Camping for Beginners: Tips & Essential Camping Gear

Tent Camping in Woods

Wondering how to go camping for beginners? How about what to bring and what to pack? We know, you have a lot of questions and rightfully so. Your first time camping can be a bit overwhelming, but no worries! We have a great post on camping tips for beginners to help anyone get prepared for some time in the great outdoors.

Camping 101: Tips for Beginners

Camping Gear For Beginners

First things first, start small and keep it simple. Don’t feel like you have to buy brand new, expensive camping gear. Let’s make sure you like camping first before we do all that. Sound good?

Plan to borrow gear from friends or family or rent camping gear through REI. However, if you’re the more “committed” type, who are we to stop you from getting your own gear?

Camping Tent

The obvious first choice for camping essential is a tent, are we right?! When looking at camping tents, it’s best to plan ahead a little. What do we mean by that?

  • Plan on doing any camping where you’ll have to hike to get there? Consider going the lightweight tent route.
  • Planning to grow your family or bring friends along? You might want to invest in a 4 person or 6 person then or hell, a 8+ person if you’re planning to bring the fur babies along.
  • Looking to make camping a hobby or an every year vacation? If yes, we suggest going the durable route. Invest in a tent that can withstand the elements (waterproof) and will last.

Doing a little forward thinking will allow you to get a tent that will fit your future needs and your current comfort levels.

Lightweight Camping Tent

TIP: For us, we like to go a little bigger in tent size. We have a 4 person tent and we love the extra room it gives us to store clothes and other personal belongings.

Sleeping Pad / Mattress For Camping

One of the major wins of any camping trip is a good night’s sleep. A proper sleeping pad or mattress is the key player in allowing you to get a good night’s sleep.

  • Sleeping Pad: Great for folks looking for something compact and lightweight
  • Air Mattress: Great for couples or families sharing a sleeping space and, an air mattress tends to be a little bigger so if you’re looking to sprawl out, an air mattress is for you.

Regardless which you choose, both of the above options will keep you off hard, uncomfortable ground and help keep you warm when camping in the chillier temps.

What do we use? Both.

When we first started camping, our REI air mattress was all that we used. However, since we’ve started hiking to our campsites more, we invested in Big Agnes sleeping pads as they are a great light weight option to carry on hikes.

Sleeping Pad

Tip: Make sure whatever size you go with, the dimensions fit your tents interior. Oh, and make sure you test your sleeping pad and air mattress before camping. We’d hate for you to discover a hole.

Sleeping Bags for Camping

Another camping gear essential is a sleeping bag. When choosing a sleeping bag, temperature rating is a great place to start.

  • If you plan to do winter camping, you’ll need to have a sleeping bag (+15° and lower) that can withstand the cold conditions
  • If you’re looking to camp at moderate temperatures, a sleeping bag for summer (+30° and higher) is your best bet.

From rectangular sleeping bags to the mummy, you have a few shapes to consider. The wider the sleeping bag (rectangle) the more space you’ll have. The small the sleeping bag (mummy) the less space you’ll have and the warmer it’ll keep you.

Whatever option you go with, make sure you like the fit and it’s comfortable to you.

Camping Sleeping Bag Marmot Trestles Elite Eco

Headlamps & Lanterns

Think of these as your upscale flashlight. Once you use a headlamp, you won’t go back to a flashlight ever.

Headlamps are PERFECT for campsites. Allowing your hands to be free to easily make dinner or walk to the shower house or grab a beer from the cooler, a headlamp gives your hands the freedom you never knew they needed.

A nice additive is a lantern. Hang from the inside of your tent for extra light or around your cooking area, a lantern gives you some additional light that we promise will come in handy.

Hiking Headlamp

Camping Chairs

A sure fire way to ruin a first time camping trip is comfort. If you’re not comfortable it’s going to make it hard to enjoy your time outdoors. We get it.

Aside from having a proper sleeping pad or air mattress, some chairs for you to lounge in are just as important. From lightweight camping chairs you can take wherever you go or a comfy rocking camping chair, a good place for you to rest your butt is important.

