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The Top Camping Essentials to Bring on Your Next Adventure
1 month ago
Camping: you either love it or hate it. Whether you’re pumped to begin your first camping adventure or you’ve been pressured into it by a loved one, you’ll need a beginner’s guide to camping. And if you have been camping but still have a lot to learn, look no further.
Camping is great to do solo. It is also a fun experience with others. It can be meditative and serene — a chance to unplug from the Internet and society. It is also a chance to feel at one with nature or an opportunity to authentically bond with others without the distractions you’d typically have back home.
No matter your camping vibe, it’s essential to know how to spend the night out in nature safely. When it comes to learning how to get into camping, we’ve got you covered with camping tips and packing essentials.
12 Camping Tips for Beginners
The Annual North American Camping Report indicates that a camping renaissance is happening right now. In the United States, there were five times as many first-time campers in 2020 as compared to 2019. Also, in 2020, 10.1 million U.S. households camped for the first time, with trends indicating the numbers won’t be going down anytime soon.
A first-time camping experience should be a memorable and stress-free experience. It’s a low-cost vacation, after all. It could become a yearly bonding activity for your family or friend group. Here are twelve camping tips for beginners to start your adventure off on the right foot!
1. Decide How Rustic You’re Willing to Get
When camping for the first time, you must decide how rustic you want your experience to be. There are various kinds of camping, from glamping to sleeping in a van on public land, pitching a tent, and roughing it under a temporary shelter, you build out of sticks. Some campsites are highly trafficked with working toilets and showers. Others are in remote locations with no amenities. There’s no need to push yourself with your first adventure: you can increase difficulty with each future trip.
2. Decide How Unplugged You’re Willing to Get
Try to figure out if your chosen camping location will have Internet access or if it will be possible to get cell service. A totally unplugged experience will allow you to leave your worries behind, tune into nature, and be fully present with your fellow campers.
However, beginner campers might prefer access to cell service and the Internet for their first trip to feel safe. Knowing if you will have a working phone will help define your intention for your trip: to unplug totally or keep a tether to civilization.
3. Decide Your Location
A local camping trip is probably the easiest way to go when camping for beginners. You are likely to be more familiar with local flora, fauna, and temperatures. Plus, it will be easier to get there and to leave if necessary. You’ll have the assurance that friends and family are nearby if needed. Staying local will keep it simple and take some guesswork out of the adventure. You can also ask around which local camping spot is recommended for a first-timer.
But perhaps you have your sights set on a faraway locale to explore the world and challenge yourself. Regardless of your camping destination, be sure to fully research what time of year is best for your desired location before you set off.
Be aware if you are camping on hunting grounds. To prevent accidents with hunters, make extra noise to alert them to human activity in the area, and wear bright orange clothing. You won’t run into any hunters in national parks. Always double-check ahead of time that your chosen campsite — wherever it is — will be open and safe during your intended visit.
Will you be camping at multiple locations, with hiking in between? Doing so will require more planning and supplies.
4. Decide the Time of Year
If you’re set to go camping this weekend, check the weather beforehand! If you are planning months in advance, decide if you’d rather sweat or shiver.
Keep in mind the weather and the entire ecosystem during your selected time of year. For example, springtime in forested areas will potentially put you in the path of ticks and snakes, while autumn is when spiders will be scuttling about. Decide which conditions you are willing to deal with and which ones are a no-go.
5. Be Ready for Wildlife
When you go camping, you are entering into the territory of wild animals that you probably would not otherwise interact with on a daily basis. Fully research which animals are the top predators in the area and understand how to react to them if you cross paths.
For example, back away slowly if you come upon a bear or a mountain lion near your campsite. Research to see if you need to pack any extra gear to ward off predators, like bear spray. It’s not a bad idea to get familiar with animal tracks so you can identify if you are in the path of a cougar.
Regarding flora, do not touch plants that you are unfamiliar with. Know what poison ivy looks like if you are in a forested area. Research dangerous and edible flora in your area. Do not scavenge and eat any weeds or mushrooms unless you are certain they are edible.
6. Be Ready for Any Weather
If you see that wind, rain, or snow is scheduled, wait for clearer skies for your first camping trip. Even if the weather looks great, pack weatherproof clothing and a weatherproof tent anyway. No matter what time of year you head out, it’s always a good idea to carry sunscreen and sunglasses. These are needed in the snow, too: the sun reflects off of snow on the ground and back onto your face. Always be prepared!
7. Choose Your Companions
Are you going on a solo or group trip? This will dictate the size of your tent and the activities you do. If you are camping solo, tell someone beforehand when you are leaving and when you plan to return. That way, if something happens, they will know to check up on you and get you help. Camping companions also include pets: is your campsite pet-friendly?
8. Decide the Duration
Do you want to go camping for one night, one weekend, one week, or more? Decide the duration of your trip beforehand.
9. Wear Layers
Camping, at times, is chilly; other times, you’ll be working up a sweat. It’s helpful to easily shed layers when hiking and put them back on when you’re in the shade or moving less. Vests with pockets are your friend.
10. Note How to Get in Touch with Park Rangers
In case of emergency, know where the nearest park rangers are to your site. Jot down the phone number.
11. Practice Fire Safety
Lighting a fire at a campsite, especially during fire season, requires you to fully extinguish the flames before leaving.
