Spending time camping in the great outdoors is one of our favorite pastimes. There’s nothing more relaxing than inhaling the fresh mountain breeze or waking up to the sound of chirping birds.
But if you’ve never pitched a tent or stepped foot on a campsite, you may be wondering how to go camping and what exactly you should bring with you. Sure, there may be a few things to consider and a long checklist of items to pack, but the time and effort are worth it once you spend your first night camping underneath the twinkling stars.
To help make your first trip as seamless as possible, we put together this guide to camping for beginners. That way, you’ll be prepared for your first night in nature, just like any other experienced camper!
Try to Avoid Looking Like a Beginner
If you’re a total newbie to camping, heading out into the wilderness might seem a little intimidating. Even if you’re a camping beginner, there are a few tips and tricks to follow to make your first camping trip more comfortable.
- Try your gear at home. Does your flashlight work? Are your hiking boots comfortable? Is your sleeping bag nice and cozy? It’s better to test everything at home rather than several miles up the side of a mountain!
- Test pitch your tent. Knowing how to set up your tent is crucial. Give it a few practice runs in the living room, the garden, or a grass field nearby, so that you’re prepared once you’re at the campsite.
- Understand the rules of the campsite. Every country, state, city, and campsite has different rules. Make sure you check them out beforehand (and most importantly, obey them!)
- Make a checklist. There are many things to pack for your trip, including clothes, food, safety equipment, and recreational gear. It’s a lot to remember, which is why we recommend making a checklist to stay organized.
- Pack extra clothes. Unexpected weather can make your clothes wet, muddy, or in the worst situation, completely unwearable. Be prepared by packing a rain jacket, extra socks, and multiple layers.
- Take a first-aid kit. Although you hopefully won’t have to use it, preparing a first-aid kit with band-aids, disinfectant, and gauze can be a lifesaver in a pinch.
- Leave the electronics at home. This is your opportunity to be one with nature! Instead of binge-watching Netflix or checking work emails, immerse yourself in the stunning scenery instead. Of course, this doesn’t apply to your cell phone, which you should have in case of emergencies!
- Bring mosquito repellant. Unless you want to be covered in itchy bug bites the entire time!
- If you aren’t sure you’ll like camping, then only go for a couple of days. Because the truth is – camping isn’t for everyone! It’s better to plan a short trip near your home rather than a multi-week trek in a different country to see if it’s the right activity for you.
Where to Go Camping for beginners
Choosing where you want to go camping is one of the hardest (but arguably most fun) parts of planning your trip. This is your opportunity to explore new countries and landscapes, as well as see unspoiled parts of Mother Nature that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world.
However, it’s important to realize that not all campsites are the same. You should choose a destination based on what you want to do during your trip.
If it’s your first time camping, we recommend sticking with a campsite that has decent facilities, such as showers, toilets, and running water. These developed campsites are popular in America and Europe but can be more sparse in places like Asia.
The weather should also play an essential role in your decision. For example, if you want to spend time in a warm destination swimming in a lake or hiking in the sun, then you should probably skip a camping trip to Norway or Iceland (although those are definitely places you’ll want to tick off your bucket list later!) Some campsites are also only open during the spring or summer, especially if it requires a hike or trek to reach them.
What to Expect at a Campsite
As we mentioned, different types of campsites will provide different levels of amenities. Developed campgrounds are great for first-time campers, as they have basic facilities like bathrooms, showers, and places where you can cook. If you’re craving the outdoors but still want the luxuries and comforts of home, then we recommend reserving a tent site at a developed campsite.
You might also choose to stay at a rural campsite. These might not have running water but may have portable toilets or fire pits for cooking. Others won’t have any facilities at all, which means you’ll be required to bring extra things (toilet paper, wood, matches, etc.) with you.
What to bring as a camping beginner
One of the most difficult tasks for beginners when camping is deciding what to bring. Here’s a short list of the basic items and things to bring camping:
- Tent – And don’t forget proper tent pegs!
- Sleeping stuff
- Cooking supplies – Also check out our guide on the best camping cooking supplies
What Size Tent Do I Need?
The size of your tent should be based on how many people you are camping with. If you’re traveling solo, then a 1 or 2-person tent should be more than sufficient. That way, you’ll have enough space to fit a sleeping bag, air mattress, and your backpack.
