photo credit:survival-mastery.com
photo credit:survival-mastery.com

Are you ready for some fun, woodsy adventures in the great outdoors? Camping is a relaxing way to enjoy family time and a great way to experience nature. To have a successful (and enjoyable) experience requires a fair amount of planning and preparation. This guide will help you develop a plan to allow you to get the most fun out of your camping experience. Although camping becomes easier with each trip, this camping guide for beginners will help beginning campers have a successful trip. Don’t be discouraged; camping is much easier when properly outfitted and proper preparations made. This is easily accomplished with a proper checklist for the beginner and some good tips. But first, let’s start out with some basics: shelter, bedding, and food.

1- Shelter tips and tricks for beginners!
2- Tips for getting a good night’s sleep!
3- Food for a camping trip!
4- Miscellaneous tips and tricks
5- Camping Gear Checklist

 

Shelter tips and tricks for beginners!

Don’t let the sun go down on your campsite. Establishing your shelter is a primary goal that needs to be accomplished during the daylight. Fumbling around in the dark looking for the tent poles and pegs is not very safe or fun; it is also dangerous. Additionally, setting up in the dark, campers will have a tendency to overlook necessary steps in setting up their shelter. And finally, in the dark, it’s hard to judge how well your chosen site will perform as far as water runoff and being on level ground.

RV and Camping trailers do not require much effort to set up. Most campgrounds will have campsites specifically designed for RV/Trailer use. These sites will have power and water receptacles for quick and easy hookup and generally have a concrete pad or paved surface for the site. However, most beginning campers do not use these due to the initial expense. Some campgrounds do rent outfitted RV/Camp trailers that require no set up but these can be quite expensive.

Tent camping is the most common shelter for beginners (and seasoned veterans also). Tent camping really adds to the experience by adding the idea of “roughing it”. Tents are very cozy! Having an appropriate sized tent will make a significant impact on the overall success of the trip. When choosing a tent, occupancy is the first consideration. Keep in mind that not only people but some gear will be stowed in the tent. Also, as the size of the tent increases so does the weight, a factor, if there is a hike or walk to the intended campsite. An easy rule for tent size selection is to use a tent that is slightly larger than needed. For example, a shelter for two people is needed, use a tent rated for three. Be careful and don’t go too big as the extra space in a tent can make it chilly. The one additional “person” space per two campers will generally be sufficient for storing gear. Additionally, some retailers have full size tent models on display. This will help the camper find a suitable tent with an appropriate height and floor area.

It is really a bummer for tall people in a short tent. A trial run setting up the tent at home is recommended. This will give the camper a good idea of how the tent should be pitched and what pieces go where. Use this time to premark or color code tent poles and other pieces for a quicker setup. Often the manufactured marking stickers will come off over a period of use, so your markings will still show what goes where.

Pay close attention to how the rain fly (a covering for the tent roof) attaches to the tent. An improperly attached rain fly can lead to a wet disaster during a rainstorm. A tarp slightly larger than the tent floor should be used underneath the tent to add an extra water barrier and provide an area around the tent used to keep from tracking debris into the tent. A simple tent light can be made using a hat light that has an elastic band. Attach the light’s elastic band to the ties in the center of the tent’s roof. There are tent lights available for sale, but a hat light/head lamp will come in handy and perform double duty outside the tent. Make sure to open the tent window flaps during the day to keep from excessive heat building up inside the tent. Use all the tent stakes for the best possible support!

 

Tips for getting a good night’s sleep!

Now that the tent is pitched, what sort of sleeping gear should be used? A mat or pad should be used in between the tent floor and the sleeping surface. This will help to create a barrier to insulate the camper due to the ground temperature that will transfer through the tent floor. Some campers choose to use an air mattress to accomplish this. Air mattresses are very comfortable and can be easily inflated with a battery operated pump. Air mattresses come in varied sizes and relate to popular bed sizes. Some mattresses have a built in pump for convenience. But as the size becomes larger, so does the weight of the mattress. Even small twin sized mattresses can be quite heavy. Be warned, using a manual pump can take a good amount of effort and time to inflate an air mattress. Also, it might be necessary to inflate a large mattress inside the tent as an inflated full or a queen sized mattress might not fit through the tent door.

Air mattresses provide excellent ground insulation and are the utmost in comfort. An alternative is to use a swimming raft. A raft is more economical, lighter weight, and most have a built in pillow! Also, rafts can be blown up without the need for a pump. On the downside, rafts are not generally as rugged as an air mattress and can’t stand up to much abuse. Make sure not to over inflate rafts since thus can cause them to burst. Rafts can also do double duty if there is a pool or lake near the campsite.

