First Camping Trip: Beginner's Guide for a Successful Campout
If you’re about to set off for your first time camping adventure, you’re in the right place. We’ve created this step-by-step guide to first time camping to help beginners get started. Also, we’ve prepared a definitive first time camping checklist to make your adventure trouble-free and more enjoyable. Without any doubt, there is a lot to learn, but don't worry — it's not hard to be a happy camper.
Choosing Right Place To Go Camping
To pick the right spot for your first time camping, you need to consider what you want to get out of the camping experience.
Camping in a campsite
This is the most popular solution for first time camping. Fair enough, as a campsite typically offers a range of amenities to make your first experience easier. In addition, you can rent a tent right at the campsite. On the flip side, they cost and might be overcrowded in the high season. Don’t forget to book your campground in advance.
Camping in the wild
Wild camping in remote landscapes like a national park is definitely the most exciting option. Just imagine sleeping in beautifully wild locations away from crowds. Totally mesmerising, isn’t it? However, keep in mind that you need to be self-sufficient as it requires more outdoor experience.
It might sound too straightforward, however, if it’s your first time camping, you can pitch your tent in the garden to test out your new gear before you set off for your grand adventures in the wild campgrounds.
Basic Camping Gear
As soon as you’ve decided on your first time camping destination, it’s high time to start gathering all the necessary gear. In this section, we’ve put together a list of gear that you’ll need on any camping trip, no matter if you're car camping or backpacking. Sure, these aren’t the only things you need to take, but these essentials will direct you toward a successful camping trip.
It goes without saying that a good tent is critical: it will shield you against the elements and keep you warm and dry.
We’re totally convinced that a decent sleeping bag is just as imperative as a good tent. Fair enough, because if you sleep badly, you won’t enjoy your trip. While choosing your sleeping bag from the great variety of their shapes and designs, pay attention to temperature rating. Bags are rated to be comfortable in a certain temperature range, so pick one that will keep your warm in the coolest expected temperature. A word of advice: if you tend to be cold, get a bag that is at least 10 degrees warmer than the lowest temperature you might face.
A sleeping pad is also essential: it provides a cushioning and insulating air layer between you and the cold ground when you sleep.
Other Camping Essentials
You’ll need a stove to cook your meals, plus it can be used to purify water by boiling. With a stove, you’ll do it much quicker and safer than over the fire. Unless you’ve chosen a campground with cooking facilities, you’ll need your own stove. When shopping for a stove, consider the following factors:
- whether you will be car camping or backpacking,
- whether you are going to actually cook, or just warm up pre-cooked meals,
- how many campers will rely on the stove.
Lights not only enable you to do things in the dark, but can also serve as signal devices in case of emergency. The two most popular options include a headlamp and a lantern. A headlamp allows you to keep your hands free, which is helpful for climbing and hiking in darkness. Soft-glowing, battery-powered lanterns are typically used for eating areas and the inside of your tent.
First aid kit
Hopefully you won’t need it for anything serious, however, it’s very likely that you or another camper from your group will get a small cut, scrape, blister, or let's say a minor burn while making a campfire. So before you set off, check if your first aid kit is stocked with everything you need. See our first aid kit recommendations at the bottom of this article.
Tips for Choosing a Tent
Today, it’s easy to get spoiled by the choice in tents, and buying a tent for your first time camping might be challenging. Tents come in different sizes, designs and materials, and picking the right one may be really confusing for a beginner. Let’s take a closer look at what you should pay attention to while choosing your wildlife shelter.
Tents typically come with person ratings: 3-person, 6-person etc. Therefore, you should go for a tent that will meet your need to accommodate a certain number of campers. However, keep in mind that in tent descriptions, you often see the number of people that a tent can fit if they are using sleeping bags. So our tip is to pay attention to the tent's dimensions as well.
Also, pick a more-person tent in case you plan to use camper beds or a table inside, or just feel that you’ll need additional space for your gear. All in all, it’s always better to go bigger with your tent: a 3-person tent will give a bit of extra breathing room to a couple, and a family of four will feel like home in a 6-person tent.
Season-wise, tents fall into several categories: 1-season, 2-season, 3-season and 4-season tents.
- 1 and 2-season tents are meant for warm weather with mild precipitation. They aren’t able to withstand even a moderate rain and are good only for summer campers.
- 3-season tents can handle moderate rain and wind, they are designed for spring-to-fall use.
- 4-season tents are meant to be used all year round. They are strong enough to withstand high winds and heavy snowfalls.
Canvas or polyester? To be honest, each tent fabric has its advantages and drawbacks. Which material is the best will depend on your needs.
For starters, let’s take a deeper look at polyester. First of all, polyester tents are more affordable. Then, it’s worth mentioning that they are lighter and less bulky, which makes them the perfect choice for a backpacking adventure. Lastly, polyester tents are quite quick to dry out and are more resistant to mildew and rips. However, if compared to canvas, they are not good insulators: such a tent can get very hot when it is warm, and chilly when it gets cold. In addition, the lightweight material means it can flap around a bit more in the windy weather, and make some noise. To top it off, polyester is far from breathable.
