camping guide

The Complete Beginners Guide To Camping (Updated-2019)

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Too many people limit their idea of camping to long hikes, tent setups, campfires and awkward conversations with strangers in the wild outdoors – but let us assure you that it is so much more than that.

We all live our day-to-day surrounded by the immense traffic of a relentlessly busy life. Smog, dust, and city lights cloud our vision of the stars at night; skyscrapers and busy streets prevent us from appreciating the beauty of nature.

The solution? A vast expanse of indigo sky watching over you, with stars serving as your rooftop for the night. Camping in the midst of such natural bliss gives us a needed reminder of the beauty of Mother Nature.

Sleeping outdoors provides the experience of a lifetime: a chance to detox from daily life and all the stresses that come with it.

Nature is the perfect antidote to calm your overwhelmed mind and escape the constant flow of challenging situations that life places in our path.

Why Camping?

Before we begin tempting you to go to camping with your friends and family, here’s a video by Nick Godsell, that will feed your camping inspiration

Camping is an ideal way to spend time with your family and friends, to escape the busy life of the city and instead bask in the quiet and fresh surroundings that nature has to offer.

Benefits like exercise and fresh air are easily recognized, but there are even more profound advantages to camping, like a long-term improvement in your mental and physical health.

The experiences, growth opportunities, and benefits of camping can even help you develop as an individual, so that you see the positive ripple effects in your personal and professional life.

What are the benefits of camping?

1- Socialization

Camping provides you time away from the daily hustle and bustle of life. It allows you to not only socialize but even deepen bonds with your close ones, far removed from any distractions from work.

The American Journal of Public Health states that socializing can delay memory problems and extend your lifespan.

2- Personality Development

Meeting new people at your campsite, chatting, and networking – a weekend of camping could take you a long way in life in terms of developing yourself as an individual.

According to research, talking to new people increases your level of confidence, which in turn helps you to develop your personality.

3- Enhances Problem Solving Skills

Have you ever had a rough day, but realized by the end of it that you had learnt and grown ten-fold compared to a typical day?

Experiencing life outside of your comfort zone improves your capacity to problem-solve. Even beyond the moment or problem at hand, such out-of-your-comfort-zone experiences build your skill-set for solving analytical and real-life problems too.

4- Disconnect from the Outside World

Camping is a great chance to unplug from your smartphones and laptops, and spend some time with your loved ones. Research shows that having good relationships and strong social ties can help you live longer, and it certainly ensures you a fuller life.

5- Personal Well-Being

To become a well-adjusted, successful individual, one needs to possess certain social skills for developing positive relationships with others.

Several studies have concluded that positive relationships are key to a person’s happiness and well-being, and good social skills influence positive relationships.

Hence, we can conclude that activities that promote meeting new people and developing interpersonal skills will both help you develop your own well-being and will benefit your personal life and professional career.

6- Connection with Nature

camping girl

While camping, you have the opportunity to get close to nature and appreciate all the beauty on this earth and in the skies above it. There is nothing quite like it, and we highly recommend taking your family along for this experience of a lifetime.

7- New Challenges

Camping takes you out of your comfort zone, and it is a challenge both for the body and the mind.

Studies from the University of Texas and the University of Michigan show that new experiences help keep the brain healthy and one’s mental health strong.

New activities that are physically and mentally taxing help maintain the health and stamina of the brain, and camping fits both these criteria.

Apart from the general benefits discussed above, camping is highly beneficial specifically for your health as well. Let’s have a look at these health benefits, both physical and mental.

Health Benefits of Camping

1- Fresh Air

The first step of any camping adventure? The tedious process of setting up a tent.

After all that hard work, you take a deep breath of clean, fresh oxygen that fills up your lungs: the feeling of the purest breath you have ever taken.

But it’s not just a feeling.

The high number of trees and low amount of pollution provide your surrounding air a high amount of oxygen.

Your brain functions better with these increased levels of oxygen and releases a chemical called serotonin, which makes you feel happy and releases stress-relieving hormones.

In addition to this, fresh air lowers blood pressure, improves digestion and boosts your immune system.

2- More Exercise

Camping involves a lot of physical activity in high range altitude.
Because of the difficult terrain and low pressure, the level of strain and stress our muscles go through is challenging and burns a lot of calories.

This is good for the body and activates your cardiovascular system. It is also beneficial to the health of your heart and lungs.

3- Sunshine and Vitamin D

Camping provides you a chance to spend extra time in the sun, and more exposure to the sun means increased Vitamin D. This allows your body to absorb calcium and phosphorous, which strengthens your bone health and teeth.

Sunshine can also regulate insulin levels and aid in diabetes management.Vitamin D also supports the health of your immune system, brain and nervous system.

4- Less Stress 

Life can be incredibly overwhelming at times; do you ever feel the need to run away from your daily responsibilities and escape to the quiet? We all know this is not a viable way to live life, but camping provides a solution to catch your breath and  relax those stress levels for a while before having to get back to normal.

It is also extremely important to take a break from technology every so often. There is a strong possibility that you will not get any wi-fi or mobile network at your campsite, so while this may seem an impossible way to live, even your short stay will do wonders for your mental health.

5- Decreases Depression & Anxiety

According to research, natural greenery reduces depression levels by 71%. Therefore, camping is a great way to soothe anxiety issues. Being surrounded by a vast forest or meadow of green trees and plants will alleviate your mood, help you release current stress, and aid in avoiding depression in the future as well.

6-Good Food

While camping, you tend to eat different foods than at home. What you eat depends on what you pack (so pack items that are easy to cook, and avoid too much junk) – with one exception: fishing. If you are into fishing, you will likely consume a large amount of protein on your camping trip.

