There is a lot to consider when heading out on your first camping trip. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! In this camping for beginners guide we are going to go over every aspect so you are prepared for your first or next camping adventure.
Camping can be great family fun if organized in the right way. However for some it can seem overwhelming. With this camping for beginners guide we are going to cover some pro tips so you are prepared for anything mother nature throws at you.
So without further ado, let us begin.
Camping Checklist: What to Bring?
You have spent considerable time brainstorming what to pack for your camping trip. But how do you ensure you don’t miss something? A camping checklist.
The checklist below highlights all the essentials. Your custom checklist depends on the type of camping you are going to do. However, there are general items that make camping for beginners a more wholesome experience.
- Shelter: Depending on your camping style you may need a tent, unless you’re RVing.
- Water: Camping in the wild requires you carry water to use on the way and on site.
- Camping knife: a good camping knife serves multiple functions on a camping trip, from setting up the tent to cutting and peeling fruits.
- First aid kit: Accidents and mishaps happen anywhere. Have the first aid kit ready to address injuries and bruises.
- Sleeping bag: Tenting requires an inflatable mattress or a sleeping bag to improve comfort. Check out our article here on how to sleep comfortably in a tent.
- Raincoat: This is the alternative to an umbrella, and a heavy jacket. Prepare for inclement weather.
- Camping chairs/table: A little comfort in the wild is decent. Carry foldable chairs/table.
- Insect repellent: sleeping outdoors means encounters with flying and crawling bugs. Mosquito repellent does well at repelling them all.
- Airtight containers: You’ll need these to store food.
- Sunscreen: You’ll be basking in the sun often, but don’t risk sunburns. Bring along some sunscreen.
- Camping utensils: You’ll need to make and serve meals. Avoid inconveniences by bringing a set or so.
- Portable Grill: you’ll want a good portable grill for cooking meals. You don’t always have the luxury of cooking over an open fire, particularly if it rains. A gas stove is requisite.
- Hatchet or Axe: Whenever it’s possible to set up a camp fire, a good axe or hatchet is necessary for splitting firewood.
- Fire starter or lighter: Starting a fire in the wild? You need a reliable starter, or two.
- Toiletries: You must observe hygiene everywhere. Don’t forget your toiletries.
- Camping Lamp: Remember it gets very dark in remote areas. You need a reliable camping light or flashlight. Rechargeable bulbs can also do.
- Survival kit: This kit ensures you have a tool for every challenge you may encounter in the wild. Carry the full kit or the most crucial pieces.
- Sleeping pad: The ground is sometimes very cold and not level. A sleeping pad gives a warm and uniform surface to sleep on.
- Cooler: Summer camping can be extremely how. A portable cooler makes the trip much rewarding
- Sweater: For the cold mornings and nights
- Freezer bags: You need a dozen or more of these to store your food well and protect other items from rain.
- Hiking shoes: You’ll be walking a lot through the camping period
Pro camping tip: care for, and store your gear well. You’ll most definitely need it for the next camping experience.
Tenting vs. Trailers vs. Cabins vs. RVing.
As a beginner, the idea of camping may sound like just a conventional tent. Even if you’ve researched the options available, you may still be indecisive on what to pick from the four options.
Each type of accommodation is designed for a given taste and style. While these types of camping vary distinctly, each is sufficient in its own setting.
The camping experience you seek determines what shelter and amenities are required. We shall consider the upside and the downside of each to give you a definitive view of the next sections of this article.
Tenting involves the ordinary tent, one most suitable for just sleeping. Tents come in various sizes and adaptations. You’ll find one you can stand upright inside or a low-profile one, suitable during high winds.
Being one of the original’ forms of camping, tenting provides that rustic experience responsible for the camping hype. Recent improvements include the addition of partitions for privacy and a vertical wall so that you can stand upright inside.
- Provides the real outdoor camping experience
- You can have a variety of tents to accommodate more people
- Easier to carry in a family car that may not tow a camper behind
- Tents are the cheapest, although better gear may cost a little more
- Ideal for short trips, e.g., weekend retreats
- Not ideal in windy or winter weather
- Least sleeping comfort with more gear
- Users are still prone to crawling bugs, the elements, and other hostile wild animals
- No luxuries such as air conditioning or running water
- You always have to find level ground to pitch the tent. The ideal location may be inaccessible with the car
Camping Trailers or Tent Trailers are an excellent option for a small or medium-sized family that has outgrown tenting but does not have the budget for Cabin Camping or RV’ing.
