Are you looking to make the most of your summer as the season winds to a close? Perhaps you’ve taken a lengthier vacation this year and are looking for a short, socially distant getaway before Labor Day. If so, camping might be right up your alley.
What’s that? You’ve never been camping before? Not to worry. It’s an excursion anyone can take.
For the record, I am by no means a camping expert. I didn’t grow up going camping, but my husband and I have camped together several times since we got married in 2016. In all honesty, I could probably count the number of times I’ve camped on two hands. But I do know what to do — and what not to do — when you set up in the great outdoors.
Based on my experience, here are five tips for camping for beginners.
5 tips for camping for beginners
1. Research your campground.
Maybe this goes without saying, but make sure you know what you’re getting into. One summer, my husband and I booked a campsite and hit the road eagerly anticipating a few nights of bonfires and making s’mores. But we were in for a surprise. Upon arrival, we discovered the campground didn’t have any fire rings, dashing our hopes of campfire ambiance.
Take it from us: Read up on your campground before you show up. This includes researching any wildlife native to the area as well (although most campgrounds adequately advertise it). If you’re in the dark about where to find a camping spot near you, the KOA website is a great resource. The National Park Service website also offers a search tool if you’re interested in camping at a national park.
2. Pack appropriately.
First of all, I highly advise checking the forecast before you head out; that will prevent you from having to buy a random $35 sweatshirt when it gets too chilly at night.
In addition to weather-related gear, there are plenty of other items you might consider packing. Check out aSweatLife writer Dani Kruger’s excellent list of what you should bring on your first camping trip. Plus, here are a couple suggestions based on my experience:
- Air mattresses. I can’t tell you how much of a difference these have made. Sleeping on an air mattress is so much comfier than snoozing in a sleeping bag on the hard ground. If you’re getting more than one air mattress, take some measurements to ensure they will all fit in your tent.
- Mosquito-repellent candles. There’s nothing worse than waking up the morning after enjoying a campfire only to find your arms and legs covered in itchy mosquito bites. My husband and I have used citronella candles to help keep the bugs away.
3. Plan your meals.
Some people like to go out to eat while camping. If you intend to cook at your campsite, simple meals work well. Pancakes and cereal are easy breakfast ideas, while grilling or foil packet recipes are good options for lunch and dinner. Bring water to drink, a cooler and ice to keep your food cool, and the proper utensils and grilling tools such as a pan or skillet, spatula, tongs, plates, bowls, cups, silverware, cooking spray, spices, and aluminum foil.
4. Be prepared to get dirty.
This one may seem like a “duh!” tip, but it’s worth noting if you’re new to the camping scene. After being coated in layers of sunscreen, bug spray, and dirt for a few days, you’ll probably be in need of a shower. Nobody smells great after sleeping in the wilderness — that’s just the nature of the game. If you’re worried about staying clean, rest assured that many campgrounds offer shower facilities.
5. Pick out some activities.
Now comes the fun part: Enjoying your camping trip! Rather than relying on a potentially unreliable internet signal, take the time at home to look up some fun things to do. Whether it’s swimming, hiking, or sightseeing, make a list of what you may be interested in doing during the day. In the evening, it’s nice to have some games or an iPad for watching movies.
Camping may seem overwhelming, but anyone can do it. Keep these tips in mind, and you’re guaranteed to have a memorable outdoor adventure.