I will discuss the Top 7 Camping Tips that will help you to assure you have a successful camping trip. Hint: Over Half of the Tips occur before you leave home.
Having a successful camping trip usually involves more than just picking the best location and venturing out with friends and family. Sometimes this will do the trick but more often than not a lack of preparation creates situations that can take away time you have to enjoy the trip.
The Top 7 Camping Tips
- Preseason Planning
- Make it Affordable
- Have a Plan B
- End with Extra time
Follow along below for a little more in depth discussion of how each of these Tips will apply to your next trip. Send me an email and let me know if I you have additional tips that I missed.
Tip #1: Preseason Planning
- Is your gear in good working order
- Gear longevity and $ savings the easy way
- Totes and box organizers save time and $
Before you even get to the point where you will be putting gear into your car for the big trip you should make sure that all of your gear is in good working order. This can all be completed in the off season many months before you are taking that big trip. I do a lot of camping in the spring and summer so I like to go through my gear in the winter to make sure it is all up to speed.
Whether it’s an old tent, fishing reel, pair of hiking boots or an old boat, upkeep and preparation will be important. This preparation will assure that your gear will be in in good working order and that you won’t have to spend any last minute cash on new equipment.
The #3 Factor below will address the affordability concern directly in a moment. But for now just realize that taking care of your equipment in the off season is going to save you a lot of money down the line. You will definitely feel the extra cost of having to fork out a bunch of extra cash for gear in situations where you end up replacing gear before your trip.
Usually there are simple things to benefit longevity of equipment such as making sure your tents are dried out completely before packing away or cleaning your old stove to make sure all of the hoses are running cleanly.
I find that it is also some nice peace of mind to know all of my gear is ready to go and organized so I can easily access everything. I use plastic totes of different sizes to carry most of my gear. Keeping the camp kitchen, camp sleeping gear, fishing gear, and other items separated helps when packing for your trip as well. Similar to many of the professional sports that have a preseason program, we understand that preparation prior to the regular season is critical for a good season.
Tip #2: Research
- Find your local contacts to call
- Dial In the Logistics
- Verify Permits and licenses
- Guide books and maps
- Avoiding the crowds
- Check ammenities
- Reach out to other people
Most camping trips that you plan require at least a minimal amount of research to make sure there aren’t any hidden surprises along the way. You might be heading out on an annual camping trip that you have done for years and have completely dialed in. Even in this situation it might be helpful to call local contacts for the area you are going to make sure nothing has changed. Take a peak at this article if you are unsure of the area and where the best camping would be.
There are many different things that can happen over the course of the year so it will be important to check into this. For 1st time camping trips there are a number of items you should research to make sure you have the basics covered so you have a successful trip. You should be thinking about some of the important parts of the trip including logistics, people to contact, permits or licenses needed, avoiding crowds, and which guide books or maps you might need for the trip.
You should get a general idea of how long the traveling time will be and to have backup plans if there is an issue with the vehicle. Determine the type of camping amenities that will be provided so you can plan accordingly. For example, will there be toilets or will you have to bring your own supplies to take care of business? A good method to find out about a lot of the miscellaneus details is to find a local contact who you can talk to. This can save you a huge amount of time and headache by preparing for the basics of the trip.
I have had some great local contacts over the years who not only gave us great information, but also invited us into there camps and homes. Reaching out into the local community can be a lot of fun. You can find out from them or other local resource agencies or groups which permits or licenses might be required. There can be many different requirements for different states or countries you may be traveling to. It’s never fun to get out to your destination to find out you forgot your permit.
Getting your hands on a good guide book or maps can provide a wealth of knowledge and benefit for your trip. There might be a special site or activity near the area that would be worth exploring. Check out the guidebook to find out when the best time would be to avoid crowds or hit that sweet spot. Find out when a specific trail is open or how to connect with other resources in the area. Researching, similar to preseason preparation will end up making your trip more enjoyable overall.
Tip #3: Make it affordable
- Put away $ each month for your trip
- Find alternative destinations
- Service your vehicle
One of the bonuses of camping is that it is typically pretty affordable when compared to other types of vacationing. But, there still is the ability to go to the extreme by buying that new boat, trailer or car. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the gear, but it’s not worth it to go into debt for that one big trip. You will feel much better when you get back to work after your camping trip that you don’t have to work overtime to pay for the trip.
A good way to make sure you have enough money for the trip is to plan in advance for it. Put away $100 a month or whatever you can afford for the annual big camping trip. Overtime this adds up and gives you a nice chunk of money to pay for some of the items for the trip. When you plan out the budget of the trip, plan on 20% extra for a safety fund. So if you think your trip might be $500 overall, put in $100 extra as your backup cash. This might help cover an extra tank of gas or an extra meal on your way home.
You can avoid additional campground charges by finding unimproved camp sites or by exploring the outskirts of the area you will be in. Put together a general plan for you trip so you have a feel for what to expect. Getting your vehicle serviced and other equipment serviced before the trip can help save money in the long run.
Getting new tires might not seem like a money saver, but if you can avoid a flat tire and a tow truck you will be thanking yourself. Not to mention the time saved by avoiding major mishaps like car problems. Lots of stuff will happen out there but you can minimize some of this by taking these actions.
Tip #4: Preparation
- Find your gear list and pack early
- Plan meals ahead of time
- Cooler and ice preparation
- Set the intention of the trip
- Make local contacts
I really enjoy the packing and preparation portion of the trip. I guess it’s just the excitement of knowing that I will be out at my favorite spot in a short period that really gets the excitement going. There are a few items that you should add to your list to make sure you have done a good job and to assure you will have all of the gear and plans accounted for.
The first is your general gear list. A phone application or sheet with a list should do fine. Take a look at our todo list to get a feel for some of the key items. Your preparation time will be decreased if you took care of your preseason planning as mentioned before. In either case it is helpful to get your gear organized at least a few days ahead of time. You will need to give yourself more time for longer trips. I tend to start my preparation one week ahead of the trip. That gives me plenty of time to purchase new items or work on old ones if needed.
You can save yourself a lot of time and have a much better trip if you plan your meals ahead of time. There are a few different ways to plan meals. If you are going with a large group you can split out meals between each person. So, if you have 5 people on a 5 day trip and 3 meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner), then you would have 15 meals to make. Divide the 15 meals by 5 people gives you 3 meals per person. Then each person plans on cooking 1 breakfast, 1 lunch and 1 dinner for the entire group. Then each person can get all of the food for their 3 meals each. This works out nicely because on days where you are cooking you can go fishing during that preparation time or any other activity. All of these plans for camping can be found summarized in this ebook here.
Another way to do the meals is to just plan all of your meals together and cook them together. This can be nice because you can all go in on the groceries and cook together as a group. Probably a little cheaper in the long run because there isn’t as much overlap. Along with food preparation is planning to organize your cooler and to determine how much ice to bring. This will be especially important if you are heading into hot environments. The worst thing you can do is running out of ice before the end of your trip.
There are a few things you can do to assure your ice makes it through the entire trip. The first thing you can do is to buy block ice. Crushed ice is nice for drinks but doesn’t last as long. A second method is to have one extra cooler with ice and frozen foods that keep closed until the mid way of your trip. By not opening the lid on this cooler you will end up preserving those nice cold blocks for the second half of the trip.
Other little tips to conserve ice include keeping your cooler out of the sun, covering the cooler with a heavy blanket, keeping it near the stream and using reflective matting to layer inside the cooler. Newspaper laid on top of the inside of your cooler can also help in a pinch.
You should also do a little mental preparation prior to heading out on your trip. In other words “set the intention” of your trip. If you want to catch fish then you should think about how you are going to accomplish this. If you want to connect with family find ways to make sure you do this in the most meaningful way. Camping trips tend to fly by so doing a little mental preparation before heading out can help put this together.
As we mentioned earlier talk to a few people that are knowledgeable about the area you are going to. Give them a call and pick there brains a bit. Ask them what to expect, any changes in the area, ask them how to avoid additional fees and crowds associated with the area. A little due diligence early will give you a little extra time of relaxation during your trip.
Tip #5: Have a plan B
- Think about potential scenarios
- Prepare for those scenarios
- Have backup gear
- Wilderness First Aid Training
There is always the potential to have mishaps while on a camping trip. This might be as simple as a flat tire along the way or as bad as forgetting the fishing gear on your big fishing trip. In these situations it’s always a good idea to have a plan B. Your plan B might be different from mine but is important to at least think about these possibilities and how you can make a great trip out of it.
More recently when I was on another 3 week trip in British Columbia we hit a Grey Wolf on the way home and were stuck in another small town four 4 days. These things can happen, but because we had prepared by giving ourselves extra time we were able to make it work out. Take a look at this link for additional safety information.
