When I was a child, I only went camping once as part of my Girl Scout troop, but that’s all it took for me to get hooked on camping!
Even as a young child I was able to appreciate the experience of breathing fresh air in the heavily wooded forest, and the wonders of sleeping under the stars. The comradery with my fellow scout members, learning how to start a fire and the introduction of s’mores! Camping is an experience that is so simple and so life changing.
When I became old enough to plan and go on my own camping trips, and fortunate enough to find a partner that shared my enthusiasm for camping, I considered myself to be one of the luckiest people on earth! To me and millions of other people around the world, camping is a way to relax and to escape the realities of our everyday lives.
For a weekend or longer, if you’re lucky, you can leave your problems behind and concentrate on having fun with family and friends in a beautiful outdoor setting. There is nothing like it, and you won’t know what this great feeling and experience is like until you go camping.
Whether you’re tent camping or RV camping, there is quite a bit of work involved because you have to set up your camp and organize all of your supplies. But this is the kind of work that is fun work! It’s not drudgery or something you’ll hate having to do.
Believe it or not, you’ll actually look forward to a weekend of packing up your vehicle with your tents, supplies and sleeping bags, setting up camp, making camp fires, cooking meals over the camp fire, organizing activities, breaking down camp and everything else that is part of the camping experience.
And if you do it right and keep a fun and positive attitude while doing it, you’ll look forward to many more camping trips to come throughout the years of your life.
Why You Should Take Your Family Camping
We live on a shrinking planet. Not literally, of course, but everything around us is so tightly connected. The latest technology has information at our finger tips and sometimes you just wish you could get away from it all, even for a little while.
By camping with your family, you’re able to explore the natural world without having to go to such and such hotel for the night. If you wish to introduce your family to nature then camping is a great way to start!
Many people have described camping as a great family oriented experience. People have looked back on their memories of camping with great fondness.
Camping is a great way to teach your children responsibility as everyone must work together to get things done. Children can learn how to pack, set up camp, break down camp, and putting things away. This is also a great time to let them learn about nature and how everything works in the outdoors.
Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can still go camping. You can always rent an RV to go traveling. Tents can be picked up at many sporting good departments. You might even have some supplies tucked away in your own garage!
You can also learn a great deal more about nature and parks by camping than you can by just sitting inside a classroom. What better chance to teach your kids or even yourself about nature by going out and experiencing it?
So, why not give camping a try?
Why People Love Camping?
Everyone has their reasons as to why they love camping. As each person is different, each reason will be different as well.
Some people enjoy camping in the spring and summer because it’s an escape from the bitter cold of the winter months. Why not enjoy the start of the warmer months by getting back to nature and enjoying it?
If you enjoy seeing the stars at night, camping is a great way to make that happen. You can pick a nice and safe place to go camping and watch the stars shine high above you.
This has an added bonus if you wish to teach someone about the constellations you can do it outdoors with nothing to block your view. What better way is there to see the heavens?
Going camping and getting in touch with the natural elements is a great way to strengthen you and get back in touch with nature. Late at night, you’ll be able to hear the natural voices of the wild. If you’ve ever been curious in what nature sounds like out in the wild this is a great time to find out.
In a similar vein, another great thing about camping is it’s a great way to reset your biological clock. Some people who have had trouble going to sleep at night feel their internal clocks being reset and they experience far better sleep at night.
Camping is also cheap! Safe spots for camping are not nearly as expensive as a hotel room. As you bring along your own supplies, all your dining is done around a camp fire.
Even the entertainment is free! You can hike, fish, swim, and explore the area around you. What could be better?
With camping, there are many options to where you can go. Veteran campers will tell you that there’s no end to the possibilities of where you can venture to for your very first camping trip, and for all of the future trips that are sure to follow.
If you enjoy the ocean, you can go camping near the ocean, or freshwater lakes, streams, and even rivers.
If you’re more of a mountain person, there are many excellent camping spots for you too. There are countless canyons, deserts, and hills for you to enjoy your camping experiences at.
You can even bring along your friends and family. If you have well-behaved pets, many places will allow you to bring your pets along for the trip.
These are only a few of the reasons that people enjoy and love camping. If you ask any veteran camper, they’ll each give you a different reason as to why they enjoy camping. However, you will always find the common reason is that each person loves the outdoors and becoming a part of nature.
Where to Camp: Preparing your Campsite
The choice of the campsite can quite easily make or break your trip. There are several factors you need to consider when deciding upon the perfect campsite. Remember the best campsites are found, not made!
When you chance upon a potential campsite, first take a good look around. Choose an area that is flat. If however, you are hiking in the hills and the flat ground becomes difficult to locate, and dusk is fast approaching, choose the ground such that your head is at a higher elevation than the feet.
Consider how far your potential campsite is from a source of water. Ideally, the camping ground should not be any closer than 200 feet away from the campsite, but should be close enough for you to walk up there every now and then to do chores like washing dishes.
Similarly, it is also advisable not to set up a camp anywhere less than 200 feet away from the hiking trail. That way, both you and the other hiking the trail do not interfere with each other’s agendas. Most campers are looking for solitude and tents set up too close to the hiking trail might be completely counterproductive.
Avoid setting up tents too close to game trails – natural forest paths used by animals frequently- to avoid running into wild animals. Too close to a game trail, you might not only end up inviting wild animals to come check out your camping grounds out of sheer curiosity but may also block some more nervous animals’ access to water bodies.
Account for the climatic conditions when you are setting up the tent. In a sunny, summery area you might want to set up the camp in a cool, dry and shady area to shield you from intense heat. On the other hand, in cooler weather conditions make sure to orient your camp such that it faces the east and can absorb the warmth from the sun.
If the area is windy, try to look for flat grounds behind something like a windbreak like a huge boulder or bushes maybe that will break the velocity of the wind and reduce the chances of your tent getting blown away, should the winds get any stronger.
Carefully survey the area around your potential campsite to check for dead trees, broken branches, potential rock fall debris, etc. that may crash into your tent caught in strong draughts.
