Camping for the first time can be both exciting and overwhelming.
You are definitely asking yourself a lot of questions: “What should I bring?” “What should I wear?” “Are first-aid kits really that important? What even goes into them?”
Don’t worry! We will go over all that and more so you can put your mind at ease and relax in your nature paradise.
So what should you bring for your first time camping? When camping for the first time it is important to bring, shelter, food and water. There are also other things to bring that you may not consider, such as, flash lights, first aid kits, tools for building a campfire and toilettries. These are the most basic items that you should never forget and we will walk you through each one.
Basic packing list for newbie campers
Before we touch on clothes, first aid kits, and extras to double your fun, you need to know what basic camping gear every first-timer needs to stay secure and happy on their woodsy vacation!
Obviously, the first thing any camper needs is a shelter whether they’re a newbie or not! How else are you supposed to keep from being exposed to the elements and creepy critters lurking out there? There are several different tents available to choose from based on three factors: your budget, the size of your party, and where you’ll be camping. Here are some examples and how they fit into the three!
- ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person Tent: $84.99 on Amazon.
This cozy little shelter is easy to set up, water resistant, and has storage compartments built in! It is one of the most highly rated tents on Amazon. J. Quinones says, “Listen here my fellow campers. I am one of those people that does extensive research before making any purchase so that I am sure its what I want, and I don’t end up spending 100+ dollars on something I will regret later.
I was so happy with this purchase, I am not sure where to start explaining. I’ve camped probably 8 times with this tent since I’ve bought it, from Desert heat in the Mojave to Snow in the Sequoias, even really windy conditions at the top of some ridges, even rain and hail storms. This tent has not only held up great, but its kept me really dry.” Based on this person’s testimony, it can withstand all types of climates!
- Coleman Sundome 2-Person Dome Tent: $39 on Amazon.
If you plan to camp with a friend or partner, this may be the right tent for you! This one is also easy to set up, waterproof, and it has vents for those stuffy nights. User Eskimoose reviews, “This tent is inexpensive, lightweight, easy to erect, and does it’s job quite well.
It assembles in about 3 to 5 minutes (if you’ve done it once or twice). The instructions are a perfect guide if you cannot remember the 3 easy steps.CAMPING IN THE RAIN: So I went on my first camping trip with it this past weekend and I was caught in an off-and-on torrential downpour from 10 PM at night through 9 AM the next morning and guess what?
I stayed completely dry and slept very well. I did forget to zip the small electrical cord opening shut for the first few hours and the sideways rain got a few drops in there until I realized it and zipped it tight. I left the vent windows open during the entire storm and had zero issues with water.
- Coleman Instant Cabin: $179.99 on Amazon.
If you are bringing along a very large group, say 6 people maybe, this tent is spacious enough for all of you! The company claims that setup only takes 1 minute; what’s easier than that? This one is also waterproof.
It may seem pricey, but it’s relatively affordable compared to other big name brands! Daniel Miller has great things to say about it, based on his review. “It’s comfortable for a full size plus a twin sized air mattress. It sets up and takes down very easily – sets up in less than two minutes with one person, and less than five minutes to get it stuffed into the carrying bag.
It fits in my subcompact car. It stayed dry through 5 straight hours of heavy rain. Too heavy to hike any real distance with, but excellent for car camping with kids.”
If you need any extra help, there are so many guides online that you’ll find what you need in no time! Try this one: Best Camping Tents of 2018
A tent will shelter you from the chilly temperatures at night, but you’ll be extra cozy in a sleeping bag! Choosing the right one for you is not as simple as you’d think; that’s why I am here to help! Let’s go over the different types and some examples of each.
This is the standard shape for a sleeping bag; you may already be fairly familiar with it! It’s roomy and large so that all types of bodies can fit.
However, it may not serve you best when it comes to colder temperatures. The downside to more room is that the bag cannot retain your body heat as well as a smaller model.
This one is highly rated and perfect for you if you plan to camp during summer or autumn.
If you and your honey want a weekend getaway together, don’t sacrifice your cuddle time — get a double-wide sleeping bag!
With two people, you will have no problem retaining that body heat on cool nights.
This model is lightweight and waterproof as an added bonus!
- Mummy shaped
If you want to stay cozy and mobile at the same time, maybe a body shaped sleeping bag is a good option for your camping needs! You can stargaze without sacrificing comfort now.
