When you’re ready to start camping, make sure you keep things simple and only take the most needed camping essentials with you.
Don’t head into the wilderness with the intention of drinking from streams and living on berries; both of these activities can actually make you very sick – just watch the film “into the wild”.
Instead, pack what you need and do your best to keep things as simple and limited as possible for your cross-country travels.
Do you tend to eat the same things for breakfast, or is there one food or beverage that you have to have every day?
Make sure you get the right gear to make this work. If you love toast, bring bread and a toasting tool that you can use on your camping stove. Pack your favorite peanut butter if a PB&J is crucial to your routine and happiness.
With your food necessities, make sure that everyone in your group is equipped with eco-friendly gear:
- a reusable cup for beverages, soups, and cereal
- a reusable plate
- reusable utensils or a picnic kit
- their own reusable water bottle
Keep snacks handy and make sure you have a trash bag near the snacks to collect all trash, including micro-trash from wrappers. Check the campground rules to make sure that you properly store garbage at night to avoid tempting the local wildlife.
Experts recommend packing at least one gallon per person per day. If you’re a coffee drinker, you may need to up that amount. Additionally, if you’re planning to rough camp and will need to bathe with the water you bring along, double it.
Spending your day coffee-less and dirty will not help you enjoy your camping trip. In addition to bringing the camping gear to make coffee, make sure everyone in your clan has a water bottle to take on hikes and to keep everyone sipping and hydrated.
You’ll need a tent to protect you from some of the elements. Also, be prepared to spend some time during the day inside your tent if it rains or if the sun gets particularly hot. If you’re just starting out, see if you can borrow a tent from a dedicated camper to avoid spending too much on a tent with enough room to stay comfortable.
Additionally, a sleeping bag or bedroll is critical. Make sure you consider your own comfort when making this choice. If you’re tall, get along bag. If you can’t stand to have your feet all wrapped up, don’t get a mummy bag. A sleeping mat is necessary for staying warm at high elevations, and an inflatable may well keep you more comfortable.
Don’t camp with new hiking boots or sandals. While you’ll need a first aid kit with blister care products for a just-in-case scenario, if you can avoid a blister while hiking near private campgrounds in California, you’ll have a much better time on your camping vacation.
To enjoy your time outdoors, make sure you also have:
- lip balm
- a hat to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face
- breathable clothing
- comfortable and terrain appropriate shoes
Hiking in the desert may be cooler in sandals, but one splinter or spine can ruin your trip. Wear shoes that will both support and protect your feet, then change to sandals back at camp to cool down.
If your campsite allows a fire, be aware that this may bring in other campers at night. For those who prefer complete solitude, feel free to avoid other folks or try to camp far enough out that you simply don’t run into anyone else.
For those who are happy to socialize a bit around the fire, make sure you bring or fetch:
- a foldable camping chair that gives you comfort and support
- firewood to share with the group
- your own food and snacks
Sharing a fire doesn’t mean hosting your fellow campers. If you build the fire, make sure you have the energy to stay up until it’s time to put it out.
Let any visitors know about what time you plan to douse your fire so they can plan accordingly. Be responsible or don’t have a fire.
Camping doesn’t have to be expensive and helps you save money while on holiday. Your first few times out are the time to test new food prep methods and water storage options. Be ready to shed what doesn’t work and try something else. Camping is all about being flexible and adapting to adventures you encounter.