Getting started with camping and going through all of the available camping tips for beginners can be pretty overwhelming.
That’s the reason why I decided to write this ultimate guide. I don’t hold anything back, below you will find all of the camping tips for beginners, that I learned in my 20+ years as a camping enthusiast.
I split my guide into various sections based on their subtopics like campsite setup tips, sleeping tips, campsite etiquette, and more. I suggest you use the table of contents below, to easier navigate through the guide.
Table of contents
- Campsite setup tips for beginners
- General camping tips for beginners
- Camping sleeping tips for beginners
- Camping etiquette for beginners
- What camping style is for you?
- Where do you want to go camping?
Campsite setup tips for beginners
Not everyone is lucky enough to know an experienced camper who would share with them their favorite camping tips for beginners.
Luckily I am here to offer you the best campsite setup tips I gathered over the years.
Arrive during daylight
You want to arrive at your campsite while the sun is still up. Setting up your camp in the dark makes gets unnecessarily harder and you might end up disliking camping from the get-go.
Most of the campgrounds will allow you to check-in in the early afternoon. Arriving early allows you to set up your tent with no rush and gives you time to prepare dinner.
You do not want to imagine a scenario where you are trying to set up your tent in a rush because it’s getting dark and then still having to cook dinner. It’s a real camper’s nightmare.
Find and set up a tent on a flat surface
Most frontcountry campgrounds offer flat spots with grass where you can pitch your tent. A flat surface ensures better sleep compared to uneven places where hard objects and rocks may be sticking on the surface.
Don’t level the surface yourself
Campgrounds have their rules and regulations, so make sure that you read them.
One of the rules is that nobody should alter the structure or terrain of the camping ground, especially in the backcountry. Instead, find the surface that seems almost level to set up your tent, as I mentioned above.
Set up tent farther away from the cooking area
If there is adequate space at your camping area, try to keep 100 yards between your cooking and sleeping area.
Cooking odors can attract animals including raccoons. Additionally, it is dangerous to mix smoke and your sleeping place. Propane, stoves, and lanterns give off carbon monoxide which can be deadly to humans.
Don’t pitch your tent under trees
Trees are great for keeping safe and warm but try to avoid camping under trees. Branches can fall off and destroy your gear or in the worst case hurt you or your loved ones.
Additionally, trees are often the tallest object in the wilderness and tend to attract lightning strikes during thunderstorms.
If not possible to avoid camping under trees, make sure to check the condition of the trees before you pitch your tent. Look for any dead branches, check trunk condition, or if the tree is leaning to one side.
Also check the weather forecast to make sure that rain, thunderstorms, or strong winds won’t occur in your area.
You can check out the this Reddit thread and read the experience of other campers.
Pack your car in the right order
Pack your car in order in which you will need the items from your car. Careful planning is essential here.
The items, that you will need for setting up your campsite first, have to end up on the top of your car’s trunk (e.g. ground cover, ground mat, tent).
And similarly, items you won’t need during the setup of the campsite will go on the bottom of your trunk, or in other words, these will go in first (e.g. cooler, change of clothes).
Don’t be shy to ask for help
This is one of my favorite camping tips for beginners, as it involves discussions about camping with other campers. Simply ask for help from experienced campers you may know, or on social media. Some of the best resources for camping tips are Reddit and Quora.
What you should always keep in mind is, that everyone was a beginner at one point. Asking for help or guidance helps you avoid common camping mistakes.
Choose a campsite close to home for your first camping trip
If this is your first time camping, chances are that you will forget something, or something else may go wrong.
Additionally, as a beginner, you want to camp on familiar grounds. You will know the hardships and the kind of wild animals you are likely to encounter better.
Check out our guide on how to find free camping to get started with your first adventure.
General camping tips for beginners
Spending the night in the wilderness seems challenging if you are a beginner. But, the best way to learn camping is to just jump right in and try. As long as you know the basics the rest will become experiences and memories.
Below I will give you a few basic camping tips for beginners.
Rent or borrow expensive gear
Your first time camping is all about enjoying the feeling of being outdoors and experiencing the freedom associated with this.
To save on your initial outlay, you can borrow expensive gear from your friends or family member. If they do not have the ideal gear, you can rent or buy second-hand items which are in good condition.
Arriveoutdoors.com is a great option for renting gear, it is a US based company. You can reserve gear for free and receive it anywhere in the contiguous US. Check them out here.
Get to know the campground rules and local laws
It is always good practice to familiarize yourself with the camping grounds rules. Usually, these will be very similar to other campgrounds, but there may be a few specialties that you want to get yourself acquainted with.
Important rules to know include the campground’s quiet hours, maximum stay, check-out time, campfire rules, and more.
Check the weather
Although weather forecast is not always 100% accurate, it gives you a rough idea of what weather to expect. Use this information when packing your clothing and gear.
Always pack for bad weather
This is especially true for the locations where the weather is very unpredictable, but it holds value for most locations.
There are very few situations worse than being caught in the storm and not having enough change of clothes. That’s why I suggest you pack additional warm clothes, socks, and waterproof clothing.
