How to Plan a Camping Trip

You and your friends have just decided you need to have a little trip into nature and have made the great decision that you want to camp. So now what? When camping you need to have a solid plan in order to try and avoid hiccups and ensure that you have as great a time as possible.

Camping is not something that most people have a lot of experience in so it is important that you cover all of the essentials to make sure that you avoid having a bad time. This blog post shall provide you with step by step guidance on how to create the perfect trip into nature. 

 

Blue dome tent during daytime.

Once you’ve planned your camping trip, you can enjoy views just like this.

 

Step 1: Consider the season and weather of your location

The first thing that you and your friends should determine is where you will camp. There is a huge range of locations, with the climate and weather situation to take priority when deciding this. For example, it is very unwise to camp in the Arizona deserts in summer when the temperature is over 100 F, likewise, it’s silly to camp in the snow-laden Rockies in winter.

The summer months are the best time to ride off into the countryside with your tent. However, you must also consider how popular the area you are going to camp in is. If families and students are on their summer break then many campsites may be full. It is for this reason that often the shoulder seasons of spring and fall can be a better option as it means that it is easier to find a quiet spot. 

The weather is, of course, everchanging and you should always be prepared for bad weather scenarios. There is nothing worse than a heavy rainfall beating down upon you when camping, turning your campsite into a mudbath. It is for this reason that extra waterproof clothing should be taken and to ensure you have some waterproof boots. Also check that your tent is watertight, or contains a waterproof tarp cover you can put on top. If not, you should invest in one to prevent water seeping into your tent during the night. The gentle pitter-patter of light rain can be lovely. Heavy rain, however, can certainly ruin your trip if you don’t have the correct rain gear.

The wind and storms are also everchanging and often can’t be predictable. You should take some extra pegs in case of a strong breeze. It goes without saying that if nature is going to its extremes such as hurricanes or tornados then you should pack up your tent and head home to rest out the storm, saving your trip for another time. We can tell you for certain that braving out a big storm is neither fun or worth the risk of falling trees and branches.

 

Step 2: Planning where to camp

The United States is so vast and has a huge range of locations and wilderness to camp in and explore. Depending on where you are, you have the options of forests, midwestern plains, deserts, Californian beaches, mountains, the swampy jungles of Florida and many more to pitch your tent. The vast spread of climate and landscape means that camping can be done all year round in this nation.

Whilst camping in the snowcapped north is not advisable in the slightest during winter, some winter sun can be found if you choose to drive all the way to one of the southern states. The natural diversity is truly a great gift that we have.

Within these different landscapes and climates, you also have a range of options. You can choose whether you want to hike deep into the forest and into the wilderness for some true isolation. You also find a campsite that has an onsite or nearby bar and restaurant if you still want some modern-day comforts. There are also so many scenic spots to lay rest in. You can pitch-up by waterfalls, near a cliffside for a magnificent view that goes to the horizon, or in a clearing in a deep forest where you can’t see beyond the tree line a few yards away. For some of the best locations, we recommend that you camp in one of the national parks. Here a guide to Yosemite National Park.

You can take a long drive to a completely different part of the country or you may choose to stay closer to home. Pitching up in a location a day’s drive away from your home is the best way to explore the nation. With all the variety of locations and landscapes, the possibilities are endless. Staying near your home is also a great option. It will save you time and money meaning that it is worth the effort to pop off for just one or two nights. There is often a lot more to see in your vicinity than you expect. What better way to do it than out in the open?

 

Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Nation Park: One of the great treasures of America and the perfect place to camp.

 

Step 3: The length of your camping trip

When planning your camping trip one of the most important things to consider is how long you plan to go camping. A one or two-night trip needs different planning considerations when compared to planning a two week, multi-area camping trip. If you’re going to a place just one or two hours drive then it’s well worth your while going for just the weekend. If however, it’s a ten-hour drive then you would want to take some vacation time from work in order for it to be a constructive use of your time. 

 

Step 4. You’re fellow campers

You must also take who you are camping with into consideration. If your traveling with children or older people then it may be wise to choose a place that is not too far from the roadside or in difficult terrain. The number of people going also impacts the number of supplies that you need to take. This is another difficulty with large groups as it can be problematic if food needs to be taken and prepared for many people.

