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Camping for Beginners: How to Set Up a Tent and Stay Comfortable

Though camping in the great outdoors can be a complex affair, it doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable one! Before you start your first camping expedition, there’s a lot you can do to prepare, so it will be a great adventure.

Read on for an all-in-one guide for camping for beginners–everything from prep to picking your location to pitching camp. This will help you make the best of your camping trip!

A cozy-looking campsite in the fall with an air matters bed inside a tent and a campfire near the tent.

Planning Your Camping Trip

What to Budget For

One of the trickiest aspects of camping for beginners that’s often overlooked is ensuring you can budget for everything you need. Camping can be as easy or as difficult as you make it based on what you choose to prioritize.

When preparing for your camping trip, be sure to budget for the right gear. That includes sturdy sleeping gear, safety items, cooking gear, and season-appropriate attire. You will also want to budget for food that will fuel you well, and have plenty of water.

You might also want to budget for things like fishing, swimming, boating, and wildlife viewing gear, or stargazing equipment. It’s always good to budget a bit for fun and the necessities.

Meal Planning

Another important aspect of camping for beginners is to take time to meal plan and purchase food ahead of time. Your food is your fuel, so you want to eat balanced meals, usually high in protein, to help keep you at your best.

Taking time to plan your meals and how you’ll prepare them will also help you save money and budget for your cooking gear.

When to Go Camping

Picking the right time for your outdoor adventure is a crucial part of camping for beginners and should never be overlooked. Particularly when you are just starting to camp in the great outdoors, going in a harsher, more taxing season is likely not in your best interest.

Instead, try to aim for a time when the weather is more forgiving and conditions will not be extreme…either extremely hot or extremely cold. Late spring or early autumn can be the best time for camping for beginners.

Landing in this window will give you ample opportunity to become familiar with setting up and tearing down camp, cooking outdoors, and acclimating to the whole camping experience without having to concern yourself with especially taxing conditions.

Choosing Your Camping Location

A tent campsite in a desert setting. Camping for beginners is possible in all kinds of locations, if you know what to do.

State Parks

Sometimes, camping for beginners can seem overwhelming when you realize just how many camping locations there are to choose from! However, camping in state parks can be some of the best places for camping for beginners.

For the most part, state parks have options for less rugged camping setups. This is often a great way to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of camping. Certain commodities like flush toilets and showers can help make camping for beginners a bit kinder, as it will ease you into the experience.

National Forests

National forests can be a lot like state parks when it comes to camping for beginners, but the main difference is that many of these forests have fewer amenities. Often you will have more of a rugged camping experience in them.

For some, this is exactly what you might be looking for when it comes to camping for beginners. So if you are hunting for a more rustic wilderness camping experience, consider a national forest as your first location.

Private Campgrounds

Private campgrounds can be found all over the country. They can range from extremely rustic to packed with amenities. You really get the pick of the litter with these because you can choose precisely when and where to camp and how glamorous you want the adventure to be.

It’s important to know that many private campgrounds are reserved for RV or car camping. If you are looking for a tent experience for camping for beginners, you will likely have to look a bit harder for a private campground that will accommodate that venture.

Gear You’ll Need

Camping gear near an orange tent: a camping chair, backpack with hiking accessories, hiking boots, jacket, and a hat.

Sleeping Gear

Having good sleeping gear is absolutely crucial for camping for beginners and veterans alike. No one wants to be sore, stiff, or exposed to the elements while on a camping adventure…especially when you’re just getting started with this experience.

With this in mind, it’s important to budget and invest in good sleeping gear. Look for a tent that gives you as much space and protection as necessary to accommodate your specific needs, the number of campers, etc. You also want to ensure your tent is sturdy and durable so you aren’t having to purchase a new one every year or worry about it succumbing to the elements.

To augment your tent, you will also need a tarp. You may also need additional stakes and ropes, depending on the weather in your chosen camping location.

Additional sleeping gear you should consider includes a high-quality, all-seasons sleeping bag, a bed mat, and–depending on your needs and space–possibly even a camping cot or an air mattress.

Camping can be as rugged as you like, but that doesn’t mean you have to make peace with being achy after a night of roughing it. Be sure to invest in whatever products you can afford to you sleep well and feel rested on your camping adventure.

