When we first tried camping 5 years ago, we didn’t do much research to prepare ourselves the right way. Even worse, We even had our first camping experiences without knowing all about the best practices to enjoy this connection with nature to the fullest. The good thing is that we learned afterward so many camping trips for beginners that we are glad to share with you guys in this post.
1- Research Your Destination
It may seem obvious, but it is one of the essential camping tips for beginners. Whether you are heading to a campground or for a wild camping adventure, don’t forget to check the neighborhood. Are there any freshwater sources around? Is the ground rather rocky, or can you set up your tent on it with no problems?
It will help you a lot to know such information ahead of time. Also, you probably won’t have a bad surprise when you arrive at your camping spot and then discover you are run out of water, or there is no suitable place to pitch your tent.
2- Choose the Right Backpack
Confessions: I learned this the hard way. When I bought my first backpack, I aimed for a big 65+5 liter one. I simply was so afraid that smaller ones won’t be enough for what I will bring with me. Well, it turned out that this is the wrong way of thinking. It is an important thing to consider.
5 years later, I went for a 50-liter backpack for weekend getaways and a 60-liter for longer adventures. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
We, as humans, tend to pack more than we need. We sometimes pack double the stuff “just in case.” It took me some time to get rid of this bad habit. So choosing a smaller backpacker will definitely be a better idea for your next wild camping trip and will also help you learn minimalist backpacking.
3- Don’t Buy All the Gear at Once
Camping gear is various. Besides, you need to invest in some good quality items like the tent and the sleeping bag. That is why it will be a little costly if you decide to buy all of the gear at once.
I purchased my camping gear over a couple of years. I think when I put it all together, it would have cost me about 500€. You feel some pain in the pocket if you pay it at once.
A good idea is to buy only a couple of items first and borrow the rest from your friends who already have them. I did this several times, especially when I camp in other countries. Then you can enough time to save money and buy the rest.
4- Practice Pitching Your Tent Before You Go
This is a crucial step! This is a great way to get familiar with your tent. Most people go on their first camping adventure before setting up their tents for the first time. Don’t do that! I don’t want to find yourself having problems with your tent in the middle of nowhere when it is about to get dark.
One of the most important camping tips for beginners is getting familiar with pitching and packing your tent. This will help you be more effective once you find your camping spot.
5- Plan Your Meals Beforehand
I’ve lately had this habit of buying my camping food on the way from a supermarket. While this could be a life-saver in some cases, I usually try to avoid it for two reasons:
- When I pack my stuff at home without food, I tend to underestimate the space to keep free for the meals in my backpack.
- When I plan my meals at home, I usually cook them and have them ready for eating. This helps me optimize my budget and also eat healthier food than the ready-to-go meals in the supermarket.
6- Pack Light
Minimalism is a habit that is acquired in a matter of weeks, if not months. If you need one piece of underwear. Then pack just one, not two. According to my experience, your backpack weight should be around 13 kg if you plan a weekend camping trip.
The main takeaway here is that you should check the weight of the equipment that you will buy. Besides that, avoid taking double stuff.
7- Pack Smart
There is a proper way to pack your stuff. This illustration explains perfectly.
Packing this way will make you feel lighter while hiking and climbing. Moreover, your backpack will be steadier and fit better with your back.
This plays a huge role in your balance, especially when you hike long distances.
8- Take a Garbage Bag
Eating on a hike or having dinner or lunch on a camping spot can get dirty with all the plastic covers that you bring along with you. You will also have some one-way dishes that you won’t use afterward. That’s why you should think about bringing a garbage bag for such situations and food rest.
9- Take Off the Batteries from Your Light Torch
When you pack your camping equipment, things inside your backpack can be put in a way that your torch or tent lantern turns on. Of course, you will find out about this by the end of the day when you unpack your bag. By then, the battery could get weak and maybe won’t last for the whole night.