Visit this site for more information.
There are plenty of models out there, but the ones not listed would be suited better for experienced campers and backpackers. Stick to these, and you can’t go wrong!
We have some great articles about sleeping bags, you should try this one- Staying Warm In A Sleeping Bag (Easy guide and charts )
Flashlights and lanterns
Once the sun sets over the horizon, you may find yourself fumbling about on the way to the latrine or tripping over your friends trying to find the tent. Always bring a flashlight or lantern for safety!
The Thrifty Outdoors Man has compiled a list of the best flashlights for the occasion here. My personal pick would have to be the Anker LC90 LED Flashlight! Here’s what the Outdoors Man has to say about it:
“This is one of the highest rated flashlights on Amazon. The reason for the popularity would have to be the extremely bright CREE LED that has five different settings: low, medium, high, SOS and strobe. You can also control the “zoom,” making the beam wide or narrow. The max distance is 1000 feet, and the 900 Lumen sweep can span two football fields.
Furthermore, you get up to 6 hours of non-diminishing brightness per charge on the battery. The battery is rechargeable, the body is IP65-rated waterproof and very durable, and the beam is more than powerful. You can’t go wrong with this flashlight for your next camping trip.”
Food and storage containers
Everyone has to eat! Foraging for berries and hunting wild animals is dangerous and probably prohibited at an established campsite. You need to bring food that won’t spoil and containers to store it in after you are done.
The smartest choice is to bring along food that will last for the entire trip. Here are some fail-proof foods that will give you all the nutrients you need!
- Meat is the main source of protein for most people, and protein is vital to the body for producing hormones and healing injuries. Jerky won’t spoil as fast as lunch meat will. You can choose from a wide variety of flavors, and you can find packs of jerky at nearly any grocery store!
- Granola bars. Most of these bars are made of oats, fruit, and nuts. Oats provide fiber and iron, fruits are healthy sugars with vitamins, and nuts are also an excellent way to get in your protein for the day!
- Peanut butter. More protein, of course! Peanut butter is fairly rich in carbohydrates, the building blocks of energy in a human body.
- Dried fruit. This is a way to take in some natural sweetness and the vitamins you need on the daily! Unlike hydrated fruit, these won’t spoil. Just be careful when bringing the prunes; while a good source of fiber, they’ll send you back and forth to the bathroom all day.
Food and drink storage
Obviously, man cannot live on non-perishables alone. None of the aforementioned items are suitable for an entire meal, so you need to store your perishable foods in airtight containers and keep them cool. Here’s how:
- The simplest way to keep food cold is with a cooler! They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, depending on what you need to store and for how long. The Coleman® 28qt C-Tec Performance Wheeled Cooler holds around 40 cans of liquid and retains its chill for up to 3 days. It has wheels and a handle, perfect for a weekend trip! Just remember to bring the ice.
- Meal prep containers. These come with airtight lids, making them great for storing leftovers! Try the Rubbermaid 28 piece set.
- Gallon jugs. Water is essential for camping trips. Soda cannot hydrate you, and you may pass out or suffer heatstroke if you aren’t careful to bring plenty of water.
Filling gallon jugs with it before you leave home will save you the trouble of lugging single-use plastic bottles along.
It helps the environment, too! It is recommended that you intake one gallon of water every day to maintain your health. These can be found at any grocery store near you!
- Reusable water bottles. Single-use plastics are destroying the environment; they often end up in our oceans, hurting marine animals who mistake these bottles for food. They end up in landfills instead of being recycled. That is why you should get a reusable water bottle for the trip! You reduce waste and have a neat, portable canteen everywhere you go. Who can say no to that? Take a look at these neat designs from Mashable’s list of 11 reusable bottles!
When you picture camping, what do you see? Most people tend to picture friends telling stories around a campfire, making s’mores and laughing at stupid jokes. If you want that kind of experience, you need to know how to build a fire and what you may need to make the job easier as well as tips to keep you and everyone else safe.
First and foremost, you need to know whether your campsite allows fire-building or not. When you get the okay from the owners, keep in mind this safety etiquette:
- At an established campsite, build only in designated fire pits. The last thing anyone wants is for a fire to spin out of control and damage the land and endanger lives.