Widow makers, as these are fondly referred to among campers, could be a deal-breaker! Avoid narrow alleys, tops of ridges or low –points in ridges which might be caught in unpredictably strong winds.
- If camping in a rainy area, try to pick a high ground, instead of a depressed area, where water and later cool, condensed air, is more likely to collect. High grounds drain more easily and stay warmer during night-time. Consider how well the area is protected from lightning strikes, should a thunder-storm ravage the area.
- When preparing the campsite, milling around the area to remove twigs, pebbles etc. wear soft soled shoes and not hiking boots.
- Avoid building a fire, unless there is an established fire ring, or you are carrying a fire building pan, that will not leave the ground charred and infertile.
- Finally avoid camping at the same place for more than 1-2 days at a stretch. When leaving be sure to pack up and carry your trash away. Do not leave the camping ground littered.
Remember that planning the campsite should already be a part of your planning process. You should have already mapped out approximate camping grounds and sourced all necessary information about them including weather conditions, permits required, camping fire rules in the area, etc.
Caught in an unfamiliar terrain, make sure that you start your search at least an hour to thirty minutes before anticipated dusk time. It is never a good idea to try and set up the tent in an unfamiliar terrain for the first time after dusk.
National parks in most countries are the most easily accessible, safest camping grounds. Most of them will already have established camping grounds with a strict set of rules.
Established campsites will also often have set toilets, showers, clean water sources as well as firewood that you can buy. It could be a good idea to start out with these and then venture into the more adventurous wilderness.
Whatever your campsite is, get familiar with the permits, regulations as well as the Leave No Trace principle for campers, intended to safeguard recreational resources of such natural areas from damage.
Things to Consider When Selecting Your Camping Location
Now that you’re set to go camping the question is where should you go for this camping trip?
You will want to do some research on the camping sites and what gear you plan on bringing with you.
If you’re going by RV, make sure that the place you want to go is RV accessible. Some places will have an RV park where you can park and walk to the campsite.
No matter if you’re going tent or RV camping there are some important things that you need to consider for your camping location.
Do you have access to clean water? Be sure to bring some water bottles and other things with you as you can never be too careful.
If you choose to make a campfire, you will want a location that has a fire ring at the campsite, and one that has access to firewood. Or, make sure to pick up and bring wood for your campfire with you. Deadwood works the best for firewood, but any dry and pretreated wood should burn nicely for the camp fire.
Be sure to read up on how to start a campfire and bring any items that will help you to start your fire quickly and easily such as kindling or fire starter blocks. These campfire items should, of course, be under the control of an adult at all times and kept out of the reach of unsupervised and small children.
Be sure to avoid areas that are uncharted. You will want to avoid those areas because you do not know what to expect. You certainly don’t want to find yourself taking a wrong step and sliding down a steep hillside.
If you do choose to go to an uncharted area, visit the area ahead of time, so you have an idea of what to expect, and before do that, make sure to let the campground manager and friends that are staying behind know where it is that you intend to go to. This way should you and your family become lost, rescuers will know where to start searching for you.
If you wish to camp in a state park or national forest, you must remember that these are protected areas. Make sure to check ahead of time with the park administrators to find out what the rules are for camping in those areas.
It’s important to choose an RV that suits your needs and a tent that is not cheap and will fall apart on you with the first use. There are many quality RVs and tents that can suit your needs. Just do your homework!
The Joys of Camping with Your Family
Camping with your family is a terrific way to have a fun vacation at a fraction of the cost of other types of planned vacations! By camping you won’t have to worry about where to go, how much hotel rooms are, and you get to see the country.
The idea of taking your family camping with you can feel like an intimidating thing to do at first, but it does not have to be. Camping with your family could be a great way to teach them about nature and a great way to bond as a family. Camping with your family can make for a great family vacation that will be remembered for years to come.
Camping with your family creates an environment of quality time for bonding with your family. When going camping with your family, the everyday demands of life get put on hold so that you all can enjoy the solitude and quiet of the outdoors. During a camping vacation, you get to spend valuable time with those whom you love the most.
Camping with your family provides them with opportunities that you may not be able to experience while at home. Some camping grounds offer a variety of onsite activities.
These activities can include swimming in pools or lakes, nature walks, and hiking trails. This means you can learn and teach your family about nature, how to fish, swim, canoe, hike, and even biking.
One of the most fun things to do with your family while on a camping trip is to go hiking. One way to plan this ahead of time and having your family look forward to the camping trip is to plan a scavenger hunt.
Ahead of time, you can make a list of things you will most likely see on the hikes. Each person gets a copy of the list and whoever finds the most objects on the list gets a reward such as an extra s’more!
Going camping with your family will help teach them basic survival skills such as pitching a tent, how to safely start a fire, and what they should do if they should ever get stranded or lost in the woods such as how to find or build a shelter. They will learn to be aware of their surroundings and they’ll be able to relate to the environment.
At night you and your family can play a game of flashlight hide and seek. It’s an easy game to play while the person who is “it” holds a flashlight and counts to thirty while everyone else hides.
The seeker will shine the flashlight around to find people. People can try moving to different spots but once the beam of light falls on them and holds then they are out. During this game, people should be wearing dark clothing, so that they can’t be easily seen by the person with the flashlight.
However, be sure to designate the “safe” perimeter for hiding places since we don’t want anyone getting hit by cars, lost in the dark or straying too far away from the campsite. There are loads of fun games to play with family and friends while camping.
Just remember that safety should always come first. Keep it fun but more importantly, keep it safe!
Around the camp fire you can also tell scary urban legends and ghost stories. They are really a camping tradition and you can have a lot of fun telling them or making up scary stories to tell as you go!
Camping also provides fresh air and exercise which is great for everyone’s health and doctors are very much in favor of. It’s easy to get a great deal of exercise by pitching camp, hiking, collecting wood, and doing much more that is associated with camping.
Camping with your family is a great way to have fun and create memories and traditions for many years to come.
Tent or RV? How to choose?
Both camping by tent and RV (recreational vehicle) have their pros and cons. There is no right or wrong answer when choosing which option you want to do when camping.
