First Time Camping: A Beginner’s Guide to Camping

Camping trips are exciting adventures! They’re a perfect way to get a break from your daily life stressors.

But even if you grew up camping with your family, taking your first RV trip on your own can feel overwhelming. First time camping experiences may often be marked with mistakes and confusion, and you may be nervous – what if it rains? What if the food you carry isn’t enough? Will you encounter wild animals?

Fortunately, with proper planning, you can avoid most beginner mistakes and prepare for a wonderful camping experience. You can get insights from seasoned outdoor enthusiasts on their first time camping experience in the wilderness.

Whichever type of camping you crave, you can get help with the preparation and gear selection that comes with planning first time camping trips. Here are some tips and tricks to help you prepare for your first camping trip as a beginner.

Begin with an Overnight Campout 

As a beginner camper, you need to gain insights from an experienced outdoor enthusiast to assist with your first time camping.

If you have a friend who does a lot of camping, you can learn from them. If not, you should be able to find camping classes near you to join. REI classes are a good example of such classes. 

For your first trip, you may only need a printable camping checklist if you’ve got a friend with lots of camping gear to share, plus a campground reservation for easy access to whatever you need.

However, you need a few fundamental pieces of gear and some knowledge when you want to plan for a camping adventure on your own. For your first time camping, consider the following tips for a simple overnight campout:

  • Pack enough clothes for both warm and cold weather, for optimal comfort
  • Rent or borrow big-ticket gear to save money 
  • Pack lots of food
  • Camp out overnight near your home
  • Watch the forecast and postpone your planned campout if the weather turns bad – you want a get good first impression when you actually go camping
  • Follow the “Leave No Trace” guidelines to set a good impression for first-timers who’ll come after you

Must-Pack Camping Gear Essentials

Camping Gear Essentials

Camping resembles living in a primitive cabin – without the actual cabin.

When packing your essentials, assume that your campsite has little-to-no electricity, furniture, refrigerator, stove, or cupboards. However, there are advanced campsites featuring a communal bathroom and running water, often a few yards away from your camp. Campsites usually offer car parking, a table, and space for pitching your tent. 

If you’re just starting out, rent or borrow costly gear such as sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and tents to keep your expenses low. Why pay for something that may barely last for regular use when you can rent the same?  

However, if you’re wanting to buy your own camping trip gear, the following tips should help you make informed decisions.

Camping Tent

If you can afford a large camping tent, go for it. Couples can easily get enough breathing space in a 3-person tent. On the other hand, a 6-person tent can comfortably house a family of four. 

What’s your ideal tent’s peak height? Consider the height of your tent if you want one you can easily get dressed, move around, or stand up inside.

If you want to stow muddy shoes, install vestibules outside your door. It’s a good way to avoid climbing over your spouse or friend when you’re sharing tent space. Make sure you choose the right tent, and be sure to choose a groundsheet that fully covers your tent floor for protection. 

Also check that the footprint is properly sized for complete tent floor coverage. Otherwise, a small floor tent can easily pool in water from rain beneath your tent. 

Note: Practice setting up your tent at home before you head off on the camping trip. Learning how to put it up properly is essential so you can have adequate protection from the elements. 

Sleeping Bag 

Sleeping Bag

Shopping for a sleeping bag? Checking the temperature rating of your ideal sleeping bag is a good starting point. Opt for a summer bag if you’re planning for a camping adventure in fair weather.

A 3-season bag is perfect for unpredictable weather. Simply adjust your temperature accordingly. Consider a rectangular camping bag instead of a large backpacking super-snug mummy bag. It’s large enough to accommodate you without requiring you to get an oversized sleeping bag with space you won’t use.

Sleeping Pad 

Just like a good mattress, the best sleeping pad should be well insulated to trap body heat in cold weather, especially heat loss to the cold ground. Large air mattresses may seem tempting but lack insulation. 

When shopping for one, compare the specifications of sleeping pads such as length, thickness, and insulation or R-value. A high R-value, wider and longer dimensions, and thicker pads are warmer and more comfortable. 

Consider a cot or hammock for off-the-ground use. Upon arriving at your campsite, set up your tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad early before it gets dark. 

Stove 

Opt for a classic propane camp stove with two burners due to its cost effectiveness, and the fact that you’ll be able to prepare two meals at the same time.

Pack a lighter and two fuel canisters after trying them out at home to be sure you know how to use them.

Lighting 

Campsites have little to no lighting, which is why you must bring your own to illuminate your campsite and tents as necessary. Opt for a headlamp or flashlight – the former allows hands-free use.

If you want to add ambience in your campsite environment, you may want to bring a lantern. Or with fire restrictions in mind, consider safely creating a campfire for light and warmth. You’ll just need to bring your own supplies to start a fire.

Cutlery

Pack everything you’ll need for food preparation and eating, such as plates, pots, forks and spoons, and cups. You can choose some utensils from your kitchen, but don’t pack expensive china.

