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It’s not hard to understand the joy of camping, as you can get out of the urban jungle to refresh yourself to the natural wonders of the outdoors. But it’s not always joyful for beginners, who may find it a rather frustrating experience if they don’t have a proper camping guide to consult.
The ideal way to learn to camp is of course to have an experienced camper with you in your first try. That way, you get to watch and learn firsthand what you have to do. After a few camping trips with veterans, it wouldn’t take long for you to handle your own first time camping experience.
Still, even if all your friends are as clueless as you are about camping, it doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck. You just need to take it easy for yourself. Camping for beginners is about taking it nice and slow.
It’s best if only the adults go camping at first, before you take the kids with you. It’s not really a problem to buy kids camping gear, but for your first try to learn to camp you’re best off not having to add to your worries with kids to add to your responsibilities.
Where to Go
Obviously, you have lots of options as to where you can go. Take a look at online sites like Ultimate Campgrounds and you’ll find camping site options all over the US and Canada.
Your best bet is somewhere close to home. After all, you may not take to it well, and you may just want to give up and go home especially when snafus start to happen. These things happen, and there’s no shame in giving up and trying again another time.
Your option can include renting a cabin in the woods, or taking your RV to outdoor campsites. Car camping sites are also great options, and you won’t have as much to bring with you when you make your car camping checklist.
Some of these sites may even have nice amenities, such as a general store to sell you what you may have forgotten to bring, proper showers and bathrooms, and maybe even a swimming pool!
Of course, for most people the idea of camping actually involves pitching a tent on the outdoors. Tent camping for beginners may not be as easy especially if you’re alone, but then it’s not all that much more difficult either.
In general, you may have to call the campsite to book your reservations in advance. You’re not the only one who likes to go camping, and in the summer months lots of campsites are fully booked. Others may be open on a first-come-first-served basis, but you should still call the campgrounds for advice on when you should show up.
If you’re a newbie, you should limit the shocks to your system and go with developed campgrounds with proper bathrooms. You simply may not be able to cope without flush toilets and running water on your first try. It is best if you have access to treated water from a spigot, since water from outdoor sources can be a bit iffy for your health.
When to Go
Any weekend should do the trick, though it’s always best to do it during the summer. You need to check with weather experts and websites for nice days without rain. Avoid camping in extreme weather conditions on your first try. It’ll be hard enough for you without adding the risk of frostbite!
Before you go, however, make sure you tell some of your friends and family about your plans. If you can, send them a message saying you’ve arrived safely at your campsite. Set up times when you’re supposed to call them or send them an email or text message. If you fail to send messages at the appropriate times, then at least some people will know that something has gone wrong.
For your first time, plan on a 2-night stay at the most. The longer you stay at a campsite, the more chances that things can go wrong.
Camping Essentials for Beginners
To make sure you get everything you really need for your campsite adventure, it’s best that you make a list of the gear you’ll need.
Here’s a nice list of basic camping gear to get you started:
- A tent that’s easy to set up, with all the accessories and camping tools you need to put up a tent. A tent camping guide will be useful too, from types of tents to what is a tent footprint.
- Sleeping bags that are appropriate for the weather and temperature conditions
- Sleeping pads to make your sleeping bags even more comfortable
- Lantern for ambient lighting, along with headlamps or flashlights with new batteries and extra ones
- A folding table if your campsite doesn’t have one
- A multi-tool or Swiss Army knife and a reliable fire starting tool.
You may want to bring a pillow for your sleeping bed, and folding chairs to go with your table.
Cooking and Dining Basics
- Stove, with fuel and lighter
- Frying pan and cook pots, with pot holder
- Spatula along with whisk and knife
- Cutting board
- Can opener, bottle opener, and maybe even a corkscrew
- Food storage bags and wrapping foil
- Biodegradable soap with pot sponge or scrubber
- Long term cooler with ice
- Water bottles
- Utensils, plates, cups, and bowls
- Trash bags
- Kitchen towel
If you’re going to try out new recipes when you cook, you may want to bring along measuring spoons and cups. A collapsible water container can be useful as well.
