What to Know Before Your First Camping Trip: 20 Useful Tips

So you want to start going on camping trips, huh? You’re at the right place, my friend. My fiance and I happen to be expert campers. We’ve been going on camping trips since we started dating 4.5 years ago and we get better and better at it every year. There’s a lot we’ve learned along the way, and I’d love to share all the useful tips with you about what to expect, what to avoid, and how to be prepared for your first camping trip-whether it’s a weekend getaway or a longer trip you’re wanting to take. We do strictly tent camping for now so that’s what my advice will cater to primarily, but these are generally great pieces of advice for any kind of campers.

Tip #1: Don’t bother bringing firewood with you This is actually a rule at almost every campground out there. This is because by bringing in firewood from some other location, you may be bringing in invasive species to the woods you’re camping in. It’s a big no no. The good news is that most places will sell you a bundle of firewood for a few dollars.

Tip #2: Some campgrounds don’t allow fires If this seems weird and downright stupid to you, then you’re not alone. This isn’t too common of a rule, but I have come across some campgrounds that don’t allow this. I am assuming it is a safety precaution. My advice with this is to keep shopping for a different place, as this is the major way to cook and of course to enjoy the evenings, amiright?

Tip #3: You’re gonna want to reserve a site with water & electric When reserving a site, you’ll see some sites marked as ‘primitive’. This is essentially for backpackers and you won’t have access to a water pump nor will there be any electric outlets. While I can appreciate roughing it and being one with nature and all, being without these two luxuries will inhibit you from having a successful camping trip-trust me.

Tip #4: Make sure they offer showers You’ll also come along campgrounds that don’t have any showers for their guests. Again, you don’t want to be roughing it to this extreme. You’ll be miserable, stinky, and feel super gross if you skip showering your whole trip.

Tip #5: Wifi isn’t guaranteed and shouldn’t be a necessity If you find a campground that offers wi-fi, then awesome! However, this is rare, and I definitely wouldn’t search high and low for one that offers this. It simply isn’t something you need for camping. Take screenshots on your phone, or print things off for anything you may need for your trip ahead of time.

Tip #6: Make sure you can park on site Some places make you park in a lot and then walk to your campsite…along with ALL of your belongings. You do NOT want to have to haul the cooler, tent, canopy, chairs, etc. to your campsite.

Tip #7: Always keep the tent zipped closed Along with debris getting in your tent, little critters of all sorts will also find their way in your tent when you’re not looking. Keep that sucker closed up at absolutely all times, or else you could wake up covered in a million mosquito bites- or worse.

Tip #8: Be mindful of the weather Book your trip with the weather in mind. If it’s going to be very cold or very hot at night, you’re likely to not get a wink of sleep!

Tip #9: Always wear Bugspray Just because mosquitos aren’t buzzing around you doesn’t mean you won’t get bit-by something. You won’t be able to spot a tick dropping from a tree and making their way over to you. It’s a good habit to always have some spray on you.

Tip #10: Put away food securely This means food, food wrappers, and even food still in their packages. You can throw your trashbag in your car’s trunk at night or go ahead and take it to the campground’s dump. For all other items, you should put them away in your vehicle, or the metal boxes at the campgrounds. This is not only for pests such as raccoons and birds, but especially for wildcats and bears looking for a meal while you’re sleeping or away from your site for a while.

Tip #11: Private vs Public Campgrounds This can be argued for both sides which type of campground is better, but I personally think a public campground is overall the best option when camping. Public ones are state or nationally owned and private are all others- ‘Ashley & Nathan’s Campground’ for example. Private is usually nicer, cleaner, and more updated (although not always) but they also can come with more rules such as earlier quiet time. I would read through the rules to decide which is right for you.

Tip #12: Flush Toilets and Pit Toilets Most campgrounds have flush toilets or a combination of the two. Just beware when choosing your specific site if there’s restrooms close by which kind they are. I’d have to go pretty damn bad to use pit-I’m just sayin’.

Tip #13: Be cautious when picking up wood When picking up firewood (or anything on the ground), look around the pile and give the log you’re eying up a little nudge. There’s sometime spiders or even mice found in the piles or hanging out on the logs and they might bite you. I’ve encountered both spiders and mice but no bites, thankfully. If you want to be extra cautious, wear gloves when grabbing the wood.

Tip #14: You will need to bring all your toiletries: The campground will provide toilet paper, but likely nothing else. You should bring your own shampoo and conditioner, soap, facewash, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.

Tip #15: The more amenities included, the higher the price You’ll run into a resort style campgrounds with the privtae ones. They’ll offer anything from waterslides, to horshoes and other games. These are nice but makes for a pricier camping trip, so just keep that in mind.

Tip #16: Speed Limit The speed limit at camprgounds is very slow. They literally want you to creep through the property to get to your site. If you break their rules, they can kick you out.

Tip #17: Arrive before dark to set up Be conscientious of how long it takes to get to the camprgound for your first night. You don’t want to set everything up in the dark with nothing but a flashlight.

Tip #18: Set up the tent first Setting up your campsite can be overwhelming so what I’d suggest is setting up your tent first! This will allow you to set everything up that goes in the tent next, and will leave all other supplies (chairs, canopy, cookware) for last.

Tip #19: Shop for supplies before you leave Don’t put off a shoping trip for when you arrive. It’s much better to do all or the majority of your shopping for supplies and food before you leave in your own town. You know where to go, you know where everything is in the stores you usually go to. You’ll be at a disadvantage if you wait til you arrive at the location of your camping trip, plus it’s a time consuming activity when you should be relaxing or doing fun stuff!

Tip #20: 2 night minimum some campgrounds may require you to book at least 2 nights in a row on weekends or on or near a major holiday-just like hotels. If you’re only exploring one area for your trip, then it won’t be a problem. But if you’re like us who hop around on trips to different areas, this could cause an issue. Try to pick the area you want to do the most exploring for a weekend stay so you won’t have that problem.

A lot of these tips come down to really one thing, and that is: read the fine print! Be very conscientious of the rules as every single campground has got ’em- whether they’re public or privately owned. The idea of a camping trip is to travel without many luxuries but not to the point that you’re robbing yourself of basic human needs. Enjoy the outdoors but by all means be prepared to the max. Happy camping!

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