Camping can be a very enjoyable break from the stress of everyday life, provided that you prepare properly. For those going camping for the first time, this piece is a compilation of comments campers have sent us on what their #1 tip is for new campers, with the goal of helping you have a great time and avoid any kind of irritating experiences that can come with camping. Here’s the simple query we put out:
What’s your #1 tip for camping that first-time campers wouldn’t tend to consider? All comments welcome.
In response, there were dozens of comments from experienced campers (you’ll notice many people in the comments we’ve published below run camping websites), and I’ve published the best ones (in my opinion) below. If you have a camping tip that hasn’t yet been mentioned, you’re also welcome to submit a comment here.
Here are the main points people have brought up so far, along with a link to the full comment:
- Decorate your tent with solar-powered lights (link)
- Always carry airtight tupperware, ziploc bags, or clippers (link)
- Line your bags with a garbage bag (link)
- Practice at home (link), including pitching your tent at home (link)
- Deodorant can help against mosquito bites (link), and take bug repellant containing DEET (link)
- You may not have a cell signal when camping, so take a screenshot of important maps beforehand (link)
- Use a checklist for packing, but only check off items once they’re actually in your car (link)
- Always go at least one size up with your tent (link)
- Make sure your gear is comfortable and suits your needs (link)
- Bring some basic first aid supplies (link)
- Don’t pitch your tent at the base of a hill (link)
- Get a good sleeping bag (link)
- Remember to enjoy yourself (link)
- Bring a tarp (link)
- You can eat non-freeze dried food while camping (link)
- Always be on the lookout for firewood (link)
Take 10 minutes to read through and consider everything here, and you should avoid be well prepared for your next camping trip.
My #1 tip would be to bring solar-powered lights to decorate your tent with. Not only will your tent look great at night, but it will also prevent others from tripping over your tent at night.
The lights will power up during the day, and then at night, you won't lose your way back to your tent.
--Ivy Skifstad, livinthelifeofivy.com
Always carry airtight tupperware, ziploc bags, or clippers. During the journey to the camping grounds and during the camping event itself, you will end up eating a lot of food and snacks. When you leave a half open bag of chips, or a cooked meal in an open pot, you increase your chances of luring in all sorts of animals. These include raccoons, ants, birds, and even bears depending on where you are. Having airtight containers will not only seal in the food’s scent, it will also make it impossible for the animals to access thus keeping them away.
--Jay Scott, Pugsquest
One of my top tips when it comes to camping is to line your bags with a garbage bag. It is something that people tend to overlook. As weather is everything when you're camping, a truly seasoned camper knows to be careful with the many and ever changing moods of Mother Nature, something as simple as a garbage bag lining your bag can guarantee a warm and dry night spent under the skies.
--Tal Shelef, Condo Wizard
Here's my answer: Practice at home.
I love camping. I had my first when I was in college and I was actually kinda nervous doing it alone, especially that I didn’t know how to build a tent. So, if it is your first time camping and didn’t know the basics, try doing the basics AT HOME. This sounds ridiculous but it will actually help. You don’t want to be a mess on your first day of camping. It is better to see the flaws while you’re still at home instead of ending up frustrated on that day.
--James Bullard, Sound Fro
Deodorants can ease the itchiness caused by mosquito bites.
Camping is fun but once you’re there, you would see a lot of flaws that might frustrate you. One thing that dismayed me the most during my first camping trip was mosquito bites. I came unprepared and I didn’t bring any mosquito repellant with me. One friend suggested using deodorant to ease the itchiness and, guess what, it worked! So, always bring your deo stick with you, not just for your underarms but so as for mosquito bites!
--James Kilpatrick, Beanie Coffee
Most first time campers are surprised by the lack of cell signal at campgrounds. You can't rely on your phone to get you home after your trip.
Before leaving your house, use your map app and pull up the directions. Go to the step by step directions and take a screenshot of your phone. Reverse the directions and repeat the process.
Now you have a backup in case you lose signal on the way to your camping adventure or your return home.
--Alison Watta, Explorationsolo.com
My #1 tip for new campers is to not only use a checklist for packing but ONLY check off the items when they are actually in the car. I can't begin to tell you how many stories I have heard where new campers gather all their gear by the garage or front door and forget to bring something in the car because it was resting on a countertop or was moved at the last second.
