Ah, the great outdoors.
If you’ve always wanted to go camping but never actually have, you might think it’s as simple as buying a tent and sleeping bag and heading out to the middle of nowhere. While you can absolutely do this if you so choose, you’d be better off making the transition from modern to primitive living as easy as possible.
Once you know what you’re doing as far as camping goes you can start roughing it. But for the time being, make sure you bring the following items:
Cleanliness, Safety, and Comfort Items
Maybe you want to “get away from it all,” but that doesn’t mean you need to be uncomfortable while spending some time out in nature.
A tent is never enough to keep you safe from the elements. A strong wind or a sudden downpour is enough to ruin your camping trip if you’re not prepared. Bring tarps and ground cloths to avoid leakage from above and below. As long as you know how to properly batten down the hatches, you should be able to weather the storm.
You might think it’s silly to bring a dustpan and brush along with you on a camping trip, but think about it: At the end of a day spent kicking up mud, you’ll look forward to laying down in a comfortable and clean sleeping bag, right? You’ll want to be able to brush out any leaves, sticks, and dirt that have collected at the entrance of your tent so you can sleep in peace.
Similarly, you should absolutely bring a tablecloth and bench covers on your camping trip. Your table will undoubtedly collect a bunch of nature throughout the day, but if it’s covered it’ll be much easier to brush off when you sit down to eat. And since it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, you can feel free to eat as sloppily as you want!
Extra Food and Drink
Speaking of eating, make sure you bring enough food.
You’re probably thinking “I know that, I’m not stupid.” But when I say “bring enough food,” what I mean is “Think of what you imagine to be ‘enough food’ and bring much, much more.”
Think of all that could go wrong – food dropping on the ground, getting burnt, or going bad before your trip is over. When these things happen at home, it’s easy to reach into the cupboard and grab something else or head to a fast food joint. When you’re out in the middle of nowhere with a finite food supply, the hot dog you just dropped in the fire might be your only option.
Think of all the other things that go with eating, too. You know you’ll need disposable silverware, cups, and plates, along with napkins and paper towels. You’ll also need cooking utensils, bottle and can openers, and storage containers for leftovers, to name a few things. You don’t have to bring literally everything but the kitchen sink, but you might want to come close to it.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do not forget about water. Whether you bring cases of store-bought water or a jug to fill with potable water from the campground’s source (using filters, of course), you’ll need water to drink, cook with, and wash up throughout your day. Water is one of those things that often goes overlooked until you don’t have any of it. Don’t let that happen.
Even though you might want to leave your razor at home and grow out a Mountain Man beard, there are definitely a few toiletries you should bring with you to stay comfortable while camping.
You’re obviously going to want to bring the basics: soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. You use these things every day, so it’s unlikely you’ll forget them on your camping trip.
But think of the toiletries you really only use when you need them, such as chapstick, lotion, and sunscreen. These aren’t exactly necessities, but it’s always when you don’t have access to them that you end up needing them the most. And if anything can ruin an outdoor excursion, it’s a scorching case of sunburn.
As with food and toiletries, you’re likely to realize you forgot a specific article of clothing right when you need it the most on your camping trip.
The worst thing you can do is not pack warm clothes because the forecast calls for sunny skies and 90° weather. Whether you believe in the spirit world or not, by leaving your hoodie and sweatpants (not to mention raincoat) at home, you’re jinxing yourself and everyone around you.
You don’t have to pack a lot of clothes – you’re just going to get them dirty, so don’t feel like you’ll need to put on clean clothes every day. But you should definitely bring one of everything.
Okay, so you might not need a winter jacket in July. But you’ll probably need wool socks and long johns at night.
Don’t overestimate the weather, or your ability to make it through a cold night with a T-shirt and shorts. Just bring the extra clothes. If you need them, they’re there.
Camping is a lot of work, but once you’re all set up you should spend the majority of your time relaxing and having fun.
Use this time to do all the things you always say you love to do but never actually spend time doing. Bring a coloring book and some colored pencils. Break out your old baseball glove. Restring your acoustic guitar and practice playing some campfire songs.
One of the best parts of camping is you’ll have to unplug for a little while. Bring a deck of cards or some board games that you only take out at home when you lose power during a thunderstorm. If you’re bringing your kids, teach them the importance of finding something to do that doesn’t involve electronics.
The most important thing to remember when camping is to enjoy yourself. You deserve it.
Featured photo credit: Camping / Wim Bollein / Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com