10 Essential Tent Camping Tips for Beginners

10 Essential Tent Camping Tips for Beginners

According to the 2018 North American Camping Report published by KOA, the total number of camping households has increased by 6 million since 2014! That’s a lot of new campers, and 53% of them are choosing tent camping for their first time out.

If you’re a new tent camper, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with all the information out there. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to prepare for your first camping trips and we’ve compiled this list of 10 essential tent camping tips to help you get started.

1. Create a Checklist of Gear and Essentials

Creating a checklist is the most simple and thorough way of making sure you have everything you need. When stocking up on gear, there is no need to rush out and spend hundreds of dollars on camping supplies. Many camping supplies can be borrowed or purchased from thrift stores for those first trips to find out if it’s something you enjoy doing. Never skip testing your gear if you purchase secondhand or borrow equipment! Use this list of camping trip bare essentials to start your own, and add to it as you wish.

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Camp Stove and Dishes
  • Hand Towel or Paper Towels
  • Wet Wipes
  • Sleeping Bag/Bedding
  • Flashlight/Headlamps
  • Reusable Water Bottle
  • Appropriate Clothing and Footwear for activities and lounging at camp
  • First Aid and Toiletries
  • Trashbags

2. Test Your Gear

Always test new gear before a camping trip. Make sure you know how to set up and tear down the tent and more importantly – make sure everyone fits inside! Cramped sleeping quarters don’t make happy campers.

Make sure your batteries work and get familiar with all the odds and ends you’ll be bringing along. Testing your gear ensures you’ll be prepared with backups and you’ll know you aren’t missing any pieces.

3. Reserve Your Campsite Ahead of Time

Reserve campsites at campgrounds ahead of time

If the option is available – always reserve your spot ahead of time! Camping is incredibly popular, especially on holiday weekends or any weekends during the spring, summer and fall.

This will also help you plan for what amenities you will or won’t have.

When you reserve the campsite, research the campground so you know whether or not you need to bring your own water, if you’ll have bathroom or shower access and whether or not you need to bring your own firewood.

4. Plan for Activities

Plan your activities before your trip – so you’re not stuck on your phone looking for things to do while you’re at camp. Research the area or campground for activities like hiking, kayaking, swimming, pleasure boating, fishing and more. Of course, just hanging out at camp and relaxing the whole time is a great activity, too!

5. Plan & Prep Your Meals

Prepare foil pack meals for camp cooking

Okay, okay. It probably sounds like way too much pre-planning going on by now, but this one can save you so much frustration! Planning your meals is totally optional, but doing it will take a big task off your to-do list at camp.

Examples of super simple and delicious camping recipes include:

  • Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Foil Packs – these can be pre-wrapped in foil and slow cooked in the coals of a campfire, virtually no cleanup!
  • Walking Tacos – taco ingredients prepared and put in a single serve package of chips, tasty and easy to clean up!
  • Mason Jar Pancakes – add dry ingredients beforehand, just add water and eggs, shake, pour and cook.

There are many different foil pack and simple camping recipes to find online or make up yourself. Who doesn’t love simple meals with no cleanup required?

6. Set Up Camp

Arrive at the campsite early – it will take a while to get it set up and you’ll need your daylight.

Most campgrounds will have a designated tent pad or area to set up your tent. In the event that your campsite is not marked, look for flat areas free of debris and out of the way of dead or diseased trees. While you may want some trees for shade, be wary of trees that could fall or drop limbs on your tent in high winds or a storm.

Food and Trash

Make sure your cooler and other food storage containers are secure and unable to be opened by wild animals. If possible store it in your car, but never your tent.

For trash, hang it away from the campsite or store it in the car as well.

Check out this article to learn how to deal with trash while camping and hiking. 

7. Illuminate Your Campsite

When camping, there really isn’t such a thing as too much light! The bare essentials list has a headlamp and flashlights, but these won’t be enough to light up your campsite.

Get a camping lantern or two or purchase some tiki torches and fuel to place around the campsite. They add a fun ambiance and will help prevent trips and falls in the dark.

Of course, if you forget to bring extra light, just strap a headlamp facing inside a jug of water. Instant lantern!

8. Easily Start Campfires

What’s camping without the campfires?! From roasted hot dogs to S’mores and spooky campfire tales, a fire is a staple of a camping trip.

If your wood is damp or difficult to light, you can use different things as firestarters to help get that fire started quickly.

  • Bring along cotton balls coated in vaseline
  • Fill an empty egg carton with instant-light charcoal
  • Use corn chips as extra tinder
  • Cotton Pads dipped in wax

Another campfire tip: add sage to your campfire to keep mosquitos at bay. 

9. Make Your Tent Feel Like Home

Reading inside tent

Nobody says camping has to be cold or uncomfortable – make your tent feel like home! If you’re not hiking into your campsite and you have room in your car, feel free to bring along as many creature comforts as you want.

Comfy bedding, lights and anything that makes you feel cozy is worth it. Camping should be a fun and relaxing experience, not one where you’re shivering and tossing and turning on the hard ground.

10. Practice Proper Campground Etiquette

Practice proper campground etiquette and make friends with your neighbors! Find out when quiet time is and adhere to it. Turn off or turn down music and don’t be rowdy after quiet time – some people go to sleep early and you don’t want to ruin someone else’s trip.

Other campground etiquette tips to follow:

  • Don’t walk through someone else’s campsite on the way to the bathroom or anywhere, even if they’re not there.
  • Keep your campfire in the designated fire ring and do NOT use it for trash
  • Follow the rules of the campground – they have them for a reason!
  • Keep your campsite clean, and leave it better than you found it
  • Keep your pets on a leash
  • Don’t bring in outside firewood – If you don’t live in the immediate area, do not bring in your own firewood. You will find some available for purchase at the campground or nearby. Bringing in outside wood causes the spread of pests that are not native to the area and can destroy the ecosystem.

Now you know the basics and essentials of a successful tent camping trip. You may find you don’t need as much as you think you do! Get out there and camp!

10 Essential tent camping tips for beginners


  1. These are all great suggestions (and learned as a novice camper while learning to be a Scout leader)! My emphasis would be on starting with minimum and acquire as you learn—there are so many gadgets available that are so unnecessary!

    1. Thank you, Jeff! I definitely have to agree with you on that one. Starting with the minimum and learning as you go is the best to prevent overwhelm and pocketbook fatigue 😉

  2. Your tips are quite helpful for me! My family is planning on having a camping event this summer and I really appreciate your tips. I will also share your ideas to my friends who are also planning their first camping vacation.

  3. My family and I are planning to go on a fun camping trip this coming month, which is why I’m currently looking for a cooler cutting board since this will be useful for this type of activity. We’ll keep in mind to list down all the bare essentials for this trip, such as the tent, sleeping bags, flashlights, and many more. You’re also right about the importance of testing the gears’ batteries before leaving.

  4. My boyfriend and I would like to rent an RV because we’ll use this for our camping trip. Anyhow, we’ll keep in mind to test if our batteries are working before setting up. Thank you for also suggesting here that it would be a great idea to research the site’s activity background.

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