To choose, you will want to look at your needs and the needs of your family. Many camping places are more than happy to help you out with any questions that you may have about camping and choosing what option is right for you.
An RV may be more comfortable in many respects, but they are expensive to rent. However, if your budget allows, renting an RV is a great way to camp without giving up too many of the comforts of home. But if your goal is to really connect with nature, you may want to start your family camping tradition by tent camping for the first few years, and then eventually graduate to RV camping a bit later.
Teenagers will especially appreciate their space in their separate tent away from mom & dad. The choice of whether to tent camp or go in an RV is up to you, your budget, and what it is that you’re hoping to experience or get out of your camping trip.
Tent camping is the most economical way to camp, but you can also feel the cold or the warmth of the night so if it’s cold out you will feel cold. If it’s hot outside, you won’t be able to turn on the air conditioner as you would in most RV’s.
When deciding if you want a tent or an RV you should consider the financial situation, the area you wish to camp in, and what you and your family’s needs are.
Some camping sites are RV only while others are tent only so be sure to do your research ahead of time!
Some veteran campers have recommended using an RV for your first camping trip. They have the luxury of being more comfortable and are cheaper than the cost of a hotel and restaurants.
RVs have their own working bathroom and will provide privacy so that no one can be spotted relieving themselves. It also offers privacy in case a young one has an accident.
RVs are also great if you have heavy gear that you need to transport. You can bring your own food and eat wherever you end up at the end of each day.
You will also be able to stay in some beautiful places that are fairly remote and still have many of the comforts of home with you.
Tent camping is the most economical option. It also gives you a different adventure as you can cook and sleep under the stars.
There’s nothing like cooking a pancake and bacon breakfast over the open campfire. It can get pretty messy or it can be efficient and very well organized depending on who the chef is. Either way, breakfast just tastes better when it’s cooked over an open fire, and it’s a lot of fun!
Many veteran campers have said that cooking over an open fire smells wonderful and tastes even better.
Having a tent will also provide you with a never ending supply of fresh air as you sleep. Sleeping inside a tent is also quiet and you can feel the air of the night. You just might get some of the best sleep of your life when sleeping in your tent in the great outdoors!
The kids will be comfortable with sleeping in a good quality sleeping bag. But for the adults, my recommendation would be to bring a nice air mattress for yourself to ensure your comfort and a good night sleep!
Just be sure to bring your plastic or rubber patch/repair kit to make repairs in the event something sharp pokes a hole in the mattress. You’ll have the most miserable night of sleep in your life if the air in your mattress leaks out and you forgot to bring the repair kit, and end up sleeping on the hard rocky ground!
By camping in a tent, you’re able to get much closer to the earth than you would in an RV.
Tent camping takes a little getting used to and a little more preparation than it would by camping in an RV. However, tent camping allows you to spend much less money on fuel because your car will more than likely get better mpg than an RV will or a car or truck that is towing and RV.
So again, it all comes down to your budget and what it is that you’re hoping to get out of your camping experience.
The Basics of Camping
Before going on your camping trip, be sure to learn about the environment of where you’ll be camping. Pitching a tent in sand will be entirely different than pitching one on land. If you don’t have the right equipment, you’ll be remembering the trip for all the wrong reasons!
Be sure to check the weather forecasts or contact a ranger station so that you can’t end up in the path of any natural disasters. Knowing your surroundings will help you in case something dangerous does come along.
Be sure to prepare for any possible hazards. This includes everything from a brush with poison ivy to dangerous wildlife. The park rangers, outdoor experts, and people at your sporting goods store will be happy to help you prepare.
If you’re going to hike, practice walking with a fully packed backpack. This will give you an idea of how the backpack feels, and the weight of the load and any adjustments that should be made before venturing on your actual hike.
Practicing ahead of time will help you prevent muscle strain and will help you to determine what is essential to bring along with you and what is not.
When camping, bring a hat with you for protection from the rays of the sun. Shorts may seem like an ideal thing to wear when camping but they aren’t. Choose clothing that is lightweight and dries quickly. You can also layer your clothing for extra protection during the winter months or cool evenings.
Bring area and campground maps to prevent getting lost. Campground maps are usually given to you at check-in, and area maps are often available there as well or at the local convenience store.
Keep these in your car or your backpack so that you can reference them when hiking the trails or touring the surrounding areas. Many people prefer to depend on their vehicle’s or cell phones GPS.
However, these systems don’t always work in remote or coastal areas and you can often find yourself lost or driving around in circles when following GPS navigation directions in these areas. So keep maps close and ready to refer to for more accurate directions.
Must-Have Gear & Equipment for Every Trip
It is imperative that you choose the right camping gear to make sure you have a great camping experience – especially if this is your first time camping in the open. You might want to consider investing in good gear if you are looking to use the gear over multiple camping trips.
Camping essentials include tent, sleeping bags with or without a combination of sleeping mats and comforters, as well as basic outdoor cooking and lighting equipment. Add to that a basic first aid kit and you are all set to go on your first camping trip.
Ideally, if you are a first time camper, you should look to put together the bare essentials and later if you think you enjoy the experience you will build up upon your own set of preferred equipment and will also be able to improvise according to the type of camping trip you’re planning.
Seasoned campers will tell you that buying a tent is pretty much like buying a home – after all you are trying to buy a mobile home and there are dozens of styles, sizes, designs and features that you need to consider.
Tents fall into five basic categories:
- Summer or Screen Tents
These tents come with great ventilation features and are perfect for summer months since they are also designed to protect you from bugs that abound during the steamy summer months.
Made from large bands of mesh, instead of traditional nylon, good quality summer tents can handle a range of summer weather conditions from mild breeze to summer thunderstorms. These tents usually feature strong skeletal systems and full coverage rain flies that could be very effective in protecting you from the steep weather conditions while keeping the insects out.
- Three-Season Tents
Three season tents are probably your best bet if you are new to camping and are looking to buy gear that will last you a while. Made to work well in most weather conditions, as the name suggests, three season tents are designed or backpacking in spring, summer and fall.
These tents feature a well-vented body ideal for use during the hot summer months. These come with sound structures that can handle strong winds and also feature a full coverage canopy designed to keep you dry and cosy during rainstorms.
