This is it! You’ve decided to take on the big outdoors!
Camping is the perfect way to connect with nature, relax, and unwind – making it one of my favorite pastimes. It can, however, take a few trips to learn the ropes and create a system that works for you.
Here are my secrets and tips, as a seasoned camper, to help you have the absolute best experience on your first camping trip!
1. Plan Ahead-Pack List, Food, and Arrival
Planning is key to a successful and enjoyable camping trip! This will include researching your campground, looking up the local weather, and staying organized.
When getting ready for your first trip, making a pack list will help you remember essentials and think through each aspect of your experience.
Your pack list should include items for your campsite set up, such as your tent, sleeping gear, and flashlight, as well as anything you may need for meals. Keeping your food options basic and “on the go” ready will also help reduce the amount of clean up and gear you will need to bring too.
Another tip is to be sure to arrive at your campsite well before nightfall. You will want to plan to utilize the sunlight to pop your tent, organize your set up, get to know your surroundings, and start a cozy fire before dark.
2. Research Your Campground
Your camping experience can vary greatly depending on where you plan to stay. Although it could be tempting to go all in and blaze your own trail, my suggestion would be to test out the waters at a local campground first.
A campground will likely have ideal campsites ready to go, as well as a few comforts such as a bathhouse, running water, and a general store or office to buy any supplies – just in case you forget something. You can still enjoy the full aspect of nature while not having to necessarily “rough it” on your own!
You may also discover that the campground you are staying at has fun activities too! For example, Wind Creek State Park offers ziplining, horseback riding, beach and lake access, hiking trails, and much more. These can add another fun and exciting element to your camping experience!
3. Camping Gear-Keep it Simple and Efficient
When buying your camping gear, there are endless options for comfort and accessories. It is perfectly okay to come overly prepared on your first trip, as it will take a few times to figure out what you need. Part of the camping experience is creating a system that works for you!
However, do you need the fancy stovetop grill for your first time camping? Probably not. The campground will more than likely have a fire pit and grill at each site or based around the community.
My tip is to remember to keep it simple, yet efficient. Until you discover if camping is really your passion, I suggest saving your money and skip the fancy fluff. Instead, invest in quality basics, such as a sturdy pop-up tent, a comfortable sleeping bag, and perhaps an air mattress or folding chairs.
4. Setting Up Your Tent
When choosing where to set up your tent, you will want to find the flattest surface possible at your campsite. Make sure it is clear of any rocks, tree roots, and holes.
Second, aim to place your tent on higher ground – this will help if any rain does come during your stay. Setting up on top of an incline, instead of the bottom, will ensure that rainwater won’t get inside of your tent and potentially flood it.
Lastly, I suggest avoiding placing your tent under a tree. Though it may seem like a good idea for shade or pictures, it can actually be a pain in the butt. Wind or rain could lead to a tree branch falling and damaging your setup and, from experience, I know it’s not any fun to clean off tree sap, bird poo, or any other things that fall out of trees.
Instead, find an open, flat space without anything overhead. Plus, just imagine all of those twinkling stars you’ll want to see!
5. Keep a Tidy Tent
Your tent will be your home for your entire camping trip, so be sure to keep it tidy!
One good tip to remember is to take your shoes off before you enter your tent. This will help keep dirt out of your clean sleeping area. It is also a good idea to keep your tent zipped shut at all times. This will help minimize bugs, flies, and creepy crawling things from entering inside.
My biggest tip however is to utilize any space savers that may come with your tent, such as hanging pockets or storage nets. It may also help to pack a storage bin. Not only can it help you keep your camping gear together and organized, it’s a great place to store items that you may want to use but not necessarily keep inside your tent. This storage bin can simply stay in the back of your car, and still have your items on hand… just in case!
6. Double and Triple Check the Weather
This is a big one. I have been camping in thunderstorms, the dead heat of the summer, and below freezing temperatures. Knowing ahead of time what the weather will be like will help tremendously to properly prepare and still enjoy the experience.
Be sure to double check the local weather and radar for the area you will be camping. If it looks like there is a chance for rain, simply prepare by double checking that your tent has a rain fly and perhaps pack a good book to read or a board game to help pass the time. When you are weather prepared, you can still have a great time camping!
Overall, come with relaxation in mind and just remember to enjoy the whole experience. Camping is all about unplugging, unwinding, and simply connecting with nature. My goal is for you to have an incredible first trip so that you too will fall in love with camping and the big outdoors!