If you’re traveling with one other person, a 2-person tent will also provide enough space for sleeping and storing your stuff. However, especially if you are a beginner to camping, it might feel a little tight, especially if you’re spending more than a few days out in nature. If you need some extra room, we recommend getting a 3-person tent instead.
Keep in mind that the larger your tent, the heavier your bag will be. If you’re hiking to your campsite, you’ll likely have to compromise on other things (food, clothes, tools) in order to fit your larger and heavier tent in your pack.
Another option is to invest in a tent with vestibules, which is like a separate storage room between your inner and outer tent. Instead of storing your camping equipment and backpacks inside where you’ll be sleeping, you can keep them dry in the vestibule. It’s also useful if you want to cook outdoors but need protection from the sun or rain.
What to Wear Camping
What you pack will primarily depend on a few factors, such as where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone. Also, keep in mind that you’ll be carrying everything in your backpack, so packing lightweight, breathable, and versatile clothing is a must. And don’t forget to bring things that can get dirty. After all, you’ll be spending all your time outdoors!
Rain gear is very important, as weather can be unpredictable (we love our Fjallraven Keb Eco Shell, check the review here). You’ll also want to bring layers, like long underwear and sweaters. You can take them off if it gets too hot or add more when it gets chilly at night. Hats, gloves, and socks are also helpful in cold weather and should be added to your packing list.
Merino wool is probably the best fabric for camping, as it’s moisture-wicking, anti-bacterial, and most importantly, super soft and comfortable! You can find plenty of merino wool products, like socks, sweaters, and even underlayers to keep you warm and dry during your trip.
You probably shouldn’t expect to whip up a gourmet 5-course dinner only using a camp stove or open fire. However, you can still cook delicious, mouthwatering food if you’re properly prepared and plan your meals ahead of time.
We usually decide on each meal before we leave (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks). That way, we can make sure we have all the ingredients. Meal planning also ensures that you don’t run out of food halfway through your trip!
Generally speaking, simple prep is the easiest, especially if you’re camping for beginners. While fresh food may be the best tasting, they’re also the hardest to pack. Meats and cheeses need to be kept cold, which means you’ll also have to haul around a cooler stocked with ice.
You might consider packing non-perishable items, like granola bars, boxed cereals, trail mix, and other snacks. Fruits and vegetables can also last a few days without refrigeration, which is great if you’re craving something on the healthier side.
And don’t forget the cooking essentials like oils, spices, and condiments. These items can make even the blandest camping meals extremely flavorful.
How to Enjoy Camping
Although being immersed in nature is a peaceful activity on its own, as a beginner to camping, you might find that you want to do something a little more exciting during your camping trip. That’s why it’s important to bring recreational games and equipment with you.
If you’re spending time during the day at your campsite, then you might consider packing lawn games to help pass the time. Board games and cards are a great way to pass the time at night or if you’re stuck inside your tent on a rainy afternoon.
However, you should also plan to explore the sights around your campsite. Depending on where you’re going, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and fishing are just a few activities that you can do during the day. If you plan on doing any of these fun recreational activities, then you’ll also need to make sure you pack the right gear and equipment.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try something new! Camping is a wonderful experience that allows you to do many activities in nature that you normally wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.
What to Do After Your Camping Trip
Now that you know how to go camping, let’s talk a bit more about what happens once your trip is over.
One of the most important things to do once you return home is cleaning your tent. Without taking proper cleaning and drying, you might discover mold or other moisture-related problems the next time you unpack it. You can learn more about how to take care of your tent by reading our article on tent storage tips.
The same applies to your other camping equipment. Your clothes, hiking boots, and cookware should all be thoroughly cleaned before storing.
You may also choose to clean your backpack and sleeping bag (although you probably don’t need a deep clean if you’ve just been gone for one or two nights). As long as you shake out all the loose dirt and make sure there aren’t any bugs or creatures that you brought back with you, then you should be fine!
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We Love to Hear From You
As you now know, camping for beginners doesn’t have to be difficult or challenging. With a little bit of preparation and planning, you can enjoy your time soaking in the spectacular surroundings of the outside world. Are you preparing for your first camping trip? Where are you planning on going? Let us know in the comments below! And for more useful tips, you should definitely check out more of our travel tips.