Three season tents are the most commonly available tents, made using light fabric, usually a combination of mesh and ventilation, and come with lightweight poles to hold up the structure. However, if you are looking to tent during the winter months, these tents will not be very useful.
- Mountaineering or Winter Tents
Made using tough fabrics and sturdy pole structures, these tents are ideal for camping in extreme weather conditions, especially in winters. Experienced campers who often like to camp out in the harsh winters prefer these tents since they are built to help you survive in the most hard-hitting weather conditions.
These come with multiple guy-out points with loops fastened at various strategic points on the tent’s fly to help create stronger anchoring, especially useful when camping in wind-facing valleys and . These tents have typically low, boulder like shapes aimed to keep the wind out and commonly feature large vestibules that can be very handy for gear storage.
With hybrid designs, these are tents are designed for campers who are looking to experiment with all types of weather conditions. These tents feature a strong pole, a vestibule as well as rainfly options which means that you can strip down the tent to create a basic, well-ventilated shelter for summers, or fortify it for stormy nights.
Made from an amalgamation of materials, these tents usually come with solid nylon panels that can be zipped tight and often feature mesh windows along the walls. However, these tent types are typically heavier than the other types, though the versatility offered could be a huge plus.
- Tarp Tents
This is the most basic tent type, aimed for light hiking and camping trips. Specifically designed for campers who will gladly sacrifice comfort to save the extra weight, tarp tents are essentially made from one solid sheet of fabric, usually polyester or nylon, and need to be rigged to sturdy structures like boulders, tree trunks or roots or trekking poles, if available.
Good knot-tying skills are indispensable to ensure that you have built a durable shelter for the day. However, remember that these tents do not come with solid walls or flooring rendering very inefficient bug protection.
However, if tied well, these types can be incredibly weather resistant. Needless to say, these are also the cheapest variety of tents available, but not the best option, especially for a first time camper.
Over time, since tents have become increasingly specialized, searching for the right tent can be a daunting task if you are not sure what to look for. The kind of tent you purchase will largely depend on the kind of camping trip you are headed to, the climatic conditions of the place, the number of people going camping, and many other such factors.
As often happens, you might get a little lost in all the specs and numbers that you come across, when buying your first tent, but don’t let that set you back. Keep in mind this checklist and you will definitely make a wiser purchase decision.
The shape of the tent you choose will largely dictate what you can and cannot do inside the tent. Tents today come with a several different configuration, and that can largely vary depending on your requirements.
A-frame designs come with sloping walls, and are simple, light inexpensive options. Not your best bet if you are looking to camp in harsh weather conditions, since their broad sidewalls are not very resistant against string winds.
Additionally, the design features sloping walls, limiting elbow and head room.
Arched ceilings, good interior space, and stability in strong winds make this a better choice. They come in various designs, sizes and pole configurations.
Aerodynamic and lightweight, these tents are higher at the head end and lower towards the foot. Interior space, however, is sacrificed, especially head room, given that the general interior space is lesser.
A rainfly supported by a central vertical pole, these tent shapes serve as a very basic shelter. Not good for camping in wet or buggy landscape.
So, if you are a first time camper and are toying with the idea if camping more often depending upon how the first experience goes, your best bet would be to look into Dome and Modified A-frame (better structural stability and greater interior space as compared to traditional A-frames) tent shapes.
However, remember that there are several other factors you need to consider like the number of people/ equipment travelling with you and very importantly the weather conditions that you would be hiking in.
- Pro-hiker tip
Remember high-roofed rectangular designs offer more dry storage area, and a safe place to cook even in windy or rainy weather.
- Floor space
When considering floor space, it is the dimensions you need to consider and not just the square footage. Tall hikers tend to need more headroom, while you will want tents with more elbow space if there are hikers of a stout build.
The headroom in a tent will largely be dictated by the wall-slope. When making a decision, consider factors like how many people and equipment you will be travelling with and the kind of weather conditions you might have to endure. If there are chances that you will be tent-bound for several days/ hours at a stretch, consider tents that have consistent end to end headroom.
A well-designed, comfortable sleeping bag can completely alter your camping experience. There is nothing like slipping into a warm, cosy sleeping bag at the end of a long day.
Roomier compared to regular hiking sleeping bags, these bags keep you warm by trapping a layer of non-circulating, dead air around your body.
This dead air once warmed by the body heat then maintains a constant temperature since the bag forms a barrier between the warm air inside and the cool air outside.
Sleeping bags that are appropriate for camping look to maximize comfort while minimizing weight. Additionally, their temperature rating, shape and insulation type are a few more factors that you should consider.
Moreover, getting a good traveling crib or traveling beds for your toddlers can also be great ideas as they are portable and super lightweight to carry on your trip.
The temperature rating of a sleeping bag indicates the lowest temperature in which the sleeping bag can keep an average sleeper warm. A “15 degree bag” is intended to keep a regular sleeper warm, given that the temperature does not fall below 15°F.
Note that these ratings assume that the sleeper is wearing a layer of long underwear and is also using a sleeping pad under the bag as additional insulation.
Pick a sleeping bag with a temperature rating according to the weather conditions your research about the region yields. Most sleeping bags that are suited for camping will range between +15°F and +50°F.
While making a purchase remembers to pick a bag with a temperature rating that is slightly lower that the lowest temperature you are expecting to encounter. If you are headed to camping grounds that might experience snowfall, pick out a 20°F bag, instead of a 20°F one.
If the temperatures remain warmer, you can always vent the bag and create air circulation. But you’d rather be prepared for the cold!
Designed for maximum room and comfort, rectangular sleeping bags are the most commonly available ones.
If there is more than 1 person travelling you can consider buying two compatible rectangular sleeping bags (one with a zipper that opens to the right and the other with a zipper that opens to the left) and create a comfortable double bed-like space.
You can carry a deflatable air mattress and set up the double sleeping bags on the top and tuck yourself into comfort.
