Camping, when you do it right, requires a lot of planning and foresight. If you’re really going to be out in nature, there probably won’t be a store anywhere nearby so you have what you bring and that’s about all you’re going to get. If you pack smartly, you’re fine. Here are a few tips that I have learned—sometimes the hard way—over my many camping trips:
- Plan a shelter. You need somewhere to sleep. Bring a tent that’s big enough for the amount of people who plan to be in it. If it comes with extra poles or stakes, bring those too. You never know when one is going to accidentally (or intentionally) break and you’ll be glad you have a backup. A waterproof ground tarp is also good. Sleeping bags or an air mattress to sleep on/in, along with sheets, blankets, and pillows. If you’re bringing an air mattress, make sure you have something to blow it up with and a patch kit in case of air leaks. For sleeping bags, make sure it is rated for the temperatures you will be experiencing.
- Keep yourself safe. Research a little about the area before you go. Learn about any wildlife you may encounter and what to do if you if your path crosses anything dangerous. I bring printouts if I am not sure I will remember (is it black on red, I’ll be dead?) Bring a map and a compass or GPS. Trust me, your sense of direction isn’t perfect. Have plenty of water or the ability to filter/purify/treat it. Take a battery powered radio and a flashlight or lantern with you. Check to make sure everything works before you leave. The last thing you want to find is that your flashlight is dead when you’re in the tent and have to pee on the first night. Been there, done that! Matches, too. Just in case you need it. Have a multi-tool or pocket knife.
- Personal items are a must. Not just toiletries like a toothbrush and toothpaste, but other things like sunblock, chapstick, and bug repellant. If you take medications, bring extra just in case. If you are a fan of showers, you can get a camping shower and pump or a shower bag to stay somewhat clean. If you require more than that, you probably shouldn’t be camping. But you might want to pack toilet paper.
- I already mentioned water, but be sure to bring more food than you think is necessary. Store it smartly so that you don’t attract animals to your campsite. Have a way to cook that is permitted by whoever runs the grounds. Cooking on the hood of your car is not recommended. Bring firestarters or newspaper if you can light fires, along with your matches. Take cookware and dinnerware with you, preferably reusable so you aren’t creating a lot of trash. I personally always bring my fishing license and gear with the intent of eating what I catch, but I always bring enough food just in case nothing is biting. Hey, it’s happened.