How To Plan Your First Camping Trip: A Step By Step Guide

How To Plan Your First Camping Trip: A Step By Step Guide

Outdoorsy people who enjoy the wilderness or spontaneous camping trip may tend to make it look effortless. However, we shouldn’t forget that everyone was a first-time camper before becoming a pro. Knowing the basics and gaining a full understanding of how to plan a camping trip is the first step. It may seem daunting at the start, but with proper planning, it can be a whole new adventure to constantly plan towards and look forward to.

Newcomers or beginners who venture out into the great outdoors will definitely have their survival skills put to the test, but don’t let that deter you. Those who are set to join a camping trip for the first time alone, with their friends or family should not worry too much. Instead, check out our tips, and our step by step guide on how to plan your first camping trip below!

1. Personalize your camping trip experience

Setting goals is often a good idea when you’re planning for a vacation. Whether you’re planning a holiday trip abroad or a relaxing weekend in your local retreat center, every type of traveler is bound to have certain expectations that they want to be met. Spending money and time on the things we want to try or the places we want to see is essential in planning a camping trip.

For this instance, know what everyone wants out of this camping trip and find a way to meet halfway in order to achieve full satisfaction. Amateur campers have the option to camp in comfort, to camp on the road, or go camping off the land, it all depends which best suit your style.

Camping in comfort (glamping and yurts)

Glamping in Africa: Elewana Collection in Tanzania and Kenya.
Source: Photo by Flickr user Roderick Eime used under CC BY-ND 2.0

“Glamping” or glamorous camping boasts an upscale approach to sleeping outdoors. It exposes them to the rough and tumbles that nature brings, but with certain amenities, style, and comfort that are still kept intact for guests. It offers well-designed interiors in tents or yurts and has full functionality indoors and outdoors. The most appreciated luxury in this type of camping is an easily accessible bathroom or bathhouse. It also extends its services to top-notch relaxation facilities, such as a swimming pool, a fire pit, an outdoor jacuzzi, and a sauna, among others.

Camping on the road (RV rentals)

RV camping
Source: Needpix

RV rentals and motorhomes make camping on the road a possibility. It’s not only becoming an increasingly popular travel option, but it also challenges travelers on preparing for a camping trip while driving their own hotel around. RV rentals are ideal for cross country travelers who have the patience for a slow, leisurely journey.

There are different types of RV rentals, camper vans, motorhomes, and travel trailers, all with specific features that cater to different needs and types of campers. Camping on the road also poses a couple of challenges like acquiring proper permits and licenses to operate the vehicle. There is also planning certain routes that would be cost and time-efficient for you. However, not having to worry about accommodations and dining options can be quite the relief to some.

Camping off the land (tenting)

Deep Lake tenting campsite - Riding Mountain National Park
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Norm Andreiw used under CC BY 3.0

This is by far the most common type of camping, as it only requires the essentials, plus a sturdy tent. Sleeping on the ground, getting warmth from a fire, and skipping showers is what living off the land is all about. It’s no question that this type of camping isn’t for everybody, but it’s also a unique holiday experience for some.

Traditional camping has been adapted into a past time wherein people are taught how to build a fire, pitch a tent, or even read a compass, should your GPS somehow fail you in the middle of nowhere. Tenting also presents itself as a simplistic way to experience nature. It helps connect your whole body and mind to the wilderness. Seeing wildlife, hiking mountains, and kayaking on lakes are some common activities that people can expect when camping in the wilderness.

2. Make a camping trip checklist

Making a checklist of all the necessary equipment, medication, food, and clothes are part of pre-planning a camping trip. Forgetting what you need the most can be a hassle when going camping, and while as much as we claim to be essentialists when we’re headed for the outdoors, most of the time it doesn’t seem to be the case for unprepared amateur campers.

Camping essentials

Camping Equipment (542927498)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user wetwebwork used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Investing in good quality camping essentials like sleeping bags, tents, flashlights, and first-aid kits is a rule of thumb. When shopping for sleeping bags, make sure to look for the appropriate rating for temperature. Tents with rainfly and ground cloth are considered more optimal for sunny and rainy weather.

Flashlights are the quickest to disappear when camping, so make sure you carry spare batteries or purchase a high-quality, rechargeable flashlight. First-aid kits must be well-stocked and replenished before every camping trip. Other essentials include a water carrier, waterproof containers, and a camping cooler.

Proper clothing

Camping gear
Source: Pikist

When staying out in the wilderness for days, it’s best to keep comfortable yet adequately protected from the elements. This means ensuring you have proper clothing and carry extra ones that are optimum for changing weather. Staying dry is still the best solution, wherever or whenever you’re planning to embark on a camping trip. Some parts of the US are prone to rain, so it’s best to bring rain gear, including ponchos, jackets that have proper warmth-layers, and waterproof shoes, to name a few.

Survival gear

First aid kit
Source: Needpix

This is by far the most important when camping out. As mentioned, first-aid kits should be complete and restocked after prior to every camping trip that you are planning. The basic items that you would usually find in a first-aid kit include antiseptic wash, adhesive bandages, and antibiotic ointments, just to name a few. Ensuring that your skin is protected from harsh sunlight with a bottle of sunscreen, and fending off unwanted insects with repellent should also be considered in your list.

Other required items

Pink Klean Kanteen, Crater Lake National Park
Source: Photo by Flickr user ray_explores used under CC BY 2.0

Those who are keen packers should also take note of other extra items necessary for camping out. For cooking, a camping stove and extra fuel is one you should remember to pack weeks before your trip. Trash bags, containers, and water bottles are other required items for convenient storage and disposal of waste.

3. Make reservations at your desired campgrounds

Cave Springs Campground
Source: Photo by Flickr user Coconino National... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

First-timers should find a camping spot that present amenities that are already familiar to them. As much as everyone wants to believe they can rough it out in the woods, that’s not always the case for new campers. Check availability as early as possible since many holiday campers tend to book the best ones. The earlier you book a campsite, the better you’ll be able to plan for a great camping experience. As an added bonus, those who prioritize wellness during their camping trips can also make reservations for recreational activities at these campgrounds as well.

4. Keep check on the weather

Planning and preparing can only take you so far. In every trip that you’re planning, it’s a rule of thumb to check the weather forecast for the day and even for the rest of the week to properly prepare on which specific items you would need to carry. Spending long days in the outdoors can also affect your health if you’re not prepared for the drastically changing temperatures, especially during sunset. In certain months, depending on the monsoon season, rainy weather is not always easy to avoid, thus the need to stay dry and warm with the proper clothing and gear.

Make sure your sleeping bags are layered for the appropriate temperature

Sleeping bags
Source: Pixabay

This is the first rule when keeping your shelter dry and safe during a campout. Remember to purchase sleeping bags with an appropriate rating for their temperature. For rainy camping trips, best to keep your sleeping bags dry by keeping all of them in the center of your tent and ensure that they do not touch the walls of the tent. This technique will help lessen sleeping bags from being damp off the condensation on the tent’s walls. Also, place your waterproof gear bags on the sides of the tent, while surrounding the sleeping bags in the middle, in order to stay dry during a rainy night.

Ensure your tent is seam-sealed, and has a proper rain-fly

Tent seal
Source: Needpix

Another tip in staying dry is to make sure your tent is of quality and well-suited for whatever harsh weather conditions you encounter. Tents should have a seam sealer, which can be purchased in any available sporting goods store. This will aid in keeping water out of your tent, especially during a sudden storm. High-quality tents often also feature a rain-fly and ground cloth to avoid damp sleeping conditions when camping during the rainy season.

Tarps under a tent will prevent the floor from getting wet

The Gollner's tent, armored against rain with a tarp
Source: Photo by Flickr user Dion Hinchcliffe used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Tarps can be used as a great preventive tool from rainy campgrounds. No one wants to sleep in a damp tent floor, so best to always carry tarp with you in case you have to change sites during your camping trip. This is also a great way to reuse your old tarps at home since you can customize it to the dimensions of your tent.

5. Plan your menu

When camping with a big group, especially those camping with children, feeding them can be a bit of a challenge when you’re in the outdoors. You can only prepare so many snacks and while cooking outdoors may sound like an exciting prospect, it’s not always feasible depending on the location of your campsite. Should you be keen on having meals in the middle of the woods, consider making food preparations and planning a well-thought-out menu in order to save money and time.

Take note of the perishable food

Source: Photo by Flickr user liz west used under CC BY 2.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Keep in mind which meals you plan to cook and which are perishable food. Bring ice coolers if required, but enquire if your campgrounds do provide ice for resupply. If they do not, serve the perishable meals as soon as possible or in the first few hours upon reaching your campsite, to avoid any food wastage.

Use your utensils

Wooden kitchen utensils - spoon, spatula on white
Source: Photo by Flickr user Marco Verch Profe... used under CC BY 2.0

Many people who go camping for the first time tend to believe that roasting by the fire is the best way to go when it comes to feeding themselves. In their hunger, the utensils to take them out of the fire are often overlooked. Ensure that you have the right cooking equipment, such as sealable containers, tongs, or spatula for a more enjoyable cooking experience, and preventing anyone’s hands from being accidentally burnt.

Bring a camping stove with propane

Coleman stove
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user uosɐɾ ɹnɥʇɹɐɔɯ used under CC BY 2.5

Grilling meats and preparing meals don’t always have to be on a stick, the trick is to simply bring your own camping cookware. Some of which include a portable camping stove, utensils, tongs, spatula, and sealable containers for leftovers. Bringing a camping stove with propane is a great alternative for cooking food that doesn’t cook well over an open flame. This is ideal for big families camping in the outdoors for long periods of time.

6. Keep everyone in mind

This is a tip that first-time campers who are going with their loved ones should remember. Whether you’re going camping with your friends or with your family, taking everything step by step is essential. Not everyone is made for the outdoors and those who are trying to experience it for the first time will require some patience. These are some useful ways to facilitate the gap:

Pack up snacks and prepare activities

Trail Mix Snack Bags Kids Food Basket January 03, 20114
Source: Photo by Flickr user Steven Depolo used under CC BY 2.0

Families camping with kids should remember to plan ahead when it comes to their snacks and entertainment. Barbecue is usually the camping food people swear by, but children won’t always eat them. Best to pre-pack individualized meals to avoid tantrums. Keep them entertained with board games, toys, and puzzles, if they’re not a big fan of trees and Mother Nature.

Share responsibilities

Kyle and Rachel Setting Up A Tent
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jason Pratt used under CC BY 2.0

A good way to stay on track during your first camping trip is to keep everyone busy with their own duties. Assign who should gather water, firewood, or see who is willing to take turns tending the cooking pit in order to keep everyone in the loop. In this way, everyone will feel included and contributing to a fun outdoor experience.

Pace it out

Rainforest Hike
Source: Photo by Flickr user Marissa Strniste used under CC BY 2.0

Many first-time campers tend to go all out and plan an ambitious camping trip. While you might feel that you’re ready to tackle the untamed wilderness, it’s often best to stay safe and err to the side of caution. It’s good to remember that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with opting to camp at a popular campground with many people to avoid any rookie mistakes in a bad location.

7. Additional helpful tips

e-mobile GL10P (Yahoo! Wi-Fi)
Source: Photo by Flickr user Tatsuo Yamashita used under CC BY 2.0

Those who plan on cooking their meals outdoors should not fret about bland food. The trick is to pack up your favorite spices and condiments in small containers or Ziplock bags to kick up your outdoor cuisine by a few notches.

When stocking up on camping gear, the most expensive brands aren’t always the best option. Find which ones work effectively which would also boast good value for money.

For emergencies, staying connected is definitely important when out of town and when camping in the outdoors, a good Wi-fi connection is hard to come by. Make sure to carry pocket Wi-fi for GPS tracking and navigation purposes.

Camping for dummies

Camping may not always seem like a breeze a first. However, proper research, planning, and practice can make a huge difference over spontaneity. Packing gear, keeping warm, and securing your tent may be tricky at first, but waking up to stunning views of nature is definitely worth the temporary grief!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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