If traveling with children it may be a good idea to go to a campsite or an area that has activities for children. Children can get bored quickly and sitting around a campsite all day is unlikely to satisfy them. Some large campsites have daily activities planned for kids where they take care of them over the course of the day, meaning that those of you who are parents can get some respite! 

If you have a large group then it can become an organizational nightmare. It can lead to disagreements and hassle when you are planning on who goes in which car and who takes what. It may also be difficult to find an appropriate camping ground for a large group, especially in peak season. If you are in a large group in a quiet campsite then you will have to ensure that you don’t disturb other campers with noise if the enjoyment of your time spent together causes you to speak loudly. There are not many things worse than having your sleep interrupted by noisy campsite neighbors and can ruin what was supposed to be a peaceful nature getaway. 

 

Step 5: Choosing a campsite

You should also take your time when planning your campsite. It’s important to choose a place that will fulfill all of your requirements. Some of you want some home comforts like hot showers, toilets or running water whilst others of you are prepared to rough it up a bit for a couple of days! You should also take the location into consideration. Some of these campsites may require some walking to get to which could cause you problems if you are carrying a lot of equipment. If you are traveling with children or elderly people then it’s maybe best to choose a spot that you can park right next to. 

When you arrive at your campsite its time to pick a spot. It is advisable that you take a place that is covered by shade and if possible trees or boulders to protect you from the wind. Natural boundaries will also give you and your party some privacy from other campers. Make sure that the ground is even in the spot that you choose. Ideally, you should camp upon the grass. If that is not possible make sure that you clear away any sticks and stones from underneath you in order for a comfortable sleep. Also, be sure to reserve the campsite before you leave instead of being turned away upon arrival!

 

A person swinging from a rope swing over a lake.

You can camp at the lake or camp in the mountains. 

 

Step 6: Planning activities

When planning your camping trip you will maybe think to yourself about what you’ll get up to when your away. Some of us enjoy camping for peaceful relaxation away from the hustle and bustle of working and studying. If this is the case then a simple book or a slow-paced walk through the forest may be the only activities that we require to satisfy us. Some of us want adventure in our away trips, and there are endless possibilities to get your heart pumping. 

When in the outdoors the range is huge. If you are in a mountainous area there’s not only hiking to be done. Bouldering abseiling, mountain biking and even paragliding can all be done depending on the activities on offer by the campsite or a nearby outdoor activity center. If you’re near lakes and rivers then you can go boating, kayaking, fishing, gorge walking amongst many other activities.

Some of you might not be going camping for the sole purpose of camping. Your tent may just be a means to an end of being able to enjoy an activity or hobby in the outdoors. Many campsites are located near areas awash with options for outdoor activities, such as near hiking trails. There is a range of campsites that are appropriate for any outdoor activity. Not only may they be close to activity centers but they may be purpose-built for a given activity. For example, many lakes have campsites that are designed specifically for fishing trips that have boats and fishing equipment available for hire. Wherever you choose to pitch up there is certainly to be some sort of outdoor activity that can be undertaken. 

 

Step 7: Planning your meals

One of the keys to having a successful camp is to have some great food sorted out before you head out. You must take into consideration the number of people going and any dietary requirements they have. You should know before you set off how close your chosen spot is to a store or restaurant. If you’re going to a remote location, consideration should be given to whether it is advisable to take perishable food such as uncooked meat. Coolers are an essential piece of kit in order to keep your food fresh and if you want to relax with a cold beer after you’ve pitched your tent.  

There are many great camping meals that you can make when your out in the wilderness. There’s a special feeling that you get when your cooking over a fire or camping stove and there’s truly nothing better than enjoying a hot meal in the great outdoors. If you don’t do some proper meal planning before you set off it could put a downer on your trip

 

Some food cooking over a fire and people camping.

Some good outdoor cooking will warm the body and the soul.

 

Camping checklist:

Take a read through this section to ensure you have all of the essential camping equipment:

 

  • Tent: Although some campsites may offer tents for hire it’s always good to have your own trustworthy tent in order to give you the ultimate freedom. Make sure that your tent has plenty of space for your whole party. If a tent says it’s a four-person tent then don’t try to squeeze six people into it! Sleeping outdoors can be uncomfortable, don’t try to make it more so. Before you leave for your trip set up your tent in your backyard in order to make sure everything is in good working order. Ensure that you have the correct size and amount of poles and pegs. Keep them all together and make sure you don’t forget them!

 

  • Sleeping bag: Make sure that you have a comfortable sleeping bag. There is a wide range of bags that are appropriate for different types of camping in different climates. Before you set off on your trip air it out for a little bit on your washing line for a bit and do the same when you return home. Here’s a tip on how to clean them

 

  • Sleeping pads: Sleeping pads or roll mats are also essential if you want some degree of comfort during your camping trip. These come in various forms and expenses. The simple roll mat is ideal if you are going to hike for a bit to your campsite. It is extremely light and should fit on top of your backpack just fine. Airbeds are also an option. However, these take up a lot of space and it’s not advisable to walk too far with them. For those of you who want ultimate comfort then purpose-built camp beds are the ultimate option for you. These come with a foldaway metal frame that raises you above ground level meaning that if the terrain is a little bit rough, you won’t feel it when getting your forty winks. These are heavy and take up even more space than the blow-up beds. It’s only advisable to use a camp bed if you can park your car right by your campsite due to them being heavy. 

 

  • Flashlights and headlamps: These are essential when camping. If you wake up in the middle of the night needing the bathroom, your flashlight will be the piece of kit that will save you. Although many smartphones contain torches, these are very weak and are almost useless when trying to walk somewhere in the dark. A flashlight also doubles up greatly as a prop for telling ghost stories around the campfire! Also – make sure you pack some extra batteries! 

 

  • Camping chairs: When you’re out in nature it can sometimes be a little bit uncomfortable when you’re roasting some s’mores round the campfire. Not every location has perfectly smooth logs you can plonk yourself down upon. If you have elderly people in your party or people with back problems then a good camping chair can be the savior of the trip. These can take up a bit of space so like with the camp beds its best to only take these if you don’t need to walk too far from your car to the campsite. 

 

  • Picnic table: Although many campsites have picnic tables included not all of them do. If eating in comfort is something that you and your party wish for then it could be a good idea to have a picnic table set aside. Most of these fold away into a lightweight suitcase-style box. This means that they are fairly practical to store in the car and to carry for a short distance from your car to the campsite. 

 

  • Camping stove: If you don’t opt to cook over an open fire, or your campsite doesn’t permit them then pack a propane fuelled camp stove.

 

  • First aid kit: Anything can go wrong when you’re out in nature so a basic first aid kit should be taken to clear up any bumps and cuts. Bug repellent is also an essential item especially if your camping in an area known for mosquitoes. Also, be sure to pack some sunscreen if you’re heading out in the summer months!

 

  • Trash bags: It’s in everyone’s interest to be a good camper and to clean up after yourself. Don’t be the campers that ruin the countryside for others when they’re backpacking!

 

Man with a hiking backpack overlooking the mountains.

Now that you’ve planned the perfect camping trip, it’s time to set out on your adventure.

 

Final Verdict: 

Take your time going through all of the explained steps. Make sure you and your friends are all in agreement on how to best approach your trip in order to avoid conflict. If you are first-time campers then perhaps it’s best to opt for a tailor-made campsite that has a good range of facilities. If it’s not your first rodeo and you have a bit of experience then perhaps you may opt for a more remote campsite with fewer facilities or perhaps you might even opt to go wild camping!

There is a huge variety of locations, climates and beautiful landscapes across America for you to choose from. This means you can customize your trip in a manner that suits you and your friends. It also means that you can change to a completely different scenic location every time you go camping. Stick to this planning advice in order to minimize the risk of your trip going pear-shaped. Enjoy the great outdoors guys! 

 

Bonus tip: While you’re at it, check out this beginner’s guide to camping! 

 

How to plan a camping trip

Riley Draper

Riley Draper

Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.