What about canvas? First of all, canvas insulates well enough not to get hot on a warm day or cold in the chilly weather. Next, cotton is a breathable fabric, which means that you won’t have any issues with condensation. Finally, this material can last a long time and is more resistant to harmful UV rays than polyester. On the downside, canvas tents are heavy and bulky. Plus, they require more maintenance. Keep in mind that it’s imperative to completely dry out your canvas tent before putting it away, which takes a lot longer than polyester. Otherwise, you are very likely to get mildew in your tent.
Dome and outfitter tents are two of the most popular tent designs. Your final decision should depend on the duration of your camping adventure, the kind of camping ground you’re going to visit, the number of campers, the expected weather conditions, the height of the campers, and finally, the amount of storage space you’ll need. If you consider all these aspects, it will be simpler to make the right decision on what kind of tent will best meet your camping needs.
In general, an outfitter tent provides more space than the average dome tent. If you need a shelter to share with a large group, an outfitter tent seems like the most reasonable solution. They provide more floor and headroom due to their straight wall design. Not to mention, this also means more storage space as well as opportunity to use bunk beds. Campers can stand upright inside an outfitter tent thanks to its high ceiling.
On the flip side, dome tents don’t offer much headroom and storage space as their walls slope in all directions from the peak. However, dome tents are more lightweight, which makes them easy to transport, and they are most suitable for backpacking and hiking. Plus, they are easier and faster to pitch. The crisscrossing poles ensure that your wildlife shelter will stand firm against the elements.
Clothing for Camping
While you prepare for your first camping trip, there’s one more crucial thing to keep in mind: the right clothes. Here are some tips to make your choice easier.
- Bring a waterproof jacket.
- Bring layers. First, you’ll be less likely to get cold, and next, you can remove the outer layers when it gets warmer. Merino base layers plus fleece sweaters and pants coupled with waterproof pants are a good solution.
- Take care of extra socks and underwear.
- While packing your clothing for a camping trip, go for comfortable clothes. Get this: you’ll be bending and crouching way more than usual, so choose an outfit that won’t restrict your movement.
- Bring your most comfortable footwear. You’ll be on your feet most of the time, so bring comfy shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty, for instance, old sneakers. In case you want something more practical, get hiking boots or camp shoes.
- Pack a sun hat and sunglasses. As you’ll be outside all day, you’ll need them to protect you from the sun.
- Last but not least, your clothing decisions should heavily depend upon the season and weather conditions. If you expect rain, bring extra boots, a water-resistant coat and umbrella. Picked a seashore campsite? Don’t forget your swimsuit / swim trunks and flip flops. Finally, go for thermal layers, a wooly hat, gloves, a scarf, an insulated coat, and thick socks if you go camping in the cold weather. Cold weather camping requires more preparation and gear, so if you decide on setting off for a camping trip in the winter, check out our winter camping tips.
Camping for Beginners: Useful Tips
Camp cooking for beginners
Get this: cooking at the camp isn’t as easy as at home. So when you go camping for the first time, keep in mind that the food part doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re not much of a chef, probably it’s a good idea to book a campground with cooking facilities and bring some pre-cooked or frozen meals. However, we believe that you can cope with cooking on a stove or over a fire as well, just give it a try. Besides food, don’t forget to pack fuel, cooking utensils, cups, dishes, forks, knives etc (see our checklist at the bottom of this article).
Remember that the easiest meal to eat when camping is the one you’re most comfortable making at home. It’s an excellent idea to bring a cooler to keep your food fresh. Also, you will burn more calories when you’re active, so plan on eating more than you normally would at home. Pack food rich in proteins, fiber and complex carbohydrates. Don’t forget about snacks, for instance, fruit, granola bars, nuts, candy and sunflower seeds. Finally, bring plenty of water, a gallon per camper per day.
First time camping checklist
It often happens that first time campers overlook a checklist. However, it's no fun arriving at your camping destination and finding out that you forgot to pack something. So our advice is to stay organized and make sure nothing is left behind by keeping a camping checklist.
Shelter and comfort
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Light source plus spare batteries
- Tent repair kit
- Waterproof jacket and pants
- Base layers
- Clean and dry clothes to sleep in
- Winter clothes if applicable
- Suitable footwear
- Extra underwear and socks
- Sun protection
- Fire starter and matches
- Cool box
- Pots, pans and kettle
- Cutting board
- Cooking and eating utensils
- Plates, bowls and mugs
- Dish cloths and sponge
- Dish soap and bowl for washing up
- Rubbish bags
- Tin and bottle opener
Hygiene and protection
- Any toiletries you would usually use: soap, shampoo, conditioner
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizers and antibacterial wipes
- Insect repellent
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
First aid kit
- Roll-on band-aid
- Blister prevention and relief products
- Anti-diarrheal medicines
- Headache remedies
- Skin burn remedies
- Strong painkillers
- Any prescriptions
- Credit card and/or cash
- Phone plus portable charger
- Campsite reservation confirmation (if required)