Recent improvements have equipped these trailers with cutting-edge facilities to provide the ultimate family camping experience.
Campers can be combined with tenting and at a reasonable cost. This custom option ensures optimal space utilization, which is why campers seem to hold more people than expected. The trailer carries the gear.
- Easier to tow with an SUV or a car with a towing capacity
- Very efficient on space, both at the campsite and on the road
- Provides a balance between a rustic camping experience and comfort
- An off-road camper is suitable for both short and long trip camping
- Costs less than opting for an RV
- Once set up, there is no security against violent wild animals
- Trailers are still limited to what facilities they can accommodate
- Setting up and folding down take time
- Needs a capable vehicle to tow
Although some camping enthusiasts have dismissed cabin camping, it is one of the most convenient options. If you do not have tents, no RV, or a camper trailer, cabin camping can be particularly rewarding.
As the trend keeps growing, cabins are improved in equal measure. Luxury accommodation is now common in cabins and ultimately makes park visits better for those without camping gear.
- More shelter and accommodation than both tent and trailer camping
- Cabins usually have electricity connection, affording air conditioning
- Has installed kitchenette and furniture
- Adequate space for an entire family
- Lesser or no gear required
- Lacks the spirit of camping
- Not equipped with running water
- Costs a lot more than tenting, in the long run
An RV is a motorhome equipped with all facilities you could ever need during a trip. You could even live for months in an RV, as you have access to pretty much everything.
- Provides the ultimate comfort during the trip
- Has facilities like electricity, a kitchenette, and a private bathroom
- It can be used in any weather
- Spacious enough to take in friends and family
- More than enough storage space
- Can be rented out instead of purchasing
- The initial cost is extremely high
- Parking in an urban area is quite a headache
- Maintenance costs are high
- Requires proper housing for parking when not in use
- Doesn’t give you the rustic feel associated with camping in the wilderness
Pro Camping Tip: Camping for beginners doesn’t necessarily call for big and expensive tents, trailers, cabins, or RVs. You can always upgrade as you advance.
Different Forms of Camping
So, apart from the various accommodation options discussed above, there are still styles in which you can enjoy camping. Although the individual styles are many, there are three popular camping options you can readily adopt.
1. Car camping
Car camping is also known as front-country camping. Car camping involves driving into a family campground to your campsite that is accessible from your vehicle.
Depending on the level of development of the site, there may be a cabin, or you may have to pitch a tent or pull in a trailer. In the latter cases, you need to bring along all the necessary gear with you as discussed.
Cabin car camping is the more popular variant, mainly because of the facilities available in the cabin. Inside these cabins are comfortable king-size beds, Wi-Fi connection, restrooms, bottled water, and a fire pit.
Front-country camping falls into several categories, depending on how equipped the campsite is.
Popular styles of car camping for beginners
- Serviced campgrounds: Serviced campsites are meant for trailer, RV, or van camping. The ground is usually not suitable for pitching a tent. Electricity, water, and sewerage facilities are provided.
- Non-serviced campsites: These sites do not have electricity hook-up points, hence the name. The campsite is ideal for all other forms of front-country camping, including tenting and RVing.
- Group campsites: These campsites serve a group of people who book themselves a specific area for their specialized activities. Group campsites can also serve larger families.
- Pull-through campgrounds: These are also referred to as drive-through campsites because they are designed for RVs or travel trailers. These campsites may have some basic facilities like freshwater supply and sewerage disposal.
- Walk-in campsites: Walk-in campsites are inaccessible with a vehicle to some point. Users are provided with an accessible parking area, and they have to walk with their gear the rest of the distance to the camping area. Walk-in camping can be thrilling for a beginner who doesn’t want to worry over his/her security.
2. Backcountry Camping
With backcountry camping you have your work cut out for you. Backcountry camping is not recommended for beginners for several reasons. The least of which is that you’ll have to carry all your camping gear in a backpack.