If new campers want to make sure they don't leave behind the gear they need, then use the checklist when gathering your gear but only cross off the items when the gear makes it into the actual car. They'll never have to worry about forgetting the toilet paper again.
--Raul Mercado, Camping Helper
Always go at least one size up for your tent! What this means is, if there are two people camping and sleeping in the same tent, they will want at least a 3-person tent. A 2-person tent holds just that, two people, with no room to spare. Don't forget you have sleeping bags, backpacks, shoes, coolers, and other gear that may need to go in the tent, as well. By jumping up a size, you'll ensure that you have the extra room needed to make the camping trip a lot more comfortable.
--Jon McBroom, Tent Hacker
1. Pack bug repellent containing DEET and do a tick check everyday. Nothing can protect you from being bitten by a mosquito in the way that an EPA-approved insect repellent can. Look for the EPA approval on the label and search for active ingredients such as DEET or oil of lemon-eucalyptus.
Tick checks are extremely important after any outdoor activity, but especially camping since you will be outside for long periods of time. It's essential to look closely. Nymphs, young ticks, can be very tiny and easy to miss. Make sure to check kids and pets as well!
Ticks and mosquitoes carry some of the most dangerous diseases in the world such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, West Nile Virus and ZIka. It's important to be vigilant while outside for any period of time, especially while camping.
--Nancy Troyano, Ehrlich Pest Control
Before you hit the campground, pitch your tent at home! The worst time to learn the ins-and-outs of putting up your tent is after a long day of hiking and camping with the sun going down. Or worse yet, when it's raining! Read the instructions and practice putting up your tent at home in your backyard. And if you're missing any pieces you at least have time to get them before your camping trip.
--Tory Jon, Camper FAQs
I'm an avid hiker, camper, and outdoor lover who enjoys introducing others to the outdoors. Currently, I actually lead a guide for my work's annual Hike2O event and have logged over 80+ miles on the Foothills Trail with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Over the years, I have found that people ten to get turned off from hiking or camping because they used the wrong gear and were not comfortable during their experience. Before heading out to camp, make sure your gear is comfortable and suits your needs. An essential part of camping is making sure you have the right tent for the climate you are camping in. For example, when camping in a humid climate like South Florida, you'll want a tent that breathes (has a good ventilation system) and does not trap condensation inside the tent, or else you will wake up with everything inside your tent completely soaked.
--Amanda Moore, Loggerhead Marinelife Center
I have so many tips, but probably the #1 is to remember to bring some basic first aid supplies. It’s easy to forget, and very commonly needed. Having a dedicated first aid kit is best…. something with bandaids, gauze, tape, antibacterial ointment, ibuprofen, and benedryl (at a minimum) for example. When you are away from civilization, having these essential items can make or break your experience. It’s hard to overstate its importance in fact!
--Jeff Carter, Rockbrook Camp for Girls
My number one tip for a first time camper is not to pitch your tent at the base of hill if possible. This is because if there is the possibility of rain, your tent will be on flat-even ground and will not flood. This is coming from personal experience and many stories of friends setting up tents at the base of hills and getting flooded. Campmor states, “Sometimes there is no level ground and you may have to settle for slightly sloping ground. Be sure to position your head on the uphill slope with your feet pointed downhill. If you lie sideways along the slope, you will inevitably roll to one side of the tent, pressing your body into the tent wall material, creating the potential for getting wet from condensation.”
--Dante Donahue, Triple D’s Estates
My best tip for camping is to splurge on your sleeping bag. Look, you're outdoors, there are the elements, there's the bugs, there's plenty of stuff. With all of that considered. there's no reason not to go high-end on your sleeping materials. Try The North Face website or even REI, but invest in quality. I've spent plenty of camping adventure in budget sleeping bags, and it just doesn't go. This is easily my best tip.
