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Tips for Novice Campers

If you are new to tent camping and RVing, consider yourself inexperienced or haven’t been since you were a child you may be nervous or hesitant about it, particularly if you are trying this as a family.

Before you decide where to go think about your goals for the trip. Is it simply to figure the camping thing out and spend quality couple or family time together at a campground, or is it also to explore the park surroundings, visit local communities and attractions or to try a new watersport or activity?

Here are some top camping tips for novices and first-timers:

  • Prepare a packing list, but don’t overplan: Make a list of what you will need – from gear to clothes – for the duration of the trip, but be practical (it’s common for inexperienced campers to overpack). Click here for a list of tenting gear essentials.
  • Borrow what you can: Borrow key items from friends or rent gear from online platforms before you buy everything you need and ask friends or neighbours about their camping tips. Bring old cutlery and kitchenware and napkins and condiment packages from take-out food orders.
  • Pitch the tent at home: If you are going to be tenting, practice ‘setting up the tent’ at home and spend a night in it or, if possible, do the same in the RV or trailer. The kids will get a kick out of it, the parents will have fewer camping surprises upon arrival and it will help to give everyone an idea of what can be expected.
  • Test all gear: Air out and try all of the gear, including flashlights and headlamps, before heading out.
  • Camp close to home: For some nervous newbies it may be psychologically easier knowing that they are close to home in case of emergency or should they forget something important. Advice from most experienced campers is to start out at a nearby campsite.
  • Verify the tent size: There is no industry standard to measure ‘per person’ tent sizes, therefore a good rule is to go up a size when in doubt. This will allow for more room for gear and to move around. While looking for shade is important when you pitch the tent, particularly in the summer, verify that the tree you plan to set up under does not produce sticky sap. You don’t want to waste your time cleaning this up.
  • Invest in a quality sleeping bag:  For tenters you will need sleeping bags. Whether you purchase or borrow one, don’t overlook the importance of a decent sleeping bag. A useful tip is to place a first aid emergency blanket under a sleeping bag to trap any cold emanating from the ground. Pack earplugs and/or eye patches for light sleepers. Waking up to a sunrise and the sounds of nature is beautiful but some campers may be sensitive to light and cars coming and going in the campsite. (You want to have energy for hiking and exploring!) Hang a tarp over the tent for extra shade or a blanket or towels over curtains to darken them.
  • Simplify food options: Think about meals and snacks in advance, you can even prepare some food for the initial days. Keep it simple with eggs, pre-cut veggies or pasta or rice dishes. Pack away everything in plastic containers and bring plenty of zip-type bags to keep the bugs out and animals away. Aim for a mix of campfire and camp stove meals and educate yourself about any rules concerning them at a campground.
  • Arrive early at the campsite: … or well ahead of dinner – you don’t want to be rushing to put up the tent or set up the RV. Do some research ahead of time on how to build a campfire and, to emphasize the above, plan an easy meal for the first night.
  • Plan for inclement weather: Bring cards, games and layer, layer, layer your clothes. Look at the weather forecast before you camp and pack extra socks, quality rain gear and a tarp. Think about what and where you will eat should it rain.
  • Share the tasks and set boundaries: Help each other out. Don’t leave it up to one person to do the cooking and cleaning. Share duties and assign tasks to the children. Also, decide upon and talk about ‘camp rules’ with the kids, such as where can/can’t they go on their own.
  • Have a safety plan: Communicate any health concerns and make sure that everyone in the camping party knows what to do in case of emergency, including where important medical information and contact numbers are. Have a read of our article on first aid tips for campers.
  • When in doubt, ask: Park staff are there to help and don’t be shy to ask neighbouring campers any questions.You will find that, in general, campers are helpful and resourceful individuals and are often eager to share camping tips and ‘hacks’.
  • Be mindful of others: Familiarize yourself with camping etiquette and things to consider when sharing hiking trails.
  • Pack for the pets: If you plan to bring along a pet check the campground’s guidelines ahead of time and plan accordingly as to its travel needs. Perhaps consider leaving your pet with a trusted party the first time you set out camping; you don’t want to risk losing it when you are pre-occupied with setting up camp and it could cause additional stress to both parties.
  • Do something different: Try something new with the kids or stretch your personal boundaries. These are the moments that people cherish in life and how memories are created. This goes back to being prepared (which is necessary) but planning for everything takes away the spontaneity. It’s amazing what you will learn and experience on a camping trip when you truly unwind.

Now that you feel ready to explore the outdoors you can start planning your trip. Click here to view campgrounds and RV parks in British Columbia.

More tips for the new camper:
5 Great Tips for the new Camper in BC
7 Steps to Getting Your Camper or RV Ready for the Camping Season
Planning Your First Camping Trip? Make it Easy