Rocking Camping Chair

Another nice amenity but technically not an essential camping gear item would be hammocks. Hammocks are a perfect addition to get a little added level of comfort to your seating arrangements.

Be it taking a nap or just wanting to lounge and read a book, adding a hammock to your camping gear list could make all the difference.

ENO Hammock

Cooler

The best part about this essential is you probably already have one. Our only tip is to make sure your cooler has enough space for your perishable items and to keep your beverages cold.

For us, we like a cooler that has loads of insulation, like Yeti Coolers . Going this route takes the worry out of ice melting quickly and having to constantly make an ice run to ensure your food and drinks stay cold.

Yeti Cooler Camping

Cooking Supplies For Camping

Something that can make or break any camping trip is food. So, it’s super important you come prepared which is why a solid camp kitchen, like camping cooking stoves and camping cookware, is one of our biggest camping tips for beginners.

Camping Stoves

You have a few options when it comes to camping stoves.

2 Burner Stove: In all honesty, a two burner stove is perfect for any first time camper. It’s easy to operate and a familiar cooking device that you can easily wip up breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Jetboil Flash Cooking System: If you’re looking for something lean and mean, then a Jetboil is for you. A Jetboil allows you to boil water quickly and simple add it to any freeze dried meal.

Camping Stove

Tip: Whatever camping stove you choose, make sure you have some propane tanks for it!

Camping Cookware (Pots, Pans, Utensils)

When you go camping, you have to bring everything with you and we do mean everything. From camping pots, pans and utensils, a Camp Cookset is a great way to buy all your essential camping gear in one swoop.

Camping Cooking Set

Another thing to consider adding to your camping cookware mix is an easy way to make coffee. If that sounds like an essential item to you, then you need a coffee percolator or an Aeropress.

Both are great options for making a hot cup of coffee no matter where you setup camp. Don’t forget camping coffee mugs! Bonus, coffee mugs can double as bowls 🙂

camping coffee percolator

Camping for Beginners Misc. Items

Let’s not forget about a few miscellaneous items that we always, always make sure to bring with us on any camping trip. The camping items below are things that can easily be forgotten but make a world of difference when camping, so be sure to pack them!

  • Deck of cards – For some fun around the campfire fun.
  • Bluetooth speaker– Let’s face it, music makes everything better.
  • Bug spray – You’re in the great outdoors after all. Protect yourself.
  • Knife – For wood, making food and anything else you may need to cut.
  • Lighter – For starting campfires or your camping stove.
  • Portable Charger – To charge your phone.
  • First Aid Kit – Better safe than sorry.
  • Repair tape – For fixing any unwanted holes in a tent or air mattress.
  • Rope – great for hanging items like wet clothes, bags, etc.
  • Hand Sanitizer – No one likes germs, even when you’re camping.
  • Fire Starters – Let’s not have making a fire be hard.
  • Folding Table – Great for extra space, especially if you don’t have a picnic bench at your campsite.
  • Sleeping Mask – The sun shines bright in the early morning through your tent.
  • Toilet paper – Campgrounds can run out.
  • Bottle Opener – You’ll want this for beer or that bottle of wine.

Camping Toiletries for Beginners

Don’t get us wrong, we totally respect the weekend warriors who don’t need to shower when camping. Right on. However, if you’re camping longer than a weekend and there is no shower house in sight, we have a few camping tips for beginners on how to shower while camping.

Camping Shower & Wipes

The easiest option is to bring along some body wipes. Simply use a few wipes to get the grit and grim from the day off your body. You may not feel 100% refreshed but we promise, you’ll feel better than you did dirty.

The second option is a shower bag. It won’t be close to luxury but you’ll feel amazing afterwards. Put on a swimsuit and hang the shower bag from the tree and vualá, you have a camping shower.

Shower Bag

For your soap, make sure you use soap, conditioner and shampoo that’s safe to use and kind to the environment.

