With this Beginner’s Guide to Camping, you’ll know everything you need to take with you on your next (or first) camping trip!
We all have skills and I’m sure you can see from my blog what mine are and what I love to do.
But here’s a skill you probably would never think of me to possess: I’m an amazing camper.
Camping is really all we did for vacations as a family growing up. Then when I was in my early 20s, my guy at the time was obsessed with hiking and backpacking and somehow I was convinced to put a 40 lb backpack on my back and hike for 4 hours and camp on weekend trips. We spotted many bears on those trips! I’m so glad I went backpacking because it pushed me out of my comfort zone and pushed myself physically to reach goals I never thought I would accomplish. Like I said, I’m glad I did it but backpacking is not something I want to do now…especially with kids.
Here’s me backpacking!
(I’m so tired!)
Car camping, as I like to call it, is when you can take your car right to the campsite rather than backpacking. It’s a bit like glamping but I’m not fancy. This is basic camping but I do like to be comfortable and have what I’m used to.
Everyone thinks camping is a lot of work and don’t get me wrong, it is. But it’s actually fun and enjoyable with lots of preparation. In this day and age with all the technology surrounding us, I think it’s a must. There’s no better way of unplugging when you physically cannot plug into anything. You’ll be amazed how easily your kids will find a stick and a pile of dirt and play like we did when we grew up (you know, before iPads were invented).
I usually park in Provincial Parks. There is no electricity but they have bathrooms and showers available. We have some of the best camping here in BC and getting a spot along a lake is always the best.
For years I didn’t camp. We took the kids to nice hotels and swam in beautiful hotel pools. But I felt like I was doing them a disservice without at least giving them the outdoor experience at least once a year.
I’ll list step by step on what you need to take and at the end of the post I have a printable you can download and print off your printer.
So let’s get started on what you should take camping.
What You Need to Take Camping
First and foremost, you need a tent. When looking at the size of tent, I generally go for an 8 person tent (like in the photo) as that will fit 4 people nicely.
A thing to note with tents: when it says how many people it sleeps, imagine people lined up like soldiers sleeping shoulder to shoulder so you always want to double the number that is on the tent box. You’ll want more room than shoulder to shoulder!
The other thing I look for is a free-standing tent. This dome type tent is easy to put up. There are only two poles that criss cross and a fly (the top part that is like a tarp) and one pole. There is no need for hammering pegs into the ground although you certainly can if you like. If your tent requires pegs, then you’ll need people to hold up the tent while someone hammers in the pegs into the normally gravelly camping pad. Not fun. Free-standing is the way to go. They don’t usually have a lot of headroom but they are so easy to put up.
I hate sleeping in sleeping bags so I usually lay the sleeping bags flat over the air mattresses and bring an old comforter. I also bring an old set of sheets that are fitted to the air mattresses.
I make sure to bring a blanket to put underneath the air mattresses to prevent the air mattresses from moving when you turn over in the middle of the night.
I like everything to be ready to go when I go camping. I don’t want to take anything out of my kitchen at home because that’s when you’ll forget something.
If something needs to be replaced for the next season and I haven’t replaced it, I’ll leave myself a note in one of the bins.
A picnic table cover is always good to have as you never know the condition the picnic table will be in. I never bother with the clips that you can buy as the picnic table is always thicker than those clips.
My camping gear fits into 3 big plastic bins. I’ll pack 2 of the bins in the car and the other stuff from the third bin can fit around everything else.
I have a bin of air mattresses so you definitely don’t need to take this bin with you in the car.
I have one queen air mattress for my daughter and I and my son sleeps on a twin air mattress right next to us.
Here is the blanket I use for underneath the air mattresses.
You’ll want to make sure you have a camp stove that’s in good working order and some small propane tanks. Two or three propane tanks is usually all you need for a weekend.
And don’t worry, they are so easy to use. You screw the propane tank to the regulator and then the regulator into the stove itself, turn one of the burners to low and light a match under the burner.
I usually bring an assortment of lanterns: flashlights for each kid, an LED lantern and a large propane lantern. Small flashlights are good to keep on hand for the tent and walking to the bathroom.
If you can manage the camp stove, you’ll be able to handle the propane gas lantern no problem too.
