Beginner’s Guide to Tent Camping

Beautiful morning view from my tent.
  • I grew up in Colorado with parents who were avid hikers and relatively frequent campers. I’ve been sleeping in a tent since I was in elementary school. I’ve done a little backpacking and my son’s first tent camping trip was when he was nine months old. For many years, we tent camped and although I now have a pop-up truck camper and a travel trailer, I take several tent trips a year. It takes a lot of self control not to purchase another tent because I love them so much. My belief in blissful adventures in tent camping includes comfort as well as affordability.

Tent camping can be affordable and comfortable.

  • With a little preparation and organization, you can begin your camping adventures and I’m here to help.
  • Tent camping does not require expensive gear and I would recommend you not start out buying anything if you can borrow it or rent it first.

How to get started with tent camping

  • Start by assembling all the gear and try it at home first. I would suggest trying your gear out overnight in your backyard. Knowing how to pitch a tent in ideal conditions will help you know how to manage adverse conditions such as rain and/or rain. I once witnessed folks in an adjacent campsite fail miserably at pitching a tent in a driving rain (it blew away). Also, my cousin realized her air mattress pump would not extend far enough to get to her tent from the parking area and she couldn’t fit the mattress through the tent door once it was inflated.
  • Reserve a site at a campground near home and arrive before dark. If things don’t work out, you can always pack up early and head home.

Common Questions/FAQ About Tent Camping.

  • What equipment should I take?
    • The list of supplies can seem daunting and there’s always the risk of leaving something important behind. I have a large plastic storage tub for kitchen supplies and another for camp supplies. I have checklists that I go through and make sure everything is stocked. In the beginning, you can borrow supplies from your kitchen and over time decide if you want dedicated gear.
  • Is it safe to go alone?
    • I believe it is safe. Staying in established campgrounds where there are plenty of other people helps ease any worries you may have. You might also chose to go with a friend who has some experience and can help guide you.
  • How long should I go for?
    • I would go for two nights. Day one is driving, setting up camp, exploring campground area, relax, dinner, campfire, bed. Day two is a long hike or fishing at the lake, relax, dinner, campfire, bed. Day three is pack up, clean camp and drive home. It’s the right about of time for you to learn what you need to tweak or perhaps, decide that tent camping isn’t your thing.
  • What about kids and dogs?
    • If it’s your absolute first time, I would avoid taking kids. As many parents know, it’s a lot of work. While everything is usually more fun with kids, it’s also more gear to prepare plus more food to bring and prepare. Dogs can be good, especially if you’re alone. Be aware that you will need to bring a tether for camp which will always be underfoot and they have a tendency to bark and anyone walking by. Also, there are state and national parks where dogs are not allowed on trails.
  • How do I stay warm?
    • For me, if my feet are happy then I am happy. Paying attention to you feet, heads, and hand will go a long way in providing the warmth and comfort you need for a successful trip. First, bring warmer clothes than you think you will need and dress in layers. Bring a wind layer and a waterproof layer too. I have a tendency to leave my down coat at home especially in the summer and often regret it at night. Bring several hats including a knit hat. Bring extra socks. Hiking will often cause my feet to sweat and it’s comforting to treat my feet to dry socks once back in camp. Super warm socks overnight will help as well.
  • What food should I take?
    • I would keep it as simple as possible at first. It’s great cooking on an open fire if you have the time and the weather cooperates. In Colorado, we’ve had campfire bans off and on over the last few years. Also, it could be raining or you may be too tired from being out in the sun and wind all day and just want something easy. The more you cook, the more you have to clean up after as well. Prepackaged oatmeal cups require only boiling water and the cup is disposable. Hard-boiled eggs are a good option too. I have a one burner stove and depending on the trip, bring something from home that can be reheated like pasta or a burrito bowl. I like bringing a pre-made deli sandwich for lunch. Cold fried chicken eliminates cooking altogether. Also, I always bring a packet or two of Ramen as a backup.
All packed and ready to go!

