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What Do I Need for My First Camping Trip?

If you’re new to camping and want to see if it lives up to the hype, you might be wondering what you need for your first camping trip. It can be intimidating to head out on a camping trip as there are so many things to buy and bring. It’s easy to allow yourself to feel overwhelmed and anxious about your trip. Take a deep breath and know that you will have a great time and make some priceless memories.

Today, we’re sharing everything you need to make your first camping trip successful. Let’s dive in! 

Is Camping Hard?

Camping is more challenging than normal, everyday life and requires a bit more thought. Simple things like preparing meals, sleeping, and bathing require much more effort and planning. However, just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

Camping is one of the activities that becomes easier the more you do it. You learn what works for your camping style and slowly gather tools and pieces of equipment to enhance your camping experience. It might surprise you how much your skills and efficiency can grow in a single camping season.

Don't Make These 6 Camping MISTAKES

First Camping Trip Frequently Asked Questions

Campers ask a few common questions when they’re first getting started. The answers to these questions can help make your first and future camping trips much more enjoyable.

What Makes a Good Campsite?

When looking for a good campsite, there are a few things to remember. However, none is more important than finding a nice and level spot. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in an RV or tent; having a level campsite makes everything easier. Even with an auto-leveling system, it can be incredibly difficult to level an RV on an uneven campsite.

A level campsite isn’t the only thing you want. Shade is also a good characteristic, especially camping during the summer. The sun can heat a tent or RV rather quickly and make for a miserable camping experience. Finding a campsite with tall rocks and trees can help get you in the shade sooner.

When picking a campsite, consider the proximity to amenities. If you’re camping in a tent, you will most likely need to use the campground’s bathroom and shower house facilities. However, we caution you not to get a site too close to these items. They’re typically high-traffic areas, noisy, and potentially have lingering smells.

Tent set up at campsite
Camping for the first time is an exciting adventure.

What Food Do You Take Camping?

For you’re first camping trip, you want to take food with you that requires minimal amounts of effort. This is why hot dogs and other foods you can cook over a fire are staples for most camping trips. However, once you get more comfortable camping and acquire a stove or other cooking gear, you can challenge your cooking skills with more complex meals.

Breakfast foods like granola, cereal, oatmeal, and even pancakes are great options. You can stick with sandwiches, crackers, and canned soups for lunch. For dinner, you can boil water to make pasta, cook potatoes, or cook meat to make camping nachos. 

Don’t forget about campfire meal pouches, where you throw all of the ingredients into aluminum foil pouches and place them in the fire to cook. Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you can’t eat delicious food!

Pro Tip: Want to pack some freeze-dried food for your camping trip? Before you do, find out Is Freeze-Dried Food Bad for You?

What Do You Wear While Camping?

What clothes you pack on your first trip greatly depends on where and when you’re camping. However, no matter the circumstances, campers generally worry more about comfort than fashion. You’re also not likely going to have room for a tremendous amount of clothes, so you may have to wear shirts or shorts multiple times.

Checking the weather when packing is important. If there’s rain in the forecast, bring rain gear or plastic bags to store clothes that may get wet. When looking at the forecast, also consider the low temperatures at night. Some areas can experience drastic changes in overnight temperatures, and you don’t want to spend the entire night shivering because you didn’t come prepared.

Wear clothes that are comfortable and that you don’t mind getting dirty. No matter how hard you try, nature will likely find its way onto your clothes. There’s always a potential for rips and stains in your clothing, so it’s not typically the best time to wear your Sunday best.

Woman setting up camp site
Preparation is key to a successful first camping trip.

What Do I Need for My First Camping Trip?

As you’re getting ready for your first camping trip, it’s a good idea to start gathering some essentials weeks or months in advance. This can help spread out the costs associated with acquiring the gear and even give you time to research what gear might work best for you. Here are some essential items you’ll want to get before your first trip.

Campsite Reservation

If you’re new to camping, you’ll likely want to stick to camping in established campgrounds. However, most require a reservation. And, depending on where and when you’re camping, these can be rather difficult to snag.  Holiday weekends like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day are popular holidays for camping trips.

Make sure the campsite you’re reserving will meet your needs. If you’re in an RV, make sure the site can fit your rig and has all the connections you need during your trip. Those in tents may not be nearly as comfortable with most RV sites. They’re often limited with the amount of space and don’t have much grass. 

Inside of a tent set up at campsite
Set up a shelter first when camping to ensure you have a place to sleep!

Tent

If you plan to tent camp, you don’t want to forget a tent. You can find varying sizes of tents, including some with multiple rooms and screened-in sitting spaces. Make sure you get a tent that meets your family’s needs and gives everyone plenty of space for sleeping and moving. 

Keep in mind that the weather isn’t always going to cooperate. There will be rainy days and other situations where you’re stuck inside your tent for hours. Having a bit of extra room to spread out can be extremely useful.

Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag is a must, especially when camping in cooler weather. Getting a comfortable sleeping bag that will keep you warm when the temperatures drop can help make your camping adventures much more enjoyable. While spare blankets from home can do the trick in a pinch, a quality sleeping bag is easy to clean, packs compactly between trips, and is worth every penny when it gets cold.

