Even the most seasoned campers was once a beginner. Face it, we all have to learn sometime. So, we have put together these useful tips so that a beginner camper can come up the learning curve a little faster. Maybe this information will help you to avoid some painful experiences, and better enjoy your first few camping trips to the great outdoors.
Make, Use, and Maintain a Camping Checklist
By making and using a camping checklist you have at least given some thought to your trip and done a little bit of upfront planning. By using the list you will be much less apt to forget something critical to your trip. Take the list along with you and add to it as you think of things that you wished you had brought. This way your list gets better with each trip, and it makes it that much easier to plan the next one.
Be Familiar With Your Camping Gear
If you have bought a new tent, lantern, cook stove, or some other gear its a good idea to try these out prior to your camping trip. There is nothing worse than trying to set up a new tent for the first time when its starting to get dark. This is also true for trailers or tent trailers. Become familiar with their set up prior to your trip, and get some experience backing them up, so that you do not have a tough time when you get to the campground.
Set Up Camp Before Dark
Arrive at your campsite early enough the first day so that you have plenty of daylight to get your tent and other equipment set up. This will get you off to a good start so that you can relax and enjoy the outdoors. Be aware that it gets dark much earlier when you are deep in the forest.
Plan Your Meals Before the Trip
Plan your meals before you leave on the trip. This way you will know what food to buy, and what you will need in order to prepare it. Try to avoid getting stuck stopping at a convenience store, far from the city, where items are limited and often very expensive.
Bring the Right Clothing
When packing your clothes make sure that you have enough clothing in case someone falls into the lake and gets all wet or something else unexpected happens. Be sure and bring a swimsuit and towels if swimming is in your plans. Make sure to have some sweatshirts, light coats, and rain gear in case it gets cold and wet. Pack enough, but do not overdo it. Remember you are probably space limited on what you can fit in your car, and to some extent you are roughing it so you really do not need near as much stuff as normal.
Is Your Tent Big Enough?
There is nothing worse than having your family all packed into your tent like a can of sardines. Even though you are roughing it, you can still enjoy a little bit of comfort. If your tent is large enough and you even splurge for some air mattresses you can be sleeping nice and comfortable. We have a 9 ft x 15 ft dome tent that fits our family of four very comfortably. What I like best about having a bigger tent is that it gives us room to walk around the beds, and still have space to stack clothes or luggage. Even though this is a pretty large tent it folds down to a small size and hardly takes up any space, so unless you are backpacking, I would recommend going with a larger tent just to be on the safe side.
Make Your First Trip Close to Home
I would recommend going to a campsite pretty close to home (within 1-2 hours) for your first trip. That way if anything too terribly wrong happens, then you can just drive home. Its always good to get some recommendations on places to go from some of your friends that are experienced campers. They will probably know some good places to go for your first camping trip.
Be Sure and Take Flashlights
Make sure and take flashlights and check their batteries prior to the trip to make sure that they are good and strong. Flashlights will be helpful if you are changing in a dark tent or if you have to get up in the middle of the night and go to the bathroom. We do not want you stumbling around the woods in the dark do we? Lanterns are also very handy, especially if you want to light up your campsite and play some games around the picnic table. These now come with small screw-on propane tanks that are inexpensive and very easy to use.
Check on Fire Restrictions or Burn Bans
Check ahead of time and make sure that there are not any fire restrictions or burn bans at your campground. If you are looking forward to a good old campfire (and what camper is not?) Than you could be very disappointed if a burn ban is in effect. However, if a campfire is a go, then make sure that you bring some firewood, and some kindling or newspaper to get your fire going, along with some kind of lighter. Some parks have firewood available for sale, but not all do, and most parks will not allow you to pick up twigs and branches off the ground to burn.
Check Weather Conditions Prior to Your Trip
If severe weather is predicted for your camping area, and you can schedule your trip another time, then do it. There is nothing worse than being bound to your tent or slopping around in the mud for a few days.
Obey All Park Rules
Remember to obey all park rules and be courteous to other campers. Sound carries much more in the forest, so keep your voice down, especially at night. At the end of your stay, leave your campsite clean and ready for the next camper.
Note Your Favorite Campsites at the Campground
Once you have been to a campground that you like and scout around some, make note of the campsites that you like the best. This way you will remember them for future trips, and if you can reserve a particular site, you will know which ones you are most interested in.
We love to camp, and we hope that your family will also find it fun. Hopefully, some of the tips that we have shared will make your trips more enjoyable. Have a safe trip!