Would you like to go camping, but not quite sure where to start? This guide on How to Camp in the Outdoors provides you with the basics on how to have an amazing camping experience. We’ll look at what you need to be prepared, choosing your location, using the correct tent, and more!
Prepare Your Camping Checklist
Having a checklist is the foundation of ensuring that you will have everything you need for a great time in the woods. Nothing is worse than spending all that time getting prepared, and then to arrive and realize you forgot something. I recently went camping with my kids to Sedona and this is exactly what I did. I had a short amount of time and bypassed my checklist. It doesn’t matter how much time I have- from this point forward, I will not be going with using a checklist.
You need the necessities such as bedding, food and clothing, toiletries and kitchenware to name a few. It can be difficult to keep track of the numerous items that are needed- a well-organized checklist can make this task a lot less daunting.
Step 1: Type the master checklist on your computer- then add or remove items from this last as necessary. As you take more camping trips, you will surely add more items to this list. If you hand write the list, be sure to categorize and organize the list with clear headings such as toiletries, first aid kit, camping gear, and so on.
Your list should definitely include the basics such as toilet paper, feminine products, sun screen, and a mirror in addition to your basic toiletries. To save space, pack items like this compact make up case on your trip.
Step 2: As you are writing your list, in your mind go through your house. For example, start with your kitchen and think about everything you will need and then move on to the bedroom, etc. noting what you want to bring.
Step 3: As you start to gather the items, keep them organized in your chosen container(s). I personally like to use totes for the majority of my camping gear. I have even kept my clothes and toiletries packed in them. I can get to my stuff easier, each bin can be clearly labeled, and they pack nicely into the bed of my truck.
Step 4: Finally, be sure to check off each item as you pack. You don’t want to go through all that hard work of being organized to end up forgetting something.
On a personal note, the first four items I always pack include the tent, sleeping bags, pillows, and sleeping pads. It would suck really bad to arrive in camp to realize you forgot any of these items.
Also, don’t forget to pack the equipment you’ll need for hiking, fishing, or whatever else you want to do during the stay. Naturally, the right type of clothes and enough food and water is implied. If you’re a beginner, don’t underestimate your water needs!
When it comes to equipment, you also need to bring the right protection for the weather. You need some survival gear, i.e., lighter, knife, a pot, a portable oven, and a first aid kit in case of an emergency. You can also bring some sunscreen if it’s summer and some insect repellent – because bugs can be a real nuisance in the woods.
To give you a great head start, here is a camping checklist from Wiki How.
Prepare Camping First Aid Kit
Whether you have kids or not, you should always take along a First Aid Kit. It is very important to be well prepared in case of any potential problems or even life threatening situations. Before you set out for your camping adventure, follow these instructions to assemble a safe, portable first aid kit.
The size you decide will depend on how it’s being used and how many people are on the camping trip. The container you decide on needs to be large enough for an adequate amount of supplies- but also lightweight and portable.
For camping, the ideal container will be waterproof that seals shut; try to refrain from using your backpack or a tote. Go for materials like tin, metal, and plastic. Remember to base what you use as a container on the number of people in your group and the length of your trip. If you’re comfortable designing the kit yourself, possible containers include:
- Food tins, Lunch & tackle boxes, and reusable or disposable food storage containers.
- A clear plastic bag with a zipper top
- First aid boxes from the Medical Corp
How to Stock Your First Aid Kit
Step 1: Add supplies to care for burns and wounds
It is important to be well prepared for accidents and have supplies ready in case someone in your party gets a wound or a burn.
- Antibiotic cream, e.g. PVP Iodine solution and/or ointment.
- Burn ointment
- Rubbing alcohol-use to clean items such as tweezers in case they’re needed for an injury
- Hydrogen Peroxide-3 % as a solution.
- Plastic vials with sterile NaCl 0,9% solution may be very helpful to clean dirty wounds or rinse the dirt out from the eyes.