You can always carry a few more clothing items, these will come in handy at some point.
As a beginner, it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the camping gear options and camping checklists out there. When in reality, the list of what to pack for your first camping adventure is quite short. Gearuphiking has a list of only essential gear to pack for your camping trip, you can check it out here.
Alternatively, you can check this (a bit more elaborate) post on what to pack for camping on Koa.com.
Practice setting up the tent at home
Tents come with setup instructions, but there is nothing that beats practicing. This allows you to be extra prepared.
Practicing setting up your tent is a good idea, as it helps you figure out how to put your tent together before you will have to sleep in it in the wilderness.
Don’t leave food out to prevent animal attacks
If you are out there camping in the forests or mountains, you have to be aware of the animals around you.
Most likely, they will not approach you or come near you, but to make sure it stays that way, pack away your food in air-tight storage containers at all times. If available, always use a bear box.
Animals such as bears are very sensitive to even the tiniest smell and you don’t want to invite them to your campsite.
Cook simple or ready packed meals
It is always best to start easy. Stick to a meal plan with a few ingredients and one that you have tried before.
Try a brand new meal while out there camping could prove to be very challenging. Additionally, you can pack ready meals including canned foods.
BBC Good Food has a section with camping recipe ideas and it shows user ratings too. If interested you can check them out here.
Cook before sundown
If you listened to the experienced camper who has cooked dinner after dark, you will learn he or she did not love it.
If this is your first time cooking outdoors, you will want to cook while you can easily see what you are cooking.
Moreover, bugs are very active at night and are attracted to light. Start cooking early to give yourself adequate time to cook and clean the dishes.
Camping sleeping tips for beginners
Camping gives us a unique opportunity to divert from our daily routine and modern conveniences and take us a step closer to nature.
However, this does not mean sacrificing or giving up the comfort, relaxation, and rejuvenation of sleep. With the appropriate gear, you can enjoy quality sleep, appreciate the stunning night skies and fresh air.
Below are a few sleeping tips for camping that will make your sleep more comfortable:
A good ground mat is essential
A sleeping mat is just as important as your sleeping bag because it separates you from the cold ground. During the night, the ground will absorb your body temperatures until you are at the same temperature as it is, which can be very dangerous. A good ground mat provides an uncompressible layer of air that separates your body from the ground thus retaining your body temperature.
Invest in a good quality sleeping bag
A sleeping bag is your main insulation as you sleep. Thus you want something comfortable, lightweight, and one with great value for money. If you are a beginner, a sleeping bag is something you should consider investing in, even if you are on a tight budget.
Bring a comfortable pillow
It might seem unnecessary but a comfortable pillow determines the quality of your sleep. A pillow will cushion your head and place you in a position in which your body can relax. Just because you are in the wild, you don’t have to sleep like an animal 😉
Pack extra blankets
Extra blankets act as an additional insulation layer on a colder evening. Every experienced camper will agree that it is better to have extra blankets because you never know when you will need them.
Don’t sleep with your face inside a sleeping bag
If you sleep with your face inside the sleeping bag, the moisture in your breath makes the inside of your sleeping bag wet or rather damp which makes you colder resulting in an uncomfortable sleep.
Hot water in a water bottle to heat up your sleeping bag
If you are affected by cold weather and do not want this to limit your camping experience, it is a great practice to pour hot water in your water bottle. It will act as a heat source inside of your sleeping bag.
Further insulate your tent floor
Insulating your tent floor is a great way of boosting your comfort factor. Use fluffy blankets, foam floor pads, or spare carpets for additional insulation. They also protect your ten flooring from tearing or wearing out.
Camping etiquette for beginners
When camping, you are close to others and you should follow at least these basic principles:
Keep your campsite clean – Nowadays, we are all aspiring to go green. However, we cannot achieve this if we are the kind of people who dump waste in nature. Keep everything in the trash bin and dispose of litter in the designated areas. This prevents the suffocation of wild animals and pollution altogether.
Leave no trace principles – This is the most important aspect when it comes to spending time outdoors. The no trace principles are guidelines that protect nature from human impact thus preserving it for the coming generations.
Under the “leave no trace principles” you should leave the wildlife alone, camp on the previously camped surfaces (if possible), leave what you find in nature, minimize the impact of campfire and dispose of all the trash.
National park service has a great post further explaining all Leave no trace principles, you can check it out here.
Be respectful of your neighbors – A “good morning” to your neighbor is okay, but you should also know when to keep it to yourself. Respect your neighbor’s privacy and only engage further upon invitation.
Respect personal space of other campers – It is good to respect other camper’s personal space as you will also want them to reciprocate this to you. Only set your camp in your designated area. Avoid walking through other campsites.
Abide the campground’s quiet time – Campgrounds have the set quiet hours where you are supposed to put out the lights and campfires as well as keep the noise levels down. This also applies to your RV generators.
Respect the campground’s rules and local laws – Most campgrounds have their rules and guidelines which you will be required to follow. These rules are for the safety and comfort of every camper. It is therefore important to follow the rules for peace and cohesion.