Cooking Gear

Different folks will be invested in different amounts of cooking while camping. Some might prefer to do the bare minimum, while others might prefer a glamorous outdoor meal experience. When it comes to camping for beginners, having the right cooking gear will help ensure you eat well and safely out in the wilderness.

If you want to go the route of more glamorous campfire cooking, you can invest in things like the Odoland Collapsible Camping Cookware Set. This will provide you with everything you need to cook your meals, make your beverages of choice, and more. It comes with pots and pans, eatingware, silverware, and drinkware.

If you prefer the more rugged camping and cooking experience, such as on a hunting trip, you might consider a campfire rotisserie like the only fire Rotisserie Spit. This will allow you to cook your food over an open flame.

Another piece of gear you might consider is a portable camping grill. This will allow you to forego fireside cooking altogether and enjoy a more domestic cooking experience.

Safety Gear

Safety gear is an absolute must, especially for camping for beginners. Until you get your feet beneath you and truly familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of camping, safety, and more, having more is better for safety.

Some safety gear to ensure you pack along are a flashlight, basic tools, a first aid kit, insect repellent and sunblock, emergency rations of food and water, and wildlife repellent. For tips on other must-have items, check out our blog post on How To Create The Ultimate Camping Survival Kit.

Other Items to Consider

There are lots of other items to consider for camping for beginners. These may not be entirely necessary, but they can make the experience more enjoyable and less rugged if you prefer! Some items are a rain fly to help protect your tent, a camping lantern, bedsheets, camping games, and things like fishing gear and wildlife-watching tools.

Check out our Camping Gear page for plenty of ideas on camping gear.

Setting Up the Campsite

A tent campsite set up in a wooded setting near water.

Choosing the Right Location

Choosing the right spot to set up camp is a crucial first step in camping for beginners. You want to ensure the spot is as waterproof and secure as possible. Try to select a location that avoids particularly hard elements, such as tree roots, buried rocks, and the like.

You also will want to consider your surroundings. For example, trees can provide shelter, but be sure you check for any limbs that look weakened or compromised, and avoid pitching your tent below them.

Proximity to water can also be an important factor to consider. Easy water access will be nice in a lot of cases, but if things get rainy, rising creeks and rivers could pose a threat to your campsite. There is also the insect attraction of the water to consider.

Also, be sure to take into account the proximity of other campers. Pitching camp too close to other campers can have a negative impact on the experience if said neighbors are loud or disruptive. So be sure to choose your location wisely!

How to Set Up Your Tent

Learning how to set up your tent is one of the most important aspects of camping for beginners. Once you know how to do this, you will feel like a pro!

The first thing to be aware of is that various tents have different setup steps, so be sure to read any instructions included with your particular tent. In general, you will want to ensure you have a few key items.

This includes sturdy tent stakes to help protect against wind and weather, as well as any curious animals in your camping area. Some tent kits do not include stakes, or the ones they include might be cheap plastic. If this is the case, invest in sturdy metal stakes. It will be worth the extra cost!

Strong ropes for tying down your tent are also good to have on hand. Again, if these materials are not included in your tent kit, or if the ones it comes with are cheaper, you should consider investing in sturdier ones.

Another important item to have is a tarp to go beneath your tent. Lastly, if you have a rain fly, this will come in handy here, too.

To set up your tent, you first want to lay down the tarp to protect against excess moisture. Then, lay out all the components of your tent around you to see clearly what you are working with.

Now, it’s time to orient the bottom of your tent to the tarp and arrange the windows and doors of your tent in the direction you want them to face. Then, you can assemble your tent poles and insert them into the frame.

Once the poles are in, you can raise your tent and situate it over the tarp. Next, tie down your tent using your sturdy stakes and additional ropes, if necessary. Then, throw on the rain fly if you have one to add some extra coverage from the elements.

Just like that, you have mastered one of the biggest keys of camping for beginners: you’ve set up your tent for the first time!

How to Build a Fire Pit

Learning how to build a fire pit is another great lesson in camping for beginners. Depending on where you are staying, many places will have a fire pit provided. In this case, simply stack wood in an upward teepee shape, then add kindling inside this structure.

Good kindling includes things like dried leaves or pine needles, dry bark from trees like birches, and small twigs. The drier these are, the better! You can then use matches or a lighter to start your fire.

If you don’t have these things on hand, check out this helpful guide on campfire and survival fires to learn how to start fires in tricky situations!

Cooking While Camping

Person cooking in a Dutch oven hanging over a campfire.

Food Safety

Having a good handle on food safety is an important aspect of camping for beginners. Unless you are camping in an RV, you may not have access to constant amenities to keep perishable food cold. So you want to factor this in when picking and handling food.

Be sure to follow all of the standard steps for safe food handling, and make plans to keep food fresh. Bring food storage containers for leftovers and a small cooler to help keep things chilled.

In addition, in all camping scenarios, animal-repellent containers are a crucial part of food safety. You don’t want to attract foragers like raccoons, bears, or coyotes to your campsite. Be sure you can seal your food in an airtight container, and if possible, stow it away from your campsite to avoid attracting curious wildlife.

Suggestions for Easy Camping Meals

There are lots of easy meals you can have in your repertoire for camping. Things like stews, iron skillet hash, and even vegan recipes can be very simple to make and can feed a small or large crew camping together.

For lots of ideas on easy meals that are great for camping for beginners and that will keep well, check out our page on Camping Food!

Camping Preparedness

Person bandaging another person's arm. Camping first aid concept.

Scenarios to Consider

Preparedness is a must when it comes to camping for beginners and veterans alike. Before you set off on your camping trip, pack and plan for many different scenarios.

Things like bad weather, illness, injuries, wildlife encounters, and getting lost are all possibilities when camping. Gear can occasionally become compromised. You may run into unsavory campsite neighbors or find yourself roughing it far more than you anticipated.

Brushing up on survival tips will help you plan and prepare for all different possibilities that can arise when camping…especially if you plan to camp in the wilderness, out in a forest, or anywhere off the beaten path.

How to Deal With Unexpected Events

The first key to dealing with unexpected events while camping is to remain calm. Levelheadedness will always triumph in situations where you need to address a problem.

If a situation arises, remain calm, use the items you have at your disposal to address events, and where possible and necessary, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s from park rangers, veteran campers, trained officials, or others in your camping group, pooling resources and helping out can mitigate a problem quickly.

It can also be helpful to take some outdoor survival courses to learn how to properly address various scenarios for camping for beginners.

Things to Do

Signs directing people to various hiking or walking trails.

Hiking and Exploring

Most campgrounds offer some memorable hiking experiences. State parks and national forests, in particular, will often have a trail system you can enjoy. Some places also have fun off-path adventures like caves and waterfalls that beg to be enjoyed.

Be sure to check out the hiking opportunities at your location. And always pack appropriate footwear, clothing, insect repellant, and sunblock if you plan to spend a lot of time hiking and enjoying nature on your camping adventure.

Wildlife Viewing

Various camping locations will have native wildlife. If you would like to do some wildlife viewing while camping, it’s always best to come prepared!

A pair of binoculars and a fully charged phone or camera can help you experience wildlife to the fullest. But it’s also essential to be prepared for encounters with wildlife you might not predict or ones that can turn dangerous.

If you’re venturing for some wildlife viewing in areas with aggressive, venomous, or otherwise unpredictable animals, be sure to take the necessary precautionary measures first. Bring along a first aid kit and repellents as needed.


Plenty of campgrounds offer fishing opportunities! So if you like to enjoy the day with a fishing pole in hand, check your campground of choice ahead of time and see what it has to offer.

In some locations, you are allowed to keep what you catch. This can be a great opportunity to clean and cook your own fish over the campfire, so you will want to ensure you have the right cooking gear for that as well.

Also, be sure to budget for good tackle and lures specific to the types of fish in the area where you plan to go camping. This will help you make the most of the fishing experience.


Lots of camping locations are so remote they offer great stargazing opportunities. Be sure to bring binoculars, a blanket or camping chairs, and even a telescope to make the most of these uncongested, unpolluted night skies!

Wrapping Up Camping For Beginners

A campsite set up on a beach with a campfire at sunset.

Feeling like you’ve got your feet beneath you when it comes to camping for beginners?

Don’t stop learning here! Check out our Camping page for all the info you will ever need on all sorts of camping, from tent to RV to hammock camping and more!