Medical and Hygiene Basics
- Lots and lots of toilet paper
- First aid kit
- Hand sanitizer
- Small bath towel
- Insect repellent
Women should bring along menstrual supplies, and of course don’t forget your prescription meds.
Notes on Camping Gear for Beginners
Here are some camping tips for beginners when buying basic camping gear to complete their camping checklists:
- Tent. It’s best that you save up and get a bigger tent for the number of people in your camping group. If you’re going as a couple, get a 3-person tent. If you have 4 or more in the family, find a tent which is more than big enough. The extra space will keep you guys from getting on each other’s nerves when you’re packed to tightly together.
Try to get a tent tall enough so that the tallest person in your camp doesn’t have to bump their head on the ceiling. Get a tent with 2 doors when you have a large group, so that you all have easy access to the exits.
Finally, make sure you can figure out how you and your group can pitch the tent. It ought to be as simple as possible, and there should be online videos you can download to see how it’s done right. Your tent should also have everything you need, from stakes and cords to the tools you need.
- Sleeping bag. Again you have many choices here. Just get one for yourself that’s rated for the temperature conditions. A nice 3-season sleeping bag will be versatile enough for newbies. Make sure you get a proper sleeping pad too. There are sleeping bags specially made for ladies and toddlers.
- Illumination. A lantern that you hang up high will be ideal for ambient lighting, so that you don’t have to go around with a flashlight all the time at night. However, a flashlight is still mandatory for backup, though you can go with a headlamp to free your hands while you walk around the camp at night.
- Stove. A basic 2-burner stove will be more than adequate for your needs. Even if you bring ready-to eat canned goods, a stove can at least heat up your meals. You’ll also need it to boil water for your coffee. Just bring 2 fuel canisters and a lighter, and try out the stove first at home so you’ll know how operate it.
- Cooler. Plenty of premium coolers are readily available these days in various sizes, with the insulation capacity to keep ice frozen for days. Some even have wheels on them. While these may be too bulky to bring along for backpack camping, they’re basically an essential part of a camping starter kit if you have a vehicle to transport your items.
- Plates, cups, and utensils. Some people just buy disposable plates and utensils, but others find this wasteful. You can always buy cheap reusable plates, bowls, and utensils for camping, and they’re actually easy to clean.
- Chairs. Go with mesh chairs, as they drain water easily. They also tend to dry faster after you’ve left them out overnight.
- Duct tape. You’d be amazed at how a roll of duct tape can help when you’re camping. If you have a rip in your tent or in your clothes, then they can offer a nice makeshift solution. You can even use it for your shoes.
- Hiking stick. You’ll need if you’re a new going on your first hiking trip. While you can make your own by cutting and sanding a slender tree branch, you can find terrific lightweight collapsible metal-alloy hiking sticks that come with reasonable prices.
- Trash bags. Get the large 30-gallong trash bags. These can keep various items dry, and they can even be used as makeshift ponchos. You can also place food or your garbage into these bags and then hang them up high to keep them away from the animals.
- Extra batteries. If you’re going to use gadgets such as flashlights that are powered by batteries, you need fresh batteries for all of them. You also need spare batteries. You can also get a battery-powered charger so you can keep your smartphone charged.
Beginners Guide to Camping Clothes
With the iffy weather these days, it’s best to dress in layers so you’re comfy as the temperature changes. You can start with an athletic undershirt that wicks sweat off your skin. Then maybe you can put on a lightweight shirt on top of that. As it gets colder, you can add another layer like a water-resistant jacket.
As for the really cold, we have the ultimate winter backpacking list for campers and keen backpackers.
