By: Steven Sorrell
Camping is a great way to enjoy nature, the outdoors, spend time with family and friends, or an opportunity to get away from it all. Are you ready to take the plunge into the camping world, but are a first time camper and unsure what to do or pack? There are many different types of camping, so here are a few general tips for first time campers.
Research and Plan Ahead
If you plan on camping at a park or campsite check to see if you can reserve your site. You may need to plan up to six months in advance for the very popular sites. When making your reservation take into consideration what is nearby. This is personal preference, but I typically like to be somewhat close to facilities, but not right next to them. Similarly, I try to add some distance between my site and trail connectors or busy roads. Nothing like having a bunch of hikers walking by while you are trying to relax.
Check with the campsites or parks ahead of time to understand the varying regulations. Some may not allow an open fire or bringing in outside firewood. Are there facilities or other amenities? Do you need to pack a shovel, carry out all your trash, or even bring potable water? Does your site have a pad for your tent? If not, then you should try and find a nice level spot to sit up your tent. Identify activities you may want to take advantage of while you are camping. Are there nearby hikes, biking, or other attractions? Is there fishing or swimming? You don’t need to determine the exact plans down to every detail, but having a good idea of what you want to do will help determine what to bring.
I am one who believes it is best to be prepared rather than be caught unaware. So I probably overpack for most of my trips and I have come to terms with that. I’d rather lug around extra clothes then end up falling in a creek and being wet for the rest of my trip. I have developed a system where a lot of my gear is pre-packaged in containers that I can grab based on the type of trip and who is going.
- Some sites do not allow reservations and are first come, first serve. If you plan on staying at one of these, have a backup plan in case all the sites are taken.
- Make sure you tell someone close to you where you plan on going, for how long, and with whom. This will be helpful should something happen to you.
- Check the weather before leaving and not just the daytime weather either. Remember, you won’t have the option to just go inside, so adjust accordingly.
- Make a list ahead of time of what you need to bring and what you should pack.
You don’t need to buy all the top of the line gear. You may not want to spend a ton of money only to realize that camping is not for you. Here are some essentials for what you should have.
- A tent is the basis for most camping trips, so that is the first piece of gear you should include. The tent should be rated for the season, region, and climate you will be camping in, and should be sized accordingly. If your tent does not come with a tarp, it may be best to add that to your list to provide another layer between the tent floor and ground, as well as help keep you dry should there be rain or condensation.
- A sleeping bag or other type of bedding. Similar to your tent, the rating of this is dependent on your region and weather for when and where you plan on camping. Typically during the summer months, I will use the sleeping bag and bedding as a mattress rather than sleeping in or under them.
- To be able to see when it’s dark, a headlamp, flashlight, or lantern would come in handy.
- While we hope you never have to use it, a first-aid kit (FAK) is great to have on hand to make sure any minor or major injuries can either be taken care of or sustained until help can arrive. Make sure to pack your medications!
- Bring a container with plenty of drinking water. There are some parks that have potable water onsite, which is great, but some do not. If you are planning on other activities like hiking, then this would come in handy for rehydrating.
- Food and snacks are always great to have and tend to create some great excitement when cooking over the fire.
- You want to leave the campsite as you found it, so bring a trash bag.
- Some other nice to haves are a cooler for food and drinks, hatchet or saw for cutting wood, chair(s), games, a change of shoes and clothing, and friends.
Remember, this is your first time. So things may not go perfectly and that's OK. Over time you will determine what works best for and enhances the camping experience. Now get out there and have a great time!
About the Author: Steven Sorrell
Steven Sorrell is an avid outdoorsman and has been for as long as he can remember. He enjoys spending time with family and friends in various activities, such as hiking, camping, traveling, or offroading/overlanding. He uses blogging as a way to document these experiences and to share with others who may be interested as well.