The Ultimate Camping Guide
If you have had enough of being stuck indoors and sitting in front of the TV, a really great thing to do is to go camping. Camping gets you outdoors, it lets you see the stars, get in touch with nature, and spend some much needed quality time with family and friends.
That said, if you have never gone camping before, you might be a little intimidated by it. After all, there is a lot of thought and planning that goes into this. Between choosing a campsite, planning meals, proper food storage, what clothes to bring, and much more, there is a good deal of work that needs to be done.
The fact of the matter is that camping is one of the best things that you can do, but in order to have a good time out there, you do need to be well-prepared. How to prepare yourself from A to Z is what we are here to talking about in this ultimate camping guide.
Choosing a Campsite
The first part of this process is to choose which campsite you want to be at for a number of days. Choosing the right campsite will make all of the difference, but it’s not just as easy as picking a patch of ground and setting up your tent. There is a bit of thought that needs to be put in choosing the right campsite.
Keep in mind that if you are going to an actual campground, this process is going to be much easier. However, if you are planning to rough it and go backcountry camping, then paying attention to the following tips on how to choose a campsite is essential.
Plan Well Ahead
First and foremost, if you are going to a popular campground, you need to plan well in advance. By this, we mean that you need to reserve that campsite ASAP. Experienced campers and families will reserve their campsites months in advance, even for the coming year.
Therefore, if you wait to the last minute to reserve a campsite, chances are that you won’t be able to find what you are looking for.
Attempting to reserve a campsite even a month in advance is risky business. So, if possible, reserve your campsite many months in advance, as this will ensure that you will get to pick from the cream of the crop.
Something else you should consider when choosing your campsite is its location. Campsites can be absolutely massive in size. If you get stuck with a campsite in a poor location, such as one on the outskirts of the campground, you might end up being really far away from all of the amenities and fun stuff.
Having to walk for 20 minutes just to get to the water or the canoe rental location is not going to be much fun, not to mention that it’s a big time waster. The best campsites are those located close to the water and close to the campsite amenities, such as small shops, canoe and boat rental locations, and other such things.
You also want to pay close attention to the size of the campsite. If you are just going with one other person, then a small campsite will do. However, if you are going with a group of people, and say if you have 2 or 3 tents, you will want to ensure that there is ample space.
For one, you don’t want tents to be right on top of each other, as hearing the guy next to you snore all night is going to be annoying. Moreover, remember that campsites usually come with picnic benches and firepits, both of which take up space.
Consider how many people are coming, the number and size of your tents, and if you need to park your car on the campsite too. Being stuffed into a teeny campsite with minimal breathing room is not ideal.
A good idea is to get a campsite that faces east, particularly to get that morning sunlight. Not only is it nice if you can wake up to the sunlight at the crack of dawn, but the sun also plays another important role for camping.
During the night, you will notice that there is a lot of condensation, and the early morning brings a lot of morning dew with it.
This means that inevitably, your tent and camping gear are going to be a bit moist in the mornings. Finding a location that allows for as much morning sunlight as possible will help dry your clothing and gear before you get up to start the day.
Location of Water
Of course, one of the main points of camping is to be near water. It’s where you go canoeing and boating, it’s where you go fishing, and of course swimming too. Therefore, if you can find a campsite that is close to the water, beaches, and boat rental locations, you’ll be better off.
However, something that should consider is finding a spot with a bit of cover. Locations that are directly adjacent to the water will be cooler and windier at night. It might be a good idea to pick a site that has another couple of sites in between you and the water, just for a bit of added cover from lake effects.
A Flat Surface
The next thing to look at here is how flat the campsite is. Of course, you want your tent to be on flat ground, not a slope, or else getting a good night’s sleep won’t be easy.
Moreover, if your campground does have a slope, make sure to put your tent on the high ground. If it rains and you are at the bottom of a slope, water will run towards your tent and possibly collect in a pool around you. This will lead to you and your gear getting soaked, and that’s no fun at all.
The other thing to look for are trees. Having some trees around is a good thing. They provide some cover from the wind and privacy from your camping neighbors. That said, try not to set your tent up directly below a tree.
You don’t want branches and debris falling on you and your tent, plus insects and other critters tend to gather around trees. Moreover, if you need to hang your food in trees to keep animals away from your goodies, you will need trees with fairly high and sturdy branches.
The Essential Camping Gear
Now that we have covered how to choose the best campsite, it’s time to figure out exactly what you need to bring for your camping trip. There’s the quite list of essential gear that needs to be considered.
One of the most essential pieces of camping gear that you need is the tent. First, the size of the tent needs to be considered. Keep in mind that 1- to 2-person tents are usually only ideal for 1 person.
