Heading out on a tent camping trip for the first time can be daunting. What tent do I bring? How should I store my food? What should I do about water? Where should I go? What other gear do I need? All of these questions can be easily answered; but there is not a one size fits all solution. Here are a few things to think about in order to have the best experience out in the wilderness.
How Do I Choose A Tent?
At it’s most basic level, tent camping revolves around having a comfortable tent. This will be your home base for all adventures during the day and a place to rest your head at night. Picking the right tent is vital for your enjoyment.
In order to find a proper tent, ask yourself the following questions:
- How many people do I need to sleep?
- How much extra space do I want inside the tent?
- Is weight a factor?
- How much am I willing to spend on a tent?
Let’s discuss each of these in detail.
Determining how many people you need to sleep is an easy question to answer, but it’s also the most important. This will immediately tell you the minimum size tent you will need.
Tent sizes are rated by the amount of people they sleep, so be sure to select an appropriate size for your outing.
Keep in mind, a two person tent that sleeps two people will be very snug. Once you roll out your sleeping bags, stash you gear into the corners, and finally lay down to sleep, you might be right on top of each other!
If you’d like some extra space, try opting for a tent that is at least one person larger than your group size. This will allow you some wiggle room at night and offer a better camping experience.
If you plan to hike several miles to your campsite, then the weight of the tent becomes an important factor. Many tents are durable and affordable, but they are also heavy and bulky.
While these tents are great for campsites that are near your parked car, they are a poor choice for backpacking. Opt instead for an Ultralight Tent.
These tend to offer the same high quality build with the added benefit of weighing several pounds less than traditional tents.
That decreased weight comes at a price. Ultralights are usually much more expensive than other types of tents. If money is a factor, sticking to traditional tents is recommended.
Also, since this is your first time camping, don’t feel bad about purchasing a cheap tent! Most perform admirably in the short term.
If you end up enjoying your time tent camping, then you can spring for the more expensive setups.
How Do I Store Food?
After a long day of hiking, fishing, or biking, you’ll want some good food back at your campsite. Most of these tips for storing food while tent camping are common sense, but they are critical nonetheless.
If you are bringing perishable foods and will only be camping for a few days, then a simple cooler with ice will work. If you can find a cooler with a rack system, you can store the food on the rack in the cooler to prevent the items from getting soggy as the ice melts.
If you plan to be out for more than a few days, you’ll need a highly insulated cooler, or an electric cooler (solar powered or powered via a 12V outlet in a vehicle).
Highly efficient coolers can store food for nearly a week. Electric coolers can store food indefinitely, so long as they have a power source.
Non perishable food items can be stored in any other contains you wish, as long as they are secure. Be sure to follow local regulations, as some require the use of bear lockers.
Ask your local park ranger for more information. They can also help if you are having any other problems during your camping experience.
How Do I Find Water?
Your tent is prepared, your food is cooked, and now you realize you are almost out of water. What do you do?
The answer again depends on where you are camping. Most developed campgrounds offer free potable water at numerous locations throughout the property. Simply look around, or ask the campground attendant.
If you are out in the backcounty, the answer becomes a little more involved. The best solution is to simply bring as much water as you can to your campsite. This way you won’t have to worry about the potential difficulties of finding a clean, reliable water source. Otherwise, you have to go out searching.
Once you have located a water source, there are two main purification methods to ensure the water is safe to drink. The first is simply bringing the water to a boil. Make sure you pack a way to start a fire, a pot to boil in, and a cup to drink from.
Boiling the water will kill any harmful bacteria in the water. It’s also advised to avoid water with heavy sediment; the clearer the water the more likely it is safe to drink.
If you don’t want to boil your water, then bringing a portable filtration system is another option. These are readily available at many camping stores, and offer an easy way to clean your water.
Some of these products are straws with the filtration system inline. Simply stick the straw in the water and start drinking. Others are water bottles that allow you to collect the water when it’s available and only filters it out when you start drinking.
These products both have pros and cons, so look into both before making a purchase.
If you are tent camping near your car, a great option for storing water is a simple six gallon water container. A minimum of half a gallon a day is needed for a healthy adult, although this will increase based on your activity level throughout the day and the temperature outside.
Also, take in to account other activities that may use up your water supply:
- Cleaning dishes
- Washing hands/face
A good rule of thumb is to anticipate at least a gallon of water usage per day, per individual at the campsite. This will ensure you have enough water to last throughout your trip, and have a pleasant tent camping experience.
Where Should I Tent Camp?
It is highly recommended that when first tent camping, you start at a developed campsite. These offer many amenities, such as water fountains, bathrooms, and oftentimes showers.
They also provide neighbors, most of whom are avid campers themselves. If you find yourself in a bind, feel free to get to know your neighbors and ask for assistance.
Be sure to meet the campground host as well, as they can offer you hundreds of tips and tricks. Try to avoid backpacking, unless you are already an avid hiker.
This type of tent camping can be very rustic and spartan, offering little in the way of modern conveniences.
Finding a campground is as easy as searching the internet nowadays. If you’d like something more personal, ask around your local camping/outdoors store for their opinions, or head to a local ranger station. Many campgrounds fill up quickly on the weekends, so it helps to plan in advance.
What Gear Should I Bring Tent Camping
The most important thing to bring tent camping, besides your tent, water, and food, is a first aid kit. Camping is a thrill because it puts you out in nature, but you might be miles away from the closest established hospital. Being prepared for minor cuts and bruises is important.
A headlamp, flashlight, and lantern are also vital. The headlamp and flashlight will let you get out and explore when the sun goes down, and provide light when cleaning up your site before going to sleep. The lantern is useful for reading after dark, or to simply find something you misplaced.
Always bring an extra blanket for warmth, a few towels to clean up, eating utensils, and a tarp to put underneath your tent. This prevents wear and tear on the bottom of your tent, elongating its lifespan.
Bring a sleeping pad to place under your sleeping bag for increased comfort, a knife for any cutting that might be necessary, a camp chair, and a few board games and books for relaxing entertainment.
Tent Camping Summary
If you’ve answered the above questions, then you’ll have an enjoyable time tent camping. It can be as simple or as complex as you’d like, although somethings must always be accounted for.
Bringing the proper tent, storing your food, and having water readily available are the parts of camping that never change. Where you go, what you bring, and what you experience will change every time.
As a beginner, start at developed campgrounds and bring more water and food than you think necessary. Always do your research before embarking on your tent camping excursions, and you’ll never be unprepared out in the wild.
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