--David Bakke, National Air Warehouse
DON’T SWEAT IT. It’s very handy to plan everything ahead (you should definitely do it) such as making a checklist for your camping. But, first-timers tend to be perfectionists. They want to make sure everything works out. This makes them sweat even the littlest of things. First-time campers don’t consider that it’s still a vacation. You don’t have to sweat the small stuff. If things don’t go according to plan, it’s the perfect time to improvise and enjoy yourselves. That’s the real essence of a camping trip. You have to be creative and enjoy the situation as they go. Planning could only get you so far. First-timers have to keep in mind that camping is a time to enjoy themselves. It's not a time to be stressed about whether it’s wise to bring a mini-fridge or not.
Even though it’s important to plan ahead and be ready for camping, it’s even more important to camp your way. Do what you think you’ll enjoy the most with your group. Never forget to enjoy yourself.
--Graham Spence, Mantelligence
In addition to your tent, bring a tarp to go underneath. The tarp should be a little bit bigger than the tent, so you can create a little front porch. This is a great place to leave your shoes, so you aren't tracking dirt into the tent (which can get all over the place and is hard to clean out at night). The tarp also serves as additional insulation for your tent to help keep the dampness out.
--Mikaela Walker, Orlando Parents Family Fun Magazine
As an experienced hiker and outdoorsman, I know all about helping new campers enjoy their first night under the stars. Here’s my top tip for new campers that most people wouldn’t think of: you can eat non-freeze dried food while camping.
In recent years, freeze-dried food has become more and more popular because it’s so easy to prepare on a camping trip. But, it will never beat the experience of having a quality, homemade meal in the outdoors. Plus, a lot of those freeze-dried meals are chock full of sugar, salt, and other things that just aren’t going to give you the energy you need on the trail..
That being said, many people think that pre-packaged meals are their only option when they’re outside. For first time campers, I recommend trying to cook an actual meal, even if you’ve never used a camp stove before.
My advice? Keep things simple and go with either a pasta or a rice-based dish. For pasta lovers, a box of mac and cheese (perhaps with some dehydrated veggies mixed in) is a good choice.
To spice things up a bit, you could grab a pre-made powdered sauce packet from the grocery store if you’d prefer a different flavor. If you eat meat, you can add bacon bits, pre-cooked chicken, or summer sausage for added protein.
Alternatively, rice is easy enough to cook and can be mixed with beans, cheese, salsa, and veggies for a burrito-inspired dish.
The key is to keep things simple and to plan ahead. Think about what you want to eat and find ways to cook it all in one pot to make both cooking and clean-up way easier. If you really want to take things to the next level, you can pack a small fry pan, which is particularly nice for breakfast meals.
While cooking an actual meal might be a bit more involved than boiling water for a freeze-dried packet of food, it will certainly taste much better.
I also recommend testing out your camp stove at home and trying to cook a small meal in your backyard before heading outside for the first time. That way, you can go into your first camping trip confident in your ability to cook a gourmet meal. Then, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a quality home-cooked dinner in the outdoors.
--Julien Heron, Outdoors Generations
If I were to give one piece of advice to first time campers, it would be to constantly be on the lookout for firewood.
Firewood consists of 3 components: the tinder (small, natural resources like pine needles, dry grass, dry leaves, pinecones, etc), the kindling (medium sized sticks that are roughly the width of a pencil) and the fuel wood (larger logs that are the girth of your forearm or bigger). The tinder helps ignite your fire, the kindling intensifies that ignition and the fuel wood will keep your fire going for long periods of time.
It's definitely a great idea to always look for these components throughout the entirety of your trip. You should scan the ground when you're hiking to your campsite, when you're setting up your tent, when you're relaxing and even when you're going to the bathroom. Keep a reusable bag with you so that you can carry as much as you need and bring it to your firebed.
If you wait until it's time to start your fire, then it'll be much more difficult to find your firewood. Also, you may not have enough material within your campsite itself.
Another vital aspect to consider is that all of your firewood must be completely dry. If there's any bit of moisture, your fuel will not ignite. This is why it's also important to carry backup wood. Newspaper and dryer lint work incredibly well as tinder. If you bring enough of it, it'll be much easier to get your fire going. Also, many official campsites offer fuel wood for purchase. This can be a lifesaver if it's rained recently or if you don't have a saw to cut large chunks of wood.
--Mike Nicosia, Conquerwild