I always take off the batteries out of lamps before packing. Because it happened to me already that I spent a part of the night with no lights. (told you that I learned a couple of things the hard way 🙂 )
10- Wear Waterproof Clothes
Mother nature can always change her mind at any time. Besides, one of the basic camping tips for beginners is that you should never trust the weather in the mountains. Don’t make the mistake of hiking with normal clothes on a cloudy day because google says it is only 10% likely to rain in the area where you hike.
Waterproof clothes are not necessarily more expensive than a normal hiking one. Most of them are also breathable, and you will feel very comfortable wearing them.
11- Make your first trip a short one
Planning your first wild camping adventure is so exciting, and people tend to be way too motivated. This happened to me as well.
On one of my first camping journeys, I planned around a 25-km hike without properly estimating the area. It turned out that along part of the trail was rocky and slippery. That made us waste too much time, and we arrived too late in the dark at our camping spot.
The estimated time for a hike which we usually find on the internet is kind of too optimistic. Breaks and the time spent taking pictures are usually not included.
12- Never Underestimate the Backpack Rain Cap
Many of my friends learned this tip the hard way. When we hike in light rain, we tend to think that the rain will stop soon as we watch the clouds fade away. We also don’t feel like stopping and taking the time to cover our backpacks with the rain cover because we think we almost arrived.
Rain can easily sneak into your clothes and sleeping bag inside your backpack. And believe, you won’t feel great using them to spend a cold night.
When it rains, stop right away and cover your backpack.
13- Prepare a checklist for the essentials
Camping equipment is not only clothes and gear. We might easily get confused or distracted while packing our backpacks.
Actually, it happened to me a couple of times that I forgot my camping stove lighter or a camping mat. I have prepared a checklist that I use each time to avoid bad surprises from ruining my camping journeys.
14- Follow the Traced Path
Hiking in the mountains is great, and mother nature there is in its best shape. Usually, there are well-established paths that lead you through, and depending on the region, getting off them can damage the ecosystems.
Besides, there is the risk of getting lost when you leave the traced path, especially if you are hiking in the dark. This happened to me a couple of times when I unconsciously left the hiking path during a night hike. Getting back is not always easy. It depends on when you understand that, and tracing back your footsteps can be tricky, especially in a forest.
15- Choose your camping spot wisely
When planning your wild camping trip, have a detailed look at the trail you will take and the type of the region. I usually go through the altitude diagram of the hike I am planning and look for some flat places, usually at a lake.
I also pay attention to the location of my camping spot. Where will the sunrise? If it rains, am I in a low place where the water can gather?
When you remember all those conditions, you will be sure about enjoying your night in the wilderness.
16- Set Up Your Tent BEFORE It Gets Dark
This one is one of the basic tips for wild camping. Remember my point about not underestimating a hiking path or taking the estimated time too seriously? This one comes along with it. If you estimate the trail well, you won’t have to pitch your tent in the dark.
That can be really tricky, especially if you are still not very familiar with your tent. Moreover, if you arrive at your camping spot at night, you won’t be able to have a look around and evaluate if it is worth it to spend the night there.
17- Keep Your Campsite Tidy and Clear of Any Food
After a long hike day, you will want to enjoy a great dinner. And then you will quickly feel tired.
Before getting inside your tent, don’t forget to clear all your surroundings from the rest of the food or used food boxes and put them in a secure area. Otherwise, that might attract animals in the night.
Putting your food inside your tent overnight can also be risky, depending on where you are camping. For example, I won’t do it if I am in Alaska 🙂 In the Alps, you can do that as there are no dangerous animals around.
18- Exercise Before You Go Inside Your Sleeping Bag
The common mistake I used to make on a cold night is going inside my sleeping bag. I thought it would make me feel warm in some minutes. Well, that won’t be the case.
Sleeping bags are designed to keep the warmth, not to generate it. If you get inside with cold feet, they will still be cold. That’s why you should exercise a little bit before getting inside so that your body becomes warm and the blood circulates well. Then you will feel warm in the sleeping bag.
19- Leave no trace
One of the common ethics of wild camping is to leave your camping spot cleaner than you found it.
When getting ready to leave, make sure you didn’t forget any food rest, toilet paper, or anything else. They indeed are either organic or biodegradable items, but they will pollute the beauty of the landscape and leave a bad smell for some time before they vanish. They could also be dangerous for wildlife.
always leave an area as pristine as possible so that no-one passing by will know it’s been used. If anyone ever camps there again, they too can have the joy of a real wild site and that feeling of being in untouched nature. Chris Townsend
20- Dry Your Tent Out in the Morning
This one is also one of the best camping tips for beginners I learned. The nights in the mountains are always humid, even in summer. When putting down your tent in the morning, you should always ensure it’s dry before you pack it.
I usually keep it for some time in the sun. But if that is somehow not possible, pack it anyway but don’t forget to do it at home. I learned through experience that the tent will smell, and it can grow mold on the inside if you pack it humid and leave it in the storage for some weeks.
Once the tent is completely dry, you can pack it, and don’t worry about it being in storage until the next adventure.
21- Leave the Tent’s Windows Open
Each tent has one to two windows for the air to come in and out overnight. This will keep the air fresh while you are asleep and keep humidity as low as possible. If you forget them or keep them closed because you think it is too cold, then you’ll wake up in a wet tent.
As our body transpires during the night and the air in the tent gets heavier with humidity. Only opening tent windows can help push it out.
22- Camp in a Small Tent That Blends into the Landscape
Even if you are a small group of four to six people, I recommend that everyone packs a one to two-person tent. They take less space and are a lot easier to carry than three to four-person tents.
You will also have no problems finding a flat spot for a smaller tent than for a bigger one.
Besides, consider the color while looking for a good tent. Take one that has natural colors, and that is difficult to recognize in natural landscapes. Such colors will not disturb wildlife.
23- Choose the Right Camping and Hiking Clothes
When you hike for 10+ km, everything you wear will play a role in your well-being during the trip. Make sure you bring weather-appropriate clothes so that you don’t sweat too much in summers and don’t freeze in a cold weather.
I usually rush to decide on what to wear until I once regretted it. Choosing the right shirt for your hiking and camping trips can decide whether it’d be a good experience. Now I am taking this seriously 🙂
23- Keep Your Group as Small as Possible
Camping is an activity that we do to disconnect and spend some quality time in nature. I’ve had some camping journeys with one companion and up to ten people. To be honest, I loved the smaller groups the most.
With a group of a maximum of six people, you will enjoy nature the most, and it will be easier to wander around between the mountains. Besides, it is trickier to find a camping spot that fits more than six or eight tents at once.
24- Camp at Least 100m Away from Trails
To enjoy the experience to the fullest, try to choose your camp spot a little away from the trail path. This will help you enjoy some calm but also won’t disturb hikers who are walking by.
At the same time, try to be careful about getting off-trail. When you do it, try to walk through flat and easy-going natural paths and never on high vegetation. Make sure as well to be able to trace your way back.
26- Don’t Stay for More Than One Night in One Place
Natural areas can get damaged very quickly, no matter how much we try to be careful. So if you are on a multi-day camping adventure, make sure you change your spot each day. This will help preserve the ecosystem.
Final Thoughts About those Camping Tips for Beginners
That’s it, guys! As I said, Whether RVing or Camping, I learned all this over many years while looking for the amazing spots on Outdoor Active. I tried to write down every tip I find useful. If you have any other tips, let me know in the comment and update my post accordingly.
In the end, we are all still beginners. The more when know, the more we recognize how much we were ignorant and how much we still have to learn. If you have by any chance a friend for whom you are preparing a surprise, get some inspiration about some camping and hiking gifts online. It is so helpful.
Once you know about all those tips, make sure you have the right checklist of camping essentials. You can best enjoy such journeys when you are well equipped.