If you want to make the most out of your next camping trip, then all it takes is a little foresight and planning. Sure, over-planning a trip of any kind can take the fun out of it, but just a bit of preparation can result in a much more enjoyable trip for everyone involved.
So, why camping?
Well, I once heard in a college lecture, “in nature, you find your way to your own truth”. While in college I certainly did not care for nature; it was full of bugs, poisonous plants, and basically everything else Mother Nature has designed to kill you. The idea of sleeping on the ground without showers was not an appealing one for me.
Those college days and that college attitude is far behind me, but that quote has stayed with me. Now I love the outdoors. Sure, I am still reticent about big adventures outside because each one seems to come with a unique list of outlandishly expensive equipment that can only be used specifically for one type of activity during one season with one set of weather conditions. However, I have found that there are many ways around some of the bigger out of pocket expenses (for example, you can find outdoor recreational centers that will rent things like sleeping bags and tents), and once you have the basics, you can head out into the wilderness all around the world and access sites and experiences that are inaccessible otherwise. Having camped all over Europe and Africa, I now know that there are many hidden gemstones that you will stumble upon when you plan even a quick weekend camping trip. And while it might be inconvenient to go without running water for a few days, you can certainly get by with a good fire and great friends by your side.
So, how do you even start planning your camping trip so as to make the most out of it?
1. Start with length.
Length is a serious concern when planning a camping trip. Every other decision you make will revolve around the length.
Are you going to camp overnight, one night and then hike back the following afternoon?
Will you be staying at a campsite with facilities or a camping site with running water (cold, of course) for a mere 5 hours per day? How long you want to camp out might influence where you choose to pitch your tent, literally or figuratively.
2. Book your camping sites.
Once you know the length of time, book your camping sites. Most camp sites are supremely inexpensive, especially if you have just a tent. It will run you no more than a few bucks to get access to a personal camp site and maybe some running water and bathrooms. But you should reserve them, especially if you plan to camp in the summer or at a popular national park. Some national parks fill up months in advance. Obviously you can review those sites with services (like running water and showers and maybe even an on-site restaurant) and those without.
3. Plan Activities
Figure out what your plans will be. Are you going to camp at the same site near the French and German border so that you can hike to different castles each day but return to base camp at night? Are you going to make your way along a stretch of the California mountain ranges and camp out at different areas each night? Is your plan to see certain things, hike to a famous bouldering point, or just reach a mountain peak and take in the view?
The activities you plan to do impact the equipment you will need. If, for example, you want to stop at a famous bouldering site, you might need to pack some special shoes and chalk.
4. Start chipping away at that equipment list.
You will need a lot of equipment, based on where you are camping and for how long. If you plan to drive to a campsite and then pitch your tent, then you do not need to worry about weight or fitting everything into your backpack. After all, you can just fill the car with any extras. If you are going to take a bus or train to the start of a route and hike to your camp ground, then you will need to make sure you have everything in your backpack, and that your backpack does not knock you over with its weight.
What things might you need?
Once you how long you will be camping and what type of campsite, you need to pick a tent. There are many schools of thought regarding camping tents, and obviously the size or shape you get is contingent upon many factors like whether you are camping with your family, whether you are hiking to your campsite so the tent needs to be lightweight and compact, etc… Take a look at this review from REI on different types of tents so that you can make an informed decision here. After all, if you are not comfortable during your camping adventure, you won’t get sleep you desperately need in order to make the most out of every other aspect of your adventure.
- Sleeping bags
Like tents, there are many types of sleeping bags for different scenarios, so read this review to find out more.
Camping cookware is really quite neat because it can fold down into a compact container that has everything you might require. Now, if you are going to build a fire and make your own food, then you will need a burner and some fuel to go with the cookware, and of course, food.
You will need a water vessel of some kind, which is really contingent upon the length of your camping trip and where you will be. Some sites have access to clean water, so you can just bring a water bottle or camelbak and refill it. In Yosemite, the water stations are clearly marked and each hiking trail will tell you how much water you should have on you and where you can refill.
- First aid kit
This is something you should invest in and keep in your backpack always. The more comprehensive, the better. Keep things in there for bee stings, allergic reactions, minor cuts and scraps.
- Light, such as a lantern or flashlight
You do not want to get stuck after dark without a light. You might need it to wander over to the campground facilities too.
- Rain gear
Depending on when and where you are camping, you might want to bring this in case the water turns.
Other random things you might want include:
- Camping toilet paper that will decompose, in case you are out of facilities but need to go.
- Emergency blankets
- Knife or multitool
- Sweatshirt for cold nights and change of clothes
- Camping pillow to go with your sleeping bag
- GPS or radio device
- Maps of the area
- Cell phone
- Toiletries or towel if there are shower facilities where you are
With all of that done, you are ready to go. Get out there and start enjoying your next adventure!