Camping Toiletry Bag

Another camping tip for beginners is less is more and in this case, compact is more too. Get yourself a nice, hanging toiletry bag for camping. The organized compartments allow you to easily operate in and out of.

Plus, with a hanging toiletry bag, you can hang your bag from a tree, your tent or the shower house without worrying your things will get dirty.

Camping Shower Bag

Camping Towels

The key to a good camping towel is having it be quick to dry. By having a quick dry towel for camping, you’re able to use it more frequently which means you don’t have to pack the big, bulky towels making quick dry towels a space saver and one less thing you have to bring multiples of.

Regardless if you’re using these to dry off from a swim, a shower or just wiping some sweat away, a quick dry towel is a great camping companion.

Microfiber Towel

Camping For Beginners – Camping Food

No lie, meal planning for camping tends to be the one thing that usually stresses us out the most. However, we’ve come up with a few tried and true camping recipes we consider our go to.

TIP: Keep it simple. You don’t have a full kitchen with multiple pots and pans to work with . The less ingredients, the better. Also, try buying ingredients that can be used in multiple meals.

Meal Planning for Camping

  • Breakfast:
    • Scrambled eggs (eggs)
    • Oatmeal (throw some fresh fruit in there!)
    • Breakfast Scramble (eggs, potatoes, cheese, onions, green peppers)
    • Breakfast Burrito (take the breakfast scramble and put it in a tortilla)
    • Coffee & Tea
  • Lunch:
    • To be fair, we usually skip lunch and just snack. We’re usually out exploring/hiking so we’ll just pack some food to hold us over until dinner…
      • PB & J sandwiches
      • Granola bars
      • Trail mix
      • Beef / Turkey / Vegan Jerky
      • Dried Fruit
      • Tuna pouches
  • Dinner:
    • Spaghetti (sauce & noodles + meat or veggies of your choice)
    • Mac & Cheese (cheese & noodles)
    • Veggie Pasta (olive oil for sauce, your choice of veggies, salt to taste)
    • Tacos (Shells, cheese, meat/plant based protein, onions, peppers)
    • Skillet (peppers, onion, zucchini, tomatoes, protein)

Another important thing to not forget is snacks because no one likes to go hungry when camping. Chips and dips are always a good call but the one thing you shouldn’t forget when camping…S’MORES!

Camping for Beginners Camping Stove

Camping Kitchen – The Don’t Forget Items

Now that you have a better idea on food, don’t forget some essentials that will help you with cooking and clean up.

  • Spices – Don’t forget the spices! We bring our portable spice carrier and it works great. Pick 2-3 of your must haves.
  • Knives – This outdoor knife set is perfect for chopping and food prep.
  • Food Storage Containers – You’ll need a place to store/keep any left overs.
  • Cleaning Dishes – Bring a small bucket or container that you can easily fill with water to suds up your dishes to clean them.
  • Sponge & Towels – You’ll need something to clean your dishes with. Just make sure you use eco-friendly soap.
  • Trash Bags – Make sure you leave your place clean.
  • Cooking Oils / Sprays – You don’t want the food to stick to your camping pots and pans.

Camping Tips for Beginners & Campsite Etiquette

It’s time to talk about camping tips for your campsite and campground. Check out the below camping tip for beginners and head into your camping trip ready!

Camping Prep Tips

  • Test Your Gear
    • It’s usually a good idea to make sure your tent is hole free, you have plenty of propane for your camping stove and anything else that could cause some headaches before you pack up the car and head out towards your camping trip
  • Check The Weather
    • If rain is in the forecast be sure you have a proper tarp to keep your tent dry.
  • Camp In Ideal Temps
    • Camping when it’s hot can be really uncomfortable and cause little to no sleep. Spring and Fall are great times to camp, just be sure to bring any allergy medicine along for those of you (like Lauren) who have seasonal allergies.
  • Organize Your Gear
    • Storage bins are a great way to store your camping gear when your not using it but these bins also make great (and easy) options to haul your camping gear to your site.
  • Let Someone Know Where You’re Going
    • This is especially important if you’re backcountry camping. If something was to happen, it’s important for someone to know where you are or where you plan to be.