- Barrel shaped
Designed for both camping and backpacking, barrel bags are popular among large-frame backpackers and restless sleepers. Semi-rectangular in shape they feature tapered designs that provide more warmth and comfort.
Ideal, if you are looking to do some backpacking as well as car camping, mummy sleeping bags are preferred by many seasoned campers.
Their narrow shoulder and hip widths help maximize warmth and reduce weight, adding to both comfort and convenience. However, being restrictive in nature, many people tend to avoid these.
Designed to comfortably house two people, double-wide sleeping bags are roomy and can be easily combined with an air mattress or a foam sleeping pad for a good night’s sleep.
Most models also unzip and separate into two separate bags if needed.
Sleeping Bag Accessories
- Stuff sacks
While most new sleeping bags these days come with their own stuff sack, some are sold separately. Handy while transporting the sleeping bag, new or replacement sacks are sized by volume, measured in liters.
- Storage sack
Though many choose to stuff the bag in its sack when not in use, its longevity can be increased manifold by loosely hanging it in the garage or storing it in a loose storage sack. This keeps the insulating properties intact over longer time periods.
- Bag Liner
Sleeping bag liners are sold separately and can be easily stuffed on the floor of the bag to easily add another 10° to 15°F of warmth to the sleeping bag. If you are camping in a warmer area you can even choose to skip the sleeping bag and sleep comfortably on the liner.
Lighting gear when you are travelling is crucial. Especially if you are a new camper, you might be in for a surprise when you spend your first night in the wilderness.
While campfires are often used to light up the campground, they are not very reliable lighting sources, especially in rainy weather conditions.
Though many traditional lighting has been used as camp lighting, LED is the most popular lighting gear these days.
Bright lights coupled with a long battery life make them the favored lighting choices when camping outdoors.
Gas lanterns, liquid fuel lanterns, electric lanterns are some other lighting options that you can look into.
While gas and liquid fuel lanterns are best not used inside the tent area, electric lanterns, usually powered by LED lights are becoming hugely popular among campers.
Get A Powerful Torch
It is advisable that you carry a powerful torch. There are several fancy torches available in the market today; choose one that allows you to switch between a focused light ray to dispersed or flood lighting.
Choose a torch that is compact and slim and can be easily carried either in your pockets or strung around the belt hoop.
Consider Getting A Headlamp
Headlamps are known for their quality of high powered, focused lighting and come in varying price ranges depending on the quality and battery life.
Since they light up exactly where you are looking while at the same time leave both your hands free, headlamps can come in very handy during your first time camping adventure. Consider the type of light (focused or flood), weight, beam distance and headlamp run time when purchasing one.
If you are a woman, planning to camp alone, you could also consider getting a pepper spray equipped with a torch.
First Aid and Survival
It is always advisable to have a basic first aid toolkit handy so that you can deal with minor accidents easily.
A travel appropriate first-aid kit comes stuffed with supplies to tackle minor medical emergencies, sometimes including lifesaving medication.
Do not, however, confuse first aid with serious healthcare; first aid is used to essentially cater to minor accidents and injuries to prevent further infection.
On sustaining any serious injury, look to head to the nearest healthcare facility as quickly as possible.
Decide upon the size of the kit depending upon how many people are going camping and the length of the impending trip. Try using a container that is waterproof (you can consider plastic, metal or tin kits) and will seal shut.
If however, you are using an RV or a car camper, you could consider investing in a car emergency kit, which will also come appended with car emergency supplies like spark plus, bungee cords etc.
You will easily find these online stocked with an assortment of basic supplies at most online or retail camping stores.
Here is a basic checklist of items that you should be equipped with to handle any minor mishaps at the campsite.
- Antiseptic wipes
- Gauze bandages
- Safety pins
- Water purifying tablets
- Pain relief medication
- Antacids/ digestives
- Anti-diarrhea medication
- Anti-nausea medicines
- Rehydrating salts/tablets
- Blister pads
- Antiseptic /Burn gel/cream
- Insect bite relief medication
- Disposable syringes and needles
- Wound closure strips
- Adhesive dressing
- Antiseptic cleaning strips
- Any prescription medication needed
- Soap - shampoo
- Mosquito repellent/nets
- Water purification device/tablets
- Hand sanitizer
- Space glasses/ contact lens kits
- Adhesive/Super glue
- Small torch and headlamp
- Thread and needles
- Spare clothes
- Pen and paper
- Fire starters
- Additional energy/carb/protein bars
When you choose to go camping there are several things that you will want to make sure that you have before and when you’re packing. These include but are not limited to.
- Sleeping Bag.
When you choose to go camping make sure you have the right weight sleeping bag with you. If you camp during a warm season and bring a thick sleeping bag you will roast. If you bring a light weight bag in the middle of winter you could freeze. In extreme cases you can even develop hypothermia.
- Any necessary medications
If anyone has any allergies or needs certain medications be sure to bring them with you.
- Tent (if tent camping)
If you’re using a brand new tent practice pitching it in your back yard before going on your camping trip. This will let you learn how to set up the tent and to make sure you’re not missing any pieces. This practice will also save you frustration when pitching your tent at the camp site.
- First-aid Kit.
Accidents can and do happen so it’s always best to have a basic first aid kit with you and take it with you wherever you go.
- Survival Kit.
Your survival kit should include waterproof matches, a knife, flash light, extra batteries, a flare gun, and chlorine tablets and or water cleansing pills. Having this will help you if you become lost or something happens. Be sure to take this kit with you and don’t leave it behind in your campground.
- Bandanna and/or a Handkerchief.
These can be used if you need a pot holder or drying your hands and save you the trouble of wiping your hands on your pants.
- Duct Tape.
Duct tape can be used for repairs in airbeds, repair a tarp, sleeping bag, or even the tent itself. In case of emergencies it can be used as bandaging.
- Clothing & Other Necessities.
Be sure to bring clothing appropriate for the temperature and weather conditions that you’ll be camping in, and bring at least one extra change of clothes in case of an accident.
- Bug Spray.
A must have especially for the little ones. An orange may be used for bug spray if need be.
- Cell Phone
Make sure your phone is fully charged before you head out. If possible bring a wireless charger with you. Take your cell phone with you when hiking or if you’re going to be a far distance from your campsite.