If a tent is labelled as a 4 person camping tent, it can realistically fit 2 to 3 people at the most. Therefore, go for a good size, especially if you plan on storing some of your gear in the tent along with you.
Also, you want a high-quality tent made with water-repellant materials, and you want a good rainfly in case it rains. Here, the old saying of “you get what you pay for” holds some truth. If you want a high-quality tent that won’t rip if you touch it the wrong way, and won’t get you wet if it rains, you need to pay for it.
A Tarp and Some Rope
As a backup to the rainfly, you will want to bring along a large tarp and some rope, particularly if the weather forecast isn’t looking so good.
Even the best tents with high-quality rainflies will let water in if there is a torrential downpour. Therefore, having a layer of completely waterproof plastic suspended above the tent makes for a good backup.
A Camping Pack
You will need a good camping backpack, particularly if you are going deep woods or backcountry camping. Remember that you will need a lot of camping gear, and this means having a place to store it all.
Sleeping Pad or Mattress
Next, you need something to sleep on, because after all, sleeping on solid dirt is not going to be very comfortable. You can choose between a sleeping pad, such as a foam camping pad, and something like an air mattress.
Air mattresses tend to be a bit more comfortable, especially the high quality ones, but of course, you do have to deal with inflation. Foam pads are easier to deal with, although they aren’t quite as comfortable.
The choice is yours. On a side note, if you don’t want to deal with having to bring a pillow along, getting an air mattress with a built-in pillow is always a good idea.
Sleeping Bags or Blankets
When it comes to sleeping, you will want to bring along either a good sleeping bag or a decent blanket. If you are camping in the middle of summer and the weather is calling for warm nights, a simple blanket may suffice.
However, if you are worried about being cold at night, getting a decent sleeping bag is the only way to go. Be sure to check the temperature rating for the sleeping bag, particularly if you are not camping in the summer. A simple blanket may take up less space, but it won’t be as warm as a sleeping bag.
Insects are always a problem when camping, especially mosquitos and biting flies. Therefore, bringing high-quality insect repellant is essential. You don’t want to end up a bloody and itchy mess because of a swarm of mosquitos.
Equally as important as insect repellant is sunscreen. Keep in mind that just a few hours in the sun, particularly if you are out on the water, can result in a severe sunburn that can take days to heal.
Suffer a sunburn on the first day of your trip, and the rest of the trip could be ruined. Always bring sunscreen and apply generously.
Flashlights and Lanterns + Extra Batteries
Seeing as you probably won’t have any electricity when camping, and as there are no streetlights in the middle of the woods, you will want to bring along a couple of high-quality flashlights and/or lanterns.
Unless you can see in the dark like a cat, going to the washroom or doing anything at night is not going to be easy if you don’t have a light source. On a side note, extra batteries can come in handy as well, so don’t forget those.
Starting a fire might sound easy, but if you don’t have good kindling that is super dry, it can be difficult. Therefore, bringing along some fire starter, even something like lighter fluid, is always a good idea. There’s nothing worse than sitting in your campsite at night without a fire.
A Knife or Multi-Tool
You should always bring a good knife along because they can serve a multitude of purposes when camping including food gathering, first aid, cutting rope, and much more. Never go camping without one.
Camping is lots of fun, but tiring too. Therefore, bring along a good camping chair to set up next to the campfire, or else you’ll end up sitting on the ground, and nobody wants that.
First Aid Kit
You never know, things can go wrong, and if they do, you’ll be thankful for a basic first aid kit.
You will want to bring clothing along. Exactly what kinds of clothes you need to bring will be discussed in a section below.
Food and Cooking Gear
Of course, no camping trip is complete without food and some cooking gear. This is also something we will discuss in greater detail in a following section.
Clothes to Bring
Unless you think that it’s a good idea to go camping in your birthday suit (which it’s not!), you need to bring the right clothes along. So, what clothes should you consider bringing?
Short sleeve shirts and tank tops are great for camping. If you are going in the summer, although you still need to wear clothes, you also want to stay cool. A good idea is to bring along a shirt for each day, or even an extra in case things get wet.
You want to bring along at least 1 long sleeve shirt for camping, or even something like a hoodie. You never know, it could rain or be chilly, so you’ll be thankful for a long sleeve shirt.
Moreover, insects get hungry at night, so having a long sleeve shirt for some added protection from blood suckers around the campfire is a big bonus.
If you are camping in the summer, shorts are essential. Nobody wants to spend their days in long pants when it’s hot out. A couple pairs of shorts are called for.
Just like with long sleeves and hoodies, bringing along at least 1 pair of real pants is a good idea. Once again, it can get chilly at night, plus those blood suckers get really ambitious around the campfire.
