Camping is an absolute delight –- living in the wild, breathing fresh air, enjoying countless outdoor activities — and nothing beats leaving the office behind to appreciate the sound of wind in the trees and the dripping of rain on a tent at night. With sunlight as your alarm clock and birds chirping as your radio, camping will bring along an exotic and healthy change of habits to break away from your routine and rediscover the joys of nature.
No matter where you end up camping, preparation is key. Here are a few tips to help you plan an unforgettable camping trip.
Camping Starts with Planning
As with any project, a well planned out camping trip can save you a lot of trouble. Knowing the route, what to expect, what to pack, how much you’ll spend, how you will cook – all are essential to a worry-free camping experience.
Will you be walking to your campground? That will limit the weight you can transport to the bare necessities.
If you plan on moving regularly and camp in different places, that also requires a different kind of packing – one that is easy to unpack and repack every day, with the essentials always on hand. Your tent will also need to be lighter and more compact, so you can maybe carry food and water for several days if need be. Your comfort will have to be somewhat sacrificed: forget about mattresses and chairs, full-out cooking utensils, and warm outdoor showers.
If you are driving there, comfort is virtually limitless as you will be able to pack a larger tent, mats, chairs, tables, a better stove, lots of water, a portable shower, and much more. Board games, books, or fishing equipment will accompany you, offering a varied range of activities for your leisure time.
Glamping vs Camping
Nowadays, glamping does not have to be extremely expensive. Sure, you can pick a site that offers luxurious tents and amenities if you have the budget for it; but you can also build your own glamping experience. If your vehicle allows for it, you can bring absolutely everything you’ll need for a five-star glamping trip, from an outdoor shower and two-feet high mattresses to a barbecue and candle-lit chandeliers.
A campsite with cooking and showering facilities is a good compromise between glamping and camping: you will have everything you need available under a solid roof, so you can pack lighter than for a site with limited, basic facilities and still have a good amount of comfort.
For campers looking for more arduous conditions, freedom camping or campsites with almost no facilities, it’ll require more planning. As these sites are usually further out into the wild and have fewer campers, make sure you’re prepared. The risks can be somewhat greater, but the reward is grand.
Deciding on a Campsite
Depending on your location, campground choices may be limited. Maybe you’re there for a specific natural wonder, in which case freedom camping won’t be an option. If you went off the beaten path, chances are available campgrounds will have only basic amenities. If you’re simply looking to enjoy the summer weather in a greener area, a wide selection of more or less comfortable campsites should provide you with a couple of sleepless nights of research.
Regardless of where you decide to go, check what you’re getting yourself into and what you’ll need to bring to achieve your intended level of comfort. Most importantly, do some research on the weather: if it’s known to be unpredictable, pack weatherproof gear. Being stuck inside your tent for days due to a long-lasting wild thunderstorm can bring some fun times and intense board games about, but can also result in a lot of communal frustration.
Choosing Your Tent
Everything depends on your tent, as it will be your home for the duration of your trip. The season and the destination, as well as your transportation mode and number of occupants, should be the primary information you consider for an educated decision. The criteria for your choice will differ depending on your camping style: leisurely family camping will not call for the same type of tent than a multiday trek through the Himalayas.
Tents are available in all shapes, sizes, and weatherproof degrees. Be aware that most tents are smaller to live in than they appear: if you are going for a family vacation, you might want to consider acquiring a tent that is rated for at least one more occupant than the number of people you plan on having in there. However, they also often feel heavier than announced, so choose wisely.
No matter what your camping style is, your tent should definitely be very, very waterproof. Regardless of the temperatures you will be experiencing, there’s nothing better than a flooded tent to ruin your trip.
Will you change campsites during your trip? If so, choose a tent that is easy to set up and won’t give you a headache every day. This will save you a whole lot of stress and time.
In short, don’t skimp on your tent, either in research time or budget. A few extra dollars or hours could make all the difference.
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The Art of a Well-Prepared Packing List
Always have your packing list ready! There is nothing more important for the packing process. Once you have defined your budget, needs, and transport capacity, a list will help you get everything in order, narrow down to what you actually need, and ensure you do not forget anything.
If you will be hiking, your backpack is, of course, one of the most important pieces of equipment. You should pick it very carefully to make sure you will be comfortable carrying heavy loads for long distances and have your gear well organized. This simple step will make your life so much easier, even for short treks.
If you are bringing the kids along, your packing list might fill a few pages; having it organized will prevent bad surprises during your trip.
Take the Time to Test Your Gear
Before you go, it is essential to set up your tent for practice if it is the first time you use it. Whether it is in your living room or your parents’ backyard, make sure you know how to lay it out, build it, and make it wind safe. This will definitely save you a great deal of time at the beginning of your trip, and keep you well protected throughout.
If you are bringing a stove, it is also useful to know how it works beforehand. Sleeping bags, portable showers, water treatment systems, and pretty much anything you’re bringing along with you should be tried out in the safety of your home first, so you can take the time to wrap your head around it and discard useless gear that will only consume precious packing space.
Campsites are often a bit out of the way, if not way out in the wild. Medical help is not always readily available, so you should be prepared: your first aid kit should be complete, and a little over the top. You might also want to choose a campsite that has guaranteed cellphone coverage, especially if you are bringing your children.
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Outdoor Skills, Tools, and Equipment
If you are out camping for an adventure, the outdoor gear you bring with you will make up most of your luggage. Knives are a must, as they help in every situation. A small ax will be useful for cutting wood if you are into making fires, and a multitool (like a Leatherman or a Gerber) can be very practical.
Hunting and Fishing
If you are an experienced fisherman or hunter, your fresh food supply should be plentiful; however, you should never entirely depend on a daily catch for meals. You will likely be camping in a relatively unfamiliar environment, and you cannot predict how much wildlife is available for legal consumption.
If you plan on making fires, the first aspect to consider is whether or not they are allowed on your campsite. If they are, you should be prepared with basic knowledge of campfire safety – no one wants to start a wildfire inadvertently. If your experience with building a campfire is not extensive, camping is the time to safely practice.
Stormproof matches, spark igniters, windproof lighters are all available for a variety of budgets; they are essential to making your fire experience easier. If the conditions you try to light a fire in are tough, you might want to bring a candle along. If you melt a little bit of wax on the wood, it will set on fire much quicker. You can also opt for fire starter cubes for the easiest fire lighting; always having some on hands can help if difficult weather comes along, but you won’t have any obligation to use it if you are into experimenting.
Your Personal Gear
Although it is recommended to pack light for clothes, it is also necessary to make sure you have what you need. Camping apparel is the perfect example of quality over quantity: choose your outerwear wisely, as one good light rain jacket will give you more valuable protection than two non-waterproof coats.
Same goes for shoes: a good pair of waterproof outdoor boots will make your trip much more enjoyable. An additional pair of flip-flops can also be essential if your trip involves bathing and germ-filled showering facilities.
For everything waterproof, especially your shoes and your jacket, Gore-Tex is always the best option for protection and comfort if your budget allows it. You should also make sure you have enough clothing for at least three layers a day: living in the great outdoors requires more protection and heat than other vacation options.
If your packing space tolerates it, bringing a tarp along can greatly improve your comfort level during your trip. You can either lay it under your tent for added protection or hang it overhead in case of rain. It will keep you dry outside instead of being cramped inside your tent for hours – or days; your gear will also be usable and not soaked.
If bringing a tarp with you is out of the question due to packing constraints, make sure you have real waterproof clothing readily available and a change of dry clothes – socks are the most vital in this case, as wet feet are most uncomfortable. It is also advantageous to devise an efficient shoe-drying technique; creativity is often the key to outdoor comfort.
The Great Cooking Adventure
Food is life – and a major aspect to take into consideration. Bringing food that is easy to prepare and to store is highly recommended. Adding a cooler to your gear is an advantage if you have a vehicle.
You should also decide well in advance how you will cook your meals: open fire, camping stove, barbecue? That will have consequences on both the food and the gear you bring. Cooking utensils and equipment are available for any cooking method, but you should make sure yours is adapted to your culinary ambitions as well as to your packing constraints.
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If you’re down for a minimalist trip, it turns out that plates are not a necessity: on a wild adventure with limited backpack packing space, eating directly in the pot in front of a gorgeous scenery has its charm. If you are more into glamping and have the space for it, bring it all – from a table to chairs to plates, you can have the dinner table you’ve always dreamed of out under the stars. Either way, cooking and eating outdoors will be fun and bring you out of the four-wall routine of your dining room.
No matter what kind of camping trip you are planning, it will be heaps of fun!