the beginner's guide to camping
Updated: Mar 13
Camping has become a way for Nathan and I to connect further with each other and nature - it's become a way we explore, grow, and create. While camping has become second nature to us, we get tons of questions about everything - from how we pack our gear to how we prep for our meals. As we return back to a sense of normalcy, travel is looking much different than what it was a year ago. While we're all itching to get back to flying overseas in a safer world, domestic travel is going to be the way ago for a while and we're thinking everyone will plan to see the states by road trip. So many of you ask a lot about camping basics, so this is blog is a good way to get your feet wet. Time to go on a trip...
OUR FIRST TIME CAMPING
The first time we ever went camping together was in Big Sur… in November. We brought one two-person Coleman tent, ONE sleeping bag (I know, right?!) and that was it. We froze our asses off in 35 degree weather but had the most fun ever. We were inspired to try again but prep better, and we did. Each time we camped we had done more research and upped our game. Then we bought the car. Then we bought our rooftop tent. It’s something we were so new to once and now do so frequently! Each time we camp, we always learn something new!
SELECT YOUR CAMPSITE WITH CARE
The first step out of any camping trip: pick a destination! Near, far or in between, you'll have to pick a campsite (or a few if you're on a road trip) and figure out if it has all the amenities you need. Do you have a baby, a dog or absolutely need restrooms and a shower? Do you want to be inside a National Park or in the middle of nowhere? These are all things to think about when choosing your campgrounds.
Even though we’re well equipped to live out of our car, we still like to stay at designated campgrounds the first time we visit anywhere new. These campgrounds are also GREAT for beginning campers since they have all the amenities you'll need. Our go-to site is ReserveAmerica for all campsites that are searchable by area. Once we choose our site, we'll check maps and do a little research around the area to see if there are any cool scenic lookouts, hikes or off-road trails. If you want to stay far, far away from anyone. Try looking into BLM land. This land is government land that allows dispersed camping. It's FREE but lacks things like a restroom and amenities.
RESEARCH YOUR AREA'S SEASONAL WEATHER
Your needs and survival depend on the environment you’re going to, the time of year, and the length of time you’ll be there. We always check the weather and do some research about the area to pack with intention. The desert areas are HOT during the day but very cold at night and can be prone to flash floods if there’s rain. In the cooler months, we check for rain, cooler temperatures, and snow.
CHOOSE A TENT THAT FITS YOUR LIFESTYLE
Before you get super carried away with tents, remember that you don't need a top-of-the-line, crazy expensive tent to go camping. We started off with a trusty $40 Coleman tent before upgrading and then finally arriving at our beloved rooftop tent (or rtt for short). If you're a couple going out, you only need a 2-person tent and if you're a bigger family and have pets, a 4/5-person tent is the way to go. If you don't want to invest in a tent, it's perfectly normal to sleep in your car if you have the room! No shame in saving $$$. Some of our favorites include 2 Person Coleman Standard Tent and the Pacific Pass 4 Person Tent.
THEN CHOOSE YOUR SLEEP GEAR Depending on the weather and time of year, you'll need to pack some sleeping bags and/or blankets. Let me tell you from experience, it's WAY better to have overpacked blankets than to not have had enough for a cool night. As I mentioned, deserts get cold and windy at night, so bring a warm sleeping bag and a few blankets. I'm usually the one who gets cold and Nathan sleeps without any bag (like a crazy person).
PLAN YOUR FOOD
We always put together a meal plan list and then do our grocery shopping the day before we hit the road. This helps us stay really organized and allows us to get as gourmet as we'd like. Plus - when you get hungry, no one is arguing about what to make and it's all planned out ;) We also stock up on plenty of non-perishable snacks. These are always important to have just in case of an emergency and if you're heading out on a hike.
Food Hack: Cut all of your ingredients and measure all of your spices beforehand, then store them in reusable bags or containers. Now your meal is entirely ready to go - all you have to do is throw it on the fire!
DON'T FORGET THE OTHER ESSENTIALS We know, this is a lot of info at once but if you've made it this far, you have all the basics down and now you just need a checklist! Feel free to use our list below and print it out to cross off the goods. Just a reminder: you don't NEED everything on the list, this is just a recommendation of items that will help make your camping trips more comfortable.
WATER - always pack way more than you need to!
Lanterns: SO many good solar powered options out there
A grate for cooking over the fire OR a propane stove
Pots/pans for cooking. We usually use 1-2. You can also invest in a camp cook set
A cooler with ice for perishable food storage (if needed!)
Your favorite snacks
Firewood + a lighter, if your camping area allows campfires
S’mores essentials: roasting sticks, marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate
First aid kit: Being prepared is better than being unprepared!
Toilet Paper and/or baby wipes for hygiene
Clothing for the days you'll be out. Lots of layering pieces are essential!
Trash bags: It's VERY important to leave any campsite cleaner than you found it and remember to pack out everything you brought it.
If you have any other questions, just leave a comment below or shoot us a DM on Instagram!