The Last Thing You Need to Know about Tent Camping

  • Tent camping can be relaxing and fun. A little planning and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone may lead to a new and fulfilling pastime.

What RV is Right for Me?

We were tent camping at a family reunion near Lake Willard in Utah. The weather was beautiful and the kids were having a great time playing in the Lake. After tucking them into their sleeping bags, we settled down too after a long day in the sun and all the family reunioning we were exhausted. Several hours later a huge storm rolled in and tore our tent to shreds. We scrambled the kids into the van and tried to salvage what we could from the tatters of the tent. It was too long after that, we started seriously considering a different way to camp.

There are numerous factors to consider when choosing an RV. My family and I have owned tents for car camping, then we’ve had a pop-up tent trailer, a pop-up truck camper, a hard-sided truck camper, a Class C motorhome, and a travel trailer. Today, we own a twenty-seven foot travel trailer and a pop-up truck camper. I occasionally tent camp with girlfriends.

Below are some questions to ask to help clarify which features are important for you and your travel buddies.

Will this be used for weekends or longer periods of time?

The longer the trip, the more amenities you may want. I like the pop-up truck camper for one or two night trips close to home (we live near the foothills of Denver). We typically use it to get closer to trailheads, spend the night then hike the next day and head home. We take the trailer when we go fishing or take longer trips. Since my husband is self-employed, he sometimes needs to work. We set up an awesome work space in our trailer. See my other article about setting up an office space in a trailer.

How much money are you willing to spend?

I’m not a fan of buying new for several reasons. First, I couldn’t always afford it and I believe there are really good deals to be had in the used market. I can always change the color of the curtains or replace flooring for a lot cheaper than going new. We got a great deal on our Lance trailer (4-season). It was only two years old when we got it. We were able to pull out the jack knife couch and replace it with some foldable tables from Ikea and make a great workspace for longer trips.

Will your RV require a vehicle to pull it or carry it?

Trailers are great because you don’t necessarily need another vehicle than the one you already have, depending of course on what you want to pull. Pop-up tent trailers are lightweight and have their advantages. I could probably pull a small one with my Subaru. The disadvantage would be if you’re wanting to move camp frequently or want to sleep in it on a long road trip. The tent fabric does make it lightweight but it does not act as a good sound barrier. Whatever your neighbor is doing or however late they are doing it, you will know about it unless you opt for earplugs!

Motorhomes are great when you’re on the road. You can make lunch and snack easily, use the bathroom, and sleep overnight at rest stops with relative sound protection. Ours had a built in generator and was convenient to use in these situations. We drove from the Denver area to Seattle to buy a sailboat, trailered it down to San Diego and did some racing all while staying in the motorhome. The disadvantage was the maintenance and insurance. It’s one more engine that needs oil changes and the tire replacement can get expensive.

Camper vans (class B) are a bit out of my experience. My dad had a Chevy van in the 70s that he built in a bed and it had the quintessential shag carpet on the walls as well as the floors. I always slept out in a tent. For me, I want something I can stand up in and use an indoor toilet unless I’m in a tent. They are becoming very popular and did consider getting one before I got my pop-up truck camper but I didn’t want another engine to maintain and I already own my 2016 Chevy truck and can use it for other things.

How long do you want your rig to be?

Depending on where you want to go, the total length of your vehicle may prohibit you from certain campsites or roads. Going-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park has a total length limit of 21 feet, width of 8 feet and a height of 10 feet. We camped on the east side and had to leave our trailer at camp and come back over. To camp on the west side, we had to drive around the south of the park. Even if we had been less than 21 feet, many places would have been difficult to pull off and enjoy the scenery. There’s always a trade-off.

Final Thoughts

Although it seems expensive, renting the type of unit you think you want is advisable. You will be able to determine which features you really like/need and which you don’t. You may think that teardrop trailer is perfect and then find out you’re terrible at backing up short trailers or that you’d really like to stand up.

At this point, we have two RVs which I realize is an extra luxury! I view camping equipment like some people view shoes – one does not fit all purposes and therefore, having the ability to choose is has increased our ability to have adventures.

