Camping is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re new to camping, we are here for you with our camping for beginners advice to help make that camping adventure a memorable one.
Speaking of being happy campers, for us, fun road trips mean a lot of camping along the way. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of sleeping under the stars and being surrounded by nature. Plus, we love feeling like we are letting our kids run wild in nature. There is nothing better than watching the kids grow up loving nature, not afraid to get their hands dirty, and loving the explore. I hope they never lose that sense of wonder. Some of our favorite memories with our kids have been created “around a campfire”.
Here are our suggestions to make your camping trip a memorable one:
Get The Right Gear
For your first time camping, stick to the basics. There really is no reason to go all out on fancy equipment that seasoned campers would invest in. We still stick to the basics, because really, we are a pretty simple family. The most important of those basics is your tent. Pick a tent that is simple to set up; let’s make sure that this will not be your last time camping! When it comes to a tent, size does matter. Select a tent that is slightly larger than what you require for a little extra comfort. This summer we will actually have to upgrade our tent, now that we are a family of six. We upgraded to an eight-person tent. If you do not need one quite as big, take a look at a four-person tent. Also, you likely will not want to sleep with your sleeping bag directly on the ground, or you will wake up feeling sore. Find a sleeping camping pad, or for extra luxury, an air mattress.
Also, headlamps may look a little silly, but once you get over that, they are the most convenient to be hands-free in the dark — especially if you need to wander to the washroom!
Give The Gear A Whirl At Home
Try out the sleeping bag to make sure it is comfortable enough for you. Assemble the tent to learn how it all fits together, ensure all the parts are there and learn the tricks to compact it back up. Try out the lanterns to make sure they properly work and ensure you have extra batteries. Being stuck in the dark when you’re camping as a newbie would not be fun. Another big one is the camping stove. Try it out at home to make yourself a meal; making sure the camping stove is adequate is important. A comfy sleeping pad will also help you get better sleep!
Dress In Layers
Camping is usually colder than you expect when you’re in the trees, especially during the night. Bring enough that you can dress in layers. That way, you can take layers off, or put them on, like the temperature or your activity level changes. We also always bring beanies. If it gets really cold at night, they are great to help keep you warm.
Related Story – Camping Essentials: The Gear You Should Have
Plan Out Your Meals
With four littles seven and under, it is a no-brainer that we need to have a good plan for meals. However, even if you’re not hitting the camping scene with a large family, we still suggest knowing what you plan to eat. If you plan ahead, you’re better able to prepare healthier meals as well, instead of just grabbing some last-minute junk-food before you leave for your trip. However, camping just is not the same without some creative s’mores and jiffy pop. Get creative with the treats! Camping deserves so much more than just a bag of chips. We also believe that cooking and eating meals outdoors makes them taste fantastic. Seriously. There is just something about fresh air and cooking on a campfire or camping stove.
Our favorite breakfast is making pancakes, eggs, and sausages. It is so easy to make, and nobody complains! You can pre-make the pancake mix, put it in the cooler in a ziplock bag, and then all that is needed is to clip the corner with scissors and it is a fast and easy breakfast.
Make A Checklist
We have been camping since childhood and a list is still essential; never feel embarrassed to use a list. It is so easy to get overwhelmed when packing and forget some key items you will wish you had. It is much more enjoyable if you get to your campsite with your essentials. Nobody wants to get there and realize the tent stakes, bug spray, sunscreen, or folding chairs for sitting around the campfire, were forgotten! Still do not freak out though, because unless you have planned a trip far from civilization, chances are you can pick up some minor forgotten items.
Also, make sure your checklist is reasonable. Leave the fancy shoes and clothing behind in favor of comfortable athletic wear and hiking shoes or runners (and flip flops for around the campsite).
Make Bathrooms A Priority
We always travel with a potty for the little kids for when an emergency happens and they cannot make it to the campsite toilets, be it outhouses or flushable, but making toilets a priority is not a bad thing. Assuming that if you are reading this you are a first-time camper, you will probably want to make sure your toilet situation is something that you can be comfortable with. If you are at a campground, you should also be able to check reviews to see if any comments have been made, good or bad.
Be Prepared To Disconnect
There will likely be no wi-fi connection at your campsite. Camping is a great way to re-connect with those you love while having a bit of a forced disconnect from the usual day-to-day busy world. It can feel weird to suddenly not be able to have your phone ringing and dinging, but a disconnect is healthy.
Bring Some Entertainment
Aside from hiking, time at the lake, or other outdoor activities depending on your surroundings, you may be glad you brought along a book, some board games, and a deck of cards. A popular card game with the kids is UNO.
Soaking in all the nature can be wonderful, but you may welcome a slow morning or way to wind-down before bed.
Check The Forecast
You do not want to be miserable camping. If you feel you are a fair-weather camper, make sure you check to see what the forecast is. If there is rain, ensure you bring a tarp or two, or a shelter to set up so you do not have to spend your entire time soaked, or wake up sleeping in a big puddle, because well, that is not any fun.
Clean Up After Yourself
Always leave the campsite better than you found it on arrival. If you brought it, take it with you when you leave. We cannot stress the importance of this enough.
Book In Advance
If you are a first-time camper, you will find it helpful to pick your campsite in advance by picking a campsite that offers online reservations. Take advantage of that — it will make things a lot less stressful while you learn about camping. After that, if you want to try first-come-first-served spots, or do some real wilderness camping, you’ll feel more prepared and knowledgeable.
Give Camping A Fair Chance …
We are sure you can find some aspects of the camping experience that you love. Waking up to the fresh cool air and a warm hot chocolate and going to bed with a belly full of s’mores with the sky full of stars, is enough to leave us rejuvenated and happy campers. We love the feeling of freedom to do whatever we want when we want. It is relaxing to not have a set schedule and to have the ability to make it up as we go.
AND, if things do not go according to your plan, take a deep breath, have a laugh about it, and remember that some of the best memories are made when things don’t go according to plan. Embrace the messiness that can be life!