Are you ready for your first camping trip?

Tips for preparing for your first camping trip

While camping is a great pastime once you get the hang of it, it can be intimidating to give it a try for the first time. There's a lot of equipment you'll have to buy, you may not know how much food you need or where the best spots are. Here are a few tips to make sure your first camping trip is a success:

Team up
One of the best ways to ensure you enjoy your first camping experience is to tag along with a more-experienced friend. That way, you can test run their equipment before deciding how large a tent you need or whether a sleeping pad is necessary. You'll also learn plenty of tips and tricks for your own trip. When you do get ready to plan your own expedition, plan on going with a buddy. Camping trips with a partner or small group are usually more fun than solo ones, plus you'll have a second person to help problem solve and improve the new-camper learning curve.

Do your research and be prepared
Don't just pick a spot at random and set off. Talk to experienced friends, read books and visit websites to find scenic campgrounds that lend themselves to beginners. It's also a good idea to choose a spot that isn't too far from civilization in case of an emergency. Don't forget to get ready for your trip physically. Walking a half-dozen miles lugging a heavy backpack when you're out of shape is going to be a challenge. At least a month before your trip, do some cardio training. If possible, go for a few practice hikes and bring the backpack you will use to get used to the weight. This will also give you a chance to break in your hiking boots if you bought new footwear for the trip – the last thing you want to deal with is blisters while you're hiking.

Make your purchases
There's no way around it – your first time camping is almost always your most expensive one. If you're building up your collection of gear from scratch, you'll have to drop a couple dollars on it. Here are some of the most important purchases you'll have to make before your trip:

  • Tent: One of the biggest purchases you'll make for camping, a tent is also among the most important. The size of your tent is going to largely depend on how many people are going to be sleeping in it, though personal preference is also a factor. There are some massive models that are closer to a small house than a pup tent. While you may not need a lot of trappings, make sure you find one that is big enough for the campers and their gear and will keep the weather and bugs out.
  • Sleeping bag: A lousy night's sleep is a sure-fire way to spoil any camping trip. Because of that, make sure you pick out a sleeping bag that is warm enough. If you're planning on doing most of your camping during the summer, you can pick up a sleeping bag that's rated for temperatures down to 20 or 30 degrees. If the weather is warmer, you can always unzip the bags to ventilate air. If you prefer, a sleeping pad is the best way to add extra cushioning as well as keep you farther away from the cold ground.
  • Food and drinks: Though you'll be camping, it's not expected that you'll be catching fish to fry up for dinner or foraging for berries in the woods. Instead, pick up some dehydrated meals – you'll just have to add boiling water and dinner is served. Granola bars, beef jerky and trail mix are all good snacks to keep with you as you hike. Bring along a fire starting kit so you can cook and keep warm at night. A filtering water bottle is also essential so you can stay hydrated.

Don't overpack
Sure, there are plenty of things you'll need to bring along on your trip. Tents, sleeping bags and food are all musts. However, avoid the temptation to overpack if you need to fit everything into your backpack. Of course, if you're driving up to your camping spot, feel free to go crazy with the fun extras. Try to keep your pack reasonably light – say, 30 pounds or so.

Even if you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere, it's likely that there are people nearby, especially if you're at a popular camping spot. Because of this, it's important to keep security in mind. If you are bringing paperwork, cash, electronics, a firearm or other valuables with you, it's a good idea to invest in a small lockbox to keep it all safe. There are plenty of portable safes available that won't take up your entire backpack but are big enough to secure your valuables.

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