- Check your surroundings. If there is dry brush nearby or low hanging branches from trees, build somewhere else.
- Try to build over sand or gravel, not grass. Those materials do not easily catch on fire.
- Create a ring of stones around your chosen spot to contain the spread of the fire and flyaway embers.
- Always put a fire out if you plan to leave the site, even for a few minutes. Keeping someone around to monitor the flames is crucial.
Lighting a fire
- Gather wood, kindling, and tinder. Tinder is made up of dry leaves and twigs. Kindling is usually comprised of small sticks. Firewood should be dry.
- You can configure your materials in three ways for the desired outcome: pyramid, log cabin, and cone.
- The pyramid method is rather self-explanatory: build logs on the bottom, and pile them on top of each other with fewer logs as you near the top. On the highest point, arrange your kindling and tinder. The only thing to remember is to turn the wood 90 degrees at every layer.
- The log cabin method is similar to the pyramid, but you form a square instead and drop your tinder inside, building over it as you go.
- The cone method involves leaning pieces of kindling against each other in a triangular or cone-shaped fashion. Put your tinder underneath the kindling.
- Choose a fire starter and waterproof matches to light it up. Light the tinder and gently blow on it to spread the flames.
- After you are finished with your fire, extinguish it with water and make sure the ashes are cold before leaving.
- Clean up everything before you leave.
And there you have it! Building and dismantling a fire is easy; it only takes five steps and common sense safety rules.
First aid kits and how to assemble them
Now that we have most of the basics laid out, let’s go into the most essential list item of them all and what you need to have on hand when emergencies arise.
Basic first aid items
- The most vital item of all is a bandage; you are bound to get a scrape or scratch at some point, and you need to keep the wound sterile. Waterproof bandages are the best for camping, especially if you set up near a lake!
- Antibiotic ointment. Bring along a tube of Neosporin prevents wounds from getting infected, which can mean all the difference. Without it, a small injury may turn into a big disaster if nasty bacteria finds its way into your body.
- Distilled water. Cleansing any wound must be done with contaminant-free water. As I said, infections are no joke.
- Hand sanitizer. It is extremely important to keep your skin sterile when dealing with an injury or touching any sensitive areas. Germs spread quickly; kill them before they make you sick.
- Hydrogen peroxide is also an effective disinfectant. Pour a small amount over your scrapes to get out the yucky stuff like dirt and unclean water.
- Cotton balls. Use these to dab any area and cleanse it!
- Tweezers and scissors come in handy for cutting off anything restricting blood flow or removing a splinter.
- Cold packs are useful for reducing inflammation. Just pop them in the cooler and take them out to use on any bump or stiff muscle.
- If a member of your crew seems under the weather, definitely check for any signs of fever. A body can only stand so much heat before giving out.
- Pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can bring you back from the brink of packing up and going home over some cramps.
- Aloe vera and calamine lotion. For relief from sunburns and rashes, bring these on your trip!
- Epinephrine, or EpiPen. If anyone coming camping with you has a known allergy, pack one of these. It means the difference between life and death, seriously.
You can find a more comprehensive list on the Mayo Clinic’s website here.
Of course, first aid kits can also be bought pre-stocked at drug stores and on Amazon. This one comes highly rated and has 298 pieces for all of your needs!
Staying comfy and stylish
Everyone knows that you have to bring clothes, duh! (Well, maybe not if you’re a nudist.) For those of you who do prefer to stay covered up, you should know which clothes to bring and how many pairs per day.
Basic clothing items for camping
You shouldn’t just bring along any old thing while getting down and dirty in the great outdoors. Here are some examples of what NOT to pack:
- A skirt is not going to protect you from the elements or serve you well during strenuous activities like hiking. One gust of wind can send it flying upward, exposing your intimates for all to see. Would you rather be tugging it down all day, or would you prefer to keep your hands free for rock climbing and, well… anything else? The answer is obvious.
- Maxi dresses may keep your legs safe from brambles, but like skirts, they restrict the use of your limbs and make it far more difficult to do anything.
- Heels and sandals. Heels restrict movement and climbing ability, and sandals are only okay if you don’t plan to hike and would not mind ants stinging your feet.
Instead, you SHOULD pack these garments:
- Boots and sneakers. These shoes are way better suited for climbing, hiking, and overall just navigating the rough terrain nature has to offer. They also keep your feet from being bitten by bugs. One pair of each for camping offers a good balance.
