You don’t have to suffer a difficult camping experience these days. The outdoor industry has long been working to make camping more comfortable, with new, high-tech gear and helpful resources (including hiking apps and equipment rental services) with tips, guides, maps, and more to help anyone access nature. And the young and diverse population driving a nationwide increase in camping has even pushed the boundaries of what it means to sleep outside today, with options like creature comfort-filled safari tents, glamping set-ups, teardrop trailers, and vans.
But if you’re still nervous sleeping outdoors, dealing with dirt, bugs, and other infamous inconveniences, know that there are a few easy things you can do to make your traditional camping trip quite comfortable indeed. Not sure where to begin? Make camping more enjoyable by following these suggestions.
1. Choose a good campsite
Choosing the proper location is the quickest way to transform your camping experience from difficult to enjoyable. To help, use websites like Hipcamp and the Dyrt, which feature well-curated reviews and photos that can give you a good idea of what to expect, like whether the spot is full of gnats or perfectly pleasant; good for tent campers, or better suited for camper vans and trailers. You may even search for sites based on facilities such as showers, picnic tables, RV hookups, or—yes—even Wi-Fi, if you can’t live without certain conveniences.
Consider what you want to do while camping as well. Do you want to provide your children with a pleasant and educational experience? Campgrounds at state or national parks often offer ranger walks and visitor centers with museums and exhibitions to keep everyone entertained. The sites are often well-developed with trash service, decent bathrooms (sometimes even showers!), and running water that will save you a million tiny hassles in the evening.
If you’re looking to get a group together for a weekend, reduce the organizing stress with a campsite close to home in case noncampers from home just want to join in for a time. Instead, if you wish to walk, kayak, or swim, choose a location based on its accessibility to natural places that you want to explore. Extra points if you can walk straight from your campsite to the trailhead or lake.
Don’t let a terrible campground become one of nature’s surprises.
2. Gear up for a comfortable sleep setup
A good night’s sleep outside is all about having the proper camping equipment. To stay warm and comfortable, you’ll want to pack a tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag that’s right for the weather and terrain you’ll be camping in.
Choose a tent that is large enough for you and anybody you’re sharing it with, can withstand the weather (some inexpensive tents, for example, aren’t durable enough for strong and unexpected wind), and has practical features like as interior stash bags and vents.
REI’s own tents, such as the Trail Hut 2 ($199, rei.com), are a reasonably priced, long-lasting, and simple-to-assemble solution for most camping situations. For more of a splurge, MSR’s tents, like the two-person Hubba Hubba ($450, backcountry.com) are well-designed to last for years and lightweight enough to work for both car and backcountry camping. Searching for the best camping experience and quality? Try a tent-and-shelter hybrid like Snow Peak’s Landlock Ivory ($1,800, snowpeak.com), which has mesh windows, extendable shade panels, and enough room for a crew of four.
Sleeping pad or cot
Don’t try to get away with sleeping on your old yoga mat—camping mattresses, sleeping pads, and cots are specifically designed to keep you comfortable and, more importantly, create a warm barrier between you and the cold ground. Invest in a solid camping mattress, such as the lightweight-yet-cushiony Alpine Mountaineering Velocity Air Bed ($120, backcountry.com).
If you don’t want to sleep on the ground, a lightweight cot like the 5.4-pound Helinox Cot One ($300, rei.com) is an alternative. “Its lightweight metal struts support a stretched-fabric cot that hangs 6.5 inches above the ground,” AFAR writer Kelly Bastone explains.
For your vacation, choose a sleeping bag with the appropriate form and temperature rating, or the lowest temperature at which a sleeper will feel comfortable while in the bag. In warmer climates, you may want a roomier rectangle bag with a high temperature rating (30°F or above) while in colder climates, a snug mummy or semi-rectangular bag with a low temperature rating (0–20°F) will keep you cozy.
The North Face One Bag ($289, rei.com) takes the guesswork out of choosing because it has “three interchangeable layers that adapt to varying temperatures: Combine them all for a 5°F rating, zip away the top layer for 20° nights, or remove the cozy middle layer (stuffed with premium 850-fill down) for a warm-weather 40°F bag. Kelly advises a system that weighs less than four pounds and packs as compact as a fireplace log.
A camping quilt, such as the lightweight-yet-warm, 800-fill European goose down Western Mountaineering Cloud 9 Comforter ($320, backcountry.com), may be a more comfortable alternative to a regular sleeping bag if you want to spread out when sleeping.
Nothing surpasses the coziness of a familiar cushion. For many, the best thing about car camping (staying at car-accessible campsites rather than hike-to ones) is the ability to bring pillows. And “pillows” is plural. Bring more than one; bring as many as you’d like, then plop your pillows down on your mattress and nestle in the middle of it all.
Pro tip: Not ready to invest on expensive camping equipment? You can rent everything you need from outfitters like REI or several other smaller gear rental companies.
3. Elevate your camp kitchen
You’re probably already packing the essentials, such as a bowl, cup, utensils, and a camp stove. However, a small indulgence or two can improve your camp kitchen and the food you cook with it.
If your campground does not have a picnic table, bring a cutting board, a decent knife, and a portable table to make cooking easier. Or get a good cooler like the Swiss-army-knife of coolers, the OtterBox Venture 25 ($230, otterbox.com), which includes a built-in cutting board and cup holders.
