As a general rule of thumb, the more you plan for a camping trip, the more enjoyable it will be. You want to be able to focus on your outdoor experience and relax, not worry about who forgot the toilet paper and how you’re going to store your food and keep the wildlife from stealing it. Here are our top 12 camping tips to help make your next camping trip as enjoyable as possible.
Test drive your tent
There is nothing more frustrating than driving all the way to your campground, spending the day hiking and adventuring, and then struggling and racing the setting sun to set up a tent that you are unfamiliar with. Take your tent out of the bag and practice setting it up in your yard before it’s big debut!
Camp close to home
If you are new to camping, choose a camping spot that is reasonably close to home. We’re not suggesting you give up on your camping endeavor and run back to the comfort of your home when the first snag comes up on your trip. But it is nice to have a retreat within reach if your whole plan goes south. Having to drive for hours after you are already in a bad mood at a ruined camping excursion only adds to the misery and can deter new campers from trying again.
Find out if campsite reservations are required at the campground you intend to use. Some campgrounds fill up quickly and you’ll need to reserve your space and dates far in advance.
Check out the campground map
While you are looking at campsite reservations, be sure to check out a campground map. We suggest finding a campsite that is close to a bathroom, but not right next to it! It is also helpful to know where popular recreation areas are in relation to your intended campsite as well as ranger posts and other helpful locations.
Comfortable camp chairs
Purchase comfortable camp chairs. You will be spending a decent amount of time sitting in a camp chair as you prepare food, eat, and relax and the last thing you want is to be uncomfortable during all of it!
Test drive your sleeping gear
Speaking of comfort, make sure your sleeping gear is warm and comfortable. This may be one of our most preached camping tips because nothing ruins an otherwise perfectly good camping trip then a sleepless night due to aches or shivering. Do some research about the climate and common weather patterns of your intended camping site so you know what to expect at night. Sleeping bags, cots, and inflatable mattresses are among a few of the more common sleeping gear set ups. And, like we suggested with your tent, you should consider test driving your sleeping gear out before you take it out for real!
Don’t forget the sunscreen and mosquito repellent
Sunscreen and mosquito repellent are must-have items. Do not leave home without a good sunblock and bug spray, you are sure to be miserable without their protection! There are countless options for each of these products on the market so you can be sure to find a brand and ingredients that fit your lifestyle.
Meal prep can be a game changer! Try to prepare and pack as much of your meals before you leave home as possible. This will not only save you time and money, but space in your vehicle and cooler as well. Here is a link to a list of easy meals you can prepare ahead of time: https://www.beyondthetent.com/25-make-ahead-camping-meals-to-feed-a-whole-family/
Check into your campground early. The most common check-in time for campgrounds is 3pm, but you should always contact the campground where you’ll be staying to find out for sure. Arriving early will give you plenty of time to set up your campsite before it gets dark.
Safe food storage
Keep coolers and food locked in your vehicle rather than storing it in your tent or, (gasp) leaving it in the open. Your vehicle will serve as protection to keep nighttime critters away from your food. This is an especially important tip to follow if you will be camping in bear country.
Be okay with getting dirty
Remember that dirt doesn’t hurt. Don’t bring your best clothes and don’t expect your kids, animals, friends or even spouse to stay clean. Camping is an immersive experience in nature and no one gets through the experience without a good amount of dirt. The good news is that some campgrounds have shower facilities! If yours doesn’t and you know you won’t be able to stand not showering for a few days, there are lots of portable shower products on the market.
Plan outdoor activities AND back up activities in the event of bad weather. Card games and other indoor (or, in-tent) activities are great options to have on hand if it starts to rain or if someone doesn’t feel well enough to get out and hike. Leave the electronics at home and get creative with old fashioned games, toss a football around, or just take some time to chat and play get-to-know-you games.
Your next, or very first, camping trip will be everything you’re hoping for if you take the time to plan it out and take care of all the important details before leaving home. As always, we encourage campers to also follow the leave no trace rule- leave your campground better than how you found it and pack out everything you packed in. We hope our top 12 camping tips help ease your experience and that you’ll share any additional tips you’ve got with us in the comments!