There are many people who have never been on a camping trip because they are afraid that it takes too much effort to plan and execute a good camping trip. I want to destroy any myths and fears that you may have about camping with a family or friends. First of all, camping is less stressful than planning a weekend with your in laws or relatives. You may love your relatives like I do, but it’s not the same as staying in your own place. Camping gives you a certain expectation of privacy and freedom that you can never get staying at another person’s home.
My good friend recently contacted me and said that he will be joining our family for their first camping trip in a tent. It’s hard to explain how excited I was to hear this news because we have been discussing this for years. It’s never too late to plan a camping trip.
I prepared this first-time camping primer for anyone that has limited or no camping experience. I would suggest camping one week or less if this is your first time. The reason I say this is because you will be able to quickly recover from any disasters such a forgetting to pack enough food, waking up cold because you bought a cheap sleeping bag, or the discount tent that you bought at BigMart fell down in the middle of the night. Most of these problems can be avoided with proper planning and getting the proper equipment through a reputable dealer like Back Country or REI.
How To Plan Your First Camping Trip In Less One Hour
Ask yourself the following questions to determine what camping equipment that you do not have and will have to purchase, rent, or borrow. Write down on a piece of paper all the camping equipment that you own.
- Do You own a sleeping bag for each person camping?
- Do you own or have access to a high-quality camping tent that is easy to put up by one person, will keep you dry, and will set everyone comfortably in your family or group?
- Do you possess or have access to a good quality and easy to operate dual burner propane canister cooking stove?
- Do you own or can you borrow lightweight sleeping pads or air mattresses that do not leak?
- Do you own a few pots and pans that can be used on a 2 burner propane stove?
- Do you have several LED flashlights and a LED camping lantern?
- Do you have several stackable see through storage bins to keep your food and camping equipment organized?
- Do you have at least 2 propane canisters for your propane cook stove?
- Do you have a small stick lighter to ignite your camping stove?
- Do you have enough clothing to layer to keep you warm on cool mornings?
- Do you have a large Coleman cooler for storing your food?
- Are you able to get a BPA free or stainless water jug to store your drinking water in?
Borrowing camping equipment from good friends is the way to go if they are experienced campers. We buy most of our equipment from REI and it’s guaranteed satisfaction for life. Whatever camping equipment that you cannot borrow from your friends you can buy risk-free from REI. If your camping trip is a disaster…they will cheerfully take all your equipment back and refund your money. Click here to see my comprehensive camping checklist.
Don’t Waste Your Money On Expensive Food
Most “camping food” is a big waste of money. If you read the ingredients, it’s highly processed, contains beau-coup amounts of sodium, sugar, and preservatives, and it’s expensive. Bring food that you would normally eat at home. Forget unhealthy foods like hot dogs, chips, and junk food unless this is how you roll at home. If you want some convenience foods, pack some canned chicken or salmon that you can buy at Costco or Trader Joe’s. My wife and I make several pounds of healthy home-made organic granola to eat for breakfast. We usually top granola with fresh fruit and yogurt. This is your first camping trip and not a trip to the bushland of Alaska. Whatever food that you forget to bring, I promise that a grocery store or super Walmart is going to be extremely close.
We cook all of our meal on a white gas Coleman dual burner stove. I use to use single burner stove, but found it hard to use because a large pot would not fit on the stove. First time campers may want to consider using a propane stove as they are much easier to operate. Bring a high quality frying pan and a large kettle to boil water in and you will be set.
If You Don’t Know Where You Are Going To Stay On Your First Night Camping, Then Stay Home
Do you think that I am kidding? You need to have your first night planned out. Don’t try to wing it on your night. I usually plan every day where we are going to stay. If you will be camping in a busy area, make reservations. When in doubt, go to Recreation.gov to ensure that your campsite is reserved for the first night. Recreation.gov will let you reserve campsites at tens of thousands of campgrounds across the US.
It’s my practice to never drive more than 4 hours on our first day because of contingencies that happen. My kids have shown me infected toes on the morning that we were leaving and we had to go to emergency room to make sure that they would live (over concerned parenting). Last year my check engine light went on the first day and stayed on for 3 weeks! I took a chance on that one because the car ran perfect and I figured it was something like an oxygen sensor.
Bring lots of maps because you will loose them. 6 years ago, we left our maps at house that we stopped to buy some last minute equipment. I had to find a local AAA to replace them. Maps have flown out our windows, we lost them, ripped them, spilled water on them, etc.
Camp In The Following Type Of Campground And You Will Be Happy
You need a campground that has water and toilets. You can always improvise when it comes to bathing. We often fill a basin with hot water and bath manually. My wonderful wife requires the use of a toilet. If you can find a campsite with hot showers, running water, and flushing toilets, you have arrived at camping Nirvana! Oregon State parks have some of the best facilities for camping that I have ever come across. Hot showers, laundry, and flushing toilets are usually available. Some Oregon State parks have Wifi!