If you’re a grill enthusiast, play around with a portable charcoal grill like the Takibi Fire & Grill ($320, rei.com), which can also double as a campfire if you’re in a region, like much of the West Coast during fire season, that doesn’t allow them. Are you going to cook over a campfire? The Breeo Outpost ($119+ breeo.co), a portable barbecue grate that posts into the ground, converts any fire into a ready-to-cook grill.
Is it all about the coffee? Transform your Jetboil into a coffee press with a silicone press ($18, rei.com) or get gourmet and bring an AeroPress ($32, rei.com) for your morning ritual.
4. Eat better than you do at home
Cooking outdoors should not prevent you from enjoying in delectable meals. The secret is to reward yourself with high-quality ingredients (and, of course, s’mores). Here are some camping food ideas for your vacation, whether you want to use the camp stove or not:
No-cook camping meals
- Prep a loaded, cold salad before you leave home
- Fill your cooler with a gourmet charcuterie and cheese spread and your favorite wine.
- Overnight oats with fruit, nut butter, and spices make a delicious no-cook breakfast.
Camping meals over a fire pit 0r charcoal grill
- A great dinner, like as paella, might be the highlight of your vacation.
- Spend the evening yakitori-style grilling a variety of veggies and meats such as eggplants, mushrooms, peppers, and chicken.
- Grill a whole fish and serve it over fast couscous or as a fish taco with tortillas.
- Upgrade your camp hot dog with chorizo sausages or German brats and sauerkraut.
Those who are unfamiliar with open-fire cooking should pick up a copy of The Campout Cookbook , a comprehensive recipe collection and how-to guide on all the numerous methods to cook outdoors, including tips on utilizing Dutch ovens and cast-iron pans, as well as a list of required outdoor equipment.
Whatever you wind up cooking, you’ll need to be creative with leftovers if you want to conserve valuable cooler room. For example, fish tacos for dinner and breakfast huevos rancheros with the leftover tortillas and salsa is an excellent, efficient combination.
Pro tip: Begin your evening meal sooner than you believe is necessary. Adapting to a new cooking environment has its drawbacks, and hangry campers are not happy campers.
5. Bring layers and prepare for cooler nighttime temperatures
Every seasoned camper will tell you that layers and waterproof gear are essential, particularly after the sun goes down, even in the summer.
A cozy hat and jacket are often welcome after the sun sets or while you’re drinking coffee alfresco on misty mornings. Patagonia’s Nano Puff jackets ($199 for men and women on backcountry.com) are a warm yet lightweight solution for most outdoor activities.
On cold nights, it can take time for your body heat to warm your sleeping bag, so a pair of wool socks, like those by Darn Tough ($25, backcountry.com), is crucial: They’ll help you fall asleep quicker by preventing a sometimes uncomfortable cold, and they’re simply removed after your sleeping bag has achieved the ideal temperature.
6. Pack a camp chair or hammock you can lounge in
With all of the labor that goes into a camping vacation, not to mention the enjoyable activities like hiking, kayaking, swimming, and s’mores-making, it’s easy to feel exhausted. Provide a lovely spot to lay in and take time every day to unwind to ensure you conclude your vacation feeling refreshed, not weary.
Cozy up next to the campfire in a comfortable camp chair, like the spacious and shareable Mesh Love Seat by Kelty ($110, kelty.com), which includes oh-so-essential cup holders for your favorite sundowner beverage. Or relax in the sun with a hammock, such as the Kammok Roo Double Hammock ($79, rei.com), which can accommodate two people.
7. Be prepared for dirt, bugs, and weather
You can’t escape the outdoors when camping, but you can prepare for everything it throws at you. Bring insect spray or invest in a mosquito repeller, such as the Thermacell MR300 Portable Mosquito Repeller ($25, rei.com). Include sunscreen and a shade structure if your camping is in a hot and sunny location.
You’ll get filthy no matter when or where you camp. If your campsite doesn’t provide showers, you can invest in an easy-to-use solar powered shower, like the Advanced Elements 5 Gallon Shower ($35, amazon.com). A simple box of wet wipes, on the other hand, may go a long way toward making you feel refreshed.
How can I make camping interesting?
A few must-dos are:
- Hiking designated trails.
- Riding bikes.
- Looking for various flora, birds, and animals.
- Spelunking – the art of cave exploring.
- Photographing nature.
- Organising a scavenger hunt.
- Enjoying the playground.
How does camping make you happy?
When you go on a trek or assist put up tents and other items at a camping, you really sweat, which causes endorphins to be released. They are known as joyful hormones. Get to breathe fresh air. In the city, we feel as if we are being smothered by the surroundings.
How do you make camping less boring?
4 Secrets to make Camping fun!
- 4 Secrets to make Camping fun for your easily bored friends! …
- Dress appropriately and carry the finest materials and equipment.
- Plan the course of your trip. …
- Integrate activities into contests. …
- Don’t forget the cool gadgets.
What is the most important thing for camping?
For a 7-day camping trip, the most crucial items to bring are food and water. Besides your shelter and other sleeping equipment, you will also need to bring a camp stove, and the little things like personal hygiene, personal medications, lip balm, and extra stakes.