Travel Tips

First Time Camping? Here Are 5 Things You Should Know

You don't have to be a mountaineer to enjoy sleeping in a tent.

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Growing up, I always thought I was a city girl. Even during my first major camping trip in Iceland, I wasn’t sure it was for me. It wasn’t until my trip to Banff National Park, in the Canadian Rockies, that I found my love for camping and the outdoors.

Camping isn’t easy. However, there’s something so magical about the effects of fresh air and being totally disconnected on the mind and soul. If you’re thinking about going camping for the first time, read on to learn about 5 things you should know before you go.

1. Don’t fear the dirt

Dirt isn’t poisonous. Whether you spend a night or a week camping, you are guaranteed to get your hands dirty in the process. On top of that, you’ll probably accidentally eat or drink dirt, too. Of course, it’s important to take the proper sanitation measures to make sure your food and belongings are clean, but a little dirt never hurt anyone.

2. Pack all you need, and nothing more 

People always stress the importance of packing light, and while I generally agree with this, camping is a little bit different. When you’re planning on being out in the middle of nowhere, you may not be able to easily buy things if you forget to bring them. So, for this reason, I would always err on the side of ensuring you have everything you need. Avoid packing luxury items like iPads or speakers, but I would ensure you have everything you need for shelter, sleep, nourishment, and warmth before you leave home. Be cautious about the weight and size of anything ‘extra’ that you decide to bring.

For most camping trips, I always make sure I have the following:

  • Tent and rain fly
  • Sleeping mat/bag/pillow
  • Layers for cold weather
  • Rain shell for wet weather
  • Headlamp
  • Water purification system
  • Toiletries
  • A splurge item*

*I always bring one small ‘splurge’ item when I camp – usually my hammock or a book for the evenings.

3. You may need to get creative

first time camping

Camping is all about resourcefulness. In the event that you do forget something, you might need to get creative with how you get things done. For example, if you forget plates for food, you might need to use paper bags. If you forget silverware (which I’ve sadly done before), you’ll probably have to eat with your hands. If you forget toilet paper…well, you get what I’m saying.

In many ways, camping requires you to drop your ego and just do what’s necessary to get comfortable. Things like starting a fire, pitching a tent, and finding clear water all teach necessary skills on resourcefulness and “getting the job done.”

4. Proper preparation is critical 

Unlike normal travel, it can be very difficult to “just wing it” when you’re camping. Why? Because the entire experience requires adequate research and preparation. Before you go, you’ll want to know what the park’s rules or laws are, and what kinds of wildlife live there. You’ll need to know what to do if you run into a rattlesnake or a bear, and at the least, what the weather will be like where you’re going. You need to be prepared for rain, or for bugs, or for high winds. And, on a more positive note, you’ll want to know which nearby hikes offer the most beautiful views. Doing this research beforehand can make or break your trip, so I’d highly recommend taking the time to do it properly.

5. Camping gives you access to the world’s best views

You may have read the first four items and thought to yourself, “Why would I ever go camping?” While camping can be more difficult and less luxurious than staying in a hotel, it does give you access to amazing views and experiences that are different than any other type of accommodation. While camping in Big Bend National Park, we got to sleep under the stars of the Milky Way. During our camping trip to Montana, we saw the most stunning orange sunrise above the plains. When I camped in Torres del Paine National Park, I got to spend the night listening to the sounds of the running glacial water around me. If I were staying in a hotel, I wouldn’t have gotten to see any of these incredible views of our Earth and our universe.

So, before you write off camping, give it a try – there’s something really special about being fully surrounded by our world’s fresh air and beautiful landscapes.

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If you’re planning on hiking, biking, or visiting remote places, we always recommend purchasing travel insurance. Not only does travel insurance protect you in an emergency, but it also gives you the peace of mind knowing that you’re covered. Our favorite insurance provider is World Nomads, they’ve always had our backs through medical emergencies and more.

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Kay is a full-time working professional located in Washington DC who takes every spare vacation day to get outside and explore the world. When she travels, she loves visiting the most iconic and naturally beautiful destinations in the USA and abroad. You can typically find her wandering the streets of a city, running through a park, taking ridiculous self portraits, or hiking a mountain somewhere. Connect with Kay: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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