Camping 101: A Complete Guide - NaturesPlus Accessibility Notice

Camping 101: A Complete Guide

Camping is an excellent way to escape your busy life, unplug and bond with the people you love. A camping trip is also an appealing vacation idea if you are looking to explore the great outdoors. Before you head out on a camping trip, there are a few things you should know.

Pick the Right Campsite

A park will likely designate campsites with spaces to pitch tents and build campfires. In the backwoods, it's important to choose camping sites that have a minimal impact on the environment.

Michael Hodgson, author of Camping for Dummies (For Dummies), suggests "looking for sites that are away from trails as well as streams and other bodies of water, and away from meadows and other places where there is a lot of flora and fauna."

A gravel surface or area of packed dirt is a great place to set up a tent.

What Type of Tent and Sleeping Bag Should You Bring?

There are countless options on the market, so how do you know which are good quality and which are not?

When buying a tent, look for lightweight, yet durable, materials. You want a tent that won't rip and is easy to transport. Also, don't underestimate the size you will need; it's better to purchase something too big than too small.

Practice setting up your new tent before bringing it to a campsite. The last thing you want is to try reading directions in twilight at the end of a long day's hike.

As far as sleeping bags are concerned, make sure whatever you pick is suitable for the time of year. Three-season sleeping bags are designed for every season besides winter. They are not too warm, but not too cool.

You should also consider getting a sleeping pad or air mattress for additional comfort.

What Other Items Should You Bring When Camping?

When it comes to choosing camping gear, reusable dishes are worth the investment.

Instead of tossing paper plates into the campfire or hauling trash bags out of the wilderness, lightweight plates, bowls and cookware can be washed and stashed in a backpack until your next meal.

Biodegradable soaps and toiletries are the most eco-friendly options for washing dishes and cleaning up sweaty campers. Unlike conventional products with ingredients that can end up in streams, leach into soil and be harmful to wildlife, biodegradables have minimal impact on the environment.

Other equipment you should bring includes a first aid kit, knives and lighters.

How Much Food Should You Bring On a Camping Trip?

You must consider how long you will be away and how many people you need to feed. Once you've determined this, you can better meal prep and pack for your trip. Be sure to bring enough food for three meals a day, plus snacks for energy on the trail.

You don't want to over-pack though, since leftovers may not keep during the duration of your trip.

Consider simple options like soup, sandwiches and pasta. For dinner, think about preparing foil dinners that you can cook in a grill or over an open fire.

Staying Safe and Comfortable While Camping

To make your camping trip more fun than frantic, follow some simple safety tips.

Stay on the Trail

It might be tempting to venture off of marked trails to explore the backcountry...—but if you're a camping novice, that's not a good idea.

In addition to minimizing the likelihood that you'll get lost in the woods, staying on marked trails helps protect against erosion while keeping native plants and wildlife safe.

Your dog should stay on the trail, too: Letting dogs run through the woods can disturb or endanger wildlife and wreak havoc on tender plants. And make sure your dog is welcome; check before you go.

Build a Safe Campfire

For some campers, sitting around the campfire is an essential part of the wilderness experience.

Before gathering twigs and lighting a match, remember to use established fire pits and approved firewood (either wood purchased from the concession at the campground or dead limbs that have fallen on the ground).

Build your fire far from flammables, including trees, bushes and tents, and keep the fire contained. A small campfire is easier to control than a roaring bonfire.

Should You Bring Insect Repellent?

Yes. Bugs cannot be avoided when camping, but using insect repellent can help you avoid bug bites. You should especially use repellent at night to avoid mosquitos. Mosquito coils and citronella candles can also help.

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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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