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Camping Basics: How Should Beginners Prepare for Camping

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Camping has bounced back from its brief comatose phase and this time it has caught on people like never before. Although it always existed in the background, people got too busy with their techie lives to appreciate an outdoor life. But gradually this attitude has changed to get more camping enthusiasts on a weekend getaway from the town. For all the newbies in the camping community, we have a go-to camping basics guide for you.

There are three types of camping- campsite camping, festival camping, and wild camping. While campsite camping and festival camping are fairly easy to do, wildlife camping needs the maximum preparation. Campsite campers will often have on-site facilities such as washrooms, showers, and toilets, with some more family-orientated campsites having playgrounds, and entertainment to keep the kiddies occupied. Similarly, festival camping will have a group of campers camping at a distance from the car park with all help around and the necessary amenities stocked up in the car.

It is wild camping situation that calls for absolute planning and studying of the area. Especially camping beginners should be well versed in the camping basics. Experts can handle adverse situations with experience but not the amateurs. Having said that, let’s unfold the guide to camping basics for beginners.

Know more here: 

Camping Tips: What to Bring on a Camp

Camping essentials
Camping Essentials (source)

The first step to camping is organizing the camping essentials. Make a list of 'equipment/things to bring on camping' that you will need for the short backcountry trip. Contrary to what you might think, camping, particularly car and wild camping, does not need expensive equipment.

Check out the Camping Essentials List for Your Survival

Tent Camping Checklist: What Tent Size Will I Need

Pick one with a waterproof outer layer. There are a wide variety of tents and tarps to fit every budget. Also, consider the season you'll be camping- in summers four-person tents work just well for small groups of campers. These are easy to put up and light to carry. In case of a larger group, it's worth investing a little more in tents with compartments (4 people will be comfortable in a 6-berth tent etc).

On a side note, ensure the tent comes with a ground sheet and a carry bag.

Sleeping Bag

Choose one rated for the season you want to go camping. One may use three-season bags, as they have better insulation and saves you from shivering at night. For example, sleeping bags that are rated up to -14°C can be alternate as a blanket or full coverage sleeping bag.

Clothes

Try to avoid getting carried away with packing clothes. When backpacking, one has to carry the entire weight so the lesser, the better. Take light, easy dry trousers and shorts, cotton tee shirts, a fleece and a rain jacket. Do not forget to carry an extra pair of socks and a pair of thermals, just in case the weather alters. A washcloth, towels, bathing suit, and personal hygiene items plus an extra roll of toilet paper.

Small toolbox

This comes very handy. Keep the basics like a hammer, screwdriver, scissors, and knives. An axe is useful for lots of things like hammering in tent pegs and chopping wood for fires. As with most sharp objects, keep away from kids and always have a cover for it.

First Aid box

One of the most important item on a basic camping checklist is a first aid box. Cuts and scrapes are very common while one is out in nature. To prevent any kind of infection or other complications carrying band-aids, antiseptic liquid, ointments, etc should be carried.

Stock up a few medicines like Diamox – 10 tablets (to prevent AMS), Dexamethasone – one strip, Nifedipine – 5 tablets, Paracetamol – 6 tablets (fever), Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness), Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies), Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer), Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea), Digene – 10 tablets (acidity), Omez/Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids), Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters, Gauze – 1 small roll, Band aid – 10 strips, Cotton – 1 small roll, ORS – 10 packets, Betadine or any antiseptic cream, Moov spray (aches, & sprains).

For details, read Backpacking First Aid Kit: Stay Prepared

Your "what to pack for camping" list doesn't end here. A few more things on the list of camping supplies for beginners are as follows, check out!