In addition to dishware and silverware, buy a biodegradable soap, a scrubber, a towel, and a small washtub or two to clean your dirty clothes at your campsites. One washtub should be for clean clothes and another for your dirty linens.

Lastly, find a large transparent bin with a lid to hold your kitchen items. It’s a great way to store all your camping essentials at home, ready to go for your next camping trip.

Camping Chairs 

Find a comfortable camping chair to use at your campsite for great relaxation outdoors. However, avoid spending on it if you can use a camping picnic table.

Hammocks are ideal for taking naps in the afternoons. If you want camp chairs that easily drain water to dry up, opt for mesh camp chairs.

Cooler 

If you already have a cooler, use it. Make sure there’s enough space for fresh, perishable foods, ice, and frozen foods to store in the cooler. 

Recent coolers are made with additional thick insulation to ensure your ice cubes take longer before melting. However, they can be pricey, so it’s up to you to decide how good your cooler needs to be. In cooler seasons, you may be able to get by with something that’s more modest. 

Clothing and Footwear

Bring grimy or worn clothes, because getting dirty is a big part of camping fun. A plastic storage bin can double as a dish tub.

Avoid cotton because it can make you feel cold when it gets wet, even in mild weather. Pack long underwear, a warm coat, a beanie, gloves, and warm nighttime socks. Don’t forget to bring a rain jacket with you for any eventuality. 

Buy fitting, steady shoes to protect your feet when out camping or trekking, and flip-flops for taking showers at night. Make sure you do your research for the right hiking wear and pack all the necessities. 

Camping Toiletries

Your toiletries should include a first aid kit with all the medication and other medical supplies you’ll need. Pack hygiene items like soap, any prescription medications you need, and ointments and creams to protect you from the elements.

Your camping toiletries include:

  • Sun protection such as sunscreen
  • Bug repellents such as insect repellent 
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Small towel
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer

Food and Meal Planning

Are you new to the world of campfire cooking? Even if you’re a seasoned chef at home, it helps to prepare simple meals for your camping trip. You don’t need to be a world-class cook to create a simple meal plan. 

You may plan your dinner while driving to your campsite, prepare breakfast the next morning, and take lunch prior to breaking camp.

Consider packing fresh food, canned or boxed entrees, or a combination of all of these. S’mores fixings and snacks will also be handy in between meals to keep you full for longer. 

If you’re a fan of tea or a coffee connoisseur, make arrangements to carry tea bags and teakettle or a stovetop percolator to make instant coffee. 

Don’t leave garbage or food unattended or out overnight to critters (qualified raiders) that often hang around campsites.

Anytime you’ll be away from camp, seal up all your food in a large bin locked inside your car. Do this overnight as well when getting to sleep.

If you’ll be camping in areas with bears, use food lockers made available because the animals tend to break into cars.

Where to Go for a Camping Trip

Now that you know what to bring with you, here’s the next question you’re probably asking yourself: Where can I go camping?

You can go camping anywhere from RV parks to national parks. Due to humans’ endless camping enthusiasm, book your campsite early to avoid full reservations at your campground of choice.

Recreation.gov covers all public lands countrywide – check them out to locate a possible camping site for your first trip. You can also do a search on Google Maps to find private campgrounds near you or where you’d like to go camping.

Some campgrounds are only available on a first-come, first-served basis. Although such campsites don’t require early bookings up to several months, check with your ideal campground to find out the best time to visit and reserve some space.

Avoid primitive sites with pit latrines or dispersed camping without facilities unless you want to feed your inner feral animal. A well-developed campground has running water and flush toilets, making them more comfortable for first-timers. 

Make sure spigots gush out treated water. Natural sources of water such as rivers and lakes may introduce risks to your health. 

Camping Essentials

First time camping may seem difficult, but it doesn’t have to be so!

All you need is a guide to help you track the camping essentials to pack for your camping trip. Check out our camping checklist for everything a new camper may need outdoors – this will help you choose what to pack based on your unique needs.

10 Important First Time Camping Tips

There’s so much information and knowledge for first time campers.

All seasoned campers began as beginners at one time, so it’s certainly possible to be a happy camper. Experienced campers tend to overlook important things sometimes, while beginner campers usually learn the hard way.

Experience is often the best teacher, but we can learn from other people’s mistakes so you don’t ever have to make them. Improve your camping knowledge and skills to become a smart camper with the most useful tips and expert advice at hand.

Here are 10 tips to take you through your first time camping.

1) Buy a Large Tent

New campers often crowd in tents. Unless you’re backpacking, you need a spacious tent for comfortable sleep outdoors.

Weight and size of tents aren’t usually very important, since most of them fit in car trunks. 

Opt for a tent with a capacity higher by two persons than the number of intended users when shopping for a family camping trip. 

