Camping Basics: Everything A First Time Camper Needs To Know

Believe it or not, there are still some people who have never been camping, and then there are some who haven’t been camping since they were kids. Maybe you are planning to go on a camping trip and need a refresher course on what to take. It depends on how long the trip is, since you won’t need to do that much prep for a night or two.

tent pitched

This guide is meant for trips that are longer than two nights, maybe a week or more. And I’m not talking about staying in some fancy RV or cabin either. This is about tent camping, the way it used to be, the only way you COULD go camping back then. Let’s start with the popular and much needed basics!

1. Tents

For longer stays, it would be wise to invest in a quality tent, one that has a screened room/porch to keep the bugs out. Some of them even have multiple rooms for a whole family. Bring folding chairs to set up in the porch section so you can sit outside in peace and breathe in that fresh woodsy air.

They will cost about $200, so if you have it and you know you’re going on more than one trip, it will make things much easier. Sitting inside a tiny tent and being harassed by mosquitoes is not a fun time.

tent with a porch

Setting up older style tents is something I still don’t know how to do to this day! The directions can be so confusing and I always give up out of frustration. A good idea, if you don’t know anyone who knows how to put together a tent, is to practice at home in your yard a few times. That way, when you’re out there, you won’t waste precious relaxation time getting angry at a tent.

Thankfully, now they also have instant tents where the poles are already attached, making the setup easier.

2. Bedding

air mattress

Sleeping bags can protect you from cold temperatures and are comfortable if they are well padded, providing you are sleeping on the ground. Do you know what’s better than sleeping on the ground? An air mattress! If you pump it yourself, it costs about the same or a little more than a sleeping bag, so why not?

And if you get cold, you can always put the sleeping bag on top of the air mattress for ultimate comfort. Some mattresses even have sleeping bags integrated already! Also, certain air mattresses have a built in pump, but they are more expensive, of course.

3. Lights

You have to see out there in the dark, right? Maybe you want to play some cards with your friends or family, have a nice dinner with the fish you caught in the lake, or read a book in total silence. You can bring a lantern or start a campfire as a source of light. There are different types of lanterns with different levels of brightness.

lantern with battery

The ones powered by batteries last much longer, but aren’t as bright as a propane lantern. The battery powered one might last 50 or more hours, whereas the propane lantern would last from 7-13 hours, depending on the setting you have it on. If you decide on a propane lantern, make sure to use it in a well ventilated area since it will use up oxygen in the air. You might not have as much light with a battery powered lamp, but at least you won’t have to worry about any fumes.

battery with propane

Also, it’s a good idea to take a flashlight if you can’t carry your lantern around. You might have to make your way to the bathroom or your lantern might run out of power, so it’s better to take one just in case.

They also have solar lanterns that you can charge during the day while off doing other activities, and you won’t need batteries OR propane. Although solar does not last as long as the others, they will still provide about 6 hours of light.

4. Cooking

If you’d rather not cook over a fire (reserving that for roasted marshmallows later), and there’s no grill around you, you can always bring a portable grill.

Among the best are propane and electric grills, and they are very easy to operate. Propane grills are lightweight with small cans of propane to carry around, and there’s a stand up George Foreman grill that uses electric if there is an electric hookup where you’re going. You could even take your regular Foreman grill, why not?

grill using propane

If you don’t want to bother with grilling food, you can always take sandwich materials (for a shorter trip), but you’ll need a cooler to make sure the items stay fresh.

But if you are going to grill, make sure to take some pans, aluminum foil, spatulas, utensils, napkins, plates, cups, etc. You can even make coffee out there too! Also be sure to take plenty of water and snacks, just in case. It’s always good to have some chips or crackers around for a quick snack.

5. Other Important Items

It would definitely be a great idea to take a basic first aid kit (band-aids, gauze, tape, painkillers, peroxide, etc). Also, a knife to carve or cut things with (at least for the stick to roast marshmallows with) and also to protect yourself with, if need be. There’s plenty of wild animals out there and you never know what might come around.

packing to camp

Also good things to take are bug spray, a change of clothes (especially if you’re going boating and get wet), toiletries, towels, and a backpack to carry more things in. Backpacks can carry a lot, and are especially useful if you’re going hiking or kayaking. You can take your laptop, in case you get bored at night and are alone, but camping is also about family or bonding with friends, without any interference.

Listen to nature instead of the sounds you hear everyday, and you’d be surprised by how relaxed you become. Take a walk, see the wildlife, explore the area, listen to a guided tour, or read a good book and forget about your troubles for a while.