Camping TipsAnd All The Checklists You Might Need
There’s an old saying about camping. It says that canned beans are all you’ll eat when you’re in the great outdoors. While that may be true for some, most of us prefer smores and meats cooked over an open fire. Opening a can of beans is easy. But, if you want a full camping experience, then you’ll want to cover the basics when planning your trip.
The basics of camping are shelter, water, fire, and food. The good news is that these are readily available at most sporting good stores. If you’re a first-time camper or a seasoned survivor, these camping tips will help you get ready for your next trip.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Camping Tip #1: Find Shelter!
When we say shelter, we mean: a tent, RV, bivy, cave, or even a makeshift shelter pulled together with twigs. A shelter is where you’ll stay to rest. You’ll run to your shelter to protect yourself from the sun, rain, sleet, and snow. It’s also important to have a safe site to place your shelter while camping.
What makes a good shelter?
We’ve all seen those fancy 10 and 12 person tents. It might seem tempting to have a lot of room inside your tent. But, if you’re camping with a small group of people, then a 10 or 12 person tent might be inconvenient. Large tents are beautiful, but the larger they get, the longer they take to set up. A small tent will be easier to set up and install. You’ll also have better luck finding an area to place a smaller tent if you’re on a small campsite. If you have a lot of people in your camping party, then a large tent might be a smart idea. You’ll want to base your decision on the size of your party and your spacing needs.
- More space for items and accessories
- Can fit more people
- Longer setup time
- Difficult to keep heated
- Usually heavy
- Easier and quicker setup
- Easier to heat up
- Usually lightweight
- Saves space on smaller campsites
- Doesn’t fit large group of people
- Minimal space to store accessories
The fun thing about camping is that there are alternatives to tents. Sometimes, you might want to take an RV out into the wilderness and not worry about tents. Or you ought to go the minimalist route and use a hammock. Even more minimal, you could build your shelter using twigs and other resources. If you’re going camping on your own, consider bringing a hammock. They’re lightweight and easy to carry.
- Quick setup
- Usually bug-free
- Even more lightweight than small tents
- Usually only fits one person
- The Wind is your worst enemy
- Needs trees or rocks for anchoring
What about sleeping bags?
When it comes to bedding and sleep, the common options are sleeping bags and air mattresses. Sleeping bags are classic. It’s best to choose one that can handle the heat (or cold) and fits snugly. They’re usually lightweight and easy to carry. The bad thing is that a sleeping bag will lay on the ground. On top of being uncomfortable, you’ll have a hard time maintaining heat on the ground. You might need a sleeping pad to place under your sleeping bag.
Air mattresses come with a broad range of benefits. First of all, you can set them to a custom firmness by increasing or releasing the air inside of them. If you suffer from back pain, you can adjust the firmness to ease the pain. The material used to make most air mattresses is PVC. It gives them a good range of durability. That means you don’t have to worry about sagging issues or holes if handled with care.
But, the downside is that you’ll need an air pump to inflate them. There are manual pumps and electric pumps. Some air mattresses even come with a built-in electric pump. You’ll need a source of electricity to inflate your bed.
- May need sleeping pad for heat and comfort
- Custom firmness
- Doesn’t need sleeping pad underneath
- Requires pump
- May need electricity to pump
Where Should I Set Up Camp?
Some family camping areas reserve you a spot to set up camp. In these locations, you won’t have many options for moving around. For open and walk-in campsites, not all camping spots are equal. You’ll want to examine the surrounding area for an ideal place to set up camp.
When looking for a place to set up camp, watch out for dead trees. The last thing you want is to have dead tree limbs fall on you, your campers, or your gear. Look for signs of dead trees, like debris or fallen limbs on the ground. However, sturdy living trees do provide extra shelter from the sun and rain. If you’re camping under tree cover, be sure to place yourself toward the sunrise or sunset for the view.
- Find a live tree for extra shelter
- Position yourself toward the sunset or sunrise
- Position yourself under a dead tree
- Obstruct your view of the campsite
Many campsites also have fire pits, picnic shelters, grills, and tables. If you want to use any of these amenities, find a nearby place to set up camp. Also, don’t forget to bring your charcoal and cleaning materials for picnic grills.
When scouting the campsite, be courteous and aware of your neighbors. Check for and abide by official campground rules. Also be aware of wind direction. You don’t want to be breathing in your neighbor’s fire smoke. Even more so, you don’t want to that neighbor to smoke out others.
Campsite Check List
🗸 Do I have enough tent space for my camping party?
🗸 Do I have enough sleeping bags or air mattresses?
🗸 Will I need extra blankets?
🗸 Will I need a sleeping pad?
🗸 Is my campsite clear of dead trees and debris?
🗸 Do I have enough tree coverage
🗸 Do I want to use on-site amenities?
🗸 Should I be aware of any campground rules?
🗸 Where are my neighbors positioned?
🗸 Which direction is the wind blowing?
