Do you love the outdoors and would like to give camping a try, but don’t know how to plan a camping trip? Or are you just looking to improve your camping trip planning? Either way, I am here to help.
My name is Martin, I am the owner of this website, I am in love with camping for over 20 years and today I am going to help you to learn how to plan a camping trip in just 7 steps.
These steps involve very intuitive and simple tasks like planning where to go and book a campsite, checking weather and camping gear condition, and finally planning your meal plan, packing list, and activities.
Of course, there is a bit more to it, but those are all of the necessary steps. So keep reading to learn how to plan a camping trip in detail.
How to plan a camping trip in 7 steps:
- Where do you want to go and how are you planning to get there?
- Book a campsite at the campground of your choice
- Check the weather forecast and prepare accordingly
- Check the condition of your camping gear
- Create a meal plan and prepare a grocery list
- Create a packing list
- Plan the activities in advance
Where do you want to go and how are you planning to get there?
This is the very first question that you have to ask yourself when planning a camping trip. There are a few things to consider when choosing your destination. Do you want to be in the mountains, by the lake or in the woods? What kind of transportation do you have? If you’re driving, how far are you willing to go?
Once you’ve decided on a general location, you can start looking into specific campgrounds.
– Paid Campgrounds
These are the campgrounds with all the ideal amenities including water, bathrooms, and showers. These sites are great if you’re looking for a more comfortable camping trip.
However, these campgrounds are not always free and you will have to pay a fee. They also usually require you to make a reservation in advance.
The good thing about paid campgrounds is that they tend to be located in more popular areas and are therefore closer to hiking trails, lakes, and other attractions. With paid campgrounds, you can also enjoy more amenities such as a picnic table, restrooms, and a fire pit.
– Free campgrounds
Free campgrounds are another option to consider when planning your trip. These sites are usually first-come, first-serve, and are not always located in well-accessible locations.
However, if you’re looking for a more adventurous trip, free camping might be the way to go. Keep in mind that you will have to be more self-sufficient when it comes to amenities and bringing everything you need with you.
To help you find one of these free campgrounds I put together a blog post, that explains how to find free camping.
– Frontcountry Camping (a.k.a. Car Camping)
This is the kind of camping, that most people imagine when talking about camping. You camp at a well taken care of campground, with amenities like restrooms, trash bins, picnic tables, fire pits even showers.
Usually, you drive up to the campground in your car, with all your camping gear neatly packed inside of your car’s trunk. Frontcountry campgrounds usually offer parking right at the site.
This camping is a great option for those who want to bring more with them and not have to worry about carrying everything on their back. It is also great for families with small children as it can be difficult to manage everything when hiking to a campsite.
– Backcountry Camping
Backcountry camping is incredible if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and appreciate nature.
Most of the backcountry campgrounds are located further away from metropolitan areas and in many cases are also free. The flip side of backcountry camping is that oftentimes, there are limited amenities available since the campground itself is located directly in the wilderness.
Backcountry camping does require a bit more planning than other types of camping, because of the missing amenities and distance from the nearest metropolitan area.
If you’re planning on backpacking to the campground, you’ll need to pack light and be prepared to carry everything you need on your back. This includes all of your food, water, shelter, and clothing. It’s important to know your limits and to pack accordingly.
Book a campsite at the campground of your choice
You should book a campsite in advance, especially if you plan on camping during the peak season. This will ensure that you get your desired spot at the campground, and also avoid any disappointment if the campsite is fully booked.
When choosing a campground, consider its proximity to your home. This is very important especially if you are a beginner or first-time camper, as you would want to be close to home in case of any emergencies.
Also, remember to check the amenities and restrictions of the campsite before making your booking. It is important so that you can be prepared for what to expect when you arrive at the campground. For instance, some campgrounds do not allow fires, while others have a limit on the number of people that can stay on one campsite.
Paid campgrounds will typically require you to make a reservation and pay in advance and some free campgrounds require a booking as well.
It is important to check this before you leave for your trip so that you are not caught off guard.
Check the weather forecast and prepare accordingly
Generally, it is important to check the weather forecast before leaving for any trip. However, this is especially crucial when planning a camping trip, as the weather can often dictate what activities you can do and how comfortable you will be.
