First Time Camping Guide: Beginner Camping for the Whole Family

August 28, 2017
first-time-camping

Let’s get real – you don’t have to be a “camping person” to camp! I certainly wasn’t, but that changed after great outdoor experiences and the sense of accomplishment I got from properly preparing.

To the masses of aspirational first-time campers and, dare I say, camping-haters who want to make sure their kids still spend valuable time outdoors, we’ve got your back. Just because you don’t know how to set up a tent yet doesn’t mean your kid is doomed to a life devoid of outdoor skills (and neither are you).

Many have come before you and braved a weekend outside for their first time camping. You can, too. In fact, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Here are a few tips that recently got me through an extended camping adventure (trust me, if I can camp, you’re definitely going to be able to).

6 Ways to Prepare for Your First Time Camping

  1. Opt for an organized campsite. National parks and Scout camps are a good choice. Finding locations like these mean you’ll know ahead of time if you have access to fire rings and restrooms. Just be sure to use the contact information of your chosen campsite to ask a ranger or camping personnel all your questions (pro tip: definitely ask about toilets/showers and plan accordingly). You’ll also want to make sure there’s not a burn ban in place if you plan to have a campfire.
  2. Invest in a few pieces of quality gear: a tent, a sleeping bag that suits the temperature you’ll be camping in, a sleeping pad, a head lamp, and a reliable lantern are my top picks for investment pieces. These little comforts mean a lot when you’re sleeping outdoors or navigating to the bathroom at night. Plus, mid to high-quality versions of these items last, so your spend pays off.
  3. Use this checklist to consider everything you want to bring. For instance, if you’re planning to cook canned goods during your camping trip, you need to have a can opener on hand. Avoid leaving essentials behind by formulating a packing list in the days leading up to your trip. (Hint: essentials for your trip will vary based on what you’re cooking, weather, region, etc. A checklist like this one allows you to sort through what you need and what you can leave behind).
  4. Know how to navigate to your campsite. There’s a good chance you’ll lose cell service on your way. Print out or write driving and walking directions before you set off for your camping adventure. Also let family or friends who aren’t camping with you know where you’re camping and when you plan to return.
  5. Do research and practice runs ahead of time. If you want to study up on your tent’s online setup video, make sure you watch it before you’re out in the elements (remember you may have no cell service). You could even take notes and should definitely do a test run in your backyard to make sure you’re ready to camp sans-Google.
  6. Scope out your campsite when you arrive. Look for hazards, like swift water, steep drops, and poisonous vegetation. Set up your tent away from these hazards and make sure your camping party knows to avoid them too.

If you’re still not convinced your inner-camper exists, here’s a great way to dip your toe in the camping waters: Get involved in Scouting. When you camp with Scouters (these are the adult volunteers in the Boy Scouts of America), you have a huge knowledge-base at your fingertips.

From setup basics to five-course campfire meals, camping with Scouters helped me bridge the gap from first-time camping to confident camper.

To find Scouters near you, head to Be a Scout and let a local pack know your family is interested in a first-time camping trip.

Thoughts