To some people, the thought of camping is far from a vacation. To others, it's a great escape, a chance to spend time outdoors and reconnect with the essence of nature. If you're a first time camper, it is important for you to differentiate essential items to pack from luxuries you will probably not need. Are you going to have cell phone service at your destination? Do you need your entire makeup bag, or can you get by with a few simple items? And most important, how do you plan to stay warm, dry, and fed on your trip? The key to safe and successful camping is knowing what necessities to bring with you, and what to leave behind.
Your needs may be different if you're camping in a rustic cabin versus tent camping at a campground, or hiking into the woods and pitching a tent there. Since it is a good idea to have some camping experience under your belt before you go off into the woods, your best bet is to start by reserving a campsite at a campground. Even when camping at a campground though, there are important things to consider when packing for your trip.
Before you even start making your list of items to pack, find out if the campground has utilities available. If they do not provide electricity, for example, either leave items requiring electricity behind, or bring alternative battery operated items with you instead. If the campground offers running water and bathhouses, don't weight yourself down with gallons of water you won't need. Finally, find out if a grill or fire pit is provided so you can plan your meals accordingly. Gathering this information ahead of time can save you a lot of frustration in the long run.
Weather―Plan for Rain
As much as we would like to believe the accuracy of the weather forecast, it is always a good idea to plan for a variety of weather patterns. This means plan for both rain and sunshine alike. There is nothing more frustrating than waking up in the middle of the night only to find the floor of your tent soaking wet. So regardless of the forecast, place a tarp or large piece of plastic under the tent to help keep you dry.
While you're at it, it's a good idea to also pack a couple of ponchos, raincoats, or umbrellas as well. These items can help keep you dry so that you can enjoy activities even when the weather isn't cooperating. These items don't take up much room, so they're worth adding to your list of things to pack.
Protect Your Skin
Blazing sun can give way to nasty sunburns if you're not careful. The sun can be deceiving, so make sure to bring suntan lotion with a high enough SPF level to keep your skin protected. Having a hat with a visor to wear while you're out walking, swimming, or boating is easy to transport, and can offer additional protection during those unexpected heat waves.
Protect Yourself from Insects
Regardless of where you camp, a few different kinds of insects will probably cross your path. Bring at least one can of insect repellent with you on your trip. You will probably enjoy the outdoors a little more if you aren't spending all of your time swatting away pesky flies. That being said, at the end of the day it is always a good idea to check yourself for lingering insects that may have clung to your clothing.
Because warm days can quickly turn to chilly nights, you will want to pack for all occasions. Go ahead and throw your bathing suit in your sack, but also pack long sleeve shirts, pants, and a sweatshirt. If you are camping in a warm climate, you may not be as concerned about the chilly nights, but it is still important to think ahead, consider weather patterns, and pack accordingly. It is always better to have the option to peel layers off than to wish you had brought warmer clothing.
One of the great things about camping is being able to experiment with cooking. Whatever you decide to cook on your trip, also consider essential tools to make the process easier. Tinfoil works wonders when cooking vegetables, for example, and don't forget to bring a spatula or grilling fork if you're cooking meat. As much as you may want to only pack paper plates and plastic utensils, you won't be happy when your plastic fork melts while flipping steaks over the campfire. This doesn't mean you need to pack your whole kitchen (after all the goal is to pack light), but you will want a few multipurpose essentials to make your cooking a little easier. Finally, if you are packing meats, condiments, or dairy products, make sure you also have a plan to keep these items cold so they don't spoil.
Planning for a camping trip may seem like a lot of work, but planning ahead and ridding your packing list of unnecessary items can help simplify the process. When all is said and done, the most important things to consider are your basic fundamental needs: food and water, shelter, clothing, and safety. Everything else is optional and can only add to the enjoyment of your camping experience.
Camping is an opportunity to reconnect with nature, enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, and experience a different way of life. Enjoy the essence of camping by leaving a few luxuries behind, and getting away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday routine. By keeping it simple and planning ahead, camping can be a fun and stress-free way to enjoy the great outdoors while spending quality time with friends and family.