A camping list for beginners regarding your clothes will contain the following items:
- Long underwear
- Moisture-wicking underwear
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Polyester or nylon shirts
- Long pants with pockets
- Quick-drying shorts
- Wool or synthetic socks
- Sneakers, hiking boots, and shower shoes
- Sleeping cap
- Sunhat or bandanna
- Poncho or raincoat
You need to make sure you take strong sturdy clothes with you. They should rip or tear easily. They also should be clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
If you’re going to stay in a campsite for a few days, then you will certainly need to bring enough food with you. You certainly won’t be able to enjoy restaurants and fast-food delivery service. You’ll need food to go with your camping cooking gear.
You need about 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of food per person per day. In hot weather, you’ll probably need even more water than usual. If it’s cold, you’ll need more calories to keep warm.
Since in many cases you won’t have a refrigerator when you’re at a campsite, you need food items that don’t need to be refrigerated. Canned goods are always safe options, and they don’t take a lot of room. Try bringing assorted canned tuna, chicken, and salmon.
You do need to keep your sugary cereal at home, as they only provide a short-term energy boost. A healthier option is to go with oatmeal with raisins, as you don’t get a sugar crash and you don’t feel hungry too soon after eating it.
Bread works too, as well as pasta and grain. You can bring bannock bread which you can cook over the fire. Place your dry ingredients into a plastic zipper box, and then when you’re making the bread you just need to add butter or oil to eat and then let it rise for half an hour.
Then you can wrap the dough around some sticks and cook it over your fire. If you have a stove, you can also fry it over a skillet.
If you like to cook, then don’t forget to bring some powdered milk. You can use this for your bread, omelets and pancakes. You can also try banana and peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. They’re sweet and savory, while you enjoy a nice dose of protein.
Cheese is also great, as long you go with hard cheese that don’t need to be refrigerated. Swiss cheeses and hard aged cheddar are terrific. The moisture content in these types of cheese is very low, so they won’t melt or become runny when you keep them at room temperature.
Don’t forget to bring along nice extras that can make your campsite food a lot more interesting. Your food doesn’t have to be bland at all. Bring some of your favorite cooking oil, along with herbs and spices. Dijon mustard is another terrific option to bring, along with sun-dried tomatoes.
These are also viable options, if you have a premium cooler with lots of ice. You can then pack your meat in these coolers, though the meat should still be consumed during your first 2 days at the camp.
What you should really bring is hard sausage. That’s because this will keep for days, and it will even keep for a couple of days after you’ve opened them. Try some sausage with bannock biscuits for breakfast and it’ll be great.
Try to bring packets of mayonnaise so you can have a chicken or tuna salad. You can bring a jar of it too, though you need to make sure you use a clean spoon to scoop some out each time. If you use a dirty spoon, the mayonnaise will be contaminated. You can also try to bring jam and syrup for some new flavor to your meals.
Trail mix is appropriately named, and you can make it at home first so you can bring it with you. Beef jerky is also great, and you get a lot of protein from it.
You should also consider hard cookies like animal crackers and ginger snaps so you get an energy boost without the sugar overload. You can also bring some popcorn, and cereal bars can also work. But don’t forget about fruits.
Some fruits travel well, like melons, oranges, grapes, and apples. Just store the fruits such as grapes in a plastic food container so you don’t accidentally crush them.
Other fruits that can keep for days include cucumbers, peppers, radishes, and carrots. You can also nibble on carrot sticks as you go hiking, and they work great when you eat them with nuts and hard cheeses.
Obviously you’re going to need water, so as a newbie to camping you need a site that offers available fresh water. If you do go to a campsite without fresh water, you need to bring the water with you. You’ll need a gallon of water per person, per day.
Alcoholic beverages aren’t really recommended for newbies to camping, since you need your wits about you at all times.
Still, if you’re planning on bring some drinks you may want to have it in plastic bottles or cans. Glass bottles just have a higher chance of breaking.
If you want sports drinks, get the powdered version. These are obviously easier to carry, and you can just mix them with your water when you want a drink. Sports drinks can replenish your salt and electrolytes.