- Sports Whistle.
This is especially handy in case you get separated or lost. This ordinary whistle will carry noises further than the ordinary human voice can.
- Small Axe & Army knife
These tools can come in handy when having to cut up wood and kindling for your camp fire, or when needed for fixing things.
- Photos of the family
No one likes to think about the possibility of someone becoming lost or injured. Having photos of your family will help everyone greatly as they know who to look for in case you become separated.
- Sun Screen Lotion.
Another must have for all camping trips, especially since you and your family members will be spending most of your time outdoors and in the sun. Nothing like bad and painful sunburn to ruin the camping experience for everybody!
- Water Sports Safety Gear
If you plan to bring or rent a boat or canoe for fishing, relaxing or other types of water fun, be sure to bring life jackets for everyone and any other safety gear or equipment recommended for the specific water activity.
Even if you are only camping for an evening or for a few days you will still need to plan ahead. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to the people who work on the camp sites as they can help you greatly with information.
Following the advice listed above and listening to the people who work there will help you with a camping trip that will be wonderful to remember.
How to Build a Campfire
Building a fire was one of man’s earliest urges. Till date, many claim that the act of building up a fire from scratch, gives you the same sense of satisfaction it did centuries ago, when technology did not dictate our lives. Building a campfire out in the wilderness is one of the most unadulterated experiences you will have.
However, remember to always act within the line of caution. If this is your first time around building campfires remember that safety is the first and foremost necessity. It is ideal if you can find an already established fire ring.
In National Parks and other popular campsites these days, there are already set up fire rings that you can use. If, however, you are camping in the wilderness where there are no designated fire sites you need to make one. Remember to always choose a spot that is set far away from trees, bushes or grass, especially dried grass.
Choose a clean area with exposed bare earth. If you cannot find a relatively clean spot to set up the campfire, create your own – rake a piece of earth clean; be sure to remove the dry, dead leaves.
Dry branches, dry grass and bark catch fire quite easily. Remember that you do not want to be the guy who set the national park ablaze!
Once you have a clean spot to set up a campfire in, it is all a matter of following a set of instructions and acting according to your surroundings (taking into account things like wind speed, wind direction etc.).
- Make Your Fire-bed
Once you have designated an area for the campfire, gather some dirt and place it in the center, forming the dirt into a platform that is 3-4 inches thick. Alternatively, you can use rocks to build a ring of rocks around the intended fire pit. These rocks will help you contain the fire.
- Get Your Wood Ready
A good campfire will burn for hours – provided - you have the right kind of wood. To set up, what would be roaring campfire, you need three distinctive kinds of material – tinder to start the fire, kindling to add substance to the fire and finally the fuel wood to keep the fire going.
Tinder is what will help you start the fire. Any material that catches fire easily can be used as tinder – dry leaves, dry bark, dried grass, wood-shaving etc. Many have also improvised and used newspapers as tinder.
However, remember that wet tinder does not catch fire. So, if you are going camping to a wet area, you could carry your own tinder as dryer lint as a failsafe.
These comprise the small twigs and sticks you will use to keep the fire going by adding volume to the fire. Since tinder burns out quite quickly, you will need to add more substance to the fire.
At this stage you cannot add the big pieces of log because they will take much longer to inflame – you need dried twigs, small branches, sticks in generous quantities.
- Fuel wood
Fuel wood is what will keep your fire hot and burning for hours. In most established campsites you will get ready firewood. These need to go into the flames soon after the kindling has caught on, making some steady flames.
However, unlike the general myth, these do not have to be huge pieces of firewood. Ideally look for branches that are about the girth of your forearm. Also be careful to not add all pieces of firewood in one go.
- Build up Your Fire
Though there are several ways to lay out a fire, most campers prefer the tepee arrangement. It is easy to set up and keeps burning for a while.
Place a good quantity of tinder at the center of your fire site.
Next, gather the kindling and form a tepee arrangement with the kindling. Starting with the smallest twigs, branches etc., work your way up to the bigger logs, all set up in a tepee layout. Be sure to leave an opening in the tepee in the direction against the wind. This will ensure that the fire gets the air supply it needs to keep burning.
Create a larger tepee structure around the kindling with some of the fuel wood.
Light the tinder at the center first. Tinder catches fire the quickest, the flames from which would help light up the kindling and eventually the larger pieces of fuelwood.
At some point, the tepee structure will collapse. At this stage you will need to keep adding firewood for as long as you want the fire going. Make sure that there is an opening in the structure all through to allow enough air supply to keep the fire ablaze. Rake or fan the fire till you have steady flames from the fuelwood.
Putting the Fire Out
Learning how to build a fire does not stop at making a great fire. You also need to know how to efficiently put it out. Fire can take more time to go out than you would think. Know when you would like to go to bed, and start with putting the fire out at least 15 – 20 minutes before.
Keep a bucket of water handy, however, fight the urge to upturn the bucket over the water and sprinkle water over the embers slowly, raking it all through to ensure that the ashes also get well. You will slowly feel the heat turning down and the fire going out.
Once the fire is out completely, make sure to clean up after yourself, dispose the ashes and rake the earth clean in the area.
Do not leave, while your fire is still burning!
If you do not get it right the very first time, don’t worry much. A few round of fires raked and you will soon come up with your own set of fire-making secrets and tricks.
A Quick Guide to Cooking Outdoors
If this is your first time camping out in the wilderness, the whole experience of lighting a campfire under the open skies and preparing your very first meal on it, is one of the experiences that makes the whole trip and the preparation that precedes it, worth its while.
Seasoned campers will tell you that the experience of being isolated from civilization, completely on your own, or with a few near and dear ones making your own meals is one of the experiences you will cherish. People often claim that the food cooked up in the wilderness while at a campsite, often tastes so much better than the food cooked in the convenience of your own kitchen.
Cooking outdoors can be easier than you think. With the right equipment and a little bit of improvisation you can cook up some of the nicest meals.