Camping Tip #2: Stay Hydrated – Drink Water
You can’t go wrong with a hot cup of coffee at the crack of dawn, and nothing beats a cold cup of water on a hot summer day. Staying hydrated could be as easy as buying a few cases of water at the local store. Or, you can go the survivor route and boil your water. These next few tips will help you plan your water storage, and filtration needs so you can stay hydrated.
How should I store my water?
You have several options to choose from for storing your water. For starters, you can bring a few one-gallon jugs. They’re mobile and store well compared to large jugs. You could also bring a large water cooler. Coaches and teams fill these with Gatorade at sporting events. They work just as well with camping. Fill it up with water, and you’re good to go. The downside is that they can get heavy when they’re full. There are plenty of options to choose from when bringing a large water storage. Some stores even sell 10-gallon water carriers. You should choose the option that works best with the size of your camping party.
What about water bottles?
In addition to large water storage options, you’ll likely want to bring a personal water jug. These could be water bottles, hydration packs, or water bags. Water bottles are very common. To reduce your carbon footprint, we recommend bringing a reusable bottle on your trip. Reusable bottles are more durable than disposable bottles. They also hold more water too. If you forgot to bring an ample water storage, then you could get away with a case of water. The downside is that you’ll have a lot of plastic to recycle.
- Great for personal use
- Perfect for large parties
- Disposable options leave a large carbon footprint
Hydration packs are a favorite for hikers and bicyclist. They go right on your back like a backpack and can keep you hydrated without much effort. Most hydration packs have a built-in straw right near your mouth. When you’re feeling thirsty, simply drink some water through the straw. The mobility and convenience of these make them an attractive choice.
What if I want to filter and purify my water?
In case you decide to go primitive, or if you didn’t bring enough water, you can filter and purify your water. You can buy hand pump filters, filter straws, drops, or UV sterilizers.
Drops use chemicals to kill bacteria. They’re useful for most water types and are easy to carry. You can purify a large amount of water with a few drops. UV water sterilizers are heavy duty microorganism destroyers. They kill a lot of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.
A hand-held filter runs water through a filter using a pump. Good hand-pump filters can remove sediment and waterborne critters. The downside is that you’ll still need a way to filter out viruses. To kill viruses, most people bring the water to a boil before drinking.
There are also gravity-fed filters that use the same kind of filtration. These filters use gravity to push water through the filter. You can make your filter using a water bottle, coffee filter, charcoal, sand, gravel, and small rocks.
How to Make a Water Filter From a Bottle
- Start by cutting out the bottom of the water bottle and poking a hole in the lid.
- Put on the lid tightly.
- Flip your water bottle upside-down so that to expose the open bottom. Then, stick your
- coffee filter down toward the cap.
- Fill up the bottle with 1.5-2 inches of crushed charcoal.
- Next, add 1-2 inches of sand.
- Add 2 inches of gravel.
- Finally, add 2 inches of small rocks.
Now all you need to do is to run your water through a few times, boil, then enjoy.
What about showers?
Having more than one water station is a good idea for camping. For one, you’ll be using water for drinking and cleaning. Keep a container of water for washing up and a container for cooking. Also keep a few water stations around for drinking. A simple checklist can help you stay hydrated and clean throughout your trip.
Water Supply Check List
🗸 Do I have enough water bottles for my camping party?
🗸 Do I need one or more large water containers?
🗸 Do I have enough water for cleaning and cooking?
🗸 How many water stations do I need to accommodate my party?
🗸 Do I need to bring water filters?
Camping Tip #3: Prepare a Fire
A nice fire will light up the campsite. The campfire makes memories and will be home to many memories. From cooking smores to campfire songs, the campfire is the life of the wilderness night. However, things can go wrong. You could run out of wood before the trip ends. Or, you might end up burning through your matches before getting a warm fire started. But don’t worry. These next tips will help you prepare for your campfire needs.
What should I bring for a campfire?
The first thing on the list is campfire fuel. In other words, firewood. Different types of firewood burn at different temperatures. Some firewood types burn faster than others. For instance, hardwood burns slower than dry. But, some hardwood needs more kindling to light. Whether it’s dry or hard, you might not know what kind of firewood is available at stores. So its best to get more firewood than you think you’ll need.
You should also account for weather. If you’re expecting hot weather, then you might not need a large fire until night time. If it’s cold outside, then be sure to bring enough firewood for the day and night. If you do run out of firewood, scout the surrounding area for dead trees and fallen branches. It’s a surprise to see how much firewood you can gather by scouting the wooded area of the campgrounds.
Tinder, Kindling, and Starters
Before you head to your campsite, be sure to create some tinder. Tinder is any flammable material that can light your kindling. You can use household items as tinder. Dryer lint, shredded paper, cotton balls, fire sticks, and saw dust all work well to catch a spark. Baggies or egg cartons hold kindling well. Fill a few up, and you should be good for the trip.
