoor activities that anyone can enjoy with their friends and family members in order to help make camping more enjoyable.
You can have a blast in the water at your campsite, whether you’re near a lake, river, pool, or other body of water.
You’ll find there are tons of activities to choose from-from super active games like swimming, water skiing, and tubing; all the way down to lazy relaxing days when it’s time just for kicking back with an iced drink and soaking up some sun rays on a comfortable lounge chair.
Prepare a bathing suit and get ready to have some fun with these water activities:
- Floating or lounging
- Canoeing or kayaking
- Water skiiing
- Water volleyball
- Water basketball
- Water balloon fight
- Skipping rocks
Go For A Hike
You may be feeling adventurous already and that’s great. Take advantage of your new-found bravery by going on a hike to somewhere different, like an amazing waterfall or river view you wouldn’t typically go towards. Make sure you take plenty of water with you since getting dehydrated is not fun!
Go For A Bike Ride
Camping and biking go hand in hand for many campers, and the good news is many campgrounds have paved bike trails.
Play Lawn Games
- Capture the flag!
- Bocce ball
Sing Campfire Songs And Roast Marshmallows
Campfires are the perfect way to round off a great day of camping.
Whether you’re alone or with friends, there’s nothing better than singing your heart out around the campfire in the woods.
But knowing when to stop is key for keeping everyone around the campground happy!