OUTDOOR BASICS

Tent Camping Tips: Finding Comfort for All Experience Levels

Tent camping tips
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

Who doesn’t love breathing in the fresh and crisp air of the great outdoors? I challenge you to point out one person whose attention isn’t completely stolen by any of the furry woodland creatures they may witness in the wilderness.

Camping is a booming hobby for all ages, across all generations, and countries. But, with growing technology, many people have been getting a less than great experience when they camp.

Whether it is that they camp with enormous RVs or in a cabin, people just aren’t getting the same experience as they used to. It’s hard to fully appreciate the wilderness and being away from home if you basically bring your house with you in the form of an RV.

Well, if you’re one of those people who feels invigorated by truly being in the great outdoors, then continue reading this latest installment on tent camping tips.

First Things First, Find a Fabulous Camping Spot

Tent camping can connect you to the wilderness more than hiding in a hulking RV can. However, tent camping sites sometimes aren’t as top quality, or as well-kempt as RV parks can be. So, your first challenge in this great adventure is to find the perfect spot to pitch your tent for the duration of your stay.

Sometimes this can be quite the challenge, but it’s always worth it in the end! What can beat waking up to beautiful sunrises, and falling asleep under a whimsical starry night?

Fabulous Camping Spot

Before blindly booking a spot, it is wise to identify what you want out of your camping experience. Do you want to swim in a daily cleaned pool, or would you rather hike it to the nearest river for a dip? Do you want to be able to hop in your car and do some shopping at the strip mall nearby, or do you wish for total, natural isolation?

Also, keep in mind that it’s good to have higher ground nearby in case of heavy rain fall. After considering what kind of camping experience you’re looking to have, find the appropriate camp site and book a space.

When the Sun Goes Down, Your Tent Goes up

Now that you’ve found the prime spot to pitch your tent and call your home base on this great adventure, you should hurry it up and actually pitch the tent. A common beginner’s mistake that all campers have made at least once during their hobby, is to wait until the last rays of the sun are peeking through the trees to set up their tent.

This can be a difficult task to accomplish given that most tents can be hard to pitch even in the daylight.

Tent For Camping

Getting to a campsite late is never a good idea, because there is so much that you need to take care of before you can settle down and enjoy your trip. For example, it’s always a good idea to know where the closest ranger stations are or where the showers are located. So be sure to get to your campsite early! This way, you’ll have enough time to arrange your site or find a good spot to pitch a tent, all before dark.

The Most Important Part of Tent Camping: The Tent

Tent camping can be an incredible experience, as long as you have the correct tent to fit your needs. If your tent camping hobby is just budding, a used tent should suffice until you establish how you want to camp.

But even then, there are guidelines every camper should follow when purchasing a new or used tent. First, you should always check to make sure that the tent is manufactured with top quality materials.

You don’t want your tent to tear just days into your camp excursion, or find that rain water can easily penetrate the fabric. And even if it made of high-quality material, you’ll need to take care of your tent properly. That way, you can get the most bang for your buck and keep your tent nicer for as long as possible before you decide to upgrade.

Another good idea is to bring an extra tarp with you to fit under the tent. This accomplishes several things for you: it can help keep out the cold from the ground, protect the bottom of your tent, and keep out insects.

Camping tent gear

A comfortable tent should have enough space for all campers as well. Take into account all of the people who will be joining you on your trip and ensure that everyone will have a good amount of room to sleep in. There should also be additional room for items that you might need to get to quickly. A good tent should include at least one window in order to let in light during the day and cool breezes at night.

You should know how to pitch your tent before your big trip. Try putting it together in your backyard first so you can get a hang of how it assembles before getting to the campsite. You’ll save a lot of time and stress and have a better camping experience.

Sleeping Arrangements

Since you’ve taken the smart extra step of pitching your tent beforehand, it’s also a good idea to arrange your sleeping materials in your tent to make sure everyone has ample room. But you can’t do this until you know what everyone will be sleeping in/on. There are many different options of sleeping materials a camper can choose from, some more glamorous than others.

Sleeping Arrangements

You can choose to go with the classic sleeping bag or shoot for something a little bit more comfortable, like a blow up sleeping mat. Whichever you decide to camp with, it is always in yours and the other campers’ best interests to make sure everyone will be comfortable for the entire trip.

Staying Organized

The next tip for camping the old fashioned way is to get organized. Everything will go more smoothly, and your overall camping experience will be better if you get organized. Making and keeping your campsite an orderly area can be difficult so it’s a good idea to plan ahead.

Talk with the other people who will be joining you on your trip and make some basic plans on where things should be laid out. For example, where should everyone eat? Do you want to be in a covered area, away from bugs and other critters? Where are you going to wash your dishes or throw away your trash? These are all important things to consider when planning a tent camping trip.

Planning, Organization, and more Planning

The worst thing to happen on a camping trip is for you to be up the creek without a paddle. That’s why you should make sure that you’re ready for every aspect of your campsite to be set up before you get there. A good amount of planning goes into tent camping, because you don’t have the luxury of a huge RV with all the bells and whistles already set up for you. But in the end, being connected to nature is well worth the planning.

Plan your camping trip

It is a wise idea to plan out some activities before you leave for the site so you won’t get sucked into tourist traps that aren’t worth your time or money. You’ll get to experience the adventure you’ve been looking for. Fun activities vary depending on where you are camping. In some parks they have activities like horseback riding, day hiking, kayaking or white water rafting available.

On the other hand, if you’re camping in a more wintery-type setting, your camp site may offer things like skiing, sledding or snowboarding. You should be able to find some events or activities on the website where you booked your camp site, but if you’re planning on roughing it away from organized parks, there are plenty of activities you can come up with on your own. Just remember to stay safe.

Lace Up Your Boots!

In addition to the great tips above, a camper should always dress appropriately for the environment and time of the year. It is incredibly important that you know what the environment can throw at you, and make sure that you are prepared to withstand those attacks from Mother Nature.

Desert camping

If you’re going camping in a desert-like area, be sure to bring plenty of sun screen and some quality sleeping bags for the night time, as the temperatures drop drastically. On the other hand, if you’re camping in a forest like environment, be sure to bring some bug spray and water proof materials in case it rains.

A big part of camping is making sure you’re comfortable! If you aren’t comfortable, you won’t have as much fun.

Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, Poison Ivy, Oh My!

It is a widely accepted opinion that camping is a fun hobby that can bring friends and family together. However, it still can be a dangerous activity and there are some things that you need to be cautious about. For example, if you decide to go on a day hiking excursion, it pays to know what the local dangerous plants look like so you can steer clear from them.

Poison ivy, one of the most common dangerous plants campers run into, comes in shiny three-leafed clusters and causes serious irritation to the skin that can last for days.

Poison oak, more commonly found in the eastern United States, can have up to seven oak-like leaves per group. The leaves can be red or green in the spring, and contact with the leaves and stems can cause a rash that gets worse over time.

Avoid Poison ivy and poison oak

Lastly, poison sumac has the most leaves per stem and usually has small thorns on the branch it stems from. It grows in wetland areas, and causes a rash on the skin when contact is made. Whenever you’re out on a hike, or even just walking around your campsite, be on the look-out for these common and dangerous plants.

It is wise to research where you’re going to be camping to see if these plants are native to the area.

Take Care of Your Pearly Whites

Packing for a tent camping trip can be tedious. While it’s always a good idea to pack lightly when you go tent camping, you should never shed the essentials. Always be sure to bring the basic hygienic items! This includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, hair and body soap, and deodorant.

Take Care of Your Pearly Whites

It’s better to choose soap and deodorant that don’t have strong smells, as this can attract animals. It’s also a good idea to bring some portable hand sanitizer to use before you eat.

All Work and no Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

If you’re bringing children along with you to the campsite, be sure to set some ground rules first to make sure they will be safe for the trip. For starters, make sure that they understand that camping has its dangerous moments.

You should include them in on your research before you set off for your adventure to ensure that everyone has fun. This entails telling them about the possible dangerous plants in the area in order to avoid them.

Additionally, take precautionary measures to ensure everyone remains safe. For example, when it gets dark, give each child a flash light or a glow stick to bring along with them. Let them know not to stray too far from the site and provide ample light near your site so they can get back to it more easily.

Is it Just me, or is it Getting Hot in Here?

Camp fires are a huge part of every camping trip! The best stories are made and told when everyone is sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows or telling ghost stories. But it’s not always just fun and games. There is a degree of responsibility that comes with making a fire.

When you get to the campsite, be sure to find an area that has at least a six foot radius of open space. You should at least double this if you’re camping in the middle of a drought or dry season.

Camping campfire

Make sure to clear out all of the under-brush, branches or dried leaves from around the area to prevent them from catching fire. Sometimes a camp site will provide a space for you to set up your camp fire. But it’s always a good idea to clear out the area anyway. Before you leave be sure that your campfire is completely put out. This means that there should be no burning embers or smoldering wood left.

Collecting Firewood like a Pro

What you need to be looking for is dry wood so your fire will burn the brightest and warmest. You’ll also need kindling and something to put in the center of the fire to really get it burning. The best place to look for firewood is right off the trail.

There should be plenty of broken branches and dry leaves and twigs you can use to fuel your fire. It’s not a good idea to snap branches from trees, because they contain water, and won’t burn as well in your fire.

Even though you’ll only be moving a few feet off the trail, it still can be dangerous. Snakes and other possibly dangerous animals could be lurking underneath the branch you’re about to pick up, so always use extreme caution when gathering firewood. If you booked a camp space at a nice site, then there is the possibility that the rangers have already gathered some firewood for the campers. When you arrive at your camp site, be sure to ask before you start collecting your own.

Wear Yourself into the Ground

Play hard, hike hard, paddle hard, and then sleep hard. Sleeping in a tent after a few days can really take a toll on your body, and you might find that it’s getting hard for you to fall asleep. It might be uncomfortable to sleep on the ground, or maybe you’re just tired of hearing your friends snore and talk in their sleep. You can avoid this problem of temporary insomnia by going to bed so exhausted that you sleep like a log.

Camping activities

This can be achieved by enjoying your day fully and participating in every activity planned for that day, so that by the end of the day, all you want to do is hit the hay. There are several benefits in doing this.

You’ll get plenty of exercise throughout the day, you’ll make the most out of your trip and most likely you’ll be spending more time with friends and family. Additionally, there isn’t usually isn’t much to do after dark while camping, so going to bed early simply means that you’ll be able to get up earlier and enjoy everything the next day has to offer.

Leave no Trace

An important rule that every good camper should abide by is to leave no trace. This basically means that it is your responsibility to leave your site just the way it looked when you got there. This means putting out your camp fire completely, throwing away all trash in the proper designated areas, not leaving anything behind, and not disturbing the local flora and fauna.

These rules are easy to understand, but sometimes hard to follow. It can be easy to lose track of everything you’ve brought with you. But, if you do your best to dispose of your trash correctly, keep your campsite contained, and report the rule breakers, camping can continue to be a great way to relax. On the behalf of all campers alike, try your best to keep your campsite clean, and leave no trace!

Internet to the Rescue!

Something to keep in mind before you set off on your epic adventure is that if you ever run out of ideas for activities or places to explore, you can always look to the Internet to rejuvenate your supply of ideas.

There’s always tons of cool things posted to different sites that are solely dedicated to camping and related activities. It’s a good idea to check these sites if you’re bringing children with you so that they won’t get bored. These can range from fun campfire songs to playing games after dark.

Internet to the rescue

Tent camping is slowly becoming a lost art form. It’s much more convenient to rent a cabin or an RV that already comes loaded with entertainment. But it takes ingenuity, creativity, and the right mindset to take on the wilderness on your own. It may be more challenging and tiring, but it’s always worth it in the end when you’re surrounded by the timeless beauty that is the great outdoors.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Emma Sturdy

    What would you (or anyone reading this!) recommend for setting up a tent when it is already raining and showing no sign of stopping? Ideally without getting the inside of the tent soaked too. Is it simply a case of trying to set it up as quickly as possible or is there a trick to it? I was wondering if there was a way I could erect the rain fly first and then the tent underneath it but I can’t really work out how it’d work! I guess I need to just get out in the yard and practice.

  • Jerry Mueller

    No shortcuts for this, you have to pack your tent at the top of your other things or where it is easily accessible. Depending on your tent – if the tent needs to be pitched with the inner side first, then do it as swiftly as possible. Otherwise, with double-skin tents that has to be erected as a unit and flysheet first tents, there’s no problem at all in keeping the insides dry.

  • Julie Stuart

    Maybe it’s just me but I love camping in tents. There’s just something so peaceful without being surrounded by clutter and noise. I do remember though going camping and the tent was for sure not waterproof. Ether that or we clearly didn’t set it up correctly. Who knows! I do love a nice tent though.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Hi Julie! Read reviews before purchasing a tent so you’ll know what you’re getting at. A tent that’s not waterproof and will be used for longer periods of time or for places with fickle weather is a waste of money. As a tip, if you have new tents or just starting out in going camping, make sure to practice setting up your gear before you leave.

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