For kindling, you can split some of your firewood to break them into thinner pieces. Kindling will light your firewood, so you’ll need a good amount to get your wood burning. You can also scout your camping area for twigs to use as kindling.
The last thing you’ll need to start a campfire is a fire-starter. Weatherproof matches and lighters are the popular choices. If you’re out on a primitive camping trip, you could use flint and steel. Some hardcore campers smooth out clear ice and use it as a light magnifier to light kindling. Choose the starter that best fits your camping needs. If you have children, then you can quickly start a fire with matches. But, if you want a primitive camping experience, try using flint and steel. Be sure to bring at least two fire starters. A box of matches and a lighter will do the trick.
Fire Pokers and Control
If you don’t want to end up poking your fire with a long twig, then bring a coal poker. Pokers are perfect for managing burning wood. If you plan on cooking over an open fire, use poker to reposition your firewood. It will make cooking a whole lot easier.
If you have children coming along for the trip, have them place a circle of stones around the fire pit. The stones help serve as a “do not cross” zone and help keep your fire from spreading. To encourage fire safety, have them take turns being in charge of the poker. Having a chance to manage the fire will give them each an opportunity to learn about handling fire.
🗸 Do I have enough firewood for day and night?
🗸 Do I have extra firewood just in case?
🗸 Do I have a few bags of tinder?
🗸 Do I have a supply of kindling?
🗸 Do I Have at least two fire starters with me?
🗸 Do I have a fire poker
🗸 Do I have a list of fire rules for the children?
Camping Tip #4: Prepare Food for the Great Outdoors
Roasting marshmallows and cooking hot dogs over a hot campfire are simple joys. Pair that with a can of beans, and you’ll have a full meal. There’s nothing wrong with hot dogs and canned beans. But, roasted meats and campfire soups have no competition in the great outdoors. What you decide to eat is up to you. But don’t forget the essentials when preparing.
What kind of cookware should I bring?
When it comes to camping cookware, you can’t beat an old fashion cast iron. It’s strong, holds up to heat, and has many uses. Chop up some burgers and mix it in with some tomatoes and beans for easy chili.
If you’re looking to roast some meats, bring a grill griddle. You can place it right over the fire for a campfire barbecue.
Speaking of grilling, bring some heatproof gloves so you can move that hot grill grate around. Don’t forget tongs to turn your food.
Last but not least, be sure to bring enough plates and utensils for everyone.
What about food and ingredients?
The first thing on the list is spices. Don’t forget the staples: salt and pepper. If you find a good recipe online, bring extra spices to suit your taste.
One trick to save storage space is to chop up and prepare your ingredients before heading out. You can plan out what you’ll be eating during your camping trip and start chopping. When preparing your recipes, be sure they’re one-pot recipes. You don’t want to be using too many pots and pans since you might be sharing the campfire with your group.
Remember to balance out your camping nutrition. Include a protein source like meat or beans in your mix to help maintain muscle. Bring some oil or butter for cooking. And of course, bring vegetables for vitamins and minerals.
If you plan on playing hard, then it might help to pack dried foods. A bag of beef jerky and dried fruit will help keep you energized while enjoying the great outdoors. Dried foods have an excellent preservation rate, making them an ideal snack when camping.
Don’t forget ice and cold packs for keeping food cool. Some stores sell whole ice blocks that you can fit inside your cooler. A large block will melt slower than a bag of ice cubes. Going with an ice block will help keep your cooler cold longer.
Where do I cook?
Some campsites have coal barbecue grills that you can use. Some campers like to bring a small charcoal grill to cook their food. If all else fails, you can always cook on an open fire. To do so, use your poker to move away large pieces of burning wood to expose the charcoal. From there, you can place a grill griddle right on top of the charcoal or prop it up on a few logs.
What about clean up?
Dish soap and a sponge will keep your dishes clean throughout your trip. Be sure to bring trash bags and trash bins in case there are none on site. Keeping your area clean will save you the trouble of picking up trash at the end of your trip.
Finally, remember to bring the greatest camping treat: SMORES.
Camp Cooking and Food Checklist
🗸 Does the campsite have barbecue grill I can use?
🗸 Do I have a cast iron skillet?
🗸 Do I have a grill grate/griddle?
🗸 Do I have tongs?
🗸 Do I have heatproof gloves?
🗸 Do I charcoal for a barbecue grill?
🗸 Do I have recipes for the camping trip?
🗸 Did I prepare my ingredients beforehand?
🗸 Do I have several sources of proteins?
🗸 Do I have vegetables and fruits?
🗸 Do I have dried foods?
🗸 Do I have dish cleaning supplies?
🗸 Do I have enough dishes and utensils for my camping party?
🗸 Do I have enough trash bins and bags for my camping party?
🗸 Do I have graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate?
Double Check to Make Sure
Once you’ve gone through the list, you might want to check one last time to be sure you have everything. We hope that this camping guide helped you prepare for a camping trip.
If we left anything out, let us know by emailing us @ [email protected]