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Tent Camping for Beginners

Updated on August 9, 2020
Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores and her family enjoy primitive camping on an island in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

Tents in dappled sunlight
Tents in dappled sunlight | Source

Why Go Camping?

Tent camping can be a rewarding, inexpensive experience. Tossing aside, however briefly, daily routines, technological gizmos and all the trappings of modern life allows you to engage with the natural world.

Tent camping can improve your self-confidence and relax you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine until you’ve tried it. Tent camping liberates you from the ugliness and drudgery of the modern world and provides the opportunity for spiritual growth.

The Benefits of Primitive Camping

For most of my life, I could not imagine forsaking sturdy shelter, electronic entertainment, refrigeration, indoor plumbing and a comfy bed. You become so used to it all, spoiled in the real sense of the word, (that is ruined) that the idea of several days without a hot shower or TV sounds almost frightening.

Tent camping can be experienced in a well-apportioned campsite featuring showers, flush toilets, electric outlets, shuffleboard, tennis courts and many other modern conveniences. Of course, this venue also means lots of other people and the commotion they create.

Primitive camping may or may not offer an outhouse within walking distance. Primitive camping generally means fewer people and a greater distance between campsites. The adventurous camper locates an area that is not populated at all. The sacrifice of convenience is well worth it if you’re looking for solitude, serenity, and real peace and quiet. And many primitive camping areas are free!

The benefits of tent camping far outweigh inconveniences. After awhile, when you get used to it, you are no longer forsaking the comforts of home but, in a way, going home. You drop the concept of materialism, the obsession with entertainment, your noise addiction and all the man-made crap that focuses your attention away form the simple concept of life and how beautiful it actually is.

Our lake view in the Adirondacks
Our lake view in the Adirondacks | Source

Cool Stuff to do While Camping

There’s a lot to do in your little camp world:

  • There’s food to be prepared, eaten and the immediate clean up.
  • The time-consuming job of trying to find stuff you forgot where you put it.
  • Bird watching.
  • Trying to identify odd sounds both night and day.
  • Standing very still and observing everything around you near and far.
  • Moving several feet away and studying it all over again from another vantage-point.
  • Hiking.
  • Eating again.
  • Swimming. But not right after eating.
  • Walking around looking for useful objects like large rocks and forked sticks to use or to decorate your camp.
  • Fishing. Good luck with that.
  • Moving things around in a more convenient or artistically pleasing pattern.
  • Watching the sun go down.
  • Cloud watching.
  • Starring northward at the night sky so long that you’re not sure if that’s really the Aurora Borealis or your eyes have gone wonky from looking in one place for so long.

It's so beautiful

People who live in or around large cities are so removed from nature; they don’t even know what the night sky is supposed to look like. Seeing the Milky Way for the fist time is guaranteed to take your breath away. A shooting star can blow your mind. And all the while loons call across the water and the air you breathe is sweet as heaven.

At night, going to sleep in your flimsy tent, the swishing of trees or the dropping of those tiny little cones from hemlock trees is a lullaby.

Primitive camping is best if you first go with an experienced camper, someone who can show you the ropes (those tent set-up directions looked so easy) and keep an eye on things. An experienced camper knows what to look for, what not to do, how not to set half the state on fire, and can help identify those strange night noises.

(photo by
(photo by

Some camping tips

Here are some simple suggestions to make your initial camping trip go smoothly:

  • Camping is best experienced by avoiding temperature extremes. Face it, you’re going to be outside 24/7 so if you don’t like 100 degree days or below freezing nights, research weather patterns in your area of interest.
  • Make a list of necessary equipment. Pack light. Locate items that can do double duty. Check all your equipment before you go to make sure everything works, isn’t ripped or mildewed. Test batteries. Try out the pump for the air mattress.
  • Layer clothing. You can strut around in your wife-beater all day but evenings may be chilly. Or not. You just can’t tell. Instead of packing a bulky jacket, prepare to layer clothing, which saves space and is actually warmer. Bring long johns or tight-knit leggings to wear under your pants. Take a couple pairs of shoes in case you get them wet.
  • Freeze soups and stews, they’ll keep themselves cool for a day or two.
  • Take plenty of non-perishable food. The cold stuff may not last long.
  • Bring a ground cloth, tarps and ropes. You can build an extra shelter in case of bad weather.
  • Don’t bring a lot of excess junk.
  • Don’t expect to catch any fish. If you manage to land the big one, eat it instead of the Dinty Moore.
  • Don’t forget plenty of water for drinking, cooking, and washing up.
  • Safeguard food from animals. Hoist food container on a rope between trees to avoid plundering bears, raccoons or chipmunks. Store food in tightly fastened containers.
  • Keep your campsite neat and orderly. Put things away. Assign a place for everything and keep everything in its place when not in use.
  • Never eat or bring food into your tent. Not ever. Not even at home when your kids set the tent up in the family room for some fun while they’re shut indoors during a blizzard. Any whiff of food will attract bugs and bears.
  • Attend to all the campsite rules and regulations especially regarding fire. If the rules seem ‘unfair;’ understand that they are in place for your safety as well as protection of the wilderness area.

Primitive camping is like being a kid and playing all day long and into the night. It can fire up your creativity, increase your confidence, and help you understand your place in the world.

© 2009 Dolores Monet


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