Careful consideration is required when choosing what gear to bring into the wilderness since it’ll be all that you have to work with.
Backcountry camping is popular with long trail camping fans who sometimes spend months in the wilderness with only the gear in their backpack.
3. Dispersed camping
This style of camping entails both backpacking and car camping aspects. Generally, dispersed camping is practiced in areas far from infrastructure or any campsites.
National Forests are examples of places you can do dispersed camping. You, however, need to ensure such areas are camping friendly and that camping is indeed allowed in them.
Dispersed camping sites are usually free, so you can jump into your 4WD and hit the forest service roads. If you see a previously-used camping site, use that instead of trying to find a spot.
4. Winter camping
The name says it all – it is camping outside during the winter. Many people wait until the snow has melted before they can go about pitching tents in the wild. This is enough to say winter camping for beginners would be quite a headache.
Winter camping requires adequate gear to keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures. A thick sleeping bag and a sleeping pad are the most critical gear. Remember to have heavy warm clothing too, and a tent that can stand strong winds.
The challenging nature of winter camping could be attributed to the thrill and fun associated with the activity. If you think that’s not much of a challenge, how about the last style on our list? Read on.
5. Survival camping
First things first, this is not the ideal camping for beginners at all! If you can imagine the days when man used to make fire by rubbing sticks, you may have perceived an aspect of survival camping.
Survival camping is more like being out in the wild without any appropriate gear. You need to make yourself a shelter for the night, gather food, and deal with or stay away from wild animals. That must be sounding crazy right!
Survival camping is the real deal for adrenaline fanatics or any camping expert who wants to lay off the comfortable camping gear and engage his/her survival skills.
Survival campers aim at pushing themselves to the limits with limited gear, but there should always be a Plan B. Things could take an unexpected turn, and you still need to live to tell the story.
How to pick a good camping location?
If you’re to have a comfortable and safe camping experience, you must be attentive to your camping location. The best camping locations are typically private and away from other people. Here are some general guidelines to finding an ideal camping location.
From your campsite, you should be able to easily access water and firewood. You will need such for cooking, cleaning up and even drinking. Be careful however not to be too close to the water.
It is advisable that you pick a location not less than 200 feet from the water edge. This is not only a safety measure but a consideration to other campers as well as animals using the water.
Keep off danger zones
Be wary of low spots that poses danger. It is best for you to seek higher grounds in case of bad weather during the night. Low campsites can be chilly as cold air tend to collect here.
You should also be mindful and anticipate the wind. Consider building a campsite in a place with trees to act as wind breakers.
Distant yourself from insect breeding grounds
Avoid areas that can perfectly act as breeding grounds for insects such as mosquitoes.
Avoid animal trails
You want a spot that you can get comfortable without having to worry about an unanticipated guests during the night or day. Do not pitch your tent in what seems like an animal trail.
When choosing a camping spot, avoid crowded areas. You should be considerate enough and not pitch your tent in such a way that it blocks the view of other campers. It is important that you blend in with the rest, avoid choosing trails and paths.
When choosing a camping spot, consider areas that seem to have been used before. If you are camping during the hot season, you want a shaded ground. If it is possible, you can make pre-visits and make reservations.
Clothing to wear
Camping is not fashion show time so don’t worry about style. Like other factors, camping for beginners can be made more comfortable and memorable if you can stick to the right dress code.
Be sure to get comfortable clothing; fit them before the actual camping date. Depending on the nature of the camping location, you might want loose or fitted clothes.
For instance, if you’re to camp in hot weather, you might need loose, light-weight clothes; vice versa is true for cold camping locations.
Your footwear should be comfortable to walk in. Bring shoes that can walk on uneven ground. Boots are always good footwear for camping. Remember to maintain dry feet to avoid sliding in your footwear.
How warm are your clothes? Early mornings and late evenings are particularly cold and call for warm clothes. On the contrary, you don’t have to be heavily stuffed with clothes in the hot sun. It might sound basic, but most beginner campers fall victim to inappropriate dressing during camping.
Don’t be that beginner camper who ends up with flu or heat rush for not dressing accordingly. Here are a few ways you can divide your clothing for easy packing and to ensure you don’t leave any out:
Clothing for summer camping
For summer camping you’ll want clothes that will keep you cool without exposing too much of your skin. These include lightweight pants/shorts, t-shirts, breathable underwear, and a light hat (if you must wear one).
Instead of the ordinary short-sleeved t-shirts, you could choose lightweight long-sleeved variety as they offer additional protection against insects. To keep off that scorching summer sun, you might also need some sunscreen, a pea cap, and sunglasses.
Clothing for winter camping
Cooler times call for warmer clothes. While some may prefer the traditional pajama-style, others want the modern feel of sweatpants and sweatshirts. Either way, the goal is to keep warm.
Check out for clothes made of fleece, wool, cotton, or nylon as they keep heat better. It’s advisable to take a layered approach to clothing in colder months.
Plan Your Camping Meals
When camping, you’ll want to spend much of your time in the actual activity, not cooking; huh, you’re not going for a cooking adventure after all. You might not have time for chopping, slicing, and doing all such stuff. For this reason, it’s advisable that you bring along pre-cooked food, or simply easy-to-cook food.
Food Preparation Tips
Regardless of the number of days you intend to camp, have a meal plan. Determine what you’ll have for breakfast, lunch and dinner not forgetting about your snacks and drinks.
Consider the fact that when camping, you might not have access to grocery stores. Put it down on paper, consider the ingredients you’ll need for your recipe, include utensils and cooking preparations.
Here are a few pointers to ease your preparation:
- Determine your method of preparation; heating source and utensils
- Refrigeration needs
- Pack ingredients that can be utilized in preparing more than one meal
- Amount of time needed to prepare – will your camping activities allow?
Keep your meals simple yet delicious and healthy to avoid packing too much stuff.
Do not underestimate the power of organization. It sounds simple but it helps a great deal when it comes to meal preparation. Organize your food and utensils. Put food that needs cooling in a fridge or cooler. As for other food stuff, buy storage tins preferably plastic ones for their versatility.
To save on space, consider using ziploc bags, mix compatible ingredients especially the dry ones and pack utensils that serve multiple purposes. For other ingredients such as sauce, sugar, salt, jam among others, make sure to take small sachets that is only adequate for the camping period.
Camping for beginners doesn’t have to be overwhelming. When it comes to meals, putting together a list of foods you’ll need and how to prepare them is vital.
What are you considering taking to your camping trip as a source of heat. It could be a camp stove, established camp kitchen, outdoor grill or camp fire.
Your choice depends on your needs and has a great impact on the kind of meals you will prepare. The first step therefore becomes determining the cooking method.
There are many options for desserts and fruits. Ensure that you pack up lots of fruits to take you through the camping period. Consider chocolates and marshmallows…smores…need I say more!
To many people, dinner seems to be complicated but make sure to stick with the basic camping meals to ease the situation. There are a number of easy recipes that you can try out and make the best out of your camping experience.
With a campfire, you can consider meals on a stick, one that is simple and doesn’t require many ingredients.
Camping for Beginners: Games and Recreation
Camping for beginners involves several games you can play or activities you can partake.
Always carry a couple of books for your trip. Camping can be daunting for beginners, especially when they aren’t used to long trips. Diving into a novel can be a great way to relax as you reflect on the experience.
A fair size of photography is nature-focused. Perhaps you’ve seen those huge wildflowers or sceneries on TV, and they motivated you to camp in the wild. You would regret it if you didn’t bring your camera along. A camping trip might not be as memorable without nice selfies of you and your buddies in the wild.
Outside cities with high light pollution, the galaxy and constellations become visible in the night sky. Watching the sky from a calm and quiet environment could turn your camping trip into a therapeutic experience.
Deck of Playing Cards
Playing cards work well with camping in that it’s a classical game, and the wilderness brings up the old vibes. You can play classic card games like spoons, spades, charades, etc.
Storytelling is a thing during camping, mainly because engaging in personal skills is much more desirable than listening to music. You can also make something sweet out of your music player by singing along your favorites.
If you’ve got some extra space in your camper and are going to visit a lake or a river, tag your fishing gear along.
Kayaking and canoeing
Kayaking and canoeing are among the best activities you can do while camping. There are inflatable kayaks of all sizes, some large enough for three adults. These accessories require extra storage space.
Are you camping at the beach? It’d be unforgivable to skip swimming from your list. Just remember to carry swimming gear.
If you’re the soccer-loving type, toss a ball in the truck as you pack for camping. Playing football at the beach is fun and refreshing, especially when the crew decides to play in the water.
Play with water in other ways
Watersports are not limited to being on or near a lake. You can play with water in ways like making a water balloon fight, filling an inflatable wading pool with water, play with squirt guns filled with water, or even make a DIY pool by lining a tarp over the truck bed and filling it with water.
Animal and birdwatching
Watching the wildlife is often the primary motive for camping among many travelers. There’s no better home for the birds than right in the wilderness. This is where you’ll see your favorite weaverbird in full action.
If your definition of camping accommodates digital mobile devices, why not bring your iPad or tablet along? You can download and play many games or even play online if you have a Wi-Fi connection.
Games around the campfire
You can play several games around a campfire. Truth or Dare, singing campfire songs, dancing around the fire, or even telling ghost stories are great camping ideas.
Bring a musical instrument
Do you love a particular instrument? Or do you seem to never get enough time to practice it? Playing in the wilderness provides an unrivaled experience, balancing nature’s perfect night-time acoustics with the distant rhythmic chimes of insects excited by light.
Camping for Beginners – Safety Tips
Alongside all the good things brought about by the outdoors, there come some safety concerns including injuries and accidents. The following camping for beginner safety tips should get you prepared for any safety issues.
1. Prepare for emergencies
You can’t do much to prevent accidents from happening. However, you can control the intensity of the effect. A first aid kit comes in handy in such cases. The kit should have all the tools including scissors, bandages, gauze pads, band-aids, pain-relieving medications, antibiotic and antiseptic creams/ointments, and more.
Emergencies include not only injuries, but you also could get lost or it could get dark before you get back to your tent. For such emergencies, be sure to have a compass, a map, chalk (for marking), a whistle (for calling for help), bear spray (for keeping off wild animals), and a flashlight.
2. Expect insects, bugs, and other wild creatures
Your camping location is likely going to be in a forest, a national park, or out in the wilderness. You will encounter many insects and bugs, including mosquitos, ticks, and many other critters which can pose mild to serious health problems.
Carry with you some bug spray or insect repellant that contains DEET. Sure enough, you don’t want your first camping experience to be memorable for the wrong reason.
3. Campfire safety
Campfires are amazing, but they can be equally dangerous. Camping for beginners can be dangerous if campfires are lit without precautionary measures.
Safety tips to keep your fires safe:
- Don’t lite a fire near a tent, bush, or woods; lite in an open area
- Use a fire-pit if your camping location has one
- Don’t leave the fire unattended if you are to leave the site for over ten minutes
- Put the fire out completely when you are about to sleep or when you leave the campground
- Use biodegradable soap to wash utensils; its environmentally friendly
- Don’t throw garbage around the campsite; it can attract insects and other unwanted wild creatures
Pro Camping Tip: Camping safety preparation isn’t just the physical, it’s the mental too. Be psychologically set for anything.
Camping for beginners begins with a plan; the equipment to bring and the decision on the camping location. Arrive at the location in good time to familiarize yourself with the area and make necessary preparations on equipment.
What kind of accommodation do you prefer? Is it a tent, trailer, cabin, or RV? Whichever your option, the pros and cons of each have been discussed. Choose wisely, according to your needs.
With respect to the different styles of camping: backcountry, car camping, dispersed camping, winter camping, and survival camping. The choice is solely yours.
Remember, you can’t have fun on an empty stomach. Be sure to have an appropriate meal plan. While you could be after easy-to-cook/ ready-made food, be sure that they contain all the nutritional components needed for healthy living.
There’re plenty of games and recreational activities you can engage in. We highly recommend check out our article on inflatable kayaks. If you have small children, choose games that are engaging and enjoyable for both of you.
Don’t forget to prepare that safety plan that will help you stay at ease throughout your camping trip. Remember those emergencies that arise and how best you can deal with them. The importance of campfire safety cannot be under-stated; observe it.
Off you go with the ultimate camping for beginners guide. Enjoy, relax and have fun!