For example, a two family needs a 4-person tent, a three family needs a 5-person tent, etc. Be smart and buy a large tent for your camping party.

2) Familiarize Yourself with Your Camping Gear

Don’t wait to get to your campsite to start learning how your camping gear works. You end up wasting many hours figuring out how a tent is set up.

Practice from home and try out your new camping gear. Put up your tent in your backyard before setting out for your camping trip.

Check how camp stoves and lanterns work and ensure they’re in good working condition from the safety of your home. Try your sleeping bag and pad on your bedroom or living room floor to get a feel of it.

Be smart and familiarize yourself with every piece of camping gear you own or rent. You don’t want to arrive at your campsite only to find out that something is faulty or too complicated to set up. 

3) Use a Camping Checklist

It’s easy to overlook a camping checklist as a first time camper – but getting to your campground only to find out you forgot something important isn’t fun. 

Use a camping checklist to organize your gear and ensure that nothing important is left behind. When packing, use your checklist and check off items you pack them in your backpack. 

Make sure your checklist is revised often to keep it up-to-date. Replace broken gear or worn outs. Remove things you don’t use from the list to keep it useful and fresh.

Be smart and use a camping checklist for your first time camping.

4) Create Meal Plans

Meal planning is essential, but most meal planners barely put any thought into their meal plans.

How many people are going camping with you? How many meals will they take daily? Add a variety of menu ideas into your meal plan.

Shop for your food and groceries just a day or two from the day you set off for your camping trip. This ensures everything you plan to eat will stay fresh for longer.

Don’t buy food on your way to the campsite, but shortly before your trip starts, to ensure you get everything you’ll need. Avoid the munchies. Be smart and create a proper meal plan for your unique set of camping needs.

5) Plan to Arrive Early at Your Campground

Are you familiar with campground rules and amenities?

As a beginner camper, you may not be familiar with them. After all, how are you to know if you’ve never camped before?

There’s an easy solution: get to your campground early to learn its layout, rules, and available amenities. Set up your tent and camp during the day so you can make your neighbors happy. 

Daylight makes everything easier for your first time camping, so plan to arrive early.

6) Comply with Campground Rules

Campgrounds lack real privacy, something new campers may not know. You can easily hear the whispers of campers at a nearby site because sound travels quickly. 

A single noisy camp can cost several campers a night of good sleep. Be quiet and mind your neighbors. Your privacy is restricted to your campsite only.

Respect other campers and their spaces. Don’t walk through other campsites to get somewhere. Simply be smart and comply with any of the rules at your campground. 

7) Pack Enough Clothing

A successful camping trip is all about proper preparation. It’s important to have the right amount of clothing for your trip – so don’t pack more clothes than you need, and don’t pack less either. Keep in mind that camping grounds usually lack laundry facilities.

A sudden change of weather can also call for a change in your clothes. For example, you’ll find a swimsuit handy for a dip, a rain suit for rainy weather, and a jacket or sweater for keeping warm in the evenings.

Be smart and pack enough clothing for your first time camping experience.

8) Prepare for Extreme Weather

Postpone your camping trip if there's a forecast of bad weather. When you put up your tent in the rain, you’ll only feel punishment. Camping shouldn’t be about punishment, but relaxing outdoors.

What’s more, you may get stuck in your tent for a couple of days if you experience non-stop rains. That’s not the essence of camping. 

Furthermore, you’ll be left with mud and a rain-soaked campsite after a heavy downpour or storm. Be smart and avoid foul weather.

9) Learn How to Reverse Your RV

Don’t wait to embarrass yourself on the campsite because you can’t reverse your RV. Learn how to do it way early before arriving at your campsite. 

Be smart and work on reversing your RV in advance to avoid embarrassments. 

10) Don’t Camp Too Far from Your Home

Don’t camp far from your home for your first camping adventure. 

It’s important to be safe on your first camping trip, and being close to home is a sure way of guaranteeing your safety. 

After sleeping out for just one night, you may realize that you’re not meant to be a camper. It just doesn’t excite you. It’s possible you may experience some problems and even end up with no tent or any other critical gear. It’s possible to carry less food and run out of supply in the middle of nowhere. 

A sudden change of weather may also catch you by surprise. Anything could happen and call for breaking camp early. If that happens, you’ll be happy that you camped close to your home.

Be smart and start out camping near your home until you’re comfortable – then you’ll be more prepared to camp farther off.

Conclusion

Your first time camping may seem scary and cause you lots of unnecessary anxiety. 

Relax!

Your first camping trip can still be fun and memorable. Even experienced campers began as new campers at one point in time. 

What you need is the right information to help you prepare in advance and pack all the camping essentials you’ll need. Get your hands on a comprehensive camping checklist to help you prepare and pack for your first time camping adventure. 

Then, visit Amazon for all the camping essentials in your checklist you’ll need for your upcoming camping trip.

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