- Bandages in various sizes and shapes, including butterfly bandages; these will hold the edge of a deep cut together, and triangular bandages to create slings or hold dressings.
- Blister pads
- Gauze pads
- Elastic bandages for wrapping sprains
- Moleskin (for blisters if you go hiking)
- Antiseptic wipes
Step 2- Get your Medical supplies together- These should be with your group at all times for necessary medical care.
- Antihistamines in case of an allergic reaction- e.g Hydrocortisone Cream as OTC
- Topical creams (antibiotic) to treat small surface wounds
- Medicine for gastrointestinal issues- anti-diarrhea medication or antacids
- Over the Counter, Medications to manage pain such as aspirin and ibuprofen
- Other prescription medications those in your camping group need
Step 3: The Tools- Just like a construction worker needs a good hammer- you need these tools with you to be ready for any emergency.
- Magnifying glass
- Safety pins
- Duct tape
- Needle with thread, in the event repairs, are needed
- Medical gloves, which are needed for handling unsanitary materials
- Waterproof matches and fire starter
- Water purification tablets, (in case you run out of water) and need to use stream or lake water
- Small-edge razor blade
- Fingernail clippers
- Emergency blanket, – this is a reflective blanket which is great to have if temperatures drop dangerously low or if you get wet
Step 4: Take a variety of sprays and creams. This may seem like overkill so far- but it’s better to be safe than sorry. These creams and ointments listed below will more than likely come in handy as well.
- Anti-itch creams or sprays- Will help relieve itching and pain from bug bites and contact with poisonous plants
- Burn relief sprays
- Petroleum jelly
- Lip balm
Step 5: Miscellaneous and Special circumstances -These are additional items that you may want to bring based on your families’ needs.
- Epi-pen, if you or someone else in your family can have massive allergic reactions. I take an Epi-Pen with me wherever I go because my son is allergic to Peanut Butter.
- Snake-bite kit (If they are present where you are camping or hiking)
- Dog boots- If you go hiking with your dog these can protect their feet
- Baby wipes- These are a life saver for me when I’m camping with my family!
- Anti-chafing of anti-friction cream
If you are car camping or using an RV, you should also consider getting a car emergency kit which you can find online or in camping stores. These kits include essentials such as bungee cords, spark plugs, and cable ties in the event of an automobile emergency.
Choosing Your Camp Location
In the beautiful state of AZ, we have many options to choose from for camping bliss. There are sites galore available with the Bureau of Land Management, Wildlife Preserves, State and County Parks.
Here are some helpful tips to making sure you have the best experience possible.
First, you must decide if you want to stay in a designated camping area with additional amenities or camp somewhere that is more remote. By camping in a remote location -keep in mind that you won’t have access to vault toilets, picnic tables, etc.
- If you are new to camping or don’t want to completely rough it, then it may be best to choose a campground that has more amenities. National Parks and Forests are great choices for newbie campers providing showers, picnic tables, established fire pits, and sometimes even a place for you to do laundry.
- Think about staying in a cabin- this can be a place where you compromise if you have someone in your family that doesn’t like to tent camp. For example, the cabins at the AZ State Parks have AC, heating, and electricity.
- The time of year will also determine where you camp. You may want to set up near a river or lake if it’s summer, or deep in the woods if it’s the colder season.
- Want to explore the area while you’re camping? Again- make sure you check out the towns that surround your camping spot. Lake Havasu State Park- (Near Vegas) has several amazing nearby attractions including the London Bridge and the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge. The same goes for recreation- if you like to ride horses, then score a camping site that is located near an area that has Trail Rides.
- Do you have a pet dog that you want to bring along? Make sure the campground/camping site is pet-friendly.
Make Camping Reservations
There are several government agencies in AZ that run the Public Campgrounds in AZ. These include the National Park Service (NPS), the USDA Forest Service (USDAFS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Arizona maintains some campgrounds through the State Park System and there are also campgrounds managed by the County and City.
One of the best resources I know of to find and book campgrounds is through Recreation.gov. This website is a plethora of information on the National Forest, National Parks, and BLM Campgrounds, costs, booking details, and directions.
For example, once you go to this site, you will do a search for National Forest, (your state), fill in the dates and then booking type. This will take you to all of the National Forest land that is available for camping in your state.
From Recreation.gov, I also did a search for BLM, Forest Service, and National Park Service in AZ. It brought up specific campgrounds for each one throughout the State of Arizona.
Bureau of Land Management/ Long Term Visitor
If you are looking to camp for an extended period of time (longer than the common 14 days), then the Long Term Visitor Area may be what you are looking for. These campgrounds can be found through the BLM website
At the time of this writing, there are only 12 States that have this option!
Popular places fill up quickly so call way in advance to book. For example, Sedona campsites fill up quicker than probably any other camping sites in AZ.
Selecting your Tent
There are so many different tents on the market, that it can be difficult to choose what type of tent you should bring. The two main categories of tents are three season and four season. The three season tents are designed for spring, summer, and fall. The Four season tents are made for camping in freezing temperatures, high winds and the wet snow. If you plan on refraining from camping during the winter, then you are best off sticking with the three season tent.
The five components of a tent include: The tent, rainfly, vestibule mat, tarp or footprint and the vestibule.
Here are some different options based on the weather, number of people you are camping with, and the ease of set up.
Is there a chance of rain during your camping trip? Be sure to buy the tent that has a sturdy rain fly is has water resistant wall material. This rain fly is a canopy that will drape over your entire tent, and then will be tied off with bungees and guylines.
You can also achieve this with a special waterproof tarp, which will enable you to protect your tent from excessive water. Some tents actually feature special features, such as tent porches. These are particularly awesome if you are planning on storing wet items without necessarily leaving theme just in the dirt.
Number of People
Besides the weather condition, it is also important to consider your particular situation. How many people are traveling with you? If you are on your own, you should definitely consider selecting a tent which will not require too much effort.
An A frame tent is quite durable and incredibly easy to set up. While these tents are often not the best to protect yourself against strong winds, they actually have many amazing practical benefits. Their assembly is quite easy, and their frame reminds of the shape of the letter A when they’re all set up, hence the name they’re known as!
Although these tents are commonly not great at waterproofing, but you can always add a waterproof tarp to maximize their efficiency. If you seek other solutions with more stability, you can also consider modified A-frame models, which usually offer rain fly protection, as well as additional features.
If you are looking for a tent that’s capable of housing more people, you should definitely look into dome tents instead. These particular tents are quite amazing if you want to share with another person, and they are usually regarded as an amazing option, due to their durability and great design. In fact, they’re often known as “workhorse” tents, due to their broad roofs and amazing frames.
Dome tents are known for their stability, and they are usually free-standing. This brings the benefit of being able to move them around once they’re assembled, so you can actually change where they are placed if you so desire. Dome tents can be quite essential, or even extremely luxurious. In fact, some of the top tier offerings in this category even go as far as offering separate rooms, porches, and other fantastic amenities.
Material of the Tent
While there are many quality materials out there, some might be more suitable than others when it comes to a certain application. For example, canvas tents are actually very durable, but they are also really heavy to carry, and they might not work that well in rainy situations. In addition to that, nylon is quite light, which makes it easier to carry on your own. Having said that, it is not too strong against extreme wind, so it might not offer the most solid protection.
Polyester works really well in hot weather, and in fact, it is actually designed to maximize stability and durability when it is really, really hot. Regardless of the material you might end up choosing, it’s important to check out the design and sturdiness of your tent. Is it durable enough to serve your needs? In addition to the build canvas, you will be able to also ensure the quality of other components, including the pegs, fastenings, and more. You are going to want your tent to be as reliable and sturdy as possible, so it can serve you well under many circumstances.
Ease of Set Up
If you do not want to spend time mounting a tent or you prefer something that does not need excessive set up, you should consider a pop-up tent. As their name might suggest, these tents are already set up, so all you need to do is to simply unpack them and staple them to the ground. They will usually bring some more features to the table, and they are easy to use. On the other hand, because of design necessities, these are usually rather small tents, suitable for smaller adults or children. If you are going to opt for a pop-up tent, you will enjoy the ease of assembly, but you should be ready to accept the fact that you simply won’t be able to enjoy as much space!
I have used my pop up tent when the weather forecast calls for sunshine- and we’re camping just one night. It’s so easy my kids can set it up within minutes. My pop up is fairly little- but it fits the three of us in there comfortably.
Camp Set Up
When you first arrive, the first thing to do of course is to get everything set up so you can enjoy yourself asap. Ideally, you get to your campsite while the sun is still up! This is a good time to enlist the help of your kids before they scurry off to play. Have them help unload the car and turn it into a game.
The main areas to set up include the Water Supply, Stove and Washing Station, Cooler, Fire Ring, Main Tent, (and play tent if you don’t want your kids rough housing in the main tent).
If you are in an established campground, then your general configuration is pretty much set. You’ll have the fire ring, picnic tables, and the tent pads. You will still need to consider where to set up the camp kitchen and cleaning station, and the camp chairs.
I like to set up a separate table as well just for my kids to play cards and board games.
Here are some additional pointers on setting up camp:
- If you are in the backcountry with no established sites-be sure to set up at least two hundred feet from streams and lakes. If you do have little ones and you camp near water, be sure to always have them under adult supervision.
- If you are camping on a slight incline then position your sleeping bags parallel to the incline so your head is higher than your feet. Look for an area that has a nice bed of pine needles (when applicable) and free from rocks and grass knolls.
- Do not pitch your tent in ravines, dried creek beds, etc. Always look for the higher ground to avoid potential flood waters or pools of water around your tent.
- Position your items in a practical manner. Place tents away from fire sources and close to water sources, store food in easily accessible but safe areas, and keep safety materials like flashlights and first aid kits in every tent.
- For the camp kitchen, the first consideration is the location of your tent. You want the kitchen to be as far away from the tent as possible. If there are bears in the area, this should reduce the likelihood of them going into your camp for food.
- Use the Triangle method for your camp kitchen: Create a work triangle between the cooler, camp stove, and the sink area. If possible, make this triangle near the counter space (in camp this is the picnic table). If there isn’t a picnic table, look for a place that is free of leaves and grass, and is a flat patch of dirt or rock.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Having the right amount of food and drinks is one of the most important and essential elements of a successful camping trip. What’s really important is to consider how many days you are going to be out for camping. Do you prefer to cook or have the easiest meal format possible? Are you going to be able to use any kitchen facility or other supply, or are you going to be in a very remote location? Depending on your needs and situation, you should be able to plan accordingly for best results.
Don’t forget to look up easy camping recipes and cooking methods, so you can enjoy some healthy, yet delicious foods that will keep you energized throughout your camping trip, without compromising in terms of comfort and flavor.
In the end, always make sure you keep your food safely stored, or some wild animals might leave you hungry. Also, don’t keep the food too close to your tent.
One of my favorite camping T-shirts read, “Camping- Where you Spend a Small Fortune to Live Like a Homeless Person”. I realized after writing this just how true this is. You pack up a small percentage of your home to go stay in the woods. Perhaps I’m a bit strange- but I prefer staying in a tent over my own bed. Waking up to the fresh smell of the forest or the wolves howling is something I now crave. It might seem like a lot of work initially-but it’s all worthwhile once you get unpacked and settled.
If there’s still something that you need to know, feel free to ask us anytime for any info or tips. Have something you’d like to add? Please leave your comments below!