Though people will tell you cooking outdoors requires quite a bit of skill and preparation, if you have a penchant for cooking and a liking for the outdoors and of course, the camp appropriate utensils and supplies, you can master the art of being an ‘Outdoor Chef’ with almost little to practice. A little bit of planning ahead, can however, take you a long way.
Below is a basic checklist of the cookware and supplies you will require to sustain an outdoor kitchen. Add or remove a few items, depending on the kind of cooking and camping you have in mind.
- A large utensil like a large jug or a bucket to collect cooking water in.
- Ice or water cooler.
- Thermos to store hot water (to use for preparing hot beverages).
- Portable stove with the requisite type of fuel.
- Extra cans of fuel.
- Cooking matches/ lighter.
- Dutch or box oven.
- Charcoal or firewood.
- Fire starters or newspapers to get the campfire going.
- Camp grill.
- Cooking oil.
- Seasoning and condiments.
- Containers with lids (for storing food).
- Pots (preferably with lids).
- Frying pan.
- A cutting board.
- Tablecloth and some spare bits of clean cloth.
- Disposable plates and bowls.
- Sets of spoons and forks.
- Your baby essentials such as diapers, travel cribs, diaper bags, wipes, ...
- Tongs, Spatula.
- 3 sets of knives, potato peeler.
- Ample quantities of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- Paper napkins/paper towels.
- Can and bottle openers.
- Zip lock bags.
- Small pieces of dish soap.
- Emergency lights, extra batteries.
- At least 1-2 meters of rope (can double up as a clothes line).
- Folding table and camp chairs.
Keeping Food Fresh
Though cooking food outdoors might seem like the real challenge, especially to first-time campers, it is the actually the easier bit. The tricky bit while camping outdoors is to figure out effective ways of keeping food fresh, especially if your camping trip will last over a few days.
If the temperature of the perishable food at any point crosses 40°F, microorganisms start to grow on the food, which will turn and make you sick. On a camping trip, out in the wilderness by yourself, that is the last thing you want!
Here’s a compilation of several tips and tricks by several seasoned campers on how you can effectively keep the food cool and fresh.
Get a large sized cooler: If you do not already have one, get yourself a good sized cooler. If you are on a single day camping trip, you could consider the smaller coolers (between 28-qt to 54-qt). But with a multi-day trip, the kind of insulation and lid sealing are important factors you should consider.
Commonly the sizes vary between 66-qt to 77-qt, but 120-qt monsters are also easily available. Most coolers these days will have the manufacturer’s ice-holding rating (and will proudly advertise how long it is guaranteed to hold the ice).
Make your ice-packs before leaving. Remember that solid chunks of ice take much longer to melt than the ice cube. You can re-use old 2L bottles, fill it with water and freeze the same. Similarly, gallon size sealable freezer bags are available at supermarkets which might prove very useful.
Make sure that all the food that you intend to carry is cooled beforehand. Make place for items that can be frozen at home, especially perishables, in your freezer at least 2 days before leaving.
Let food like burger patties, salmon filets, chicken breasts, hotdogs, sausage, bacon, etc. be frozen and can then slowly thaw over time in your cooler.
For ice-cube use a separate container like freezer bags to make sure the ice does not get contaminated. When you pack the cooler, try to distribute the contents as evenly as you can between food items and ice packs.
Uncooked meat, poultry products, butter, etc. need to be placed in separate containers to prevent cross-contamination, which will again keep your food fresh longer.
Activities for Great Camping Experience
As previously mentioned there is flashlight hide and go seek and telling ghost stories. However, there are plenty of other activities you can do and have fun with!
If you want to try a twist on the alphabet game have everyone try to find something in nature that begins with each letter of the alphabet.
The trick is that you can win this game by finding objects in the correct alphabet order. You can also give each child a disposable digital camera so they can take photographs of each object that they find.
Before you go camping buy a few postcards. At the end of each day have the child write down the date and what they did on that day. They could mail the cards out to themselves and bind them into a book when they get home.
If you have a ball to play with bring it along and play a few games of catch with the children. If you fear they will suffer from video came with drawl you can bring along a few toys. They may complain at first but soon will start to enjoy all that the camping site has to offer.
There’s nothing quite like fishing during your camping trip. It’s a learning experience for the young and old when you learn how to tie various knots in your fishing line, the types of bait you should use, learning how to properly cast your fishing rod and how to reel in your catch! You might return to camp empty handed if the fish aren’t biting.
But the experience is really the payoff when fishing with family & friends. And if you’re lucky enough to actually catch a few fish, it will be all the more satisfying when you see the fish that you caught frying in the skillet!
That fish is going to taste great! You’ll experience a sense of accomplishment and if you’re the only one who caught any fish that day, you’ll have full bragging rights!
Telling scary stories around a campfire is also a fun thing to do. Even if you don’t know any good ghost stories there are websites with short stories that you can tell.
Never underestimate the power of a classic urban legend!
Just be careful not to make the stories too scary for the little ones because you want them to enjoy a sound night of sleep so that you too can have a sound night of sleep!
Common Mistakes You Should Avoid
Your camping trip is going to be an experience of a lifetime, especially if this is your first. You need to plan for it meticulously and well in advance.
Basic supplies and rudimentary knowledge about the area will not successfully see you through. Here are some common things people overlook that could largely compromise their experience as well as safety.
- Picking the wrong tent or pitching it wrong:
With numerous variations in terms of size, shape, type, materials etc., picking the right tent often becomes a task. Do not just give up on it and pick up whatever you can manage easily.
Check how much space it has (consider at least 30 square feet per camper), how weather resistant it is, check the zippers, waterproofing etc. Also remember to never pitch a tent with its doorway facing the wind direction.
- Counting only on Cooking for food:
However many steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs you carry, it is foolish to rely only on cooked food. Always carry easier food items like biscuits, protein bars, bread, peanut butter, canned food, eggs etc. Remember to carry a few extra trash bags.
No checklists: It is absolutely imperative that you have a camping checklist, with everything that you need. If you try to get going without having checked off all items from a comprehensive checklist, you are bound to miss a few. You really do not want to reach the campsite and then discover that you left the torch on the bookshelf at home!
