What should you know before going camping?

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Your first time camping is a memorable milestone, often marked by confusion and mistakes—but that’s half the fun. I had no clue what to anticipate on my first trip, which was both exhilarating and terrifying. All I knew for certain was that I was in for an adventure.

I had an endless stream of questions running through my head before and during my first camping trip: What if I didn’t pack enough food? What if it starts to rain? What about polar bears? It was difficult for me to prepare for the unexpected without going overboard.

Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a first-timer, know that you’re not alone in your thoughts. We asked fellow outdoor enthusiasts on The Dyrt’s Facebook Campfire group to provide us with insights on their first time in the wilderness.

These are some questions you may have on your first camping trip—and how to answer them.

a man and a woman set up a tent and campsite on their first time camping

1. How do I pitch a tent?

I knew my first time pitching a tent would be no walk in the park. If I struggle to put together IKEA furniture, how the heck am I supposed to pitch a tent? My first camping experience taught me that it is much easy than it seems. My main takeaway is to be patient while reading the instructions.

Here’s some advice on tents from our readers:

“Tent guylines are beneficial. It’s even better if you know how to properly man out your rainfly.” Lori L., a Dyrt camper.

“Put money into a decent tent!” Spend more on a quality tent that will keep you dry in a storm! It’s your safe haven!” — The Dyrt camper Annetta W.

“Increase the size of your tent pegs!” — The Dyrt camper Mark C.

“Make sure the tent stakes you use are high-visibility, or at least, use lines that are painted a bright color. That are painful!” Shashta L., a Dyrt camper.

“Do not pitch your tent at the base of a hill. “We awoke floating on our airbed…” Alan D., a Dyrt camper.

2. How do I prepare for unpredictable weather?

a woman sitting in a tent while it rains

What if it rains? was one of the most pressing concerns I had on my first camping trip. What’s more, guess what? It poured. During night, temperatures plummeted to 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Clearly, the show must go on. Check the overnight weather, pack a rain jacket, set up a good tarp, and have fun anyway.

Here’s what campers had to say about the inclement weather:

“The weatherman is usually wrong.” Denise J., a Dyrt camper.

“I checked the weather but didn’t record the nighttime temperatures. It was July in Wisconsin and I was not prepared with blankets, sweatpants, or a sweatshirt. We just had a sheet since it got down to the 50s at night. We were shivering.” Nikol D., a Dyrt camper.

“Your companion is a rubber mallet. Even if it says zero chance of rain, prepare for rain. Better safe than soggy.” Sarah H., a Dyrt camper.

“Enjoy the trip even if it rains.” Amber H., a Dyrt camper.

3. How do you build a solid campfire?

First, make sure that campfires are permitted at the campground, and follow safe campfire practices. But what if the tinder is all wet? What if you run out of matches? Here’s one possible solution:

“Learn how to use wax and sawdust as wet firewood starters.” Cindi M., a Dyrt camper.

Before your trip, melt candle wax in a pot and put sawdust in ice cube trays. Next cover the sawdust with wax and put it in the freezer. Take the tray with you on your journey. You can light this with a match if there are high winds or moist conditions at your campsite.

4. What’s the best approach to cooking on a camping trip?

a pan cooking potatoes over an open fire at a campsite

My first camping experience taught me that the food issue is totally up to you. I wasn’t sure if I would be fishing for food, foraging, or packing my bag with cans of tuna. Should I pack some spaghetti or prepare enough sandwiches for the whole trip? It’s all up to you. Please remember to bring basic cooking equipment (and beer).

“Pack a meal that doesn’t need to be cooked in case you can’t fire up the stove or fire pit. Bring a can opener if necessary.” Kym C., a Dyrt camper.

“Always pack an extra can and bottle opener, potato peeler, and utility knife!” Rae W., a Dyrt camper.

“Cook and clean up while it is still light out.” Michele I, a Dyrt camper.

“Bring wayyyyy more beer than you think you’ll need.” Kevin D., a Dyrt camper.

5. What if I get lost?

I expected the worst on my first camping trip: that I would wander aimlessly around the woods, get lost, and be swallowed up by the forest (thanks, Hollywood). Forget the fact that there are maps, phones, GPS, and marked trails to help you find your way—I was convinced I would become Jane with no Tarzan. It turns out that getting lost is more difficult than finding the proper way.

“On the first trip, it’s ideal to travel with an experienced camper. Learn all you can. Learn to tie a good knot, how to start a fire, how to pitch a tent, and where to pitch it. Know where you’re going and make sure you have the proper sleeping bag and gear.” Curtiss S., a Dyrt camper.

“Don’t overbook yourself and plan a huge excursion for your first time out. “Plan something near to home/civilization.” Krista C., a Dyrt camper.

6. What’s the most comfortable way to sleep?

As someone who had never slept in a tent, I had also never slept on the ground. I know it can be hard to get comfortable during your first time camping, but are there any tips and tricks to getting some shut-eye? It seems that if you have a good tarp to protect you from the rain and wet ground, all will be okay.

“Clean the ground before you pitch your tent so you are not on rocks and it’s level-ish.” Ruth M., a Dyrt camper.

“At home, check to see whether your air mattresses keep inflated. “Enjoyment is gone if you don’t sleep.” Paul F., a Dyrt camper.

“A tarp can be used for so many things!” It’s good to have a tarp as ground cover under your tent. It’s good to have a tarp over your food area. A tarp is useful for providing shade. It’s also a good idea to have a tarp handy in case it rains. To summarize, it’s a good idea to have a tarp!” Sarah M., a Dyrt camper.

“Wish I had known about hammocks instead of laying on the ground.” Bobby H., a Dyrt camper.

7. What’s the most efficient way to pack?

a van packed with camping gear at a campsite

There are many ways to approach first-time camping, but if you decide to do a trek, what’s the best way to lug everything? The solution is to pack just what you need and are prepared to carry on your back. If not, leave it at home.

“I wish I knew that I didn’t need to bring so much stuff.” Adam K., a Dyrt camper.

“Organize all items, including clothing, in bags of varying sizes. Instead of bags, utilize packing cubes.” Diane N. is a Dyrt camper.

8. How do I get help if I hurt myself?

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a worisome person. I’m also rather clumsy. What if I hurt myself during a hike or get really sick? Is there any way to receive aid in the wilderness? First and foremost, prepare a first-aid package.

If you want to disconnect by leaving your phone at home, bring a personal locating beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger with you instead. It allows you to call for assistance regardless of mobile service. These gadgets employ a satellite network to send your GPS position to national search authorities and the nearest first responders within 3-5 minutes.

9. Where do I go to the bathroom?

What, specifically, is the procedure for doing number two?

Toilets and showers are available at the majority of approved campsites. If you’re in the bush and really must go, locate a remote area, dig a cathole, and cover it up after you’re through. You may either bury the toilet paper with it or put it in a wag bag to dispose of later. Remember to check for critters and poison ivy before squatting!

10. OK, but what about bears?

a grizzly bear crossing the road in yellowstone national park

My mind flashed with bright colored lights with a first-time camping question: what about bears? They’re out there if you’re in bear country. Make noise while hiking to avoid being taken by surprise, but don’t whistle or yell. Never leave food out, and always shut up your stuff before going to bed. For additional information, go to the Go Bear Smart Safety Society. The more you know about bear safety, the more secure you’ll feel on your first trip to bear territory.

“Bears like breaking into tents during thunderstorms.” —The Dyrt camper Evelyn J.

“Despite living in bear country, you can relax and sleep well.” —The Dyrt camper Dalia G.

“If you’re not in bear country and you want to leave your cooler out, ratchet straps are good to keep out smaller creatures.” Sarah H., a Dyrt camper.

Related Questions

  • What are the 5 W’s of camping?

    To be safe and comfortable in the environment, there are five crucial aspects to consider. Wind, water, widowmakers, timber, and animals are among the five components. These elements are known as the “5 W’s.”

  • What is the first rule of camping?

    Remember the old adage: you get out what you put in. 2. Put your fire out: Because you can endanger those around you, this is one of the most important camping rules, regardless of where you go. Be care to extinguish your fire before going to bed, leaving for the day, or leaving the site at the conclusion of your stay.

  • What are 5 camping safety tips?

    5 camping safety tips you should follow

    1. Plan safe physical activities.
    2. Prevent bug bites.
    3. Protect yourself from the sun.
    4. Practice campfire safety.
    5. Prepare for the unexpected.
  • What do most people forget when camping?

    The following are some of the most often forgotten things at campsites:

    1. Wood. Some campsites forbid you from bringing in outside wood, while others forbid you from foraging around the campground for wood. …
    2. Batteries. …
    3. Wet Wipes. …
    4. Duct Tape. …
    5. Ice. …
    6. Trash bags. …
    7. Hatchet or hammer.

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