You will not intake any preservatives or unnatural ingredients in freshly caught fish, and all of the exercise from your outdoor activities will help you digest the food too. 

7- Meditation

The Mayo Clinic reports that meditation may improve a series of serious medical conditions by increasing self-awareness and bringing a sense of calm to a person’s demeanor. 

Also, the fresh environment that camping provides sets the tone for tranquility, making it an ideal setting in which to improve your concentration levels through meditation in such quiet and serene surroundings.

8-Sleep Better

Do you suffer from lack of sleep, or even a mild case of insomnia?

A study in 2013 by the University of Colorado found that camping can reset our biological clocks and help people with sleep issues improve their sleep cycle

A Brief History of Camping

thomas hiram camping

Tents have been used for centuries by a wide range of cultures such as Native Americans, Mongolians, and Central Asian nomads. They have also been utilized by the armies of many different cultures, who used them to sleep as they moved from place to place.

The first handbook of camping was released in 1908, by Thomas Hiram Holding. His book gives a detailed account of the essentials of camping; Holding is regarded to this day as the father of modern-day recreational camping.

Early camping equipment was very heavy, so it was generally transported using boats. But despite this inconvenience, Mr. Holding was able to popularize the practice of camping in the United Kingdom.

In the United States, camping can be traced back to William Henry Harrison Murray and his 1869 publication of Camp-Life in the Adirondacks, which resulted in a crowd of campers flooding to the Adirondacks that season.

The world’s first commercial campground was Cunningham’s Camp, near Douglas, Isle of Man, which was opened in 1894.

Who Should You Camp With and Why?

Camping can be done with friends, family, or even office colleagues as a weekend gateway.

It is a good way to escape the busyness of everyday life, to unplug, and to reconnect with nature. Camping is a good way to detox from life’s toxic stress culture, and even to learn more about your relatives, spouse, or friends –whoever joins you for your camping adventure.

There are many ways to go camping:

Solo Camping

From trying to coordinate the schedules of multiple people, to making sure everyone is bringing their gear and taking proper responsibility, camping with others can turn into a big headache.

So, how do you enjoy all the benefits of camping without all the stress? You go camping alone.

At your own pace and in your own zone, camping is great fun and there is no need to manage finances or adjust your plans according to anyone else. To camp in a group, you have to be on the same wavelength as everyone, which is no easy feat. Therefore, if the above issues sound all too familiar, or potentially stressful – camping alone is the thing for you.

Solo camping can also teach you a lot about nature, and give you a deeper introspective view on life too.

Camping with Family

One of the best things that a family can do is plan a camping trip together. Staying outdoors is a great way to deepen familial bonds while you get in touch with nature and experience the mountains, lake or campgrounds.

Camping with your family can be a very memorable experience for everyone involved; with few distractions and plenty of opportunities for bonding activities, it can bring out the best in your family.

With Friends

friend camping

Friends tend to bring about the best of times in your life, and are simply irreplaceable when it comes to having a good time. With friends, camping is all about going with the flow and relaxing, being your true self – which can be so beautifully stress-free.

Basics of Camping

There is a lot to know about camping, yes, but it does not have to be complicated or impossible – camping can be a smooth process if you plan ahead and use your resources well.

To ensure that your camping trip is a good experience overall, and that you know how to stay out of harm’s way, here’s a video to cover the basics

Make sure you follow our steps below to make camping a fun and interesting experience for you and your entire group:

  • The Right Gear: Research and plan what to bring, based on your camping environment and length of stay out in nature. Be mindful of the amount of weight you’ll carry – it can be quite an incumbering issue to carry all the weight in your backpack, depending on the terrain. Forget the luxuries and pack the absolute essentials.
  • Choose a Backpack: Based on the length of your trek, you will have particular needs for your backpack. The volume of a pack is generally measured in liters, and a backpack with a capacity of 60 – 80 liters should be ideal for any camping trip.
  • Sleep Well: A sleeping bag, a sleeping cushion and obviously a tent are must-haves. The size of the tent depends on the number of people it will be housing for the campout. Make sure that the tent is weather resistant (to rain, snow, or excessive sun, of course depending on your camping location and conditions). A sleeping bag should be comfortable and portable, to say the least; you can search for one with additional features if desired.
  • Food: Unless you are bringing all pre-packaged meals, be sure you carry some charcoal, fire starters, wood, newspaper, matches, and utensils with you to your camp. Keep sand and water nearby to make sure that the fire is safely put out when you’re done.
  • Apparel: Dress for utility, not to impress. Synthetic and wool fibers, and raingear, are your best friends when camping outdoors. They will help you stay comfortable, dry and happy, even in dire open-air conditions.
  • Utility Items: A flashlight, a swiss army knife, extra batteries, and a phone charger make camping much safer and easier.
  • Water: It isn’t practical to carry potable drinking water for the whole trip, especially if you’re planning a longer trek. So just bring as much as you can carry, and also think about packing a water filtration system or water treatment tablets.
  • Shoes/Boots: While sneakers are great for most trips, longer backpacking treks require proper hiking boots or shoes. If you prefer additional ankle support, stability and padding, go for the boots. If you’re agile and prefer to jump over obstacles, trail runners are your best bet.
  • First Aid Kit: You will need the usual antibiotic cream, gauze, and bandages but you will also need to add in camping-specific materials such as aloe vera or burn cream for burns, bug sprays for mosquitos, and moleskin to help with blisters. If you want to build your own kit, here is a good checklist from the Washington Trails Association.
  •  Cooking Stove: Depending upon the type of trip you’ve planned, you can carry a big, bulky cooking stove or a lightweight portable one. The former works great for a more stationary camping trip while the latter is much easier to carry for a backpacking trip.
  •  Utensils: The utensils used for camping are usually the same as the ones at home except these are lighter, designed to be easier to pack, and are usually made of stainless steel or plastic.
  •  Meal Plans: This is an important part of camping because you’ll be doing a lot of outdoor walking. Here is one way to plan your camping meals from Backpacker. It is also prudent to carry instant coffee or a portable press to deal with those caffeine cravings.
  • Odds and Ends: Your camping gear will vary depending upon where you’re camping. Bicycling trips require different equipment from fishing or desert camping trips. Pack odds and ends specific to your trip sensibly.
  • Trash Bags: The whole point of camping outdoors is to enjoy the beauty of nature, so do your part to preserve it when you go camping. Carry trash bags to collect your garbage so you can dispose of it properly once your trip is over.

