Going camping is something I’ve done since I was too young to remember. My parents started taking us camping when my siblings and I were still in diapers. Camping in the great outdoors of Idaho, where I grew up, was the majority of what my family did for vacation. And I grew up to love everything about it.
Over the years, I have gleaned camping knowledge from my parents, friends, and my own experience as an adult. And when I say camping, I mean camping in a tent with no running water and only a fire or camp stove to cook on. There may or may not be a port-a-potty nearby for relief. If you are the “glamping” (aka. glam camping, pampered camping, type of person, which I have no problem with and love to do from time to time), this post is only slightly for you. This post is meant mostly for those who are new to hard-core tent camping. Either way, I hope you glean some helpful tips to make your camping experience a huge success!
For a solid camping experience, you’ll want to focus on the following six categories, or you probably won’t want to go camping again: gear must-haves, meals, clothing, fire safety, hiking/outdoor safety and tips, and tips for after you get home.
- Make sure you have a good tent with a rain cover.
- Camping chairs for sitting around the fire or anywhere else. Some camp sites don’t have picnic tables to sit at.
- An air mattress or sleeping pads to make sleeping on the ground more comfortable. Buy a good air mattress with an automatic pump you can plug into your car.
- A sun canopy to put over your eating/sitting area on hot or rainy days
- Prepare as much of the food at home as you can. Cook your main meals ahead of time so all you have to do if heat everything up. Fires can be very temperamental for cooking with, so everything will take much longer to heat up.
- Cut vegetables and fruit at home to save time.
- To keep things colder in your cooler longer, fill old water bottles 3/4 full and freeze. Place in your cooler with all the perishable food. Your food will keep a lot longer than just using loose ice.
- Buy a large water jug at the grocery store, one with a pull-out spout for easy water access. This will make washing dishes, hands, and toothbrushes so much easier.
***How to do camp food during a fire ban:
Although fire bans are no fun, it is still possible to enjoy your camping trip. Last summer, my husband and I went camping near Pikes Peak during a stage 3 fire ban. A stage three fire ban means you can’t have any wood-burning fires, charcoal grills, or gas camp stoves. Pretty much any source of heat is banned because the fire risk is so high. At first, I was really bummed. Because what is camping without s’mores???
But I soon saw that camping could still be fun without a fire. Instead of packing food that needed to be heated up, I packed picnic style foods, like sandwiches, chips and dip, cut up veggies and fruit, and muffins for breakfast. It ended up being really nice because of less time involved cooking and less clean up. We had more time to hike and to nap! Win, win! So next time you camp during a fire ban (which happens a lot in Colorado), whip out your favorite salad recipes. Have fun and create a fancy sandwich bar! It really isn’t so bad after all.
- Be prepared for all temperatures and any kind of weather.
- Invest in long underwear for sleeping and night hiking.
- Invest in good hiking shoes or sandals.
- Layers, layers, layers. It’s easier to remove a layer than to add a layer you don’t have.
- Invest in a good sun hat for hiking.
- Long shirts and long pants will protect you even more from ticks and other pests.
Camp Fire Safety:
- In many areas of the country, fire safety is a big deal because of the high risk of forest fires in the summer. Colorado is one of those areas.
- Watch for sparks that fly out from the fire pit. Put out immediately with dirt or water.
- Never leave a fire unattended.
- When putting out a fire, drench it completely with buckets of water until the fire is completely out.
Hiking/Outdoor Safety and Tips:
- Always tell a few people where you are hiking and for how long in case of an emergency.
- Bring plenty of food and water.
- Bring binoculars for viewing wildlife from a distance.
- Prepare for all types of weather.
- Leave wildlife alone. It’s not worth trying to get close.
- Enjoy the plants, trees, and scenery, but please leave it the way you found it.
- Put on bug spray that contains DEET. Ticks are very common in wooded areas and carry diseases that can take years to recover from.
After You Get Home:
- Air out your tent, rain covers, and any other gear that is damp.
- Wash all your camping dishes and utensils in the dishwasher to sanitize.
- Wash clothing on a high temperature or sanitize setting in case ticks, spiders, and other pests caught a ride home.
- Take a shower, watch your favorite show, enjoy sleeping in a real bed, and pat yourself on the back for surviving your camping experience!