Without a TV or a computer to fiddle with, you and your group may find it boring to just sit around the campsite all day. But you certainly don’t have to be bored at all. You can bond with family and friends as you maintain the site and do the daily tasks.
However, you can also indulge in some fun games and activities, while you can also relax as well.
Hiking and Exploring
Now that you’re out of the city and into the great outdoors, it’s time to put on your hiking boots and explore the land around you. Bring a pair of binoculars, especially if you’re curious about the birds and other wildlife. Climb a tree, or may wade in a brook.
If your campsite has a lake or a river nearby, then swimming is an obvious option for some fun. You may also want to try out a kayak or a canoe, especially if you’ve gone car camping and you brought your own vessel. Maybe you can even learn how to fish!
Sleep in a Hammock
This is one of the most relaxing things you can ever do at a campsite. You have fresh air around you, you’re under the shade, and all you see is nature. You may hear birds and other creatures making their intriguing noises. Set up a hammock, and close your eyes—this is the kind of indulgence you deserve after all the stress at work.
What if you’re trapped in the tent because it’s raining hard? If that’s the case, then you should have brought a pack of cards. That gives you a lot of card games to choose from.
You can try old-fashioned board games too. Scrabble is always a good choice, and Monopoly works as well.
But even without cards or board games, you can try games like charades. Kids love this game, especially when mimicking what they’ve seen on the trail.
When darkness falls, you can have a nice fire and gather around it. You can then take turns telling stories, or you can have fun singing. If you brought a guitar, it’s perfect.
Learning how to camp isn’t all about what you have to do. You have to have fun—or else what’s the point? When you have fun, you then learn how to get into camping the right way.
Additional Tips for First Time Campers
Here are some camping tips and tricks for beginners that should really help you out:
Practice At Home
Set up your tent in your backyard first. Practice doing this beforehand, so that you’ll know what to do when you’re camping for the first time. In fact, set up the tent in your backyard and try sleeping inside it so you’ll know what to expect.
Try to play a game of what if and envision potential problems you may encounter. These may include various trail hazards, biting insects, and incessant rain. Have a contingency plan for various scenarios.
Rain Day Blues
When you planned a lot of hiking in your schedule and the rains fall continuously, you need to backup plan so you don’t get bored.
- Bring food that works as a main meal without needing to be cooked.
- Take along small speakers and attach them to your smartphone to play music. You should have a large playlist already downloaded.
- Books are also nice alternatives.
Light Your Fire
It’s always a good idea to bring matches to a campsite. You can just store them in a waterproof container and you’re all set. You should also bring along old newspapers. Ball the paper up tightly and you can start a fire with a few small dry sticks as kindling.
Keeping the Food and Trash Contained
One of the most important first time camping tips you need to heed is about properly containing your food and trash. That’s to make sure that raccoons and other animals aren’t attracted to your site, and you certainly don’t want to attract bears.
All your food must be stored in air tight containers. And you never ever want your food to be in your tent. Animals have a keen sense of smell, so you need your food out of your tent.
You really don’t want to wake up with animals inside your tent.
For this reason, you really need to bring heavy duty plastic garbage bags. Hang them in the trees, or just put them in the campsite designated storage bins that come with locks. You may want to just place them in your car trunk, but you risk having your car paint scratched when the animals try to get inside the trunk.
Learning how to go camping for the first time may seem difficult at first, but it’s not really as hard as you might think. It’s best if you have an experience camper as your guide to camping, so that you don’t have to fumble around.
But even if you’re alone, it’s not all that hard to learn how to start camping. The basic rules are simple:
- Find a campsite with lots of amenities like fresh water.
- Try to anticipate what you will need.
- Practice setting up your tent.
- Make a list of everything you’ll bring, including food, water, clothing, and other essentials.
- Plan for some fun each day.
Just take the time to relax, because that’s one of the points of camping. You’re out of the city, and you’re taking a break from your job. Look at and appreciate the natural sights around you. Take a deep breath. Camping is really not all about the rules. It’s about bonding with the people you came with, while you also take a break for your spirit.