Of course, bungee cords are good to keep on hand as well as rope (I mention more rope below in the post too).
Here is the lantern out of its carrying case.
The great thing about a propane lantern is that you can dim and brighten the light as needed. Great for playing cards at night but LED lanterns are also fine.
You should also keep some extra mantles in your camping gear too.
A cooler is a must. One with a bottle opener on the outside is also a bonus.
It doesn’t need to be stainless steel but I upgraded to this one last year.
Another must are folding camping chairs. The picnic table will be used as a food prep table most of the time so having somewhere else to sit is nice.
Make sure you have one chair for each person. There are so many cool chairs for kids.
Washing dishes can be a chore camping so I make sure I have enough supplies to make it enjoyable. When it’s sunny and the kids are playing, it can be fun to wash dishes outside.
I have a small bin with all the dish washing supplies in it. I use the bin as a sink which is perfect to bring it altogether.
Actually I have three sinks and I either bring all of them or just two of them depending on how long the trip is.
That round plastic bin at the bottom right corner of the photo is the best for a sink but it’s a bit bulky to pack. I found it at a dollar store years ago.
The middle sink folds so it’s easy to pop into one of the bins.
You’ll definitely want to get Campsuds. It’s an environmentally friendly soap and you can use it for washing yourself in the lake too.
My kids go swimming in the lake the whole time we’re camping so right before dinner I’ll wash them up with this soap in the lake and that’s their bath!
I bring a plastic scrubby thing and an SOS pad for extra cleaning.
I also buy a bunch of tea towels and dish cloths from the dollar store and add them to my camping bins.
Here is everything I need for cooking. Depending on what you’re cooking, I like a couple of pans and pots. This enamelware camp set I’ve had for years. They are durable and easy to clean.
- 2 frying pans
- 3 pots – 2 small, 1 large
- 1 kettle
- 4 enamelware plates
- 4 enamelware bowls
- 4 enamelware mugs
- 1 strainer
- paper plates
I always bring paper plates and use those the majority of the time. It’s easy just to use them and dispose of them. But if you’re cooking things like steak and corn on the cob, I always prefer my enamelware plates so just something to keep in mind.
Here is everything I bring for utensils. I like using these thick plastic knives, forks and spoons as they are much sturdier to use than disposable plastic cutlery and not as heavy or expensive as regular flatware.
- thick plastic or stainless steel knives, forks and spoons
- wooden spoon
- large plastic spoon
- wine opener
- can opener
- multi-functional scissors
- steak knives (safely wrapped)
- paring knife (safely wrapped)
- camping tool (like a swiss army knife)
Because I’ll forget to bring my hammer from home, I always leave this plastic mallet in the camping bins along with lots of twine and rope, clothespins, mirror with stand (trust me, it will come in handy), mesh utility bags, small broom and dustpan for inside tent.
You’ll definitely want to hang towels and tea towels to dry on a clothesline. Bring rope to tie around two trees.
I also have specific towels I take camping. I’ve had to mop up picnic tables and such from rain so I always make sure to bring a bunch of older or cheap towels.
A fire log is a great way to start a camp fire. I don’t always use one but if it’s been raining it’s a great thing to keep on hand.
I have a plastic sealed bag with matches and waterproof matches, I keep garbage bags, large and small plastic storage bags for leftover food and 100 other reasons and aluminum foil for BBQ over the campfire.
Make sure to buy these for your camping bins so you don’t have to take them from your kitchen.
Most important: toilet paper! Also be sure to have paper towels, a pump for your air mattresses (I have one that hooks up to your car cigarette lighter for easy blow up), mesh food cover, cards and games.
I always keep these foldable zipped bags from the dollar store in my camping bins to transport the food in.
Some things I didn’t take a photo of is an ax, a hatchet, newspaper for starting a fire, fire sticks for roasting marshmallows and hot dogs and a roasting cage. This is perfect for BBQ chicken or steak over the open fire.
You’ll also want to bring lifejackets, floatable toys and possibly water shoes if you are camping near a lake.
And one of the most important thing not to forget is bug repellent!
I’ll share with you what how to set up your camp site and what you should bring for food for easy camping preparation in the next two weeks!
Make sure to download your FREE camping supply list printable:
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