Additional Essentials for Camping

Sleeping pads
Buy the Best Quality Sleeping Pads (source)
  • Illumination: Carry flashlights, headlights, headlamps, LED torch. And don’t forget extra batteries.
  • Mattress or sleeping pads: These may not be considered essential, but it saves the back a lot of strain. These are easy to pack, take up very little room, and crucially, add an extra, comfy layer between you and the ground you're sleeping on.
  • Tarpaulin and ropes: Use them to put together a makeshift shelter in case of rain or an extra tent footprint or want to
  • Extra rug: Use them for everything from more warmth at night to using as a makeshift tablecloth.
  • Indoor activities: Pack indoor activities that can be enjoyed if you have a bad weather day. Uno, Snap Scrabble or maybe a few books that one can relax with.

Camping Basics: Setting Up a Campsite

camping essentials
List of Camping Supplies (source)

As soon as you reach the camping site, start setting up the tents and your kitchen setup before you lose precious daylight. Now, putting together a tent and building a campfire may seem simple but in the absence of adequate practice, it can be a pain in the neck.

So, assuming we have arrived at the camping spot and planning to sleep outside, what next?

The Sweet Spot

We start by looking for a spot that is relatively high-level ground. Avoid the slope section else you might keep rolling out of the sleeping bag all night. Also, check for water source nearby as water is a vital camping essential- for drinking, cooking, cleaning, etc. Keep two designated areas for cooking and cleaning. The cooking area should be a flat ground exclusive of any twigs, bush, or leaves. And kindly use bio-degradable soap to clean.

The Tent Building

While at it, consider two important factors- the effect of wind and the stakes. The consequences of wind blowing across the tent’s dome are like air passing over the curved wing of an airplane. This is known as the lift and is the main reason why the tents need to staked otherwise your tent could be a kite flying even in the lightest wind. There are terrain specific stakes for the tent, look for the appropriate one. 

Know about How to Use Tent Heaters and How to Repair a Tent

Camp Furniture

Hurdling up around the campfire is a ritual we all love but can we sit on the ground for the entire time? Unfortunately, we cannot and so camping furniture is required. Get a chair and a stool for each member of the group. Pick the modern and minimalistic ones or the built-in cup holder models for easy portability.

The Camp Kitchen

Yes, cooking on campfire seems so ideal but not practical! Roasting marshmallows are fine, cooking a full meal for a group of people may so much effort and time. This is not feasible especially if there are kids for they lack patience when the hunger strikes.

So, carrying a camp stove is a better choice to whip up a meal on a flame that can be controlled. There are a wide variety of camp stoves- models that light with a match (propane run) or one that runs on electronic ignition, single burner or double burners. Picking a double burner that can be manually light should be an ideal cooktop for comfortable camp cooking.

Camping Cooking Gear

The camp cookware should be simple and utilitarian. A frying pan, a generous saucepan, a serving spoon, a spatula, a chopping knife and a cutting board should meet most of your needs. Bring disposable paper plates and bowls, or a better idea would be to use dinnerware that can be washed and reused. Get a cooler too to keep your food fresh and safe from the wildlife.

Simple, inexpensive knives, forks, and spoons from your silverware drawer at home. Most campgrounds have running water that can be used for washing up, so bring a small bottle of biodegradable dish soap and a sponge or two. Paper towels are as handy in camp as they are at home, and you may find many uses for aluminum foil.

Camping Mistakes to Avoid

Camping mistakes
Reading Instruction at the Campsite is a Huge Mistake (source)

It all right to be a camping beginner, we all were once. But it is one thing to be a novice in camping and another to be plain foolish. Here’s are some camping mistakes that all campers, beginners as well as pros should avoid.

1. Not Researching the Campsite

Camping is meant to be relaxing and fun. But it will not be that way if one is not prepared for where they are going. Yes, spontaneity is a part of camping, but a lot of effort can go into reaching from one point to another, so take the time to do a little bit of homework prior to camping. This becomes all the more necessary if there’s time constraint for the camping trip. A quick look at some websites, a phone call or email to other campers might just help your camping adventure start off more smoothly

2. Not Checking Equipment Functionality Before You Leave Home

Nothing is worse than getting to a campsite, and finding out that the basic looking piece of equipment actually needs a lot of hard work to set up, or worst if it fails to operate at all.