Some campers just use a thin foam mat similar to a yoga mat only somewhat thicker. Camping mats are the most durable to use and are slightly more expensive than a raft. Folding cots are another solution, but are bulky and heavy. Some cots are hard to stretch making assembly very difficult. Cots are recommended for an extended camping trips as they double for a raised surface inside the shelter. Cots also do well for playing board games or cards when the weather is bad. Cots are also very durable and help to gain storage space underneath. Sleeping bags are most commonly used due to their wide range of features. Sleeping bags should be chosen according to temperature rating. Pick one based on the lowest ambient temperature in which you will be camping. It is always better to go with a lower temperature rated sleeping bag due to the ease of using the tents windows to adjust the temp.

Some sleeping bags can be zipped together to make a double bag. All sleeping bag zippers and fasteners should be treated before the trip. Mummy type sleeping bags are the most popular and really conserve body heat. A tip for sleeping bag campers, leave your next day’s underwear and socks in the bag with you. Your body heat will warm these items and make for a pleasant wake up on brisk mornings. Some campers prefer to use sheets and a comforter (air mattresses almost a requirement), however sleeping bags take up less space and are easier to pack. Pillows are a matter of choice. The most lightweight solution are inflatable camp pillows. These can be used alone or with standard cloth pillows. An alternative is to use a double garbage bag inside a pillowcase. It is economical and lightweight, just be sure to use something rugged to tie up the bags.

 

Food for a camping trip!

An absolute necessity is a heat source on which to cook. Camp stoves that use propane or camp fuel work amazingly well. Typically, camp fuel models require pumping a valve on the fuel tank but the propane models use small pressurized containers that screw on to the stove. They do require some setup to get them to work properly.

Camp stoves operate nearly identical to a gas range at home. One of the biggest advantages is the ability to adjust the cooking temperature. They are really good for boiling water. Be sure to test a camp stove before the trip. Another option is to bring a BBQ grill. There are numerous portable types that use propane and charcoal. Most campers are familiar with grills and should make sure all the necessary parts are in working order. Finally, you can choose to cook over an open flame! Keep in mind that fireproof cookware must be used over an open flame. The most indispensable of this type being the Dutch oven. The coals from the fire are the desired heat source not the flames.

Preparing a menu for each day can really simplify meal preparation. Menus can make use of ingredients prepared at home. Chopping veggies and preparing meals at home will save time and be more sanitary. Premade meals also save space and have less cleanup. Using premade meals will reduce leftovers and waste. Since premade meals only require reheating any available heat source can be used to make a meal. Premade meals will definitely improve a beginning camper’s outdoor meal experience. Breakfast meals should be hearty and afternoon meals lighter and full of protein. Have your fellow campers help prepare the menu and challenge them to find fast fun camp recipes. Don’t forget the spices and seasonings!

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Miscellaneous tips and tricks

Use an oven mitt when adding firewood to an established fire. Cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly can be used as fire starter. Lint from a clothes dryer and sawdust are also effective fire starters. Paint the inside of a jar with glow in the dark paint for a small lantern. A headlamp attached to a gallon milk jug also makes an effective lantern. Use a large crayon inside a soup or small coffee can for a heat source or an improvised lantern.

Never leave food out overnight! Food will attract all sorts of woodland creatures, so make sure it’s stored in a bin. A toilet paper keeper can be made by cutting a slit in the side of a medium sized coffee can and feed the toilet paper through the slot. Anytime you can find a double duty use for an item, write it down for making future camp checklists.

Make sure to bring some recreational items; sports equipment, board games, and reading materials will make the trip more pleasant. Your initial trip should not be in a backwoods remote location instead choose a campground or site that is close to civilization. That way if an absolute necessity is forgotten it can be purchased at a retail or camp store. This is very important, having an alternative shelter and support is necessary for a beginning camper. Also, keep track of items that were purchased during the trip for future reference in preparing camp checklists. Have a safety meeting with your fellow campers to review emergency procedures.

 

Camping Gear Checklist

This is a simple checklist item that you may want to get for your camping trip. Please be remind that some of it may not be necessary to bring along. It’s depend on activities you had planned, place you go, season of the year and the duration of your trip. You should check with your camping partner what item they will bring along to avoid overload. Please see below for the simplest checklist:

->Shelter
->Bedding
->Cooking
->Clothes
->Personal item
->Miscellaneous
->Basic first aid kit