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Camping For Dummies: Essential Knowledge for Your First Campout

The urge to camp out can strike anyone at any time – even if you are more of an urban creature. If you are thinking about car camping for the first time but find all the gear and preparation to be daunting, don’t worry. Today’s article is here to help.

If you are new to camping, the most important thing you can do is find an experienced camper to help you out. You can take classes, or if you are lucky enough to have a friend who is an experienced camper, they can help you out.

But you can also do this camping thing completely on your own. You just need a few basic pieces of gear and then decide where you are going. When going car camping for the first time, start with an overnight campout and keep it simple. This way, you can get a feel for everything involved and see if it’s something that you’d like to do more of in the future.

Basic Gears


When picking a tent, size does matter. If you have the budget for it, go bigger. A 3-person tent gives a cozy couple a little extra breathing room and a family of four can more easily achieve harmony in a 6-person tent.

You can also check the tent’s peak height if you want a tent that you can stand up in (that can make getting dressed and moving around easier to do).Vestibules outside the doors are nice for stowing muddy shoes and having two doors can help you avoid climbing over sleeping tent mates for late-night bathroom breaks.

If you’re new to camping, one thing you can do to prepare is to set up your tent in your backyard (or living room, if that’s what works best for you). That way, you can get a feel for how it goes together, and what parts you might need help with.

And don’t forget a properly sized footprint—if you have a ground sheet that’s too small, it won’t fully protect your tent floor, and if you have one that’s too big, it can catch rainwater and pool it underneath your tent.

Sleeping Bag and Pad

The temperature rating is a good place to start when you are selecting your bag. If you are planning to only go fair-weather camping, you will probably only need a summer bag.

However, a 3-season bag will give you more leeway for the unpredictable weather in the shoulder seasons. If you are always cold (or always hot), make the necessary adjustments. You also do not need to select a super- snug mummy bag like backpackers use. A rectangular camping bag will give your body more room to move.

Sleeping pads are a lot like mattresses – they’re comfortable and they keep you warm. However, sleeping pads also have high-tech insulation to prevent you from losing body heat on the cold ground.

When you’re looking for a sleeping pad, make sure to compare the specs. A thicker, longer, or wider sleeping pad with a higher insulation value (known as the R-value) will be more comfortable and warmer.

Lighting and Stove

When you’re packing for your camping trip, don’t forget to bring some form of lighting! Campsites don’t have their own illumination, so you’ll need to provide your own. A flashlight is a basic and essential item, but a headlamp can be really useful too, since it frees up your hands for other tasks around the campsite. Lanterns are also nice to have for a little bit of ambient light.

A two-burner propane camp stove is perfect for camping. You can cook breakfast and make coffee at the same time. Bring at least two fuel canisters and a lighter, and test it out at home before you go camping.

Kitchenware and Cooler

You’ll need to bring everything you need to prepare and eat food. You can look in your home kitchen for items, but try not to bring anything too delicate or valuable. And, unless you want to take dirty dishes home, bring a scrubber, some biodegradable soap, a towel and a small washtub or two.

You might already have a cooler and it will probably work just fine. Just be sure you have enough capacity for your perishable food and a few cold ones, along with enough ice to keep them cold. Some newer coolers with extra thick insulation make ice last longer, but they cost more money.

Clothes for Camping

When it comes to camping, part of the fun is getting a little dirty. So make sure to pack clothes that you don’t mind getting muddy or grimy. A great tip is to pack everything in a plastic storage bin – that way, if you need to wash any dishes while you’re camping, you can just use the bin as your dish tub.

Another thing to keep in mind is that cotton clothing is usually not the best option for camping. Wet cotton can make you cold, even in mild weather. It’s a good idea to pack a warm coat and long underwear, gloves, a beanie, and warm socks to wear at night. And don’t forget a rain jacket, just in case.

Lastly, make sure to pack some sensible (sturdy) shoes for hikes or walks, as well as a pair of slip-on shoes for those midnight bathroom trips.


Of course you’ll need your prescription medications and hygiene items. You can also bring bandages and other medicines from home, but it’s convenient to have a first-aid kit with comprehensive supplies.

Always plan for sun and prepare for bugs by bringing sunscreen and insect repellent. Because campground bathrooms sometimes run out of supplies, bring your own soap, toilet paper and small towel. Hand sanitizer is nice to keep in your kitchen area.

Key Takeaway

If you’re interested in trying camping, it is easy to get started. You will just need some basic gear and a plan for where you want to go. For your first trip, it’s a good idea to keep it simple and just do an overnight campout.


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