Underwear and Socks
Bring along a pair of underwear and a pair of socks for each day of camping. Socks and undergarments can get sweaty, wet, and smelly pretty fast, so having a pair for each day is a good idea.
Hats and Sunglasses
The sun is beautiful of course, but you don’t want your head to burn, you don’t want to get sunstroke, and you don’t want it blaring in your eyes all day long. Do yourself a favor and bring along a hat and sunglasses.
No camping trip is complete without swimming apparel. A good pair of swim shorts or a bathing suit that are fast drying will come in handy.
Unfortunately, when you plan for camping months in advance, you don’t really know what the weather will be like. So, to be safe, always bring along waterproof rain gear. At the very least, a raincoat is called for.
Shoes and Sandals
Pack a pair of sandals or flipflops for hanging around and being at the beach, and bring along a pair of decent hiking shoes for walking around and other such activities.
Food, Water, and Meal Planning
Some of the most important things to bring along for camping are food, food storage equipment, cooking gear, and eating utensils. Let’s take a closer look.
Your Caloric Needs
The first thing to consider is how much food you and your camping mates will need. Keep in mind that adult women need between 1,500 and 2,000 calories per day, where men need up to 2,500.
So, when planning out your meals, always keep caloric needs in mind — you don’t want to go hungry on your camping trip. High calorie foods and heavy snacks come in really handy.
Proper Food Storage
One of the biggest problems that many people face when camping has to do with food storage. The fact of the matter is that squirrels, racoons, bears, and other animals all want a piece of the action. If you don’t want your food being robbed, properly storing it is essential.
The best way to go about it is to keep your food in smell-proof containers, and to keep those in your car. However, if you are not camping with your car, you will need to hang your food in a tree, well away from your tent, to prevent attracting animals that will eat your food.
The No. 1 rule is to never keep food in your tent; you don’t want a hungry coyote trying to get into your tent while you are sleeping. On a side note, if you plan on bringing fresh meat to cook on the fire, you will need a high-quality cooler with a lock on it.
Planning Your Meals
You will want to plan your meals out very well. Lay out all of your food in front of you and label each one as “Day 1 breakfast/lunch/dinner” and so on and so forth.
Bringing along a good amount of snacks for in between meals and for after dinner is not a bad idea either.
Simply put, you want to be diligent about planning each meal, so you don’t run out of food before the trip is over. Also try to keep things diverse; nobody wants to eat beans for 7 days.
Cooking Gear and Utensils
Of course, you also need a way to prepare your food. The best way to go is with a small propane or butane cooker with a decent burner, maybe even one with 2 burners. This way, along with a small camping pot, you can easily heat up various foods.
You can also decide to bring along a small charcoal grill for your flame-grilled meats, although hauling bags of charcoal is not enjoyable. Of course, you will also have a campfire to roast hotdogs, other meats, and yes, marshmallows too.
Remember to bring small pots and pans, cooking and BBQ utensils, cups, and camping dishes to eat out of. On a side note, a pack of napkins or some reusable cloths to wipe those beans off your face and hands won’t hurt either.
Best Camping Foods
- So, what kinds of camping foods should you bring along?
- Meats – Hotdogs, sausages, kebabs
- Fruits – Apples, Oranges, Bananas
- Dried Fruits
- Snacks – Granola bars, trail mix, jerky, crackers
- Canned foods – Soups, beans, chili, ravioli
How to Pack Your Camping Gear
Now that you have all of your food and camping gear ready to go, you need to pack it right. This is like a game of Tetris. For the most part, the rule of thumb here is to pack the essentials near the top and the things you are less likely to need near the bottom of the camping pack.
Things that you need all of the time or right away when you get to the campsite need to be at the top of the pack and in exterior pockets for easy access.
That said, if you plan on hiking around or you have to walk a good distance to get to your campsite, packing your bag in a way that makes it comfy for long distance travel is best.
Generally, this means packing the heaviest gear on the bottom and closest to your back, with the lighter equipment being on the top and towards the outside of the pack.
Make a Test Run and Check Your List
Finally, before you set off on your camping trip, test everything that needs testing. Set up your tent so you know how to do it quickly once you get to the campsite.
Make sure that you know how to operate your cooking gear and that everything works. Simply put, anything that you will rely on during the trip should be tested beforehand to ensure that everything is in working order.
Also, make a comprehensive list of all of your gear and check everything off one by one as you pack. You don’t want to end up at the campsite only to realize that you forgot half of your gear.
We hope that we have been able to help you prepare for your camping trip, as we have covered all of the necessary bases. Now it is up to you to ensure that you are fully prepared and have everything ready to go. Enjoy your camping trip and get plenty of sun and fun.