Camping Tips for Beginners: Equipment, Booking, Budget Tips & More!
These camping tips for beginners will help you with choosing the right equipment, finding a perfect campsite, how to save money and more!
If you’re a beginner camper, then planning a big camping trip can feel daunting. Not only is there a lot of planning involved, but there’s an art to successfully booking a campsite, packing everything you need, adhering to local laws, and staying safe on your adventure.
Thankfully, camping is a skill that anyone can pick up with experience. To help you get the most out of your upcoming trip, here are my top camping tips and tricks!
Camping Tips and Tricks for Beginners
Before You Go
Purchase Your Equipment
Choosing the right kind of equipment completely depends on your personal needs. You’ll want to invest in quality, durable equipment that will stand the test of time, be comfortable, and suit your budget.
For any starter pack, I recommend buying a tent, lots of lights, a sleeping pad, ample bedding (it’s better to have too much than too little), and kitchen supplies. (See our complete camping packing list.)
On this note, I also highly recommend purchasing a camp stove. If you have busy days planned with a lot of activities, you might not always want to build a campfire and cook all your food the old fashioned way. Not to mention, depending on where you camp and time of year, campfires may not be allowed.
Read more: Best Camping & Backpacking Tents (In-Depth Buying Guide)
Test Your Equipment
I can’t stress enough how helpful testing your equipment out beforehand will be. To do this, set up your tent in your backyard, use any kitchen equipment you may have bought, and switch on your new headlamp.
Not only will this help you to figure out how to set up your new equipment, but it will also let you know if you have any gaps in your supply and whether or not your equipment is in working condition.
Read more: Havasu Falls Camping Guide: Permits, Hiking Trails, Packing Tips & More
Research Your Destination
Once you’ve decided on a general camping destination, you’re going to want to do some research and learn all about the facilities offered in the area. Look into what your campsite options are, whether or not there are any nearby restaurants, general weather patterns, seasonal openings & closures, and current site conditions.
While being spontaneous in your camping decisions can be fun, until you’re comfortable with it, I recommend doing as much research as you can.
Book a Campsite
Once you’ve picked out a destination, you’ll have to decide on a campsite. Some factors to consider when choosing a campsite are the distance from points of interest, whether or not there is potable water and toilets, if there are hookups, if the site offers any privacy, and if it allows campfires.
Keep in mind that a lot of campsites in popular areas tend to book up well in advance (especially in national parks), so snag your spot as soon as you’ve decided on your destination.
Read more: 20 Genius Camping Hacks Every Camper Should Know
Prepare Your Food
To prep your food before a camping trip, first create a detailed menu that includes all meals and snacks. Consider whether it’ll be most effective to bring fresh food, pre-packaged items, or freeze-dried meals, and how much of each you’ll need. Then, take this menu, as well as a shopping list, and purchase all the food you’re going to need for your trip.
From here, you’ll want to portion and chop your meals (I recommend freezing all meat for added longevity in your cooler), get your cooler ready with some ice, and organize the food.
A handy tip for food prep is to put all liquids into squeeze bottles – such as pancake batter, scrambled eggs, salad dressings, oils, etc. I find that this cuts down on how many dishes I use, keeps my liquids sealed, and makes them easily accessible.
Read more: Winter Camping Essentials & Cold Weather Camping Tips
Pack Plenty of Water
Depending on where you go, you may or may not have clean water available at your campsite. While it’s safe to drink water from the tap in many places, if possible, I like to have a jug of filtered water on hand to prevent shortages or any contaminants.
Additionally, if I’m somewhere that I can’t bring lots of water with me, I always like to have a water filtration device on hand.
At the Campground
Set Up Camp
If at all possible, time your arrival at your campground during the day as you’ll want plenty of light to put up your tent, arrange your chairs, and get settled in. Set up your tent in a place where the ground is level and clear of anything that could potentially damage it such as tree roots.
Also, when setting up your tent, make sure you put your pegs in at a 45-degree angle for increased stability and put the back of your tent to any wind. I also recommend you bring a LOT of lighting with you and set it up strategically for maximum coverage.
Read more: The Best Cameras for Hiking and Backpacking
Store Food and Garbage Correctly
Depending on where you are, you could have an array of animals lingering around your campsite — all with great noses and who are ready to take your food as soon as you go to sleep or turn your back. From foxes, to raccoons, to bears, you’re going to want to stay on high alert to keep animals from getting into your grub.
When not in use, conceal your food in a plastic tub and, if you’re within walking distance, lock it away in your vehicle. However, if you’re heading somewhere where you won’t have access to a vehicle, then invest in a bear box.
Read more: Best Hiking Backpacks (A Detailed Buying Guide)
Cooking always seems to be an adventure when camping, but knowing a few handy tips will go along way in keeping this aspect fun and productive. First of all, always double-check with a park ranger or representative to make sure campfires and stoves are allowed. This information can change quite quickly depending on conditions so it’s best to double-check.
Also, while using reusable dishes is a great option, for ease and to minimize cleanup, try out some tin foil for grilling. I find that I can cook everything from fresh veggies, meats, and full wrap-up scrambles in tin foil, and they always turn out great.
One more tip is as soon as you’ve cooked your meal, start heating a pot of water for washing dishes – this will mean you don’t have to restart your stove or keep your campfire going, and you’ll have clean up over with as quickly as possible.
Leave No Trace
No matter where you’re headed, always make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles when camping. In a broad sense, this means keeping your campsite clean and packing out absolutely everything that you brought with you. Dispose of your trash correctly, bring all leftover food with you, and always use a toilet (or dig a really deep hole far away from all water sources).
Read more: 10 Best Free Campgrounds in Northern California
What does dispersed camping mean?
In a nutshell, dispersed camping is when you skip any designated campgrounds and set up camp anywhere there’s public land. Not only is dispersed camping convenient, but it’s also free and fun.
While this strategy obviously forgoes all amenities, by going dispersed camping you’ll be able to stay in some of the most beautiful spots in the country, have the convenience of not having to check in with a ranger, and be able to come and go on your own time.
Unless otherwise noted, it’s legal to camp on any federally-owned lands, including national forests, grasslands, trailheads, parking lots, truck stops, and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. To make sure you’re in a place where dispersed camping is allowed, double-check online or call the BLM office, and be aware of any signs that can confirm or deny.
What to Pack on a Camping Trip
Camping Gear: Before you go, invest in a quality tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, headlamp, and hammock. Spending a little money on these items will go a long way to keeping you safe and comfortable in the great outdoors.
Cookware: I always have a storage bin, cooking set, camping stove, lighter & matches, and clean up supplies with me while camping. I also always camp with this water filtration system for those just-in-case moments.
Toiletries: Always make sure to pack ample bug spray, sunscreen, and soap! I love this soap from Dr. Bronner’s – you can use it as dish soap, body wash, and face wash.
Electronics: While it’s always nice to go off the grid, should something go wrong I always bring a power bank, a portable camping lantern, a rechargeable phone case, and a car charger.
Entertainment: While you may be spending your days exploring some nature trails or heading to a nearby lake, it’s great to have a few ways to unwind after a long day outside. I always bring a deck of cards, a board game, and a good book.
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