Looking for some useful hacks? This Buzzfeed video also suggests some basic camping gear hacks that can make life a lot easier.

Where to Go Camping

An important question to answer for yourself is where you decide to go camping. How do you make that decision, with endless options of campsites?

There are plenty of factors to consider. The first of these, of course, is experience. Are you a newbie or an experienced camper? There are regions that only someone with experience can handle and it would be a mistake to try to tackle them on your first outing. Such a failed attempt may put you off the experience entirely.

Another factor that is as important as experience is your fitness level. Remember that many of the areas you might want to camp in are protected - this means that cars aren’t allowed. Be sure that you’re physically ready to take on the miles of walking these hikes require.

Weather and the general climate is something else to keep in mind. Are you interested in hiking through a cloud forest or a rain forest? Are you headed to a mountainous region? Will you be camping near a river or lake? Keep an eye on weather forecasts to make sure that your camping experience isn’t a washout.

You might also want to consider whether you want to do ‘real’ camping - sticking a tent anywhere in the woods - or whether you want to glamp - the more glamorous version of camping where you have access to a host of home comforts. If the latter is what interests you, Bustle has a list of unusual camping sites you might be interested in.

If risk or danger is your thing, Grunge has got just what you need here.

Backcountry Camping

Want to get away from it all? If you’re looking to get back to nature in the most pure environment possible, backcountry camping is just what the doctor ordered.

Wondering what the heck backcountry camping is? It’s simple. This is camping in its ‘realest’ form. You’re far from civilization and its trappings such as roads and buildings. Backcountry campsites usually require hours of hiking and maybe even a boat ride or two to reach.

If you’re new to this term and this style of camping, here’s a handy guide from the National Park Foundation that tells you how to prepare.

Famous Backcountry Destinations

Excited about backcountry camping but stumped about where to go? Here are some beautiful campsites in the American National Parks that will rejuvenate your soul.

  • Andrew’s Creek Camp: This alpine campsite is located in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The site is hemmed in by cliffs with a babbling brook that is fed by the glacier to its west. You can even hike around The Loch, a lake that mesmerizes all with its reflections of snowy mountain peaks.
  • Pine City Trail: You can find this craggy and boulder-strewn trail in Joshua Tree National Park in California. There is nothing between you and the gorgeous nighttime sky but clear desert air. Interested in ghost towns? You’ll find Pine City just a mile and a half north of the trail.
  •  Boston Basin High Camp: The North Cascades National Park in Washington offers you a stunning view of mountainous peak after mountainous peak. The best time to visit is early summer when you can enjoy the snow without the bitter cold.
  • Powell Plateau: No list of backcountry destinations is complete without at least one offering from Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, and Powell Plateau is the best. A ledge-side campsite, it provides access to breathtaking views of Galloway and Bedrock canyons.
  •  Upper Telanika River, Backcountry Unit 6: All sorts of colors distinguish this campsite in the Denali National Park in Alaska. White snowcapped peaks, blue mountains, green mountainsides, and purple fireweed are all vibrant gifts for your eyes.

These are only a few of the many backcountry campsites that you can access in the United States. Want to expand your horizons a bit more internationally? Lostwaldo offers you backcountry destinations around the world.

Car Camping (RV)

RV camping or car camping

RV is short for recreational vehicle. This is usually a trailer or a motor vehicle in which the interior has been designed as living quarters. Motorhomes, caravans, campervans, and truck campers are some examples.

Car camping goes by many different names including RV camping, caravanning, and car camping. Basically, it means using a vehicle to get to a campsite instead of hiking or boating to it, and then generally utilizing that vehicle as your shelter during your trip as well.

Since it allows for a vehicle, car camping lets you bring in extra gear for camping, cooking and just enjoying yourself. Campsites vary from a simple grassy field to a properly paved area with picnic tables, charcoal grills and sometimes even a swimming pool!

If you’re new to this or just want some tips on the best way to proceed, Howcast has this to say.

RootsRated has some interesting information for beginners that includes everything from why car camping is a good idea to destinations to basic etiquette and more.

Car Camping Destinations

Going camping with kids? Car camping is your best option. Children need more equipment and car camping is the perfect way to carry it. You can introduce your children to Mother Nature without having to worry about overexposure to her pitfalls.

If you’re wondering where to go, here are some great destinations that you and your family can enjoy.

