Essentials for first time campers

Camping is an exhilarating way to disconnect from your daily life, letting you unplug and reset your mind. But the idea of camping can be overwhelming if you are new to the experience.

Don’t let the unknown deter you; camping can be fun and easy even for first-timers if you know what to do to be prepared and what to take along with you.

Plan Ahead

While an unknown adventure in the great outdoors may sound appealing, it is always a good idea to plan out exactly where you would like to go camping. Here are some tips on how to prepare for your trip.

  • Know where you are going to camp. Make sure you bring along maps of the area you are going to. While digital may be more convenient ahead of time, remember that cell phones often do not get service in heavily wooded and remote areas, making your GPS less reliable. If you choose to save your maps on your phone, your battery does run the risk of failure if you do not have a portable charger. When camping, traditional paper maps will ensure that technology will not let you down.
  • Tell a friend or family member your plan, including where you are going and when you are planning to come back.
  • Watch the weather. Even if the weather has been pleasant and you are not traveling far from home, sleeping outdoors is not the same as sleeping inside. Watch for temperature drops or any storms that could interfere with your camping plans.
  • Consider the type of camping you are looking for. While the more traditional means of camping included pitching a tent, some other campers would prefer the simplicity of an RV or even renting a yurt or cabin for the weekend. What you bring on your trip will depend on the type of camping you are intending to do. You may also choose to stay at a campground instead of camping in the forest alone.
  • Know the local wildlife. Spending time outdoors will inevitably bring you closer to the animals that live in the outdoors. Some are more dangerous than others, but knowing what lives in the area you are planning to camp in will give you an idea of how to respect their habit while keeping both you and the animals safe.
  • Have enough supplies. Often there are small stores on or near campgrounds to purchase what you may have forgotten or run out of, but it is better to plan as if these were not available. Campground stores are not completely reliable for being stocked up on everything you may need or run out of.


What to Bring

Once you have a good plan in place for where you are headed and how to be prepared, you will need to gather the supplies for your trip.

While camping trips vary and campers have different needs, there are certain items that every camper should have with them to be safe.

  • First aid kit: Your kit should include the essentials for scratches, cuts, burns, and allergic reactions as any of them are bound to happen on a camping trip.
  • Sunscreen: Skin concerns aside, it is miserable to camp with a sunburn. Protect yourself.
  • Mosquito and tick repellant: Along with the natural wildlife, you will come into contact with the natural pests.
  • Tent: If you are not “glamping” or staying in an RV, you will need a tent. There are some who prefer sleeping under the stars, but if this is your first time out, having the security of a tent is priceless. It is ideal to have a tent that is larger than the amount of people in your group. For example, a couple would be more comfortable in a 4-man tent, allowing for space for bags and other camping provisions.


Bring a comfy tent
Bring a comfy tent


  • Sleeping bags: Do not try to go camping with blankets. Sleeping bags are designed to insulate you to keep you warm enough while you are asleep. Blankets do not have the same ability.
  • Map and compass: While this may feel old school, these methods have been used for generations for their consistent reliability from keeping you on the right path.


Always know your location, destination and route
Always know your location, destination and route
  • Flashlights, lanterns, and extra batteries: Without the use of electric lights, you will need a flashlight to see after dark. A lantern will help light up your tent to play games, read, or even just situate yourself when there is little or no daylight.
  • Box of matches: These will help you light a campfire. Your campfire will allow you to cook food, including the standard s’mores, as well as keep you warm during the late and early morning hours.


Be a responsible Firestarter
Be a responsible Firestarter
  • Utility knife: A utility knife, such as a Swiss Army Knife, is a necessary tool for any camper. You can easily keep it in your pocket and have with you a knife, scissors, screwdriver, and even a corkscrew in the event of a wine bottle emergency.
  • All-weather clothes: It is best to pack clothes for multiple seasons. While you may be warm during the day, you will want a warmer coat and layers during the night. Likewise, having a rain poncho or rain gear on hand will keep you prepared in the event of an unexpected thunderstorm.
  • Tarps: Tarps are useful for many things while camping. From giving you an added layer under your tent, to giving extra protection in the event of a storm, you can never have too many tarps on a camping trip.
  • Camping food: Having easy to prepare meals and snacks will keep your camping adventure simple. Remember to always lock your food in your car if possible at night to prevent wildlife from coming to visit you at night. Also include a means to cook it, including a pot or frying pan.
  • Personal medications: Don’t risk running out of an important medication in the middle of nowhere. Make sure you have what you need.
  • Trash bags: Never leave any garbage or debris in your camping area. It should look cleaner when you leave than when you found it.
  • Water: Bring large water bottles with you. You can use this for drinking as well as washing up, so having more is safer than less. Bringing iodine tablets to keep clean drinkable water is an excellent idea, in the event that you have to collect water from a local stream or lake.


water, water everywhere… Sip, sip.. Aaaaah
water, water everywhere… Sip, sip.. Aaaaah

There are plenty of other items that you may find essential for your first camping trip, but this list has all of the absolutely must haves.

The important thing to remember is that camping is meant to be enjoyed. Do not see it as a chore or exercise to make you miserable. If you go into it with the mindset that you will have an excellent time, then you are sure to enjoy your first camping trip.


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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.

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marion-fernandez is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival