What better way to get out of the house, get some fresh air, and experience the great outdoors than with a summer camping trip?
If this is your first time gearing up for a camping trip, we know it can feel a little overwhelming. Where to camp? What to pack? What to cook?
There’s a lot to remember! That’s why we wanted to share some tips to help make the planning process easier for you.
1. Make a Reservation
Few things are more stressful than trying to find a campsite without a reservation — especially during the busy summer months.
Save yourself the stress and go to Recreation.gov and reserve your campsite ahead of time. It’s well worth the online processing fee.
2. Check the Amenities at the Campsite
Not all campgrounds are the same. Some have a lot of amenities while others can be far more rustic.
Some questions you will want to know ahead of time: Is there potable water available? Are there bathrooms with showers? Dishwashing facilities? Can you purchase firewood on site? Are there any fire restrictions?
Most of the time you can find this information on the same site that you book your reservation. If not, call the campground office and talk with one of the hosts about what you can expect.
3. Research the Area
At home, with the luxury of a strong Wi-Fi connection, do a little research on the surrounding area.
Are there hiking trails you want to explore? Water features like rivers or lakes to go swimming in? You will also want to make note of places like the nearest grocery store, gas station, and (if you’re cautious like us) emergency room.
Campgrounds are notorious for having terrible cell coverage, so it’s a good idea to get your bearings of the area beforehand.
4. Make a Meal Plan
Figure out how many meals you plan on cooking and what you want to eat, then make a grocery list so you have everything on hand before you head to the campground. A frantic grocery run on your way out of town almost always results in forgetting something crucial.
Also, don’t forget to pack some snacks. A simple cheese plate and a cold drink sounds like a perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon outdoors! For kids, cheese sticks, crackers, and apples or dried fruit are great to have on hand to keep them energized while exploring the surrounding area.
5. Organize Your Equipment
Hurriedly packing your camping gear a few hours before departure is exactly how you accidentally forget something critical like a can opener! Write out a check list and start packing things into boxes a few days ahead of time
Be sure to inspect equipment like your tent, sleeping mattress, and stove to make sure everything is in good working order. If anything needs to be replaced, repaired, or purchased, you’ll have plenty of time. (The best time to discover your air mattress has a hole in it is when you’re at home!)
Check the weather. If there is even a slight possibility of rain, make sure you bring appropriate rain gear like rain coats, rain fly for your tent, and possibly some tarps to cover your stuff.
6. Pack Your Cooler (the right way)
The night before your trip, use “sacrificial ice” to chill the inside of your cooler. Right before it’s time to pack it up, dump that ice out and load it up with fresh ice. This pre-chill will make your ice last much longer.
Repackage your food into watertight, resealable containers. Refrigerate food ahead of time and freeze anything that you can so it is already cold when it goes into the cooler. When packing your cooler, you want to aim for a ratio of ⅓ food to ⅔ ice.
7. Make the Road Trip Part of the Journey
The road trip out to the campground can be just as enjoyable as the actual camping. So pack some snacks in the car, queue up a playlist, and take your time.
Pull over at the vista points, stop for coffee at a local general store, enjoy the experience along the way.
P.S. Throwback to tip #1, this type of leisurely road trip out to the campground is only possible if you know you have a site waiting for you. Otherwise you’ll be a ball of stress driving out there hoping you find a spot.
Spending a little bit of time planning before your camping trip can go a very long way towards ensuring your trip is relaxing and stress-free. So take some time, make a plan, and then kick back and enjoy!