- No Planning or Practicing:
This is probably the most detrimental to the trip experience. Many first time campers think they will be able to tackle all issues once they arise, but that is much easier said than done; especially when you are camping in the middle of nowhere.
You need some effective planning and practice – be it in setting up a tent deftly or practicing first aid, or chopping firewood, researching the weather conditions etc. You don’t want to be caught in the middle of a thunderstorm, trying to set up a campfire without adequate lighting!
- Ignoring wildlife:
As much as the Great Outdoors has its tremendous charm, it is a double edged sword. Campers need to reconcile with the idea that situations will not always be under their control. When out in the wilderness it is best to keep clear of animals.
While no camper really minds the occasional raccoon or deer, if you are not careful you might be inviting trouble. Keep away from natural animal trails. Keep food, especially meet packed well to avoid alluring smells and to keep pests away. Dispose your trash carefully and remember to keep the tent fly closed when you are not inside.
Staying Safe While Camping
It can be easy to injure yourself on a camping trip which is why you need to follow some basic safety rules for a safe and happy camping adventure.
- Research the campgrounds.
Be sure to learn about the area you want to camp at along with the weather forecast.
- Wash your hands.
It is very easy to transfer bacteria from going to the bathroom to handling food. Bring soap and water or an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Use this before and after preparing food, eating, using the bathroom, or coming into contact with wildlife.
- Prepare for insects.
Bring bug spray and other items to protect you with you during your trip.
- Learn about the local animals.
Do not feed any of the local wildlife including deer and squirrels. Learn what to do if you see a bear or other animals by speaking with the campground manager.
Many campgrounds will give you brochures upon checking in, and these brochures will often address what actions you should or should not take should you encounter wildlife.
- Tell friends and family where you are.
Let them know when you will be leaving and returning so they can tell authorities if you run into trouble.
- Be smart around water.
Avoid alcohol entirely and practice water safety, especially with young children.
- Practice fire safety.
Keep a bucket of sand or a fire extinguisher with you in case of emergency. Teach young children to avoid the fire or hot coals.
- Drive safely.
It is very easy to get into an accident at a camp ground if not paying attention to the road signs or wild life. Be sure to use extra caution just in case.
FAQ on Family Camping
Q. How much should I pay for a tent?
A. That depends on what your needs are. What you may need the next person won’t. Once you figure out what you need in a tent regarding the number of people that will be sleeping in it, how much room you’ll need, and the weather conditions that the tent will need to withstand, you can start doing research on what tent is best for you.
The more expensive tents may be larger and made with stronger fabric. If you’re not sure it may be easier to start with a less expensive tent and camp during a warmer time to see how you like it.
Q. I have a light weight sleeping bag and want to camp in winter. Do I need to get a new sleeping bag?
A. Not necessarily. There are ways to make your sleeping bag warmer such as wearing thicker pajamas or using a “liner.” You can use a liner that has been pre-made and is available in many sporting good shops or safety pin blankets inside your sleeping bag.
But if you prefer, investing in a high-quality sleeping bag might be the easier thing to do.
Q. Should I use a gas or propane stove?
A. Propane is the safer choice of the two. Avoid brining or using gasoline at your campsite at all times.
Q. Is it ok to use gasoline on my camp fire?
A. No! Avoid doing this at all costs! This is incredibly dangerous and can lead to an explosion resulting in injury and death. This could also result in a forest fire. Do not bring or use gasoline to your campsite!
Q. How can I be sure my campfire is out?
A. When you put out your fire be sure to soak the ashes with water. Stir them and soak them again with water until the ground is thoroughly saturated. The ashes should be cool to the touch. You can also smother the coals by pouring a good amount of sand over them as well.
Q. How do I keep mud and dirt from getting into my tent?
A. Lay down a plastic tarp on the outside of the entrance to your tent to wipe your shoes on before entering your tent. You can also use an old towel to wipe your shoes clean before entering the tent. If it is safe, remove your shoes before entering the tent because doing this will be the best way to prevent bringing dirt inside of your tent.
Q. Should I give my kids flashlights?
A. It’s always a good idea to do this so that they can see where they’re going when walking around the campsite or campgrounds in the dark. It will also help with trips to the bathroom for you and others.
Q. What is grey water?
A. Grey water is the water that comes from the use of your kitchen & bathroom sinks and the shower in your RV.
Q. What is black water?
A. Black water is the water that comes from the use of the toilet in your RV. This water is considered to be raw sewage because it contains human waste, and it should never, ever be released or dumped anywhere other than into the designated sewage area at your campsite or the dumping station at your campground. There’s also public sanitation or dumping stations that will allow you to empty your black water tank for a fee. Tank dumping stations can also be found at truck stops. You’ll need to Google this information to find these types of facilities that are nearest to you. Truck stops will often have dumping stations for use as well.
Q. What should I do if I or someone in my family comes in to contact with or accidentally ingests poisonous berries or plant life resulting in rashes, fever or nausea?
A. Immediately seek medical attention. Do not hesitate in this situation because symptoms that appear to be minor at first can escalate into something more serious that can become life threatening.
Q. What should I do if I or someone in my family is bitten by a snake or an animal?
A. Seek immediate medical attention! Snakes and other animals, no matter how large or small, can carry venom and diseases that can be deadly to humans. The best way to prevent bites from becoming life threatening is to have them medically treated at a hospital as quickly as possible.
Q. How do people relax during camping?
A. The more people camp, the more efficient people become at it. Plan ahead of time and try to keep the meal plan and chores as efficient and as simple as possible. This will help make the trip more enjoyable and easier for you if you plan for the necessities ahead of time.
I really hope the information provided in this guide will inspire you to make the time to take your family camping.
It will be a fun and refreshing experience for you and for your family, and in many cases it can help to renew your relationships with your loved ones, your spirit, and even your outlook on life.
You’ll return from your camping trip with feelings of accomplishment, joy, and of being renewed.
You might also feel a little tired since camping is a bit of work, but it will be the best kind of tired you’ve ever felt and you’ll look forward to your future camping outings because of how great it makes you feel.