Camping for the first time can be a fantastic adventure. But even the best laid plans can see a great experience turn into a nightmare. As they say in the great outdoors, be prepared. This post, A Beginners Guide to Camping will help you to plan and prepare for your first camping trip and hopefully many more that follow. Whether you are backpacking with a friend or your family, having a romantic weekend away or spending a week by the seaside I will provide some of my best tips I have discovered during my camping experiences to help you start yours. From how to choose a campsite, tips on free camping, the best time of year to go, what to take on your adventure and some quick camping meals. So, let’s get your camping holiday or new living arrangements sorted.
Reasons To Go Camping
Where to start with reasons to go camping? I will start with the obvious, camping is cheaper than some other holiday accommodation. On saying that, the set up costs of equipment can initially cost a lot, but in the long run your camping equipment can be used over and over again reducing the cost of your camping trip. Camping also allows you to get up close to some incredible nature. Yep, you can set yourself up beside a river or ocean, in a bush or forest setting, on a piece of land by a natural landmark or even in someone’s backyard in a major city. You then only need to watch out for the locals, mosquitos, bears and other humans! If travelling on your own you may find the peace and quiet you long for or if travelling with someone else or others camping can bring you closer together. One other positive is that you can meet other campers. These campers may, or may not, become friends and they can be useful in recommending local spots to visit or other places to camp. Now there are some negatives to camping. Inclement weather, locals like humans, other animals and bugs and forgetting to pack a useful piece of travel gear. But don’t let that deter you to much as I believe the reasons to start camping far outweigh the negatives.
Best Time To Go Tent Camping
Some might say, any time is a good time to go camping particularly if this is your choice of living. I suggest the biggest factors influencing you when to go are the weather, the seasons and school and public holidays. So pick your season. Do you prefer warmer or colder weather. You can’t always pick the perfect weather so check ahead and change your plans if the weather is too uncertain. Many tents and sleeping bags are made to suit many conditions which is why many people say ‘any time is a good time to go camping’. So lets hope that tent you purchased is waterproof! As well as the weather you may want to consider the time of year you will be camping. Do you mind camping with loads of other campers during school and public holidays. If you don’t mind, great, but if you do, then you may want to reconsider the time of year or go during off-peak times.
Choosing Your Campsite
Once you have decided you are going camping you need to decide where you want to pitch your tent. So how do you choose a campsite? Consider the following:
- Who are you camping with? Just yourself, a friend or your family?
- Do you want to be remote or with other campers?
- Does the campsite need to be dog-friendly?
- Do you require entertainment on site such as jumping castles, a pool and an entertainment zone for the kids?
- How are you cooking? Will you be needing access to a BBQ? A fire pit? Or are you bringing your own cooking equipment.
- Would you like a shop on site so you can purchase additional food, the local paper or a litre of milk?
- What about toilets and showers? Are you happy to dig a hole in the dirt and not shower for your entire stay? Or will you be needing a dump point?
- And the biggest decision is the location. What things do you want to be near – the water, in walking distance to restaurants for dinner, in the mountains, etc.
How to Find and Book Your Campsite
When you know the type of camping area you want to stay in, you need to find one to actually stay at. All these decisions can make you feel overwhelmed when planning your camping trip. If you have been camping a long time you may have special spots you like to go to. If not, there are a number of ways to help you find a campsite. You can wing it and look for signposts along the road pointing you in the direction of a camping ground. You could book a camping spot well in advance with specific camping grounds via their website. Or, like many do these days use camping apps and Facebook Groups. One app I have found very useful is WikiCamps which provides camping information for a number of countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. So if in need of a dump site or a camp ground check this app out. Also asking locals of the last town you drove through can also prove fruitful as locals often know the best places to set up camp, as do other campers. And don’t forget many national parks allow you to camp for a fee and there are also many free camping spots you could consider – you just need to find them.
What to take Camping – Essential and Not So Essential Equipment
Packing for a camping is different to packing for a two week trip in a hotel resort. When else do you take your own bed and the kitchen sink! Over my years of camping I have worked out some essentials and not so essentials to take with me. Now these are just my suggestions, as you begin your camping adventures you will discover your own essential and not-so essential equipment to take.
Tent Essentials: Tent (with pegs and mallet), Beds (Air Pump), sleeping bag, bedding.
Tents come in all shapes and sizes catering to singles, couples and families. For more information and pricing on the following tents, click on the images.
Useful Items: Torch, Light (Solar) Camping Chairs, Picnic Rug, Dustpan and Brush, Folding Table, Clothes line and pegs.
Camp Kitchen Utensils: Gas Cooker with Gas Bottle, Matches/Lighter, Saucepan, Frypan, Kettle, Sharp Knife, Scissors, Chopping Board, Tongs, Spatula, Baking Tray.
Cooking utensils are essential. There are many options to cook meals from single burner gas stoves to camp / dutch ovens. For more information and pricing on the following cooking utensils click on the images.
Food Cupboard: Tea, Coffee (I love my coffee so have a small coffee maker), Milk, Oil for Cooking, Butter/Spread, Salt & Pepper, Sauces.
I love to start my day with a good coffee. I don’t go anywhere without my Wacaco Coffee maker now. For more information and pricing click on the image.
Utensils & Helpful Kitchen items: Crockery, Cutlery (I find sporks excellent while camping), Cups, Thermo Mug, Baking Tray, Reusable Water Bottle, Bottle Opener, Can Opener, Water Container, Esky and Ice Packs, Foil, Paper Towel, Tupperware and Ziplock Bags. To help save space check out the collapsable bowls, cups and wash basin. And don’t forget your spork! For more information and pricing click on the images.
Kitchen Clean Up: Washing Up Bowl, Washing Up Liquid, Sponges, Tea Towels, Rubbish Bags.
Toiletries: Personal Toiletries, Bug Spray, Sunscreen, First Aid Kit, Toilet Paper. To keep all you toiletries together check out these toiletry bags. They come with a hanging hook making them easy to hang up while having a shower. For more information and pricing click on the images.
Miscellaneous Items: Pack of Cards and other games, Football, Bike, Swiss Army Knife, Fire Starter for if you are having an open fire in case the kindling is wet.
Stay connected: Taking electronic items then stay powered up with a Solar Power bank. For more information and pricing on the solar power banks click on the images.
Clothing Essentials For Camping
What you will wear during your camping trip will be dependent on the weather at the time and the location you will be camping in. If you are camping by a beach during summer months you will be wearing lighter clothes than if you decide to go camping in the middle of winter where your thermal underwear will come in handy.
Layering your clothes is a really great way to deal with temperature changes. I suggest thermals or a t-shirt, an overshirt, a jumper or fleece, then a waterproof jacket. Top this off with a hat or a beanie. And don’t forget your feet. A good pair of walking shoes or appropriate shoes, like a pair of thongs if you are camping by the beach will come in handy for your trip.
Two items I always take camping are a good pair of walking shoes and a waterproof jacket.
Setting up your Tent Camping Site
When you have arrived at your chosen campsite the first thing to do is set up your site.
Start with your tent first. A good site for your tent should be flat, free of vegetation and rocks, be buffered from the wind and have good drainage. I usually take a tarp and lay this on the ground before putting my tent on top of it. It just acts as extra protection against the ground. When the tent is up I put my things inside. Then set up the cooking equipment. Some campsites have on-site grills and picnic tables to use. If this isn’t the case, you will need to find a safe area for your gas stove or to build a campfire.
Food and Cooking Essentials For Tent Camping
What you will be eating and how you cook your food will be dependent on your food tastes and what cooking equipment you will have available to you while camping. If your camp site will have BBQ facilities you may utilise this to have plenty of BBQ meals. If you will be relying on your little camp stove, then your meals may be one pot wonders and good fry ups.
My best advice for food while camping is to do some pre-planning. Think about the meals you will be having while camping and take food to cover these meals. So start with packing a box of basic staples and condiments like cooking oil, salt, pepper, tea, coffee, sugar, sauce and whatever you like to have on hand. Then you need to think about meals. How long are you camping for? Take enough food, bread, milk, butter, meat, salads and other ingredients required to make your chosen meals. You could freeze a number of these foods which will keep them fresher longer and also help to keep other foods cool in your esky.
Don’t forget that you’ll need a container for your water. It needs to be big enough to hold all your water but small enough to pour from. Many campsites have drinking water available, so check before you go as to what your chosen camp site has.
Tent Camping Tips and Hacks
Everyone has camping tips and hacks, here are some of mine learnt over the many years I have been camping.
- Store your food correctly to avoid animals invading your camp and stealing and eating your food. I suggestion packing your dry food in a sturdy box with a closed lid. While keeping all perishables in a sturdy ice chest.
- Don’t feed the local wildlife as they can become dependent on humans feeding them. If they do, they can become aggressive if new campers arrive and won’t feed them.
- Ensure you think about your safety. Bush fires are all too common in Australia so avoid the bush when advised to do so. A fire rating system is in place for safety.
- Always have enough drinking water. Use a re-fillable water bottle and always fill your water bottle with drinkable water.
- Endeavour to leave your campsite as clean or cleaner than you found it. The next campers will appreciate this. It is also your responsibility to leave as small a footprint as possible so future travellers and generations can enjoy what you are enjoying.
- Place a floor covering (rug, mat) at the door on the outside and another on the inside so if your feet happen to be wet, sandy or muddy you can wipe them on the outside floor covering and anything left will be caught on the inside floor covering. This reduces the amount of grass, sand, mud, pine needs and other things being brought into your tent.
- Hang a light from the top of your tent, if possible, so you can see at night. It also makes getting ready for bed much easier.
- Know what camping cooking equipment is available to you and adjust your meals to what you can cook.
- I work out how many days I might be camping for and plan my meals. I often prepare some of it in advance. For instance, I might make a pasta sauce and pasta, freeze it and bring it in my ice chest or Esky. Then I can simply put it in a pot and heat it and serve. I also make a couple of easy salads to bring such as coleslaw, pesto pasta or a green leaf salad. I keep them in Tupperware to keep them fresh.
- Prep salad, carrots, cucumber, capsicum (peppers), etc and put them into food storage containers. Then get them out when needed.
- Pack a baking tray or extra plate so it can be used to pile high those just cooked sausages, steak, kebabs, etc.in the middle of your table.
- Have hearty food that will fill you up and keep your backpack light. Like trail mix rather than lollies and porridge rather than corn flakes.
- Take a roll of Toilet Paper.
- Have a rainy day plan such as having things to do in the tent like board games, cards, small electronics and books to read. And this could be a great opportunity to tell those scary stories!
Related: For some easy and yummy camping recipes visit: Travellers-Fare – Fast and Fabulous Meals for Travellers.
There you have it. My beginners guide to tent camping. As I originally said, spending a few days or longer in the great outdoors can be a wonderful adventure, or it can be a living nightmare. Often a good or bad camping experience comes down to not having any knowledge of what to expect. I hope my post has alleviated a lot of the negatives about camping and no matter whether you are a first-timer or experienced camper I hope your camping experiences are truly positive ones.
Hi. I’m Sharyn. I have travelled most of my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline. Travelling so much has led to me being a Travel Writer, Publisher of travel guides and Content Creator for travel websites. I also love chocolate, coffee and a nice dry glass of white wine. I have created LiveWorkPlayTravel to help you work abroad, work online and to travel the world like I do. So join me. Read more.