Camping Tips: How to Plan a Successful Camping Trip

Camping Tips: How to Plan a Successful Camping Trip

It's easy to feel stuck in a rut when you're quarantined at home for months on end. The days seem to repeat themselves like you're Bill Murray in Groundhog's Day. It's about time you put a stop to the repetitious days, but how?  

It's time to go camping!

Escaping into nature with family or friends is a great way to reset your mind and gain some fresh perspective on life. 

You can feel the serotonin flowing as you search the internet for new luscious locales that are just begging for exploration. You find the perfect spot, and you're ready to adventure! 

You pack up the camp gear that hasn't been touched in years and rush out the door in a hurry, without a worry. As you pull up to the site, you are greeted with intoxicating fresh air—something you haven't smelled in ages—and you can tell it's going to be the perfect trip.

You unpack the car, pitch the tent, build a fire, and post up in a chair with your slingshot, some jerky, and a cold one. What used to be a means of survival is now the ultimate leisure activity.

Life is good.

After a perfect evening with mother nature, you feel the much-needed onslaught of gratification. It's just the first night of three, and it's already clear that when Monday morning rolls around, you're going to get after it and push as hard as Rocky in round 14. Nothing can stop you now.

By now, you're ready for bed. As you get out of your chair and say your goodnights, you head to the car to grab your sleeping bag and hit the hay. 

One problem...it's not there. 

Disaster. You're faced with two options — a cold, rocky bed of rocks, or the cramped, backseat of your car. Either way, it's going to be a long, cold night.

What promised to be the perfect trip has not turned into a nightmare. All because of poor planning. 

You just can't enjoy nature when you can't sleep. It's that simple. 

Has this ever happened to you? It's okay. It happens to the best of us. 

That's why planning is such a vital part of any camping trip. Thankfully for you, we've created this guide to plan the perfect camping trip. We've even included a checklist accompanied by some tips to ensure that your next camping experience is prosperous.

Download the People's Choice Camping Checklist or keep reading to learn how to plan a successful camping trip!

Family Hiking Trip Top of the Mountain

How to Plan a Successful Camping Trip

Imagine being outside in nature, surrounded by friends, having a drink, enjoying some snacks,  surrounding a fire pit, in a reserved campsite, all inside of a beautiful campground.

This could be you...if you plan properly!

Thankfully, we have put together a comprehensive guide on how to plan a camping trip so you can enjoy your time in the great outdoors to the fullest. 
Follow these 5 easy steps to achieve the perfect camping trip!

  1. Determine Your Destination
  2. Reserve Your Campsite
  3. Prepare Your gear
  4. Plan Your Meals
  5. Gather Gear and Hit The Road!

If you take the time to go through this guide, step by step, you will be on the right track to having an excellent camping experience. Even if you are an experienced camper, it’s worth reading through for a refresh. Who knows, you might pick up a new trick or two!

Camping _ Tent in the Woods

1. Determine Your Destination

The camp destination largely determines the outcome of a camping trip. If everyone is happy with the location, the crew is likely to stay stoked for the whole trip!

To better determine the best destination for your trip, begin by asking questions:

  • Who are you camping with?
  • What type of camping are you planning for?
  • Do you want to participate in specific activities (hiking, swimming, fishing, etc.)?
  • What dates do you plan to camp?
  • How are you getting there?

Who Are You Camping With?

Establishing who you will be camping with is essential to determining where you should camp. 

Solo/Partner

If you are camping solo or with your partner, the options will be near-infinite due to limited restrictions associated with smaller groups. The possibilities range from busy campgrounds that need reservations to car camping on government land with no signs of civilization in sight. 

Family

Camping with the family is a whole different story, especially if you have children. 

If you have children, you should be on the lookout for public campsites that will fulfill your kid's interests and keep them busy. We recommend looking out for campgrounds that contain recreational areas or playgrounds within the campgrounds.

Hot Tip: Invite family friends that have children in similar age ranges as your own. Playmates keep children busy and adults happy. 

Friends

Camping with friends is always a good time but may require some extra planning. Some campgrounds may include limitations on people and cars per site. Be extra diligent in your research when deciding on-site for group camping. 

What Type Of Camping Are You Planning For?

After deciding who will be joining the camping trip, you should determine the type of camping the group will be engaging in. 

If you are new to camping, we recommend starting with a public campground that includes amenities. This will alleviate some stress and allow you to ease your way into the great outdoors. Public campgrounds will typically accommodate parking spots, tables, fire pits, charcoal grills, water sources, and restrooms. 

If you are a more experienced camper with the gear to backpack out to a primitive campsite, then, by all means, go for it. This is a fantastic way to get out and enjoy mother nature. Check out some online resources to confirm the area allows for this camping type before heading out. 

Do You Want To Participate In Specific Activities?

Now that you've determined the type of camping you will be doing, consider what else you want to do while in the wilderness. 

Consider the interests of your group members.

The campsite destination will determine the type of activities you will be able to engage in while on your trip. Depending on the destination, you may be able to hike, bike, swim, fish, kayak, or all of the above. 

If you are heading out on a group trip, consult with your group to see what activities they would prefer to engage in on this trip. Remember to be thoughtful of those in the group and realistic about what activities you have the gear for. 

Consider the accessibility of outdoor activities

When searching for a campground, you should look for one that has easy access to your preferred outdoor activities.

Typically campgrounds will include information on nearby activities on their website. Be sure to research the area thoroughly before embarking on your trip to avoid any unnecessary stresses. 

Find out if you need any legal documents to participate in activities
If you are planning to fish, hunt, or boat, you may need additional legal documents to do so...legally. 

These documents are typically required for your own safety, so they are good to have. They also keep you from spending unnecessary money on tickets from park rangers.

Be sure to do your research ahead of time to find out if you need these permits. While you are at it, confirm that you will be camping during the proper season for your activity, whatever that may be. 

Trust us. This will save you time, money, and embarrassment in the long run. 

What dates do you plan to camp?

Now that you know who will be joining your excursion, and you know what activities you plan to participate in, it's time to determine the dates of your camping trip.

Consider the type of weather

Weather can make or break your trip. 

Make sure to stay up to date with the current weather predictions for the date of your trip. 

If you are a beginner camper, we recommend camping in warm and clear weather. The summer is an excellent time to start, especially if you're camping with the family. Otherwise, Spring and Autumn are beautiful seasons providing exceptional experiences in mother nature. 

How are you getting there?

If you are new to camping, you are most likely arriving by car. However, there are several different options here that will dictate your journey.
Consider the type of camping

Will you be camping humbly in a tent or glamping in your new RV? This will also impact what dates you may want to camp. 

If you are slightly more seasoned, you may be backpacking into the backcountry to tent camp. Everyone in the group should be experienced and physically capable if you are heading out on a more extended backpacking trip. 

If you are RV camping, be on the lookout for sites with the appropriate hookups for your rig. Keep in mind that you will endure a much higher cost if you want sewer and cable hookups. This may be worthwhile if you aren't much of an outdoor person yet, and are still looking to ease your way into the real outdoors. 

Plan your route

Planning is crucial to a successful trip. If you're new to camping, car camping is the most advisable for arriving at the site. Just be sure to double-check restrictions before parking. Typically, the campground will supply a spot or two next to the site. 

If you are backpacking in, be sure to plan out your hike in. You want to be as prepared as possible to avoid mistakes that may take away from the trip. We advise you to leave the kids at home with other family members if you intend to backpack, as the trip may be too strenuous for the young guns. 

If you want to enjoy your first camping trip, preparation will ensure that the process is as convenient as possible. After all, leaving the comfort of your bed for a sleeping bag in the outdoors is a sacrifice, nonetheless!

Camping Campsite Tents

2. Reserve Your Campsite

Now that you have determined your destination and type of camping, the next step is to reserve or finalize your campsite. There will be slight differences between each campground you look at, so it is essential to research to discover your ideal campsite. 

What to look for in a campsite

If you plan on backpacking or primitive camping, then privacy, shade, and ground surface are the most relevant attributes you will want to look out for. 

When looking to camp in public or private campgrounds, consider the following:

  • Are there any picnic tables available?
  • Is there a fire pit?
  • Is there a camp stove?
  • Are pets allowed? 
  • Is there a first aid station
  • Are there any on-site attendants?
  • Can you drive up to your campsite?
  • Is there any tent or tenant-related restrictions? 
  • Are there any seasonal restrictions?

We suggest researching as much as possible. 

In our experience, the more research you conduct, the better the experience will be.

Remember, your ideal campsite is simply a matter of preference, so select the most suitable one and make the most out of it.

Reserving your campsite

When it comes to landing a spot in your ideal campsite, keep in mind that some require reservations either online or on the phone, while others operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. We recommend getting an early start or planning a trip during the week if your campground operates on the latter. 

As for online reservations, all you have to do is check the availability of your campsite of choice, then choose dates and proceed to make a reservation. Boom.

You got a spot!

The more popular the campground, the further out you will have to book. We recommend booking a few months in advance, unless it's an uber-popular campground. Then, we recommend booking closer to a year out. 

If camping with a group, you are much better off booking in advance, especially if you're looking to secure multiple campsites. 

Don't let that deter you from planning a last-minute camping trip, though. Sometimes those spontaneous trips are the most memorable!

Hot Tip: If traveling as a group, then assemble a reservation team and try booking as soon as the window opens to have a better chance of securing the reservation.

With a reserved spot in mind, you should familiarize yourself with the particular campground rules and basic camping rules to avoid unnecessary mistakes. Many of the standard campground rules encompass safety by curbing hazards and optimize the visit for everyone in the campgrounds.

  Prepare your Gear for Camping

3. Prepare Your Gear

You should not overlook the importance of organization when preparing for your trip. This will help you avert unnecessary mistakes, like leaving behind your sleeping bag. Simple mistakes are easily avoidable if you put in the time to prep!

Be Organized

What you bring will depend on who you are traveling with and whether you are going to an established campground, RV camping, or backpacking. 

Regardless, be organized, and you are likely to have a fun trip. 

A camping checklist will ensure you are bringing the proper gear on your trip. It will also double as a shopping list, ensuring you have all the right gear and food in one place!

If you are flying solo, you are required to pack more but are less likely to get confused and leave something behind. If you are traveling with a group, think about creating a shared spreadsheet that includes all the necessary gear for your trip.

Prepare a Packing Checklist

The fundamentals of camping are simple: food, clothing, and shelter.

A camping checklist is incredibly valuable because it will help you pack only what you need and ensure you do not forget the necessities.

Click to download our customizable People's Choice Camping Checklist!

Do not improvise the packing process. 

For sunny weather, we recommend sunblock, hats, sunglasses, and some light outdoor clothing. However, it pays to be prepared for sudden changes in weather conditions.

For instance, packing an extra tarp may come in handy given sudden rainfall on your trip or if there is a lack of shade in the campsite. 
Some of the essentials every camper should bring on their trip includes:

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Tent
  • Stakes
  • Clothing
  • Footwear
  • Cooking Essentials 
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses 
  • Hats
  • First Aid Kit
  • Insect Repellent 
  • Headlamp

Hot Tip: To stay extra organized, purchase some heavy-duty plastic tubs with lids to pack your gear into. Label the outside of each tub with what type of gear is inside. 

Practice before leaving

If you're a first-time camper, test out your gear in your backyard before you venture into the outdoors. Practice how to pitch your tent and, more importantly, how to pack it back in place (This is frequently the more frustrating action).

4. Plan Your Meals

Food is one of the essential ingredients in the recipe for a positive trip!

Plan foods meal by meal

As you prepare for your trip, keep your meals in mind. The amount of food you bring depends upon the length of your stay and the number of people staying with you. This is one of the few times we recommend packing a little more than you think you need. 

We recommend creating a separate food checklist beforehand. This will double as your shopping list when you stop for ice and firewood on your way out to the campsite. 

Simple foods are some of the best for camping. When we think of camping, here are some of our favorites: 

  • Fun snacks like trail mix and beef jerky
  • Tasty meals like grilled burgers and dogs
  • Classic desserts like s' mores 

However, if you are more experienced, you may be more advanced in your camp dining. Just be sure to pack the appropriate gear to cook the meals you plan!

If you are camping with a group, we recommend deciding what meals you would like to cook and creating another shared spreadsheet checklist for all of the ingredients. 

Prepare and Store Foods Appropriately

We strongly suggest prepping your food as much as possible, BEFORE heading out to camp. This will help alleviate the need for a large dishwashing setup. Who wants to do dishes while camping?

In terms of storage, pack all perishable foods into coolers filled with enough ice for your trip. To keep things extra cool, try fitting the bottom of the cooler with dry ice!

Pack the proper cooking equipment 

Some of the essential cooking equipment that each camper should have include:

  • Campstove
  • Fuel for Stove
  • Pots and pans
  • Plates and Bowls
  • Cutting board
  • Cooking utensils
  • Forks, Knives, Spoons
  • Cups and/or Mugs
  • Sponge and Dishcloth
  • Biodegradable Soap
Gather Gear for Camping Trip

5. Gather Gear and Hit The Road!

So far, you've done the following:

  • You've determined your desired destination.
  • You've reserved the campsite 
  • You've acquainted yourself and your team with the rules and restrictions of the campground
  • You've prepared all of the gear
  • You've created a menu and food list 

Last but not least, we're talking about loading your gear and hitting the road!

Load Your Gear Accordingly

Now that you've got your checklists in place, it's time to pile everything together and start packing!

Hot Tip: Pack the car the night before to avoid any last-minute confusion. 

You're FINALLY ready to leave for the highly anticipated camping trip! You've researched and reserved a campsite, created checklists, packed the car, and now you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

HOWEVER, please remember that even if you've done everything right...some things may still go wrong, and that's okay! Life is what you make of it, and so it pertains to this trip. Improvise, adapt, and have fun!

And that's it! You're ready for your next trip!

Camping is a great way to get outside and relieve some stress.Planning and preparing have an enormous effect on the outcome of the trip. Generally, the more you plan, the smoother the trip.

Though there is no particular format for planning a trip, you should be good if you complete the following:

  • Determine the type of camping trip 
  • Determine the group expectations in terms of activities
  • Establish set dates for the trip
  • Research campsites and reserve the one which best fits your group
  • Establish how you'll be traveling to your campsite
  • Prepare a checklist for all camp gear and food
  • Assemble and load your gear before heading out
As you continue camping, you will learn valuable lessons to make future trips even more manageable. Follow this plan, and your first trip is sure to be successful!