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A Guide to Camping Basics

Updated on May 24, 2015
A camper
A camper
At the campfire
At the campfire
And you thought you were going to be alone!
And you thought you were going to be alone!

Stuff You Need to Camp Happily

There are a couple of stage to camping. After you decide where to go, the usual next question is what to bring? Camping is just as crazy as going on vacation when it comes to packing and deciding what to bring. Like most times, you tend to pack way too much, stuff you never use but have "just in case". Its that "fear" element of that you might need it and its better to have it or not. I recall going on a 10-day vacation to Florida. My suitcase had everything I thought I would need. I over packed because after it was all done with and I was back home, some things I had lugged around were not even touched or worn!

Camping is much the same. After all, you are going out in nature. Away from the everyday things you use like Wi-Fi, Internet, TV, and even if you have no service for you phone, you will need battery power for recharging to play games on it! Time and distance are important factors in planning a camping trip. On a 3-day weekend, is it worth a 3-4 hr. drive to your site? Leaving on a Friday and arriving that night, leaves you two days of 100% camping. A closer site within 1-2 hrs. might be better.

What to Pack

At the very minimum, you need the following items:

  • Tent, ground cloth, sleeping bags and pads to make comfy, flashlight, lantern, folding chairs, pillows.
  • A cooler with ice, portable stove with fuel, cutting board, knife, skillet, pans, plates, cups, utensils, firewood, batteries, toilet paper, dental hygiene elements, shaving tools.
  • Coffee, drinks, milk, butter, oatmeal\granola, eggs, bread, fruit, cooking oil, meat, ingredients for making S'mores.
  • A change of clothes for all who are going based upon weather forecasts to where you are going, hiking and tennis shoes, sandals.
  • The night before you leave, pack your car. Fill up with gas. That way, you can leave quickly.

Setting Up

So you have arrived at the campsite. You must always try to set up your tent on level ground! If you are unable to, once the tent is up, sleep with your head at the higher level. Keep your tent location away from your cooking and public circle areas from where everyone gathers. This allows for privacy and separation, which is a good thing! Avoid having your tent near picnic tables or fire pits.

Making a Fire

You would surprised of how many urbanites have no clue about building a fire. The basic design is to create a square of logs in the pit. Inside the square, stack, tee-pee style, smaller wood or kindling in the center. Douse the entire wood with starter fluid. Use can use newspaper within the center also to facilitate burning. Using charcoal is fine also. Most fires burn for 30-45 minutes before dimming, so this is good cooking time.

Unwanted Guests

The most frequent are raccoons, squirrels, ants and an occasional bear. The simplest way to avoid these critters is to NEVER leave any edible food laying around the campsite and leaving for the day. Always pack it in containers and put in the car with the windows up. Do not leave food in the tent. After meals, clean well all the table services and keep the trash away from the site. Keep the lids on trash cans tight.


Brewing coffee at the site can baffle the inexperienced. Simply heat water in a pot and pour a cone filter sitting on top of coffee pot. The critical element is how much coffee? The formula for five strong cups of coffee is: 1 cup of coffee + 6 cups of water.

In general, camping is a social thing. Going solo is fine, but it is far better with at least one other person to share the experience. Of course, there are different levels of camping. Many people use their car to sleep in. The car keeps critters out,you safe, and it is very quiet. If the rear seat folds down, odds are you could make a comfy bed there. This way, you do not need a tent. As food, depending how remote you are, you could also simply dine in nearby eateries, this would eliminate all the kitchen things you need to take and clean up hassles. It minimizes garbage. If frees you to simply going hiking, boating or whatever in the park, which is the objective of the getaway. You can still sit around the campfire and night and socialize. It is called, "car camping".


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