Whether you are going to be schlepping the backcountry solo or you have reserved a luxurious experience glamping in the frontcountry with your feet up and a cocktail in hand, you’ll still want to consider some of the basics before you get too far down the trail, as it were. Find the foundation for all camping planning right here.
Begin at the Beginning
When it comes to a 101 crash course, some of the tips can be “old hand” for the veteran tent-erectors in the bunch. However, complacency can kill a cat faster than the proverbial curiosity ever did! Take it from me — I spend over a decade putting up and taking down tents while working wildfire assignments and for recreational use as well, and I’ve made some pretty bone-headed mistakes. Just because you do something all the time doesn’t mean you won’t forget a crucial step someday! Here’s where you can find the very basic determinations and questions you must ask to get started with your camping fun!
Some lessons are learned the hard way, like the one about what you need to know before you go camping. That’s how we learned to pack our trunk smarter.
Everything is piled in the back of your car. Our toddler is safely secured in his car seat. It’s pouring rain. Rain rocks. It means mud pies and splashing. The family is stoked.
Then we get a flat tire. We search for a gas station with ‘free air’ in a town that happens to be having some kind of festival – huge influx of traffic and chaos. My husband is growing increasingly frustrated. We find air and buy a patch kit. The patch kit doesn’t work. We will have to change the tire. That is when we realize…
The spare is under the haphazardly piled stockpile of gear. Unloading all of this in the rain will be fun.
Learning from Our Mistakes
This shouldn’t have happened to us since we’re seasoned campers, but we got sloppy. We ended up shuttling our things into the unoccupied seats inside the car while our son watched us get drenched putting on the spare tire.
It is funny now, but it was a nightmare at the time.
I can’t prevent your car from having a flat, but I CAN help you be more organized, plan and be able to have a more efficient experience if things like this should arise! Read on, sister, you’re in good company.
Car camping is very malleable to your needs and lifestyle—you can go light or not. This is the kind of camping where you can bring everything—including the kitchen sink!
Getting Started – Camping Considerations
If you have a car, you have the means to car camp. You are going to need to make some decisions to get started:
Tent or Cabin?
You will want to know where your family will be sleeping in order to pack your bedding. I’ve found that sleeping bags are fantastic no matter the accommodations. Most cabins provide beds or mattresses but no sleeping gear. It will also help you decide if you want to go minimalist or have more indulgent packing capabilities. Cabins are a great starter option for Camping with Kids. Pay attention to the nearest drinking water source too – all the seemingly small details matter (hauling water for boiling vs. going to a spigot.)
Length of Stay
This will help you determine the car space you’ll need and how to use it. Think of how many meals you’ll eat out of camp and how many you’ll be cooking.
Winter campers are going to pack slightly differently than summer campers! OK, for us anyway, that’s an understatement.
Consider what you’ll be doing: The tourist thing? Snowshoes needed? Snorkel gear? You get the picture. If you aren’t going to rent your gear, you’ll have to pack it.
If you have laundry available at your campground, you can camp much longer with much less. You can also just opt to rough it and be the stinky kids in camp. Or, you’ll be packing more gear and clothing.
These are just some of the things that will get your brain into camping mode. The idea is to pack smarter—plan a little now to enjoy the big payoff later when you aren’t caught in the rain with a flat, up a creek without a paddle, or worse—camping with kids who are bored, hungry, or cold.
What is your golden rule for camping 101? Do you start small and then get more detailed as you pack and plan?