The more you plan for a camping trip, the more you’ll enjoy the experience.
In our family’s earlier days of tent camping, lack of preparation sometimes made camping feel like a chore rather than a relaxing getaway.
Over the years, I’ve come up with a list of camping tips that will ensure your next trip goes smoothly.
- Start With Our Family Camping Checklist to Make Sure You Have All the Right Gear!
Tips for Planning a Camping Trip
The following camping tips will help you plan the perfect trip before you even reach the campground.
1. Test Drive Camping at Home
You don’t want to end up sleeping under the stars because you couldn’t figure out how to set up your tent!
If you’re a true camping beginner, it’s always wise to test out your camping gear in your backyard or living room before heading to the campground.
Not only is this a great way for you to become more comfortable with your gear, but your kids are sure to love backyard camping!
2. Camp Close to Home
I always recommend that new campers camp close to home on their first couple trips.
That way, if the trip goes south, it’s not a huge car ride back to reality. Baby steps are good when it comes to camping as a newbie.
3. Check Out Campground Reviews
It’s a little intimidating to select a campground for your very first camping trip.
You want to make sure that your campsite and campground are everything you were hoping for and more.
So, take some time to look around online. Although a campground’s own website is a great place to start, don’t forget to check out user reviews as well.
Here at Beyond The Tent, we have a huge number of resources for those looking for campground reviews:
Let our campground guides (and other reviews online) take some of the guesswork out of picking the best campsite.
4. Look at Campground Maps Before Reserving a Site
Once you’ve chosen the perfect campground, it’s time to reserve the best campsite.
I make it a habit to study campground maps prior to booking any of our family’s campsites.
Most campgrounds, especially larger ones like state park campgrounds, have online maps that show you where each site is located.
Because we have kids, I always try to steer clear of campsites right next to large drop-offs, bodies of water, or other possible dangers.
Although I do like to have a restroom nearby, I also don’t want to stay in a campsite right next to it!
5. Consider Leaving Pets at Home
We’re all about camping with dogs, but sometimes it’s best to just leave your pets at home.
The fact is it’s hard to know how your dog will act in a camping environment if they’ve never gone camping before.
I’ve seen perfectly well-behaved dogs turn into anxious wrecks at campgrounds. Worse yet, is if your dog just won’t stop barking.
Not to mention, you never want to risk your pet jumping out of your vehicle and running away.
Personally, we usually line up a dog sitter before our family camping trips.
If you’re dead set on taking your dog camping, then include your dog in your home trial run. At the very least, make sure they’ll be comfortable sleeping in the tent with you at night.
Camping Gear Tips
As a camping beginner, it can be intimidating to pack up your gear for your first trip.
Our checklist, those guides, and the following tips cover everything you need, gear wise, for your next trip.
6. Spend a Little Extra On Comfortable Camp Chairs
Purchase cheap camping chairs and what you’ll end up with is a cheap chair.
Just think about the number of hours you’ll be spending sitting around the campfire with your family.
I prefer to sit in a comfortable chair, so a quality camping chair is worth every penny, in my opinion.
The REI Flexlite Air is one of my favorite camping chairs (it also works great for backpacking).
7. Try a Thermacell Mosquito Repeller
Mosquitos are the worst!
Although bug spray can do the job, we’ve found that Thermacell’s many products work wonders.
In particular, we like the Thermacell Mosquito Repeller. It works surprisingly well for keeping bugs at bay.
8. Screened-In Tents Are Awesome!
Another way to keep bugs from ruining your trip is by brining a screened-in tent.
This is particularly useful to place over your picnic table so you have somewhere to eat without an army of flies landing on your food.
We love the Nemo Bugout Screen Room for summer camping here in Minnesota.
Camping Trip Packing Tips
Before you head on out to the campground, take a few minutes to consider these camping trip tips.
9. Make Meals Ahead of Time at Home
Cooking meals over a campfire can be time consuming.
Our family likes to reduce time spent in the “camp kitchen” by making meals ahead of time from home.
Here are some of our favorite make ahead camping meals that our entire family loves to eat!
A quick example – prepare kabobs at home and have all the ingredients on sticks before you leave. Then all you have to do is simply throw them on the grill or fire.
Time saved from preparing food will give you much more time to enjoy being outdoors with your family!
10. Pack Simple, Yet Comfortable
Pack light when camping!
Honestly though, you probably don’t need as much gear (or food!) as you think.
That said, don’t make yourself miserable. It’s a complete camping myth that you need to sleep on the cold hard ground.
Sure, you don’t need to bring your bed frame and headboard, but I never leave home without my memory foam pad and a real pillow!
As a beginner, it’s better to bring too much gear than too little on your first trip.
Then take notes on what gear you use and which you really don’t need to better prepare for your next trip!
11. Use Storage Totes for Packing
Storage totes are the bomb when it comes to packing for a camping trip!
Our family seriously loves packing all of our gear into rubber storage bins for camping (and for storing gear at home). They also stack well in the back of your vehicle.
Here’s a top secret camping tip – you don’t need to cram your tent back into its stuff sack. Why not just store it in a storage bin instead?
