photo by Greg Rosenke

Preparing for a camping trip is a series of tests of one’s organizational, problem solving skills and will. In our eyes, you are faced with 3 major tasks once a campsite is booked. First, you have to gather all the necessary camping gear for your trip. Second, you have to fit everything you put together into your mode of transportation. Third, you have to set up/take down/reload everything into your vehicle again. Not to mention you have to clean and put away all the gear after you get home.

It’s not our intend to discourage you from camping with the above statement. It’s quite the opposite. The fact you are at this website tells us you have the most important factor: your will, to plan and camp outdoors. So instead of sugar-coating it, we will be upfront about what you may expect from a camping trip from start to finish. We will share some key considerations that would make a good camping trip for someone who is new to camping.

#1 The Smaell Dilemma

We were once 1st time campers. Before our 1st camping trip, not everyone in the family was on board using public washrooms for a few days. The worry is not entirely unwarranted. Depending on your timing, even high-end establishments will have soiled public bathroom stalls if you happen to enter at the wrong time (right after someone left a mess). What we are trying to say is, a campground washroom is not that much worse if you don’t run into someone’s ignorance.

However, no matter how clean the stall is, we prefer not to choose a campground with just pit toilets. Long story short, one summer, all the closest campground with showers and flush toilets were fully booked. We found a campground with pit toilets only, no showers and it was 3 hours away (our comfort zone is 90 minutes). The scenery was spectacular but doing our businesses in pit toilets for several days and nights without a showering facility was not. We did not feel fresh although we wiped ourselves down with cleaning wipes and used dry shampoo. After that trip, we decided we would only camp at a campground with showers and flush toilets. Let’s just say we had the will but could not overcome the pit toilet and the smell of ourselves. Story above is strictly personal but definitely a key consideration that may improve the comfort of your camping experience.

#2 Tips for Packing

Let’s go over the first task, packing. Our advice is simple: start packing early, get a good camping checklist and figure out what would fit inside your vehicle. There are many items from home you will pack for the trip. And packing early will yield more time to buy or borrow gears that you don’t have. It’s not unusual for some camping gear to be sold out especially during the summer months.

As for the camping checklist, use ours as a guide and make it your own because your definition of a good camping trip will not be the same as ours. Also, does your vehicle have enough room to fit all the camping gear you plan to bring? Have a dry run loading your vehicle with empty cooler and larger gear. This way, you have a rough idea how much room you have left and could plan accordingly. It’s not a good idea to find out you can’t fit everything into your vehicle on the day of departure.

Lastly, you must pack warm clothing regardless where you are camping. Two main reasons to dress warmly are: 1) Weather forecast is just a forecast and it could change any minute. 2) In some regions, night time temperature could be 20°C/68°F lower than daytime. In cooler regions, toques, hoodies, vests, and thick socks are highly recommended. There is no quicker way to ruin your camping experience when your focus is on keeping yourself warm. It is better to overpack warm clothing than under-dressed.

#3 Campsite Setup/Activities

So you are finally on your way to the campsite. The best advice is to enjoy the drive to the campground and not to overthink what you may have forgotten to bring. Since you are not camping in the backcountry, all the stores will still be within reasonable driving distance. Some campgrounds will have stores that specifically sell items which campers often forget to bring.

After checking in at the campground, it is time to set up your mini-home away from home. Below is a quick overview of how we would set it up.

  • Build a shade tarp (completely optional but it will provide shade and rain protection if applicable)
  • Erect the tent
  • Set up a cooking station

We would love to give you every detail about setting up your campsite but that would make this article painfully long. Instead, check out items under “Camping Gear & Tips” on the right or below this article for tips about setting up your campsite. Once all setup, below are some activity suggestions.

During the day, if weather permits, you can explore surrounding areas: hiking trails, lake, beach, etc. If you have children, they can play with water/beach toys, inflatables, bubbles, Frisbee, ball/glove, water balloons, inflatable boat & oars, fishing gear, etc. Wet weather shouldn’t stop you from exploring if you have the proper clothing and rain gear. Alternatively, you can do nothing, read a magazine, learn how to make useful camping knots; listen to music or walk around the campground and see how campsites are setup. While children can play board games, do crafts or read a book.

Before preparing for dinner, we suggest washing up at the campground showers before the shower rush. After dinner, eat desserts and chat. If you have children, they can help with setting up a campfire; roasting marshmallows; making S’mores, popcorn, play family camping games, etc. On the day of your departure, get up around two hours before the checkout time. Have a simple breakfast or finish any leftovers and start packing. Make sure the campsite is all tidy for the next group of campers.

Key Points Recap

To sum things up, there are a few keys to a good camping trip: plan early, choose the right campground for your party, pack smart with a good checklist, overpack warm clothing, `leave home relaxed, enjoy the experience, be flexible, be considerate and respect others because a tent has zero soundproofing. Note: check our list of campgrounds with showers near you.

How many camping trips do you take per year?