  • Assateague Island National Seashore Campgrounds: If you’re near Maryland or Virginia, you’ll want to head to this barrier island. Your kids will love catching sight of the wild ponies that run freely on this island. Between two campgrounds with a hundred sites each, you should have no trouble finding a good site at which to camp. You can find more information here.
  • Harrington Beach State Park: The Harrington Beach State Park located along Lake Michigan’s shores offers you not only nature trails but also historic trails. You can also go fishing while your kids indulge in sand volleyball. For more information, check this out.
  • Blanchard Springs: Arkansas’ Ozark National Forest offers you hills, caverns, wilderness, and swimming holes. You get tent pads, showers, restrooms, and grills as well as walks through the forest, some cavern exploration and dips in the surrounding waters. Learn more about Blanchard Springs here.
  • City of Rocks National Reserve: Idaho’s City of Rocks is a national monument. This is quite fortunate for you because it is an important attraction, but it won’t be as crowded as a national park. Drive-in campgrounds offer you conveniences such as picnic tables, showers and vault toilets. Want to know more? Here it is.
  • Namakanipaio Campground: Headed to Hawaii? Volcanoes National Park offers you this fresh, shady campsite with access to the trail that leads to the Kilauea Crater. You can barbecue or warm up in front of a fireplace. Click here for more info.

​​What to Pack?

How can you make sure that your camping experience is rewarding and fun? After all, this one experience can make or break any intentions you have about going camping again. If your first brush with camping turns out to be a disaster, why would you want to return?

So how do you ensure that your camping trip doesn’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth? Well, preparation is key and this includes packing the right stuff, whether it be clothes, equipment, food or water. Let’s explore each in detail. You can view our camping checklist here

Clothes

When packing clothes for camping, there are plenty of factors you have to keep in mind. Where you plan to camp, what season it is, what the weather is like and so on. It’s no fashion show. Instead, you have to plan for bugs, mud and wild flora.

Seems like a tall order, doesn’t it? Don’t worry. We’re on the case. To make things easier for you, here are some tips we’ve compiled that should help you out.

Also, here’s a list of some clothing no-nos.

For Summer Camping

Summer is the most popular time of the year to camp for most people whether they are novices or veteran outdoorsmen. The longer days and nicer weather allow you to discover stunning vistas, enjoy clear night skies and swim in cool waters. All of this is much more enjoyable when you have the right type of clothing with you.

Fabric: The first thing to consider is the type of fabric. You will need fabric that is light and comfortable, and allows for air circulation. Synthetic fabrics such as polyester do the latter but aren’t very comfortable. Natural fabrics such as linen and cotton are comfortable and light but not airy; they absorb moisture.

What should you do then? Your best bet is to go with a cotton-polyester blend that combines all the useful qualities of both those fabrics. Such a blend is durable, comfortable, dries quickly and allows air to circulate.

Now, on to the actual clothes.

Tops: The fundamental rule here is layering. You will probably experience hot days and cool nights. Two layers might be enough during the day or while hiking, but you’ll need more come nightfall or in the early morning hours.

The layer closest to your skin, i.e. your underwear, should be made of breathable material. The next layer should be of material that is light and allows air to circulate. Cotton tops and t-shirts are a good idea.

Remember: PVC traps heat whereas Gore-Tex is your friend while camping.

Bottoms: While you may not need to layer as much on the bottom as you do on top, don’t forget that your bottoms do double duty as protection.

Shorts are always the most comfortable for summer camping, due to the heat. You have a wide variety of choices in colors and patterns. However, if you’re headed towards country that has swampy areas or thorny undergrowth, pants are a better choice. You don’t want to end up with badly muddied or scratched legs!

Footwear: A pair of hiking boots or sneakers is necessary depending upon how much and what type of hiking you plan to do. You can also pack a pair of flip-flops to wear at the campsite.

Do research on snakes and bugs in the area to know how much you need to protect your feet.

But how do you protect your head? Well, in the summers, a simple hat or bandana should do it. You can use it to cover your head to protect it from the sun or you can wear it around your neck to deal with sweat.

Now, let’s see what winter camping entails.

For Winter Camping

Let me guess - the first thing that jumped to mind when you read this heading was “camping in winter? Are you crazy?” We assure you that we aren’t. Camping in winter actually has certain advantages that you may not have considered.

  • The silence is blissful. No crowds, no insects, no leaves rustling.
  • You have a legitimate reason to light campfires since you literally need their life-saving heat.
  • You manage to avoid the huge crowds of summer camping enthusiasts.

Here’s how you can survive and thrive while camping in winter.

Now let’s move on to what clothes to pack and wear.

Fabric: Camping in winter requires more layers. You have to look at moisture-wicking fabrics, materials that keep you the warmest, and fabrics that are windproof and waterproof.

Tops: Camping in winter is all about layering properly. You need at least three layers to ensure that you stay warm while you’re in the cold outdoors.

  • Inner layer or wicking: This is the layer you’ll wear closest to your skin. It should pull moisture away from your body and disperse it into the second layer where the moisture can evaporate.
  • Middle layer or warmth: This is the layer that does the majority of the work to keep you warm. The whole point here is insulation. So stock up on jackets and pullovers made of wool, synthetic insulation, down or fleece.
  • Outer layer or wind and waterproof: The whole point of this layer is to keep you warm while protecting you from water and wind. Windcheaters are what you need here, preferably those that combine wind and waterproofing features with materials you’d use in the middle layer.

Bottoms: Layering matters here too. Don’t wear khakis or jeans, as they do little to keep you warm. Snowboarder pants that are insulated and resistant to water and wind are great. They preserve heat without being bulky.

Head, Hands, and Feet: You can lose heat from your head so it is important to keep it covered. Instead of knit caps, go for Yukon style hats or balaclavas. That way you can keep your head and ears warm. Mittens are always better than gloves at keeping your hands warm. And your feet are warmer inside insulated boots. If you’re going to go through slippery terrain, you might also want to add traction cleats over your boots.

Personal Equipment

There are certain supplies that every camper needs to pack. It doesn’t matter where you’re going or for how long; these things will come in handy every time you go camping, so it is worth investing in high quality gear.

So, what are some packing essentials for a successful camping experience? There are some things that each individual will want to pack and some that you will need to have for the entire group.

If gadgets are your thing, this video is a good guide for camping gadgets.

Let’s have a look at the list of essentials:

Water Bottle

Carry a water bottle instead of a canteen. Let’s face it, water from a canteen always ends up having a peculiar taste. Plus, a water bottle allows you to cook soup! A plastic bottle with a wide mouth, often called a Nalgene bottle, is one of the most commonly used ones. Also having a hydration bladder is a good thing.

Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag offers you dual advantages - it provides you a cushion from the rough ground and, of course, it keeps you warm. You can even bring along a sleeping pad for extra cushioning and Camping pillow if you have the space for it. Check our guide to best double sleeping bag and Best Sleeping Bag for Hammock.

Multitool Kit

One of the most common examples of a multitool kit is a Swiss army knife. If you carry a multitool kit, you save space while carrying scissors, a knife blade, screwdrivers, pliers, and more, all in one compact tool.

Flashlight

This is a must-have for every single camper in your group. Each one of you should carry at least one flashlight. If you’re wearing a headlamp, you still need the flashlight because it is more reliable than the former.

First-Aid Kit

No camping trip is safe without one. It may be tempting to carry only a few basic medical supplies, but a well-stocked first-aid kit could literally save your life. As with the survival kit, you can buy one or assemble it yourself.

Survival Kit

No matter how well you’ve planned your trip, things can go wrong. A survival kit is a godsend if the unthinkable happens and you’re faced with a worst-case scenario. You can make your own survival kit or buy one that has already been assembled.

Campsite Equipment

In addition to things that each individual camper should carry, there are items that the entire party will need. You can distribute these items amongst yourselves when it comes to packing because you will all be sharing them anyway. Of course, if you’re going solo (not recommended for a beginner) you will have to carry everything yourself.

Tent

There are a few hardy souls out there who brave sleeping out in the open when in nature. Not one of them? You have a variety of options. You can go for a basic two-person tent or you can invest in four-person tent or even six-person tent. Take the number of campers in your group into account.

You can distribute the tent parts amongst the whole group for packing. One person can carry the main shell of the tent while someone else carries the poles and so on.

Check our guide to Best Dome Tent, Best Waterproof Tent, Best Multi-Room Tent, Best tent for beach and Best Cabin Tent.

Camp Stove

In your daydream of the perfect camping trip, you’ve probably seen yourself cooking over the open campfire. Reality check? Campfires aren’t easy to cook on. Plus, in areas prone to wildfires, you aren’t even allowed to start a campfire.

A camp stove is your safest and best choice. Carry one stove per two people, to be able to cook sufficient food for everyone at the same time. That means that if you’re a party of six, you should carry three stoves. Don’t forget the fuel.

Water Filter

No matter how clear the water in that babbling brook or transparent lake may seem, always, always filter it before you drink it. Carry water filtration systems with you. Carrying more than one makes the process convenient and fast when you’re thirsty.

Map

This one is vital even if you’re planning to hike along well-marked trails. A paper map is best. Digital maps or GPS like Garmin eTrex 10 have more information than paper maps but they’re dependent on a decent signal, which you may not get while out in the woods.

Mess Kit

You’ll need to this in order to cook your food. You can buy these at most camping stores. Consider the kinds of food you’re packing when deciding upon the type of mess kit to bring.

This is just a basic list. Obviously, you will need to add and tweak items as per your needs. And, of course, the list will vary depending upon whether you’re going car camping or backpacking. Consider all these factors while deciding what gear to take with you.

What to Eat?

cooking food on campfire

You’re all set for your camping trip - well, almost. One of the most important things that you will need regardless of what type of camping trip you’re taking is food. After all, you can only enjoy the great outdoors properly if you’re fed and satisfied with good food.

There are some things that you need to consider when planning the meals for your trip. Let’s take a quick look.

  • Nutrition: Energy bars aren’t going to be enough. For the long haul you need proper nutrition that includes proteins and complex carbs. Dried fruits and nuts are great sources of both.
  • Taste: If you don’t like the taste of something when you’re at home, you aren’t going to like it when you’re camping either. Pack according to your taste buds.
  • Calories: Camping is a rigorous activity. If you don’t want to end up tired and dehydrated make sure you ingest plenty of calories and water.
  • Weight and size: Remember, you’re going to have to carry that food. Try packing food that isn’t bulky and weighs less. You can even divide up the food into plastic baggies that are resealable to minimize bulk and disperse weight.
  • Water: Determine whether your camping location will have enough water available to be able to use it to cook. If not, you might want to rethink your camping meal choices.
  • Preparation: You have a camp stove so you can cook, yes. But try not to aim for elaborate meals. It’s also a good idea to pack some meals that don’t require any cooking, just in case. Check out the no cooking meals for camping here.
  • Cost: Easy-to-cook and no-cook meals can be more expensive than you may have bargained for. However, remember that when the day ends and you’re exhausted, these meals save the day.
  • Fuel: The longer something takes to cook, the more fuel it will consume. Look up the cooking times of the foodstuffs you’re taking along so you carry enough fuel to last you.

Freeze Dried Food

The first thought you may have upon hearing the words ‘freeze dried food’ is yuck! Isn’t that the tasteless mush astronauts have to eat in space?

Well, have we got news for you. Freeze dried food has entered the realm of camping enthusiasts. Trust us, it’s anything but tasteless. Before we begin to sing its praises though, let’s walk you through some more info about freeze dried food.

What is freeze drying Food?

The first question here is - how is food freeze dried? Well, here’s how it goes. Cooked or uncooked food is frozen quickly. Once frozen, it goes into a vacuum. This vacuum turns the ice from the frozen food into vapor and voila! Freeze dried food, at your service.

Now, this process actually has a lot of advantages when it comes to food for camping. First of all, thanks to the process, the foods have a long shelf-life (almost 25 years in some cases). There is no moisture so they don’t spoil quickly.

Second, freeze dried food retains 80 to 90 percent of its nutrition. The process only sucks out the water not the nutrients, which makes it a healthy option to deliver all the nutrients you need while camping.

Third, freeze dried foods are extremely convenient. All you have to do, when you’re ready to eat, is add boiling water to the food. It’s ready! At the end of a long and tiring day, who really wants to cook. Freeze dried foods allow you to satisfy your hunger and enjoy your trip. Plus, they’re really lightweight and therefore, easy to carry.

Fourth, did you know that there is a HUGE variety of freeze dried foods out there? You want pasta primavera? You’ve got it. In the mood for some chicken gumbo or spaghetti with meat sauce? Coming right up! All you’ve got to do is add hot water.

Can I freeze dry my own food?

Of course. However, to do so you need a freeze-drying machine. This is costly and the process takes a long time. In fact, freeze drying machines can cost thousands of dollars.

If you still want to buy one, you can get it from stores that sell cooking equipment to restaurants and eateries.

Freeze dried food isn’t the cheapest choice when deciding upon your meal plans for a camping trip. However, the convenience and the abundance of flavors makes this meal option more than worth the price.

Cooking on a Camping Trip

Cooking while on a camping trip is a different experience altogether. A certain old-fashioned charm adds a special flavor to camp food that your kitchen at home simply doesn’t provide. It is also fun to get together at the end of a long day and come up with a tasty meal from scratch.

However, since no mod-cons are available, you have to be patient. Cooking while camping requires not just time but a fair amount of ingenuity. Here are some ways in which you can make the best of the experience.

Plan Ahead

Like most elements of your camping trip, cooking also requires that you plan ahead. You don’t want to end up in the middle of the woods without necessary ingredients or equipment. Also, what if the weather doesn’t cooperate? You need to be as prepared as possible.

The best way to go about it? Make a list and check it twice. Check items off as you pack them. This ensures that you don’t forget anything important.

Decide on Cooking Supplies

Are you going backpacking or car camping? Backpacking limits the amount you can carry while car camping means you can bring everything but the kitchen sink. Either way, there are some essentials that you need to pack no matter what.

Lighter fluid and a box of matches is a must. You can buy camping cookware but also carry plenty of aluminium foil. It is a great way to cook in the outdoors, and you can also use it instead of plates so that you have less utensils to clean.

Check the Cooler Space

Cooler space is vital, especially if you’re bringing beverages. In fact, carry a second cooler if you’re planning to bring lots of drinks. Instead of ice, you can carry bottles of frozen water. They act as ice packs as long as the water is frozen and then they serve as your water supply.

You should pack items such as meat and rice in Ziploc bags or resealable bags. This ensures that no space is wasted. Don’t open the cooler any more than is strictly necessary or your ice packs will melt even faster.

Decide on Your Cooking Method

You’re going to have to weigh this decision depending upon your circumstances. Cooking over a campfire sounds fun but can be quite time-consuming. To save time, you can wrap food in aluminum foil and place this in the hot coals to bake.

It’s a good idea to carry cooking stoves too. Certain regions don’t allow campfires because of the concern regarding wildfires; you will need an alternative method to cook in such cases. Do your research before you set out.

Here are some camp cooking tips that can make your experience easier.

Provided you’ve planned well, cooking while camping can be a lot of fun and result in some surprisingly delicious meals. Breathe in the clean air, let the sounds of nature soothe you and enjoy your naturally cooked food.

What to cook?

Fortunately, you have plenty of options. You can barbecue outside, make campfire treats such as spiced nuts, heat up freeze dried foods or make simple pastas. You can even carry festival pies that can feed a whole family and last for two meals.

Want more ideas? Here are some great camping food ideas.

Water

The most important resource you need while camping is water. Now, you may be under the impression that water at campgrounds is always safe to drink but that isn’t necessarily the case.

It is safest to carry your own water when you go camping. This isn’t a problem when you’re car camping. However, keep in mind that if you’re going backpacking, space is limited. Unless you’re only going for an overnight trip, you won’t be able to carry enough water to last you your whole campout.

What do you do in such a case? Fortunately, there are some ways in which you can make any water safe to drink. Follow one of these methods and you should be good to go.

Boil Water

This is the age-old, tried and tested method for ensuring that the water you collect is safe to both drink and wash with. Simply collect water in a container or pot and heat it over a fire. Make sure it boils for a complete minute. Here’s a demo​​​​.

Use Water Purification Tablets

There are two types of tablets you can use - iodine and chlorine. The method for each is simple. Take water in a container and add the tablet. Then let the water stand for 15 to 20 minutes.

Keep in mind that iodine tablets are not recommended for those who have thyroid issues and for pregnant women. Watch this to know more.