12. Add Tweezers to Your First-Aid Kit
Never hit the campground without a first-aid kit in your car!
You never know what bumps or bruises you’ll deal with while exploring the great outdoors.
Here’s an awesome camping tip – add tweezers to your first-aid kit. You’ll thank me later if you get a sliver while building your campfire!
13. Bring a Case of Drinking Water
Drink plenty of water to stay cool while camping in the summer.
Of course, you can bring a water filter or maybe your campground has drinkable water, but the one time my family likes to opt for bottled water is before a camping trip.
We bring at least a case for a weekend trip to stay well hydrated throughout the day (bring even more if you plan to go hiking!).
14. Pack Extra Blankets
Nothing is worse than getting too cold at night if temperatures drop on your trip.
Extra blankets are a must-have in our opinion (even if you already have a great cold-weather sleeping bag).
Extra blankets also come in handy in case a kid decides to run into the tent with muddy shoes!
15. Don’t Forget Extra Padding
Air mattresses and sleeping pads both work great for camping.
But, personally, I prefer to bring a piece of memory foam to sleep on. Not only is it incredibly comfortable, but it also provides a lot of insulation from the cold ground.
A camping cot is another fantastic way to keep you comfortable and up off the ground at night.
16. Ear Plugs for the Win
Ear plugs are a wonderful addition to any camping kit.
They’ll help drown out noisy neighbors, barking dogs, or any nearby road noise.
Not only that, but camping in a tent with others doesn’t give you much room to get away from snoring.
I’d rather prepare ahead of time than deal with loud snoring all night!
Tips for Enjoying the Campground
Finally, finally, finally, you’re at the campground. Here are a final few camping tips to make your time spent at the campground go more smoothly.
17. Arrive at Your Campsite Early
The check-in time at most campgrounds is around 3pm (give or take an hour or two).
I suggest getting to the campground on the earlier side of the check-in time to give yourself plenty of time to set up camp before dark.
This is especially important if you didn’t listen to our first set of tips which highlight the importance of test driving camping before the actual trip!
18. Remember Dirt Doesn’t Hurt
Camping is not the time to wear your Sunday best.
Embrace nature and all it has to offer you while in the great outdoors, even if it means getting dirty.
Many campgrounds have shower facilities. Use these before bed if you like.
Or, use a portable solar shower to get clean without leaving your campsite.
Going to bed clean helps almost everyone sleep better. However, during the day, play hard!
19. Bring a Hammer or Mallet
A hammer or mallet is a great multi-purpose tool to have for camping.
For example, driving down tent stakes is very hard work if you come without these tools.
20. Keep Mosquitoes Out of Your Tent
Face your tent door into the wind to help keep those nasty mosquitos from joining your sleepover.
Of course, your Thermacell will also help a lot!
Another quick tip to keep mosquitos out of your tent – always zip up the tent door!
21. Keep Coolers and Food In Your Vehicle
No one wants nighttime visitors waking them up at night.
Keep all of your food, including your cooler, in your vehicle rather than in your tent to keep raccoons, mice, and other critters away.
Proper food storage is even more important when camping in bear country.
22. Bring Games and Plan Outdoor Activities
Camping is a great time to play card games and board games. Unlike at home, you have plenty of time to sit down and play.
We have a lot of fun camping games we like to play as a family, including kick the can.
Check out our favorite camping activities for even more ideas!
23. Be Ready for Weather Changes
Of course, you should always check the forecast before a camping trip.
But, even if the weather is supposed to be nice, it’s always smart to plan for the worst.
Our top tips for camping in the rain shows you how to make the most of a camping trip, even if it starts to pour.
In addition, it’s smart to identify a safe shelter in case of seriously severe weather (like a lightening storm).
24. Always Stay Close to Your Kids
Camping is a great time to let your kids explore your campsite on their own and have a little more freedom than normal.
But always keep a close eye on them.
Every year, there is a heartbreaking story of a child who is injured or even passes away while camping with family and friends.
Perhaps most important is water safety. Always have life jackets available if you’re camping near water. And always keep a close eye on your children in case of an emergency.
Finally, have a stranger danger talk with your children before your trip.
25. Dry Out Tent Before Storage
Even if it’s just a little bit of moisture, always dry out your tent before storage when you get home from your trip.
Leaving a tent packed when it’s moist will cause mold and mildew to grow.
In fact, most experts agree you should store your tent unpacked to increase its lifespan.
We’re guilty of not always doing this. But, at the very least, we let it dry out before packing it away until next time.
What Are Your Favorite Camping Tips?
Did we miss any camping tips that you’ve picked up over the years?
Please share them with us in the comments below if so!
We’re always looking to learn more for our own adventures (and to add more tips to this list!).
- About the Author
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Kelly’s passion for the outdoors permeates both her personal life and her professional role as a member of the Parks & Recreation Board in Maple Grove, MN. Whether she’s camping with her family in their camper at a state park, pitching a tent in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), or even glamping in their backyard, Kelly’s enthusiasm for embracing nature is unmistakable. This zeal extends to her role on the board, where she actively contributes to the acquisition, development, and maintenance of city parks and trails, enhancing leisure and recreation opportunities for all residents.