12. Respect Camping Etiquette
If you know how to hike, the learning curve for how to go camping will be easy enough. In both scenarios, respect for nature is paramount. No littering. While being friendly, always respect the boundaries of your fellow campers.
What Are Camping Essentials?
Now that you’ve got a plan for your first time camping, you need to know what to pack. Let our camping guide below help you get prepared for a great time.
Knowing how to camp means using the right gear. A lot of camping gear can be rented or borrowed if you’re unsure about becoming an avid camper just yet.
- Flashlight and spare batteries
- Collapsible chairs and folding table to sit around the campfire
- A camping tent and hammer to drive the stakes into the ground. If the tent doesn’t come equipped with poles, rope, or a rain fly, you may need to pack them separately.
- Enough gas in the car to get you to the campsite and back. Some of these camping spots can be quite remote, so plan accordingly.
- A hammock (optional)
- Any nature guidebooks
- Building a fire for warmth and cozy vibes? You’ll need a starter log, lighter, and lighter fluid.
- A Mylar thermal blanket if you’re camping in cold temperatures. (Everywhere gets colder at night. Even if it’s not wintertime, you’ll be surprised how cold it gets!)
- A reading light if you plan to stay up and read or write past sundown.
- A high-quality, comfortable, and warm sleeping bag
- A Swiss Army knife is always good to have on hand.
- An extra pad for cushioning under sleeping bag
- A waterproof surface, like a plastic tarp, to put under the pad and sleeping bag. The ground holds moisture even when it’s not raining, and even if you aren’t camping in a puddle.
- Pack trash bags for any waste you will accumulate. If you won’t be at a campsite with trash bins, you’ll need to keep your garbage with you until you find a place to dump it.
- Pillow(s) and warm blanket
- Bug spray or natural insect repellent — some essential oils like lavender do the trick!
- If you’ll be off-grid without access to a toilet, you’ll need a small garden spade to dig yourself a place to defecate. That’s camping for ya!
- Sunscreen and sunglasses — even in the winter to ward off the sun’s reflection upon the snow
- Hand sanitizer
The weather and trip duration will dictate the clothing you pack.
- A change of clothes and pajamas
- Coat, hat, gloves, layers for cooler temperatures
- Wicking clothing for warmer temperatures
- A hat with a drawstring so it won’t blow away
- Socks and undergarments
- A raincoat if needed
- A hand towel
- Pants that zip off at the knee can come in handy if there are significant temperature fluctuations
- Sturdy hiking shoes. Make sure you break them in first before wearing them for long periods. If you do not plan to hike, still wear close-toed shoes.
Even if you will be camping for a long period of time, just stick to the basics when it comes to packing toiletries.
- Pack toothbrush, toothpaste, and all the dental hygiene items you normally use. Just remember that you won’t have electricity every day, so no electric toothbrush.
- Tissues, which can double as napkins and toilet paper. Or you can pack a roll of toilet paper.
- No need to shave when camping! Leave the razor at home.
- Whatever your normal skincare routine is, simplify it for your camping trip.
- A first-aid kit is one of the most important camping basics. At minimum, it should include band-aids, antibacterial ointment, anti-itch cream for bug bites, gauze, and tape.
- Make sure nothing in your kit has expired.
- Your prescriptions, including allergy medication. If you are sensitive to pollen, you might find your reactions to be more intense while camping because of the exposure.
- Additional personal hygiene supplies, including menstruation supplies if needed.
- Leave the perfume and cologne at home. It’ll only attract bugs.
- Baby wipes can be an efficient substitute for a shower. But if you know you will have access to a shower, soap, shampoo, and conditioner in solid bar form is easy to pack and won’t accidentally leak over your other camping supplies. Alternatively, put liquid soap, shampoo, and conditioner into small refillable bottles that seal tightly.
4. Food Preparation
Adequate food preparation can be the difference between a fun time and a life-threatening experience when you’re newly out in nature! It’s important to have enough food and water if you’re going to be away from your refrigerator and pantry.
- Pack enough food for however many meals you’ll be away for: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. You can be intentional about your food: go a little healthier than you would normally, or just pack whatever makes you happy. Just don’t feed the wildlife!
- Pack baggies or beeswax wraps to store unfinished food.
- Do not leave behind any human food for wildlife to scavenge. The golden rule of being out in nature is “leave no trace.”
- Pack plenty of water: enough to throw on the fire (all the embers must be out completely), for your own hydration, sanitation, hygiene, and any pets. Always pack more than you think you’ll need. You can survive longer without food than water, so don’t skimp!
- Campsite cooking will either be over a mini grill, the campfire on site, or with a travel stove. Pack the fuel necessary for your chosen cooking method. Pack the food on ice and keep it in a cooler. Bring plates, bowls, cups, and utensils. If you pack reusable dishware, pack all-natural cleaning supplies. Don’t forget a bottle opener and any other cooking utensils necessary for your meal prep.
While entertainment is not essential to survival, some consider it a must! Others will find that simply watching the sun set and rise is all the entertainment one could ask for. But it’s better to have some options, just in case.
- Solitary activities include journaling, reading books, drawing in a sketchbook, fishing, bird watching with binoculars, and sunrise yoga. Each activity has its own set of supplies.
- If you’re camping as part of a group, some games might be in order. Pack a deck of cards or other easily transportable activities.
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