Use Water Filtration Systems

Water filters are easily available in a variety of sizes and are portable. They are great at filtering out protozoa or bacteria. However, they aren’t as effective with viruses. Filters strain water through their internal devices and also filter out mud. This demo helps provide further understanding.

If you want more detail, this is what WikiHow has to say.

How Do You Navigate While Camping?

Camping offers you glorious experiences in the wild and picturesque outdoors. However, those experiences can turn sour if you get lost in nature’s vastness and cannot find your way back. In fact, a surprising number of people are wary of going camping just because of this fear.

Fortunately, these days camping is also a lot easier than it used to be thanks to the gazillion modern conveniences we have at our disposal. One of those mod cons is GPS. Many established campsites have sitemaps that you can use along with your GPS to navigate.

Most people believe that all they really need when they set out camping is a GPS or a navigation app. If you’re going along well-established trails and using well-known campsites this is true. But what if you go backcountry camping?

Remember that phones are not invincible; they run out of charge, you can lose the signal or even drop the device and break it. And what then - how do you navigate in these circumstances?

Here are some tried and tested navigation tips that will come through for you, no matter what your surroundings.

Pay Attention to Surroundings

Always look around and keep track of where you are. Carry a regular topographic map and relate everything you see to the map. It’s a great way to identify your relative position.

Start Easy

If you’re new to camping, don’t go off-trail just yet. Start learning how to use your map and compass while using established trails. Once you’re proficient here, you can be adventurous and explore a bit more off the beaten path.

Study Your Route

Do this before you set out. It’s best to use a topographic map for this so you can form a mental picture of the valleys, mountains, cliffs, glaciers, rivers, ridges and so on.

Pack Sensibly

Don’t bury the map and compass at the bottom of your pack. Keep them where they are easy to grab. A pocket on your backpack or on your person is ideal.

Be Patient

If you’re in doubt about your position, take five minutes to resolve these doubts. Do not panic and act in a hurry. Make the time to study your surroundings and consult your map. Above all, don’t start moving again until you’re clear about where you are.

Frankly, knowing how to use a map and compass is a skill every camping enthusiast, whether newbie or veteran, should possess. Things can go wrong with a GPS land having this skill to fall back on makes life a lot easier, and gives you more confidence in your camping activities.

Things to do While Camping

around compfire

What do you actually do when you go camping (besides all the walking)? Never fear, boredom is hardly a possibility when you have such a plethora of activities to choose from. You can hike, stargaze, swim, cook, read, take photographs, converse with other campers, fish, setting on your camping chair to see the surrounding, meditate, and much more.

Camping is a personal experience; there is so much you can tailor to your own preferences and interests to make it rewarding for yourself. However, if you’re still not sure, we’ve compiled a short list of activities you can enjoy while you’re out there. Choose from these or take them a step further and personalize them.

Want to make your next outdoor vacation more fun? Here’s a list of things you can do.

Sports

Many campsites and car camping resorts offer you a wide variety of sports that you can enjoy with your group or family. In addition, of course, there are games that don’t require hardly any equipment. You can play soccer, football, frisbee, baseball and even lawn golf. You can also try your hand at hide and seek, capture the flag and tag.

Explore Nature

You’re already out in the wilderness, so what better time to explore the nature around you? Find out the nearest scenic overlooks or waterfalls and hike to them. Find a swimming hole, lake or river and go swimming. There is plenty to discover and enjoy.

Comfort and Relaxation

One of the reasons any of us goes camping is to relax and breathe in the peace and comfort of nature, far from the maddening crowds and nonstop busyness. So, set up a fire (provided it’s allowed), cook your food and just gaze into it afterwards. Trust us, it’s better than TV.

Alternatively, bring along a musical instrument and have a sing-along with your friends or family. If you’re camping solo, take your dog with you. It’s a great time to bond with your best furry friend.

Card and Board Games

A single pack of cards can do wonders to stave off boredom. Indulge in low stakes poker - you can use pinecones or pebbles as stakes. A game of bush rummy can be quite invigorating. Even a pack of Uno cards can be surprisingly entertaining.

Here are some card game ideas.

If board games are more your scene, carry some along. Remember to keep in mind space when you’re deciding which ones to take. Cards Against Humanity, Chess, and Hive are just a few suggestions of board games you can enjoy while camping.

Check out more board games for further entertainment.

How to Stay Safe While Camping?

Exploring the great outdoors and getting back to nature can be both fun and meaningful. Whether you go camping alone or with family or friends, you end up creating memories that last a lifetime.

However, a lot of this fun can be marred if you haven’t paid attention to your safety and security. After all, danger and injuries are not a welcome part of any camping experience.

Simply do a little bit of research before you set out to ensure your trip is all fun and no danger. Also, don’t forget to let someone know where you’re going.

This is what the National Parks Services has to say.

Wildlife

One of the reasons we go camping is to reconnect with nature. However, there is such a thing as too much reconnection. Imagine waking up to a bear poking its head inside your tent to see if you have any goodies for it!

That is definitely not our idea of fun and we’re sure it isn’t yours either. Here are some ways that you can prevent animals and bugs from bothering you so you can enjoy what nature has to offer - from a safe distance.

Animals

One of the first things you have to keep in mind is the specific campsite you select. Do some research beforehand to know what kind of animals frequent the area.

Areas with water or woods attract snakes, bears and raccoons. Avoid piles of rocks or leaves and tall grasses as they are generally also home to snakes as well as insects. Marshy areas have lots of bugs and again attract bears.

It’s not possible to stay away from all of these natural elements, and odds are you may end up in one or the other of these areas. So, here are a few tips to keep the critters away from your campsite.

  • Lock your cooler so animals can’t access it. Wrap it up with rope for extra protection.
  • Place fabric softener sheets everywhere in your campsite, since their odor repels animals and covers the smell of food.
  • Use granular or liquid repellents to keep animals away.
  • Store all your trash in garbage bags, preferably the heavy duty kind.

Want more tips? Here they are.

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are hands-down the most annoying insects you’ll encounter on your camping trip. Instead of enjoying the serenity, you’ll find yourself busy slapping at all exposed skin in endless attempts to kill them (which doesn’t really work).

Unfortunately, most campsites will have this problem; mosquitos are simply an annoying side effect of being out in nature. Therefore, the trick is come prepared to make them go away. Here are ways to keep the pesky bugs far, far away from you.

  • Use a DIY repellent spray.
  • Burn sage.
  • Use essential oils.
  • Add coffee grounds to stagnant water.
  • Eat garlic.
  • Wear a bug repellent bracelet.

More details about getting rid of these buzzing nuisances.

Here’s how you can make night camping safe.

Fire

Fire prevention and safety is a major feature of keeping your home safe. But what about when you’re out camping? After all, you need fires in the wild, right?

Fire safety becomes absolutely crucial when you head out into the mountains or the woods. There is the threat of wildfires, of course. But you also have to worry about lesser-known dangers such as CO or carbon monoxide poisoning, especially if you are in an RV or trailer.

Here are a few basic tips that can help you reduce the possibility of an out-of-control fire.

  • Build a fire ring to contain embers and ash.
  • Use only the recommended wood.
  • Don’t use petrol or ethanol to start a fire.
  • Clean up ashes and embers after a barbecue.
  • Cook outside so you don’t risk CO poisoning.
  • Use only dead wood.
  • Don’t smoke. If you must, put your cigarette out completely so no flickers remain.

Here’s a detailed list of precautions to take.

Injuries

Roughing it out in the wild is a lot of fun. But the very term ‘roughing it’ implies that you will have spills, scrapes, cuts and bruises. Some even consider this part and parcel of the camping experience.

While some boo-boos are inevitable, do you really want to be seriously injured while out in the wilderness? We don’t think so. Fortunately, there are ways of avoiding injuries while on the trail. Let’s take a look.

  • Make sure to drink plenty of water. It prevents dehydration and heatstroke.
  • Wear and carry sunscreen whenever you’re out camping to prevent sunburn.
  • Observe basic fire safety precautions to avoid burns.
  • Keep kids at a safe distance from barbecues and campfires.
  • Use insect repellent to keep away the bugs.

Here’s how you can avoid some common injuries.

Having said this, it is important to note that things can simply go wrong, no matter how well you prepare. Injuries aren’t always avoidable. An absolute must-have during your camping trip is a first-aid kit. Sometimes, it can mean the difference between life and death.

A good first-aid kit should have some of the following items:

  • Sterile gauze
  • Roll bandages
  • Adhesive tape
  • Cotton swabs
  • Antihistamine cream
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Burn cream
  • Heat and cold packs
  • Aspirin
  • Antacids
  • Latex gloves
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Safety-pins

This is a good place to start. You can certainly add more items to personalize your own first aid kit. You can even buy assembled kits from a shop or online.

Weather

If this guide has taught you anything thus far, it is that before you set out camping, you need to prepare yourself for what you may experience. Part of that preparation is checking the weather reports to know what temperature and elements are out there waiting for you. With more and more people enjoying camping all throughout the year, it is essential that you keep an eye on the weather.

Here are some ways you can prepare for weather changes:

  • Look at the weather forecast.
  • Keep a weather radio on you as backup.
  • Be mentally prepared for drastic weather changes.
  • If you’re caught in a thunderstorm, seek shelter immediately.
  • In case of heavy winds, try to find a log cabin, a rocky overhang or a cave to get out of them.
  • In case of flood, stay on high ground.

What if you’re camping in the frigid cold of winter or the overwhelming heat of summer? How do you stay warm or cool?

How to stay warm in winter?

If you’re camping in cold weather, here’s what you can do to stay warm.

  • Eat hot food that is high in calories.
  • Put a hot water bottle in your sleeping bag.
  • Always keep a pair of dry socks handy.
  • Wear a hat that covers your ears to prevent loss of heat from your head.
  • Use a four-season tent to keep you warm.
  • Don’t set up camp next to water or in sinkable earth.
  • Buy a warm sleeping bag
  • Have a Camping Heater

How to stay cool in summer?

Want to sleep warm? Here’s how.

For staying cool during the blazing summer heat, here’s what you can do.

  • Wear clothes that protect you from UV rays.
  • Avoid moving around in the sun during midday.
  • Use block ice or bottles of frozen water in your coolers.
  • Carry a solar fan that you can charge up during the day.
  • Go swimming to lower your body temperature.
  • If possible, use peppermint soap to cool your skin.
  • Wear lighter clothes that allow air circulation.

Final Word

And that’s all for now folks! We hope you find this guide comprehensive and helpful as you prepare to go on your first camping adventure. There’s a whole beautiful world of amazing experiences out there waiting for you. Our purpose in creating this guide is to ensure you enjoy as many of them as you can. Ciao for now! 

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camping guide for beginners
camping guide for beginners
camping guide for beginners
camping guide for beginners

About the Author Tim Fox

Since the age of 10, Tim, a writer at Outdoor With J, has enjoyed camping in the great outdoors. Although he loves the peace and quiet of the outdoors, he also likes his creature comforts. Tim’s mission is to make camping a fun and comfortable experience for all. You can find more about him here

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