For example, if you are hoping to spend a lot of time hiking, you will want to make sure that the forecast doesn’t call for excessive heat or humidity.
By the same token, if you are planning to camp in an area that is prone to severe weather, it is important to check the forecast in advance and make sure that you are prepared for whatever Mother Nature might throw your way.
If you take the time to plan ahead and prepare for all contingencies, you are sure to have a great time on your next camping trip.
My favorite weather forecast website is weather.gov and I highly recommend it.
Check the condition of your camping gear
The condition of your gear will determine how enjoyable your trip will be.
Make sure your tent is in a good condition and that you know how to set it up. If there is a missing part, or it’s damaged, buy a replacement. Always try your tent at home before you go on a trip, to make sure everything is in working order. Simply set it up in your backyard, and maybe even stay the night for practice.
The same goes for your cooker and the rest of the camping gear. If everything is clean and in working order, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your trip.
If you’re new to camping, consider renting the higher ticket items like a tent, or furniture. This way you can try it out and see if you like it before making a big-ticket purchase.
Create a meal plan and prepare a grocery list
Every camping trip planning is incomplete without a detailed meal plan. When preparing your meal plan, there are several things to keep in mind:
- The number of days you’ll be gone
- The number of people traveling
- Any dietary restrictions
- What type of meals do you want to eat (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- Snacks and drinks
Stick with simple recipes, that you have already tried and could nearly cook with your eyes closed. Write a shopping list of ingredients, going through recipe after recipe from your trip’s meal plan.
Consider prepping the food in advance. Anything that could be diced, peeled, stuffed, or pre-cooked is going to save you some time at the campsite.
Another great idea is to freeze some of the ingredients (prepped or not) to save some space in your cooler because you don’t need to use ice to keep your cooler cold.
Some of the things that are great for freezing include cheese, bacon, meat, bread, butter, some kinds of vegetables, and many more. I found this great article that lists 83 different foods and tells you if you could freeze them or not.
With a detailed meal plan and grocery list, you’ll be one step closer to a successful camping trip. If you are camping with your kids, involve them in meal planning. This will get them excited about the trip and help teach them valuable skills.
Create a packing list
Another important step in the planning of a camping trip is creating a packing list. This will ensure that you don’t forget any essential items.
Start by making a list of all the items you’ll need, and then categorize them by type. For example, you’ll need to pack clothing, bedding, cooking supplies, and camping gear. Once you have everything categorized, you can start packing.
When packing your clothes consider the weather forecast and pack accordingly. Be sure to pack plenty of layers, as the temperature can drop at night. It’s also a good idea to pack a few extra clothes in case of emergencies.
When packing bedding, be sure to include a sleeping bag and your favorite pillow (if you’re going car camping). You may also want to pack a camp bed or an air mattress.
And finally, don’t forget to pack all your cooking supplies. This includes a stove, pots and pans, utensils, and food. Make sure to pack plenty of food and water, as well as any medications you might need. It’s also a good idea to bring along a first-aid kit, just in case.
You could also use one of the many camping checklists available on the internet, my favorite one is by REI.com.
After you’ve packed everything up, double-check your list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Then, you’re ready to hit the road!
Plan the activities in advance
Planning your activities in advance is a must-do if you want to have a great time camping.
Research popular sightseeing locations near your campsite, consider hiking trails, also plan for bad weather and evening activities, and plan some fun games if camping with kids.
For instance, if there are historic sites or museums near your campsite, you might want to visit them. If the area offers great hiking trails, make sure to bring your hiking gear.
And, if you’re camping with kids, don’t forget to bring some fun games or activities to keep them entertained. Some common fun game activities for your kids are hide and seek, tag, and building forts out of sticks.
Closing thoughts and what to do next
I hope you will be able to put this list to action and that I was able to help you. I pretty much follow these steps for years and they made my camping planning a lot easier.
My favorite step is right the first one, I love researching campgrounds, local area, sightseeing spots, hiking trails etc. I love to imagine myself visiting those places, check out the reviews and eventually choose one where we will then travel to.
If you liked this article, you may also like my article on camping tips for beginners or you could simply check out my other guides here.
If I was able to help you please consider sharing this guide with your friends on social media and leave a comment below which step you liked the most.