Every good camping trip starts with an itch to explore the great outdoors. But for everything to be perfect, you need to properly prepare for your trip.
You need to find a campground, pick a date, choose a route, and prepare your gear. It sounds pretty simple, but it’s easy to forget or overlook something. To make sure that won’t happen, read through this guide.
Pick a Location
It’s best to book your desired campsite as early as possible. The sooner you do it, the better selection you will have. If you want to book a campsite somewhere in the US, check out the recreation.gov site.
If you want to get a great spot, it’s best to book at least 6 months in advance. It pays to be proactive because cancellation fees are usually pretty minimal.
However, it’s a good idea to avoid popular weekends and holidays. Do know that the popular dates get booked as soon as reservations become available. Keep in mind that “getting there before the others” applies even to dispersed camping, because some popular locations – like Buena Vista, CO – get crowded pretty fast.
When choosing your camping destination, take the following factors into consideration:
- Proximity to water: Who wouldn’t want to camp next to a river, lake, etc.?
- Privacy: If you expect you and your friends to be rowdy, it’s best to avoid spots that are parts of a larger campground. Book a secluded spot or an entire campground.
Rangers are very reasonable; they won’t be shushing you during campground quiet hours if there aren’t any other campers nearby.
- Driving distance: Figure out how far you are willing to travel. Four hours from home is a good range to get far away from hectic city life without committing to days in the car.
- Amenities: If you or some of your friends are not-so-experienced campers, it’s best not to go full survival mode. You don’t have to sacrifice access to running water and clean bathrooms in order to enjoy the great outdoors.
- Landscape: If you want to camp somewhere where the scenery is gorgeous – like the West Highland Way – you can use Google Earth to check out the topography of the area.
- Climate: Make sure everyone knows what kind of weather to expect at the location.
Gather Your Gear
Don’t underestimate the importance of having reliable camping gear. When it comes to all the essential items (a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent), you want to make sure they offer everything you’ll need on your camping trip.
For instance, you would want to get an insulated sleeping bag if you are going camping in winter or a sleeping bag for summer if in warmer weather. Your equipment should match the conditions you wish to camp in, so be sure to pay close attention to temperature ratings, weather-resistance, fabrics, etc. Another important question to ask yourself is, “Will it fit in my backpack?”
Even if you don’t plan on going camping often in the future, it’s a good idea to go for durable, high-quality camping gear brands.
But, since you will book the campground well in advance, you will have plenty of time to find discounted outdoor gear. Good equipment can last a lifetime, so it pays to save for it.
The following checklist can make your preparations easier:
- Sleeping pads
- Sleeping bags
- Camping pillows
- Flashlights or headlamps
- Camp table
- Camp chairs
- Duct tape
- Toilet paper
- Stove and fuel
- Eating and cooking utensils
- Bowls and plates
- First aid kit (you can learn how to make one yourself here)
- Water jugs and cups
Know What to Wear
What to pack for clothing depends on the weather, time of year, and how long you plan to stay. It’s best to bring moisture-wicking base layers. They should be made from quick-drying and breathable fabrics, such as merino wool, polyester, and nylon.
This is especially important when it comes to dispersed camping near Silverton and similar places. Camping on your own is an entirely different story compared to staying at a developed campground – if you forget a crucial piece of clothing, you’ll have no other choice but to hike back.
Because mountain weather is unpredictable, it never hurts to pack a rain shell and a puffy mid-layer. If you want to save space without sacrificing comfort and functionality, consider getting convertible hiking pants that are water-resistant. Make sure to pack some wool socks as well.
Create a Menu for the Entire Camping Trip
It’s best to plan a menu for each meal, especially if you’re going camping with quite a few friends. If your group is very big, think of meals that you can prepare in bulk. Moreover, you want to go with something that is easy to prepare.
Burritos and tacos are great for a buffet, and the same goes for bacon and eggs. Burgers and sausages are always easy to cook, just make sure to bring a grill.
Since cooking on an open fire will be an option, you can make tons of stew. Cook-to-order pancakes are also a great way to keep your tummy full when you’re camping.
If you combine your buying power and buy food in bulk, you will be able to prepare gourmet meals for minimal cost. Dinner is a special part of every camping trip since everyone usually eats together, so why not make the most of it?
Since everyone can eat breakfast and lunch on different schedules, each member of the group can grab a bite when they want. You can set out cereal, bagels, sandwich meats, and big salads for late risers or lunch nibblers.
Take extra precautions when you’re handling perishable foods like meat and cheese. It’s also very important to bear-proof your food. When you’re not using it, store it in a bear-proof bag and hang it in a tree. Many campgrounds have bear poles or wires. Wherever you put it, it should be far away from your sleeping tents.
Set Up Teams for Various Tasks
You may need to assign different team responsibilities if your group is quite big. And even if it is not, everyone should pull their own weight. When everyone knows what they are responsible for, camping trips run much smoother.
For example, you can divide your group into the following teams:
- Set-up crew
- Fire crew
- Activity crew
- Clean-up crew
- Dinner cooks
- Breakfast cooks
- Food transportation group
Before you set out, make sure to agree on who will handle the Costco run, who will bring the canopies, who will get the beer, etc. To make sure the execution will be successful, create a customized spreadsheet and print out a few copies. It will help you keep track of food needs, payments, equipment, and teams.