- If you do plan on hiking while camping, wear pants instead of shorts. The denim of blue jeans will protect your legs from snarls in weeds, bugs that bite, and scrapes from falling. Just pick out the ones you wouldn’t mind getting dirty. For a three day trip, bring five pairs; you never know when you might need extras!
- Nights can get unexpectedly chilly, and storm clouds may decide to rain on your parade. Bring a jacket with a hood to keep you warm and dry. Bring two, just in case one soaks through and you need another.
- Keep your feet toasty and prevent your shoes from getting that gross, sweaty smell that lingers forever.
- Okay, this one is a no-brainer. Please don’t go commando in the woods. Bring two pairs for each day. You never know what might happen!
- I mean, obviously, right? Pick from a variety: tank tops, short sleeve, and a couple of long sleeved for all potential weather situations. Pack about two of each if you’re staying for three days.
- Pajamas, if you are into that sort of thing. These will make sure that you stay snug in your tent later.
You have almost everything packed up and ready to go, but wait! You can’t forget about the toiletries!
Nobody wants to smell your stinky morning breath all day, and I am fairly sure that you care at least a little bit about your personal hygiene. That is why you should carry these essentials and stay looking sharp:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Your campsite likely has shower stalls, so make sure to lather up in there. To save space, pour some into small bottles or just grab some of the cheap stuff from the aisle of minis at WalMart!
- Hair ties. If you have long hair, take a bag of these to keep it from obstructing your vision.
- Toilet paper. It is always good to have some handy, no matter where you pitch your tent.
- Dry shampoo. If you are a low-effort kind of person, pick up some dry shampoo and give your scalp a little spritz when it starts to get greasy.
- Be a good tent buddy and keep your pits smelling fresh.
Fun and games
Okay, now you are fully armed with vital items to make your trip go smoothly and keep you coming back for more later! You can officially start worrying about what you want to bring to have fun. Sure, hiking and stargazing are wonderful, but they only keep you occupied for so long. So what do you need to get more out of your experience? I’ll tell you!
- Play corn hole! The game has three pieces of equipment: two boards and some beanbags. This can be played with two people or two groups of two to four. Each team tosses four beanbags across the boards and tries to get the bags into the hole. The first team to get to 21 points wins! Find a set here.
- Take each other on in giant Jenga. Jenga is a well-known game where small planks of wood are stacked on top of each other and two or more people take turns sliding one out without toppling the tower. Whoever makes the tower fall loses! Buy the game
- Card games. A deck of cards is the most compact game equipment ever, and there are tons of ways to use them! You can even find themed ones like this Doctor Who
- Bring a good book. The ambiance the cracking and soft glow of a campfire provides puts one in the mood for reading. If you couldn’t concentrate before, you may be able to now!
- Group games that require no equipment like “never have I ever” or “two truths and a lie” can still be quite enjoyable! You get to learn more about your friends and family, and it keeps you all occupied.
Now you can head out the door with all of your fun, new things! Almost. One more thing to discuss before you go: camping safety.
Camping safety tips
- Keep an eye on the weather. Your first camping trip will not be a fun one if you head out during stormy weather. In fact, it could potentially be dangerous. Keep your eyes on the skies!
- Keep all electronics charged. You can’t check weather updates or get in touch with emergency services if all of your communication devices are dead. Buy a portable charger, maybe even a solar-powered one!
- Protect your skin from the sun. There is such a thing as sun poisoning and boy, is it gnarly. Wear sunglasses and hats, slather on sunscreen, and avoid lying out for too long. You also run the risk of developing skin cancer later in life if you ignore warnings like these.
- Be cautious of wildlife. Remember, you are in their home! Be respectful, but be alert. Call emergency services or a park ranger if things get dicey.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a seriously bad thing. The signs of dehydration are: feeling faint, dizzy, or fuzzy; passing dark urine; fainting. Again, call emergency services if symptoms get worse.
Now you are really ready; no more lectures from me! Have fun, be safe, and enjoy your time exploring Mother Nature!
Camping Packing List (Cold Weather, Hiking, Summer, All Types)
Camping Safety Guide (Camping, Hiking, Kids, Animals, Cold)
What to wear camping (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter)