Camping can be exciting, fun and relaxing but can quickly become the worst experience of your life if you don’t properly plan for it. What is one person's dream vacation is another's nightmare. In this post I talk about seven essentials that I bring/do for every camping trip that reduces my stress and any headaches that come up. These are my opinions, if you have any suggestions leave them in the comments below!
Having a first-aid kit is a necessity for any outdoor adventure.
The trip you're going on will determine what kind and size of kit that would be best to have. The kit you can get at your local pharmacy may be good if you're going to the local campground for the weekend but it won’t cut it if you're doing any sort of backcountry camping. The other thing to consider when looking at which kit to get is your skill level with first aid. It’s great to have a loaded first aid kit but if you don't know how to properly use the items in it, then it's useless. If you don’t have any experience with first aid I highly recommend taking a course to get educated.
Drinking water is something that can be glanced over or not even thought about when it comes to your packing list. In the 21st century it is one of those things that many people take for granted but it is necessary for everyone to survive. A lot of campgrounds do have water spickets to give campers access to clean drinking water. You need to check and see if the particular site you're staying at has water or if there is a community spickets. If not you will have to bring water with you. I highly recommend reaching out to the campground you're staying at to see what the situation is regarding water before you book your site.
For me, having a good night's sleep is essential for any camping trip. The piece of sleeping gear that I hope I never forget is a sleeping pad/air mattress. If I'm car camping I tend to lean towards the double high mattresses (yes, I know I sound like an old person). The comfort is unbeatable but sometimes you do end up in an air mattress taco if it loses air overnight. A mattress pad is also a good option if you're going to an area that doesn't have electricity to run the air pump or an air mattress just isn't feasible. I prefer the closed foam or the ones that you can blow up like a balloon over the standard roll of foam.
Sleeping bags can be broken down into two major categories: rectangle or mummy style. Both are great and do the job; it mostly comes down to personal preference and what kind of camping you're doing. In the summertime I usually opt for the rectangle and use it as a giant comforter and in the spring and fall I use the mummy since I feel as if it keeps you warmer. At the end of the day choose whichever one is in your budget and is rated for the weather you're camping in.
For a lot of people this can be one of the most stressful parts, How am I going to cook it?, What are we going to have? In all honesty this is my favorite part of camping. You can either keep it very simple or you can go all out with it. With my family we go all out! We would always cook over an over fire, with all sorts of different dishes; brisket, lobster, chicken etc. It is A LOT of work, but there is nothing like a dinner over an open fire.
You can also make it very simple. Some trips we only cooked using hobo pie irons or had hot dogs and hamburgers. You may want to spend more time relaxing than you do cooking. Food with camping can be whatever you want it to be. Figure out what kind of trip you want to have and plan around it.
When people think of camping they imagine a tent out in the middle of woods away from everyone. Tent camping is how I personally like to camp. The simplicity of it is what I love the most. One thing you don’t want to forget with a tent is a ground cloth. I put this down under the tent to have another waterproof barrier between the ground and myself. I typically will bring a tent and some sort of pop-up canopy. These are the same pop-up canopies you use for kids sporting events or at tailgates. They’re perfect for shade and getting out of the rain without running into your tent. While that's how a lot of people camp every year, it is not the only way you can do it. Many campgrounds do offer cabins for rent. If you're new to camping, it can be a great way to start without investing in all of the gear that comes with tent camping. It is more expensive to rent a cabin vs. a tent site, but you have more modern amenities than you would with a tent site and you don’t need all of the gear..
No matter how much you prepare for any trip, inevitably something will go wrong. Whether it's a tent pole breaking or a never ending rain storm it's always best to have a backup plan. Whenever I go camping I bring a kit that has basic tools to make repairs to any gear that breaks. It doesn’t have to be the size of grandpa’s toolbox but it should have things that will repair the gear you do have.