It could be a crucial cooking equipment or a light device. It's one thing to be a novice at camping, but reading instructions at the campsite on how to work something for the first time is not an ideal start to your trip. Put up the tent at least once in the backyard. Try that new light. Work out how the stove operates. These are some of the off the top of the head things to try before the camping.

3. Relying on a Campfire

campfire
Campfire is a Traditional camping Ritual (source)

Campfires can take a while to build up sufficiently, particularly for cooking. To put a Camp Oven on the coals, those coals need to be very hot and that takes more time than you think. If you don’t have the time commitment to getting that fire set in advance of dinner, consider having a backup plan.

Learn about How to build a campfire

Having a barbeque could be a good back up to a campfire.

Here are some camping food ideas for you.

4. Shivering at night

Wrong bedding is going to make your life miserable out in the woods. Air mattresses are not any good everywhere and can keep you shivering in cold all night.

When considering camping, think carefully about weather conditions you will be sleeping in, your own body temperature (i.e. are you a cold sleeper or warm sleeper) and then buy appropriately.

Know how to camp comfortably in winters.

5. Arriving late at campsite

Late arrival at campgrounds is not recommended as a harmonious start to the trip. Turning up late at a campground, searching for an unoccupied space and then when and if a place is found, having to set up tents and cooking for everyone could stressful.

Arrive early and have a backup plan if the campground of your choice is fully occupied. Peak camping times are demanding. There is nothing more exhausting than a long drive and then having to drive around and around a campground looking for a spare spot as the light get dimmer. Also, it is advisable to arrive early and check on the toilet facilities and conditions.

6. Underestimating the importance of lighting

If you are counting on the moon and the campfire to shed light then that’s an illusion that will get shattered fairly early on. You would need maximum light in times like when it is to prepare a meal because the headlamps and torches will prove to be quite weak for all the meal prep work.

Choose the best flashlights for camping nights.

Don’t underestimate the importance of being able to see around camp. Accidents like tripping over ropes, branches, and rocks is not fun and nobody wants an injury at the start of the trip.

7. Leaving food and garbage accessible

Come nightfall and a quiet campsite, will get nocturnal visitors that you had not thought about in your camping adventures (and didn’t read about in the brochures).

If these critters often attack the garbage at night, you have to wake up to find the contents of the day’s garbage, strewn across the site. Now you wouldn’t want that, would you?

So never forget to lock up the garbage and put it on our roof rack. Put all the foods in Ziploc bags and plastic tubs.

8. Leave no trace principles

Avoid littering around the campground. Seal all the wastes carefully and dispose them outside the campsite. If in the backcountry, bring back the garbage with you and discard them properly.

Learn about the 7 Leave No Trace Principles

Camping Etiquettes

There are untold camping etiquettes that must be perceived by all the campers, such as:

  • Be respectful

Try not to bother other campers. Avoid playing loud music or yelling or letting the kids run around disruptively.

  • Do not mess with nature

Take extra care if you are camping on wilder grounds. Keep distance from the wild animals, do not clutter around and avoid messing up the ecological balance.

Read about How To Avoid Himalayan Bear Attacks

  • Remember that nature is wild

Follow the rules of the park or campsite you are visiting. If there are no garbage disposal bins, take your rubbish with you on your way out. Keep the sites clean for the next visitor, put out any fires, and make sure everything is in order before you leave.

Summing up

Camping evening
Camping Sites Look Exquisite at Night (source)

Camping is an incredible experience. Hiking to the campsite, setting the shelter, chatting around the campfire, and waking up to the first light of dawn are all wonderful anecdotes that make lifelong memories. And this enjoyment is doubled when you have a comfortable camping.

There may seem to learn a lot before packing for camping but do not panic. Scope out the camping basics - essentials from the non-essentials, pack light but cleverly and you are ready to go! And finally — have fun. Camping, for us, is the ultimate vacation- fresh air, cool sunshine, chirpy birds and mirthful banters. Cherish every minute of it, try to be less on the phone and smell a flower maybe.

Hope our tips of camping basics for beginners are helpful to the non-beginners too.

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