Set your lights on a timer – This is ideal because you might fall asleep while your lights are still on. Keep in mind that at most campsites there is a time when the lights should switch off and you should not violate this rule. Therefore, setting your lights on a timer will ensure it switches off at the intended time.
Never chop down trees – If you need firewood, buy one at the campsite or collect dead wood if allowed by the campsite’s rules. But never chop down live trees, what ever the reason is.
Koa.com has a great post about camping etiquette, you can check it out here to learn more about the topic.
What camping style is for you?
With today’s modern luxuries, the ancient set-up-a-tent and camp is now not the only option if you are interested in outdoor camping.
Although the basic process of spending your night in nature remains, there are definite camping styles that determine your experience in significant ways.
Find out what camping style best fits you below.
Tent camping is the common type of camping that we all know. When the word camping is mentioned, tent camping is what clicks our minds.
If you are looking for an option that is fun and affordable, then tent camping is what you should go for. Just pitch your tent on the campsite and start enjoying the wilderness.
Tents vary in size from a single-person tent to a tent that can accommodate up to nine people. They are the best for family camping and a great way to strengthen your family bonds.
Car camping is very cheap and practical, you drive up to a campground you wish to camp at and you’re all set.
Ok, you arrived at a campground, now what? Well, you could:
- Sleep in a tent
- Sleep in a rooftop tent
- Sleep inside the car if it is big enough.
Car camping is super convenient and perfect if you are taking your kids along or have a lot of stuff that you intend to bring along for your trip.
When car camping, ensure that you are parking legally and abiding by the laws regarding car camping or parking.
Camping in RV is undoubtedly the most famous type of camping after the traditional tent camping.
RV camping allows you to enjoy outdoor camping because it is easy to move from place to place while enjoying the comfort and luxury of your home.
RV is like a home on wheels. Depending on the type of RV you can have numerous amenities including a bathroom, kitchen, a bed, living space, and ample storage space.
Cheap RVs have the basic amenities, while the luxurious ones have every detail that makes you feel just like your home.
You enjoy all aspects of camping without sacrificing your comfort. This style of camping is great if you are camping with your entire family and intend to move from place to place.
This is a convenient twist to your normal car camping. Like any other trailer, you attach them to the back of your car and then pull them along.
The main advantage of trailer camping is that you do not need to set up a tent every night and take it apart when leaving.
You just park at a convenient location with a marvelous landscape and enjoy.
Additionally, if you plan on camping in a specific place for some time, you just disconnect your trailer and drive your car with ease unlike with car/RV camping where you carry everything whenever you need to move.
This is a great style of camping with your family, workmates, or friends.
Canoe and kayak camping
If you enjoy water sports and intend to camp, then canoe or kayak camping is your best option.
The difference between the traditional type of camping and canoe camping is that your main outdoor activity is canoeing or kayaking. The idea here is to go kayaking during the day and end up camping overnight.
For this type of camping, there are things you need to keep in mind: pack lightly and smartly and waterproof everything.
Where do you want to go camping?
If you are new to camping, you might be wondering where to go camping.
Well, the most common types of camping are frontcountry camping, backcountry camping, and backyard camping. So let’s look into each in detail.
This refers to camping at a campsite where you can drive to. Typically, this is at an established campground where basic amenities including water spigots, pit toilets, or trash bins are available.
Frontcountry campsites are managed and you can reserve them in advance through an online booking system. Apart from the scenic and wild surroundings, frontcountry camping is like living in your neighborhood.
You will most likely have kids playing, increased levels of noise, and the smell of BBQ accompanying you.
If you have never done camping before, this is the best recommendation due to the amenities provided. Frontcountry camping is beginner-friendly and is the best if you are camping with your kids.
Backcountry camping means you are not near a road or a developed area, you are camping in the wilderness.
Also, you do not have the facilities like those provided at frontcountry campgrounds, no place to park your car or a parking lot. You have either hiked, biked, or canoed to the camping location.
The number one rule of this type of camping is always to plan, be prepared for the worst, and let someone know where you are camping.
Compared to frontcountry camping, you will enjoy more privacy and peace while camping in the backcountry.
Backyard camping is exactly what you’d imagine, it is camping in your backyard.
It is ideal if you want to train for your first camping adventure, if you want to shake up the routine (or rather reset the norm) and it is a great way to get your kids out of the house.
You can enjoy camping to the fullest without the need to buy gear, plan, or pack as opposed to the other types of camping. Additionally, you have access to a nearby bathroom which is a great advantage.
The greatest advantage of backyard camping is security. Your kids are more secure while staying in their neighborhood as opposed to unknown areas with wildlife and strange campsites.
Backyard camping is all-inclusive regardless of your physical state or your age.
Now that you went through all of our camping tips for beginners, we really believe you should be ready for your first camping adventure.
Just pick and apply the ones that you liked the most and that apply to your situation.
Feel free to share this guide with your friends on social media and leave a comment below, to let us know how your first camping trip went.
Check out some of our other camping tips and guides, to learn more about the hobby we all love so much.