How to Camp
An Ultimate Beginner's Guide
Now I know what you are telling yourself.....I would really like to camp, it looks fun but I have no idea how to camp, what to bring or what to expect. There are a few things that you really have to determine before you can figure out what you need to do to get ready for your camping trip. Answering the following basic questions will guide you to finding your footing.
1. What type of camping have you decided to do? Did you want to RV camp? Camper/Trailer camp? Tent camp? Backpack/Hike camp? Canoe/kayak camp?
Determining the type of camping you want to do can aid you in what sort of equipment and expertise is needed. For example, you would need a vastly different sort of equipment for RV camping versus hiking camping.
RV Camping (or recreational vehicle camping) is most like living at home because you bring a furnished vehicle that you basically live in with you. You can make your RV just as comfy as you like. Everything that you need from home can most likely be brought with you in your RV. All you really need to think about are what foods and personal items you would like to stock it with. This type of camping is generally for the people who do not like to "rough it" but also might like to be social since many times RV are parked fairly near each other or in similar sections. Though there are some normal maintenance items with RVs, you basically park them and live in them.
Camper or Trailer camping is just a step more rugged than RV camping. Many times campers or trailers do not have showers or toilets, unlike most RVs. Depending on the camper or trailer, a refrigerator may not be included either. Generally, camper or trailer camping is more for people who do not like to sleep on the ground or worry about severe weather but still want to get out there.
Tent camping is generally more for people who would like to "rough it." Tent camping requires you to think about all of your basic needs ahead of time (food, hygiene, restroom requirements, shelter, seeing at night, warmth). There are actually varying levels of tent camping as well. Some people like to bring a tent and shop for all of their needs while others like to camp in more remote areas away from people. Packing for a tent camping trip can be time consuming because you have to think of everything you might need.
Backpacking or Hiking camping is a bit more for the experienced campers. Think about it...everything you think you are going to need you have to be able to strap to your back and carry it for quite a distance. You have to be able to pack well and pack light!
Canoe/kayak camping is much like hiking camping in regards to packing but you have to add another element. You have to make sure that everything is waterproof. Canoe/kayak camping would be for the more experienced camper and of course, for people who know how to canoe and/or kayak.
Recommendations for camping situations:
RV Camping - Shop around and do research before you decide on an RV for purchase. Talk to people who already own them and ask them what they like and don't like about their particular model. Go to RV dealerships and walk through a bunch of them. Maybe, go as far as renting an RV on a small trip to see what you do or don't like about RV camping.
Camper/Trailer Camping - Because there might not be amenities like a refrigerator, more setup and forethought is required. You most likely will have to purchase a cooler or two to keep your food and beverages chilled. Also, you may have to think about generators if you would like to run electrical items. Though you might have beds in the camper you may have to put bedding in.
Tent Camping - Think about the type of tent camping you'd like to do. Does my tent have to be lightweight? Waterproof? Wind sturdy? What size tent do I need (family size or just for me)? What terrain will I be camping on? A good camping tent can make all the difference on your trip.
Backpacking/Hiking Camping - Look for lightweight supplies, as you have to carry them all. Equipment research into lighter weight sturdy hiking backpacks is a good idea. Always check ahead of time if the area you wish to hike and camp allows people to do so. Pay attention to "no trespassing" signs and heed them. Check your weather! You need to know what equipment to pack for the weather. It is also recommended that you camp with a buddy. In case something should happen, there should be someone who can go get help.
Canoe/kayak Camping - It might be advisable to take some canoe or kayak lessons (and swimming lessons) before attempting a camping trip in this way. Perhaps you may wish to rent a canoe or kayak to make sure you like the activity before diving in.
2. Where have you decided to go camping? Are you going to be camping in the Desert? Beach? Forest/woods?
This is a very important question to answer in order to figure out your main needs. You'd prepare very differently for desert camping than you would for camping in the forest.
In Desert camping temperatures can have extreme ranges from the heat of the day to the cold of the night. The biggest threats (most of the year) in the desert are the sun and dehydration. It is very important to protect yourself with sunscreen and drink plenty of water. Due to the dry air you are not aware of how much you are perspiring because it evaporates so quickly off your skin.
Beach camping is very nice but you should prepare for it. Due to the nature of sand it is difficult to weigh things down with normal tent stakes. There are tent stakes that are much longer for this specific purpose. You also must be prepared for the possibility that sand could get into everything. Depending on how deep in the sand you'd like to go you should think about the vehicle you are using to get there. Again, with the nature of sand it may be difficult to dig yourself back out. You may wish to bring a shovel or random piece of wood.
Forest/woods are usually great for shelter from rainstorms and sun. They are also great for hammocks but you have to be aware of biting insects and certain itchy plants. Bug spray would be a huge recommendation for camping in the woods.
3. When or what time of the year are you going camping?
Figuring out what type of weather you are going to have to deal with while camping is key. Personally, I think this is the most important information required to plan a proper camping trip. Of course if you have an RV, this information probably doesn't help you because you aren't exposed to the elements.
Colder weather camping obviously requires warmer clothes but you may wish to consider a warmer camping sleeping bag regardless of what method of shelter you are using.
Wetter weather camping means that your terrain may be more difficult to deal with. If you are tent camping, it would be recommended to lay a tarp under your tent, look for slightly higher ground to pitch your tent and always use your rain flys.
In hotter weather always make sure to keep yourself hydrated. If you bring your water with you, bring lots. If you are hiking camping, you may wish to consider a water treatment or a camping water filter.
Congratulations on taking your first step toward camping by answering these preliminary questions. You are now on your way to planning for a camping trip tailored more to your specific needs and desires.
Below is a list of general items to take camping. Please take from it what works best for you and your situation. Note: Personal items should be included at your discretion.
Things to take camping:
FIRST AID/SURVIVAL KIT
- Prescribed medications
- Snake bite kit
- Calamine lotion
- Insect repellent
- Distilled water
- Rubbing alcohol
- Cotton balls or cotton swabs
- Moleskin (for sore feet)
- Feminine products
- Individually wrapped gauze pads
- Adhesive tape
- Clean old towel or part of bed sheet folded up
- Steristrips (to hold cuts together)
- Motion sickness medicine
- Pepto Bismol
- Aromatic ammonia
- Glucose packs (for diabetics)
- Water purifying tablets or filtration kit
- Razor blades
- Waterproof matches & container
- Solid knife
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Tent (tarp, stakes, rain fly)
- Sleeping bag (sleeping pad for under or air mattress)
- Small hatchet
- Flash lights (& good extra batteries)
- Camping lanterns (with fuel or good extra batteries)
- Disposable butane lighter
- Cooler (& ice)
- Water (and/or water filter or water purification tablets)
- Clothing (weather appropriate)
- Good walking shoes
- Personal toiletries
- Pocket knife
- Canteen (or hydration pack)
- Firewood (bring or buy at campsite)
- Backpack (and/or day pack)
- Games (cards, frisbee, small portable games)
- Camera (& good batteries)
- S'mores fixings (large marshmallows, graham crackers & Hershey's® chocolate)
THINGS OFTEN FORGOTTEN
- Obviously food (canned & packaged usually do well)
- Stove (& fuel or charcoal) or a grill or dutch oven
- Pot & pan (and cooking utensils if planning to cook)
- Cups & plates & eating utensils
- Re-sealable plastic bags
- Plastic containers
- Paper towel or napkins
- Note: If there are bear boxes where you camp.....use them!
- Can opener
- Wine bottle opener
- Soap (dish soap & bar soap)
- Folding shovel
- Tea bags
- Broth cubes
- Rope or cord (12' to 24')
- Signal mirror
- MREs (military term for "meals ready to eat")
- Suturing kit (for extreme cases)
- Fish kit (& 15' of 10 lbs. line & sinkers & 35mm film container & fish hooks)
- Water filter or water purification tablets
- Lifejackets (camping near water)
- Baking soda (for toothpaste, insect bites, antacid, odors, etc.)