Campsite Etiquette

  • Dispose of Food Properly
    • Newsflash, you’re in the wilderness (with animals) and these animals want your food.
    • Do not leave food or trash laying around. Do your best to dispose of it properly by either throwing trash away at the campsite dumpster or hanging your trash from a pole or tree to get it out of the reach of animals.
    • For an extra layer of security, check out these critter proof food storage containers
  • Always Make Sure Your Fire is Out
    • Before going to bed, put some water on the embers. Another tip is to never make a fire if the area hasn’t seen rain in sometime or if it’s windy.
    • Some of the most devastating wildfires have happened by unsupervised campfires.
  • Respect Others
    • If you have neighbors nearby, be respectful and don’t be loud.
  • Leave No Trace
    • Leave your campsite better than you found it. Avoid leaving waste or gear behind and use liquids and repellents that are safe for the environment.
  • Find Good Level Ground
    • The last thing you want is to put your tent on a rocky or slanted ground – you wont be able to sleep. Find good, level ground that you can rest easy on.
  • Make Sure Your Surroundings Are Safe
    • Avoid nestling up to the side of cliff, right on the banks of river or directly under questionable trees. The last thing you’ll want to wake up to is a rock slide, falling tree limbs or a flooding river.
Havasu Falls Campsite

Types of Camping

Alrighty, so hopefully by now you are feeling good, ready and above all, EXCITED! Now that you know your packing list and understand a few key camping tips, let’s talk about the types of campsites you’ll be experiencing.

The below list is not comprehensive but it’s a good starting list for any first time camper to understand.

1. Developed Campgrounds / Designated Campsites

Developed campgrounds are designated campsite in State Parks, Nationals Parks or just any ole’ campground that you can book ahead of time or in some cases, are first come, first serve.

Designated campsites usually have amenities like picnic benches, shower houses, toilets, campfire pits and even grills/grates for cooking. Of course, amenities differ per site so always be sure to check what your campsite or campground offers ahead of your visit.

2. Glamping

Glamping stands for “glamorous camping”. You can book your stay in a nice spacious tent, yurt or amazing tree house that come packed (most of the time) with the comforts of home – A/C, bed, etc.

Becoming extremely popular over the years, Glamping allows folks to enjoy nature while having touches of luxury.

3. RV / Car / Van Camping

If you’re looking to combine camping and an epic road trip, renting a RV or Van is a great option! Think of it as your mobile home on wheels where you can easily operate out of and explore different places with ease.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, check out Outdoorsy for the latest prices and availability for RV’s, pull behinds and van rentals. Your adventure awaits!

4. Primitive / Dispersed Camping

If you’re looking for solitude and to get away from other campers, you might want to consider dispersed camping or sometimes called primitive camping.

Dispersed camping refers to camping outside of designated campsites in National Forests. Dispersed camping has no amenities like trash removal, fire pits or running water. In some cases, toilets can be found but in others, you won’t have access to anything you don’t bring yourself.

These sites are free and require no reservations but it does take some extra work and patience to find a campsite.

  • You must be one-mile away from campgrounds and 100-200 feet away from any road, trail or stream
  • Do not camp on private property unless given permission
  • If you have questions, contact the rangers station to learn more

Camping Gear Checklist

Feeling good?! You should be! Whether you’re renting your camping gear or decide to purchase a few of the above camping items, keep it simple and come prepared. If you do those two things, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Before you go, download our camping checklist below. Oh, and enjoy the great outdoors!


PIN IT FOR LATER!

camping for beginners pin

For more travel tips, guides and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our site, follow us on Instagram @wanderingstusPinterest and on Facebook. Oh and if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section. We’re happy to answer. Or, just leave us a positive note!

Happy Travels,

– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)

What do you think? Leave us a comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: