How to go Tent Camping

You want to get outdoors, you hear tent camping is awesome, you would love to sleep under the stars, but you have no idea what to do! Let me walk you through how to pick a campground and campsite, your camping essentials, and some camping basics everyone should know.
I absolutely LOVE camping, it’s the one thing that really brings me back in tune with life, forgetting the worries and appreciating the little things. Every time I arrive back from a camping trip, I feel rejuvenated, but I would be lying if I said it always went smooth. Waking up to cold coffee, a husband whose leg is covered in poison ivy, a couple yellow jacket stings, a fire that won’t start, a bed that felt terrible, and sweating profusely in a hot tent, are just a few things I have been through while camping. Let me help you be prepared for the worst of camping and have an awesome time no matter what unexpected things occur!

She went camping &thenShe felt powerful, at peace with nature, she felt centered, she… [insert your victory].

Step 1: Book the Camping Trip

Our campsite in Standing Stone State Park, a two hour drive outside of Nashville, TN
  • Consider the weather, Spring and Fall are the best time for a camping trip
  • Start with 1 or 2 nights max (Don’t over do it!)
  • Pick a location nearby – many State Parks offer camping, try to pick one within a 2 hour drive of home, this will ease your mind in case something happens or if you forget the tent. This also allows you time to arrive during daylight
  • Make sure your campground has a ranger station or shop where you can buy necessities and firewood. Having the ability to pick up some ibuprofen, a toothbrush, and a Gatorade can make all the difference at your first camp
  • Selecting your Campsite – Look on the map and know where the bathrooms are, you will want to be closer your first camp
    • First timers, always get a site with electric and water hookup. You don’t need to rough it just yet and this will make your experience much more smooth and enjoyable

Step 2: Buy the Essentials

Photo by Uriel Mont on
  • Tent:
    • Affordable: Check Walmart or your local sport store Tent
    • Better: REI has great quality tents especially if you will be in any extreme conditions. This Tent was my first one and very easy to assemble
  • Sleeping bag:
    • Affordable: I got my sleeping bag at my local Aldi’s in their seasonal isle and it works great. Here is another affordable Sleeping bag option
    • Better: REI has great quality gear, get a GOOD Sleeping bag if you will be in cold climates (Fall can get very chilly in the mornings)
  • Headlamp: This is the one I have, and it works great. It does need 3 triple A batteries
  • First Aid Kit: Get one that has antihistamine cream/medicine and afterbite sting relief
    • Also, get some Instant Ice Packs at your local Walgreens and throw it in your first aid kit
  • Lighter: Pack two so you have a back up
  • Firestarters: You aren’t getting a badge for starting your first fire, save yourself a little time and frustration and get the firestarters

See my comprehensive list in my article Tent Camping Essentials

Step 3: Learn to Pitch a Tent and Make a Campfire

Photo by Uriel Mont on

Always do a practice run of pitching your tent either in the backyard, your living room, or a nearby park. Tents are big, so make sure you have plenty of space. Every tent is different, so read the instructions carefully or find a video online. Remember to put ALL the pieces back in the box. Your first time pitching your tent could take you hours, but once you know what to do you can cut the time in half. Always arrive at your site in daylight to give you plenty of time to remember how to put it all together.

See my article on How to Start a Campfire here.

Camping Tip: Download Offline maps of the area you will be camping using Google Maps in case you loose service and get lost.

Step 4: Pack for the Trip

Photo by Taryn Elliott on

Everything on my Tent Camping Essentials Article should be packed, and here are a few additional items/tips to consider:

  • Food: For your first camp, I suggest packing as many things you don’t have to cook. Here is an example weekend:
    • In the Cooler: Ice, water, chocolate (for smores), hot dogs or pizza rolls (roast over the fire), pre cooked pasta salad, pre-made sandwiches, yogurt, Starbucks pre-made ice-coffee/Frappuccino’s, and whatever other snacks you like
    • Dry: Breakfast bars, chips/snacks, hot dog buns, instant coffee, marshmallows, graham crackers, peanut butter/bread, and anything else you would like
  • Keurig/panini press/griddle: Since you picked a site with electric hookup, you can also bring some conveniences if you so choose. Just consider bringing an extension cord and other cooking tools you may need
  • Always charge all your electronics, batteries and back up phone chargers before you head out

Step 5: Arrive at your Site

  1. Plan ahead and arrive in daylight
  2. Check in at the ranger station
  3. Pitch your tent
  4. Get your bearings of the campground and know where the bathrooms are before it gets dark 
  5. Maybe go for a hike or read a book
  6. Start a fire and make some hot dogs and s’mores 
  7. Stare at the stars 

Enjoy your camping trip, and hey, if something goes wrong, just know you made a heck of a memory and you can laugh about it later, I promise. Have fun out there!

Tell me all about your first camping trip!

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