So it is important to go through each step of your trip and think about what your plan B will be. You might bring along a small backup stove in case you have problems with your main stove. You might bring a little extra food if you are going into remote areas as a backup.
When you are out in these remote areas some type of wilderness first aid and “how to survive in the woods” can be helpful. Think about that Plan B before you go on that long hike in the evening. Do you have enough food or shelter to let you make it through the night if you get lost. Have you gone through your first aid kit to make sure everything is up to date. There is plenty of information on line, but NOLS Wilderness Education School is a great resource for survival information and has courses to take for preparedness. The American RedCross also has information relating to first aid and wilderness training. Take a look at this link for a guide on wilderness first aid or check there website for classes.
Tip #6: Disconnect
- Leave the stress at home
- Epic meal plan
- Sleeping comfort
- What’s your passion
- You can’t do it all, so don’t try
Disconnect from the 9-5. The first thing you need to do to have a great time camping is to leave all of the stress behind you. You are making this trip partly because you want a change of pace. So don’t get stressed out when something doesn’t go exactly as planned. Just go with it and you will make it a great trip. If you don’t get the perfect camp spot don’t worry about it too much. Try to turn this into a positive by finding a new camping spot.
I used to have a bumper sticker on my car when I was younger that said EAT, SLEEP, GO FISHING. That pretty much summed up what I was out there to accomplish and it really hasn’t changed that much. Everyone is going to have to eat so why not make it an epic meal plan.
Usually while camping food already tastes better than home, so it doesn’t take much to make it epic. This can be accomplished by adding a few bonus treats in that you might not normally have. Maybe it just requires having your meals pre cooked for ease of use. I have a friend that always makes a pre packaged thai meal before the trip and it is epic. It also gives us more time to fish because preparation is very easy.
Waking up in the morning under the stars is probably the place I sleep best. Something about the cool crisp air and light breeze blowing over your head makes you want to stay camping for ever. A couple of keys for sleeping are to use a matress or something between you and the cold ground. This will increase your warmth over night tremendously. I have used a Thermarest for years, but others might like a larger air mattress for added padding.
Depending on on your camping location, sleeping bag choice might be an important item to cover. I love down sleeping bags. They are the warmest and lightest bags out there. They pack up very small and are great in many different environments. The big drawback is the issue with getting them wet as the goose down fill inside clumps up when wet. This reduces the warming ability of the bag. They will also cost you a little more money, but I have found that after using both synthetic and down, that down is worth the extra money.
You can insert whichever fun item or passion you have to take place of my GO FISHING item above. The take home is to make sure who will be dedicating some time to this activity. You have done the preparation so now is the time to put that new knowledge, gear and skill together to accomplish your goal.
Don’t try to do it all. It’s very important to realize that you can spread yourself too thin on these trips if you are over planning. Make sure to get out and do stuff but also leave free time during the day for just kicking pack and relaxing. It is also nice to leave a little time open in your trip to allow new things to develop and come to you.
Tip #7: End with extra time
- Repacking plan
- Make snacks
- Take breaks
- Extra day on end
- Back to back trips are nice
That didn’t take us long to zip to the final Tip to make your next camping trip a great one. Now I will show you how to end your trip so the transition back into the real world is a smooth one. When packing up camp and packing your vehicle up make sure to keep any wet stuff that needs to be cleaned easily accessible. This will allow you to take care of these items even if you don’t have time to empty your entire vehicle when you get home. You should keep a few snacks handy for the ride home so you are able to minimize any extra unwanted stops. I find when I do this it keeps me away from the fast food type stuff.
If you have an extended distance to get home I like to plan enough time to make at least one stop on the way home to take a break and/or eat some lunch. This also has the effect of making you feel like your trip is a little longer. Maybe there is a quality site or some other activity that would be nice to take a look at on the way. One really epic method is to plan another trip directly after the trip you are on or soon there after. Most of us work so this is difficult, but I find when I have another camping trip to look forward to soon after the one I am on it decreases the pain of going back to work.
You should also plan a day after you return home to clean up your gear when possible. I find that most of the time when I get home for a trip there is very little time that day to clean everything up sufficiently. Give yourself an additional day for doing these activities and spend the evening of your return talking to your family and friends over dinner how great the trip was. This is also a good time to talk about what could have been done differently so that next camping trip is an even greater one.
There you have the Top 7 Camping Tips for a great camping trip. Try to pick out a few of these tips to implement during that next trip and let me know how it went. If you need further guidance please send me an email and I will check back in with you.