Woman using headlamp to read in sleeping bag
Consider what type of weather and climate you’ll be camping in before deciding what sleeping bag to bring.

Sleeping Pad

It may come as no surprise, but the hard ground of a campsite isn’t likely going to be as comfortable as your bed at home. Rolling out a sleeping pad under your sleeping bag is a great way to avoid hard rocks and tree roots from ruining your ability to sleep. Mats are lightweight and very compact for easy storage. If you are a picky sleeper, you’ll want to spend a generous amount of time researching a quality sleeping pad.

Pillow

The comfy pillow you have on your bed at home may be nice. However, as we said earlier, nature has a way of finding its way into just about everything when you’re camping. You don’t want to ruin your nightly pillow by getting it dirty or wet. 

Grab an inexpensive pillow that will get the job done and that you won’t find yourself in the doghouse with a spouse or camping partner should you ruin it. You won’t have to worry nearly as much about protecting it.

Flashlights/Lantern

The sun may provide sufficient lighting during the day, but everything gets darker when the sun goes down. Getting all campers in your group a flashlight or lantern is a good idea.

These can come in handy when you need to make a light-night trip to the bathroom or simply move around the campsite. You don’t want to trip over a piece of camping gear and end your camping adventures with a trip to the emergency room.

Camp Chairs

If you’re using camping as an opportunity to relax, you’ll likely spend a tremendous amount of time sitting. Don’t make the mistake of buying cheap camping chairs. These chairs may be convenient and affordable, but they break easily and aren’t all that comfortable.

If you buy a new set of chairs each camping season, you’re wasting money. Spend an extra few bucks, get a quality camping chair you can depend on, and be comfortable while sitting around the campfire.

Woman drinking coffee in camping chairs
Cozy up your campsite by bringing comfortable camping chairs to relax in.

First Aid Kit

Accidents will inevitably happen when you’re camping. Whether it’s a skinned knee or a splinter, you want to be ready to handle them when they occur. Having a simple first aid kit on your first camping trip in your supplies is essential. You may not be able to fix or make the pain disappear from every booboo, but a first aid kit can help with the first steps of most injuries.

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Cooler

You’re going to need to keep your food cold when camping. Coolers aren’t cheap, but they’re worth every penny if they can keep your food cold and edible. Buying a cheap cooler may seem like a good idea, but if it doesn’t do its job, you’ll end up wasting money by throwing away food and buying a new cooler.

Make sure you buy a large enough cooler to hold the food and other supplies for your group and that it will stay cold for the duration of your trip. A married couple camping won’t need nearly as large of a cooler as a family of five. 

Some coolers can keep the contents cool for several days. Depending on how often you plan to use your cooler, it can be wise to invest in a quality cooler. 

Friends roasting marshmallows on campfire at campsite
No first camping trip is complete without a campfire to make s’mores over.

Firewood

If you’re planning to enjoy a campfire, you will need firewood. However, you’ll want to check with the campground before bringing firewood. Some campgrounds require that campers use specific firewood to prevent spreading diseases and invasive species to their forests.

You may need to buy your firewood from the campground or an approved local vendor. Fines can be costly for those who fail to follow firewood restrictions. So make sure you are aware of any potential restrictions when camping.

Pro Tip: Don’t know how to start a campfire? Make starting a fire easy with one of these 8 Best Campfire Starters to Bring on Every Outdoor Adventure.

Insect Repellant

Some areas experience seasons where insects like to bother campers. You never know when these annoying little creatures will come and try to feast on you and your fellow campers.

Using bug spray and citronella torches or candles can be a great way to keep the bugs at bay while camping. You can also purchase citronella bracelets for your fellow campers to wear on hikes and other adventures to keep the bugs off them.

Mom spraying bug spray on child
Don’t let your trip be ruined by pesky mosquitos! Always pack bug spray.

Cooking Supplies

You’re going to need to eat while you’re camping. You’re likely to keep your meals basic when you’re starting. Having a skillet and roasting sticks for hot dogs can do the job for short trips. However, many experienced campers choose to bring propane grills to make it easier to make delicious meals during their adventures.

Using propane or electric griddles allows you to avoid starting a campfire and waiting for it to heat up before you can start cooking. You can quickly and easily cook a delicious meal for the whole campsite.

Don’t forget to bring utensils and plates too. If you plan to camp regularly, investing in lightweight plates and cutlery is a good idea. However, if you’re just getting started, you’ll likely want to use paper plates and plastic silverware.

Camping 101 for Beginners | Useful Knowledge

Enjoy the Great Outdoors While Camping

Camping can be an excellent way to make priceless memories with your loved ones. While camping may be intimidating initially, you’ll quickly grow your skills and supplies to enhance your experience.

Don’t let a few bad trips cause you to throw in your towel. Use every trip as a learning opportunity and grow from it. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert helping other campers get the most out of their time camping.

Where are you going on your first camping trip? Tell us in the comments!

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