5 Awesome Websites in the Camping and Outdoor Adventure Field that you need to follow

These are my go-to places when I begin to plan my next blissful adventure.

Since I live in Colorado, I rely on my Colorado Atlas & Gazetteer map book a lot. But, I realized a few years back that I tended to go to the same familiar places especially when my kids were young. In exploring some new areas in my region I came across Fred and Suzi Dow and their website which includes a listing of the 157 national forests and grasslands they have personally visited and researched since 1994.  They also have resources for people interested in being a campground host. Suzi also has a blog corner with really interesting and entertaining stories.

You can learn more about this couple here:

 I discovered this gem just recently as a YouTube channel. These folks have recorded virtual tours of over 245 campgrounds in Colorado and a few in eastern Utah. They release a new video every Thursday. They also have a website with an interactive map. What’s awesome is you can really see which campsite would be a good fit for your rig and setup needs.

You can learn more about this person here

The 52 Hike Challenge is a great way to find places to hike. In addition, the organization supports the physical and mental well-being associated with exploring new places and hiking an average of once per week. They offer rewards and swag. I often locate trails through my state’s chapter Facebook page and the use my Colorado Atlas to see what campsites are close. People share their hikes and pictures. So far this year, I’m averaging two hikes a week and there is a 100-Hikes Challenge too.

Camping for Women

There are times when I want to camp and hike and my husband’s schedule doesn’t work out or I just want to have sometime one-on-one time with my daughter or female friend. I found this website through a social media site I follow that is composed only of females who venture into the woods on their own. This website covers travel experiences of women around the world. Their mission is similar to mine and provides a forum for contributors in the blog section as well as a resource section. It is a one-stop shop for the inquisitive woman.

You can learn more about this person here

The Bearfoot Theory

I came across this website when I was deciding whether I wanted a camper van or a popup truck camper. This site has information about van life and although I did not choose a van (topic for another post), I did find many of the blog posts interesting and helpful. The pictures are amazing and I especially enjoy the winter hiking and gear reviews.

You can learn more about this at


There are a plethora of helpful websites and people who are writing about and providing resources about a shared passion: being active in the outdoors. I will, from time to time, share more helpful resources and links to information I think will be helpful for you to build your skills in living an outdoor-centered life.

If you are interested, please subscribe to my newsletter.

Blissful Adventures Was Specifically Designed for YOU (and here’s why)

As a nature lover and adventurer, it’s been disheartening to see what I feel are unrealistic images of the outdoor experience. The idea that the destination and the perfect selfie with the most picturesque background is the goal disappoints me and while I understand social media is a visual medium, I want a deeper connection to what I consume. As experienced as I am, it sometimes makes me forget that it’s the journey that matters. I’d like to create a resource for people who may not take (or want to take) the perfect picture of themselves to tout on social media. Some seek the conquest, I seek the peace that only being out in nature provides. I want a place where ideas, curiosity, and the anticipation of communing with outdoor experiences provides peace in a crazy world.

So I decided to build it. Let me explain the what’s, why’s, and how’s right now.

Blissful Adventures Was Designed for People Who Want to Explore Nature and Be Comfortable Doing So

For me, nothing is as satisfying as a challenging hike or a good day fishing on the lake. But it is the return to camp that offers comfort and rest. Finding the right gear to explore, spending a night or two or ten, and being prepared is my goal.

5 Things I Want To Help My Audience With

My blog exists to help adventurers have a positive outdoor experience with blissful comfort.

  1. Help make decisions about equipment that is right for their needs.

When it comes to traveling and camping, one size does fit all.  I have backpacked and tent camped as well as owned a pop-up tent trailer, a pop-up truck camper, a hard-sided truck camper, a travel trailer (both small and large-ish), and a Class C motorhome. There are things I wished I had known and would like to share this knowledge with others. I have resources to help you decide which option is best for your budget and your needs. Another consideration is knowing your personal skill level and creating experiences that are safe but also build your knowledge and skills. I also believe that “roughing” it doesn’t have to be rough and know ways to add comfort to your experience.

  1. Provide camping tips including checklists for different types of camping.

Each camping experience is unique and understanding the limitations of where you’re traveling to and what amenities, if any, are provided will help ensure and happy and successful experience. Since we have a travel trailer, a pop-up truck camper, and I still tent camp with friends, it important to be organized and know which equipment is needed for each type of trip. I have resource lists and checklists to help ensure you have the equipment you need for each type of trip. The way you pack for a week where you’ll be driving a lot is completely different from boondocking with no internet or electricity. These decisions are important.

  1. Place to Go including types of sites, benefits and drawbacks of each and resources.

While many people want to travel to the Mighty 5 in Utah or make the grand circle in the west, there are other magnificent places off the beaten path that are amazing and offer fewer restrictions and people. There are resources available to help plan either type of trip.

  1. Ideas for Organization and Food Preparation

Living in a small space has its challenges especially if the weather turns bad or you’ve forgotten some critical piece of gear. I have many ideas to share about organizing your space. In addition, food preparation can be made easy and fun if you know what to do. I have menus, recipes, and checklists to share. A little at home preparation will free you up to enjoy your food and camping experience with little at-site work and minimal clean-up.

  1. Cool gadgets that help make the outdoor experience awesome and comfortable.

Camping, hiking, and fishing require equipment. Having too many things can make it hard to stay organized, takes up a lot of space, and can be unnecessarily expensive. I’ll share ideas and products I’ve used over the years that have been impactful.

Onward to Moab

IMG_1011From Green River, Utah we headed to stay at a commercial RV Park in Moab.  The drive was easy but, for us, this place was crazy and super busy.  We were “camped” about two feet from the people to our back and about four feet from the people to our front.  There was no grass in between and the picnic tables were awkwardly placed atop concrete pads.  Our neighbors’ table was directly next to ours.  In the park’s favor, there were nice trees and a nice swimming pool.  We had full hook-ups so we could leave the dogs in the trailer with air-conditioning on the days we went to the national parks.  The dog area was just a dirt patch and more people should clean up after their pets because it was covered with poop and made a terrible place to exercise our border collies.  We did find a nice dog park in the town adjacent to a trail along a creek.  

Things I’ve Learned

  1. Commercial sites are going to be an exception in our traveling life.
  2. Delaying our visits to the National Parks until the evenings because we were working during the day had its advantages.  First, a lot a people left the trailer park during the day and it was fairly quiet.  We had the swimming pool to ourselves and was a nice midday break.  In the evening when people are returning to the trailer park it is noisy and smelly as many folks are driving RZRs.  We leave the trailer park for the national parks which are cooler and less crowded in the evening. 
  3. The RV Park may actually refund your money if you decide to leave early, which we did.  We headed out of the desert and headed for the Manti-La Sal mountains

Places to Visit 

Arches National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Dead Horse Point State Park

State Parks

IMG_0949At first, setting out doesn’t seem different from any other trip you take.  But it isn’t long before the learning curve begins.  Our trip to High Line Lake State Park from Franktown, CO took a lot longer than anticipated.  We had to stop several times and there was a delay in Glenwood Canyon for construction.  In some ways, it doesn’t really matter but mentally it is helpful to have a realistic estimate of your arrival.   In the future, I will always add another 50% for the trip duration, therefore, a two-hour trip will take three.

The state park itself is enjoyable.  There is a path all the way around which the dogs really enjoyed, especially the swimming in the lake part and later that evening my husband and I took our mountain bikes back to an area with a really fun place to ride.

We stayed here only two nights before heading into Utah.

Things I’ve Learned

  1. In order to work, we need electricity.  The solar panel from the old trailer (with the adapter) doesn’t charge the phones or iPad successfully.  We will probably pick up a generator in Moab which is in a few days.
  2. Start the mail forwarding process sooner than later.  My husband was traveling out of the country right before the trip so we were having forms notarized the day we left.  The scan didn’t come out well enough for the company to read and also my name was to be notarized too.  These things are more easily handled at home but I guess that’s part of this; how to handle these things when you’re not in your normal environment.



The drive to Green River State Park was very windy, a headwind to be exact.  This dropped the fuel efficiency on the truck way down and there were no gas stations for about 60 miles.  The first stop we came to had relatively expensive fuel so we only filled up enough to get us to Green River.  The state park here is quite nice and some areas are better shaded than others.  We stayed here three nights.  We were able to ride ourIMG_0962 bikes and walk the dogs into town but we had to drive quite a way to find good hiking.  The river wasn’t viewable directly from the campground.  It does have a golf course and ultimate frisbee course directly adjacent to the campground.  It was too windy to spend much time outside or attempt ultimate frisbee.


Things I’ve Learned

  1.  Pull-through sites sometimes really mean pull-aside sites.  Our trailer ended up in a bit of an awkward spot because we had to pull in enough for the slide on our trailer to not stick out into the road.  I will definitely look at facility maps a little closer when making a reservation ahead of time.
  2.   Bring dog toys and dog grooming equipment.  We probably won’t always be in a place where our dogs can get a two- or three-mile hike each day so the ball thrower we got at the local hardware store has already been used.  Also, dogs will roll in as much grass and leaves as possible so a brush would be helpful too.

Places to Visit Nearby

The John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River, Utah

Goblin Valley State Park about 50 miles southwest of Green River, Utah


The Road to Hitting the Road

IMG_1793A recent trip to my husband’s birth country (South Africa) this February made us feel as though we wanted to travel and take advantage of better weather, old friends, and new scenery and places to explore. With my husband running his own business and my recent retirement from the classroom and working for myself comes the possibility of working remotely.  We’d like to spend more time on our sailboat when not in charter and travel around our beautiful state and country for extended periods of time.  Given this is a big change, we decided to do this in phases.  Phase 1 involved getting the right recreational vehicle for us and taking off for a month to test things out.  Details of how we decided upon this combination and then, how we personalized our trailer to suit the needs of running a business are in other journal entries.

The road to getting on the road was a long one for me.  In the midst of preparing to be gone for a month, we made a significant change to our diet and my husband was traveling for business for the last several weeks before our departure.  He got home from Dubai and we left the next day.  In addition, I’ve been de-cluttering and cleaning stuff out on the off-chance that we’ll put our house on the market soon. 

The idea is to try a month of living and working on the road.  My husband owns an engineering consulting company and I’m creating products for Teachers Pay Teachers.  We currently live in a 3,000 square foot home on five and a half acres forty miles southeast of Denver.  Our whole family is the area.  My parents, two kids and their SO’s plus my husband’s two kids their SO’s and three grandsons.  Plus we have his sister, three of her four kids and their kids in the metro area.

I wasn’t fully aware of how much it would take to reorganize our lives so that we might live remotely.

  1. Disconnected satellite tv.  I didn’t really need to do this but why pay so much money for something you won’t be using and there are so many online options.
  2. Enrolled in a mail forwarding service
  3. Moving toward getting rid of the business server, including quick books and my husband needing a computer with a terabyte of memory.

This trip has a variety of experiences for us so we’ll be able to figure out what we like and don’t like. 

  •      A state campground with no hook-ups,
  •      A state campground in another state with electric,
  •      A commercial campground in Moab with possible doggie day-care for dogs,
  •      No reservation with attempt at finding free BLM sites,
  •      A state campground with full hook-ups, and
  •      Our land in the mountains on 35 acres. 

Each of these taught us something about work, play, or rest.  Please look for other posts related to these experiences.

“Gearing Up” for a Test Run



Before:  1998 Chevy 3/4 ton with 24 foot Puma

After: 2016 Chevy 1/2 ton with 27 foot Lance

It’s been a year now since I retired and my husband and I have been thinking about living a bit differently.  We have a travel trailer, a sailboat in the Pacific Northwest, some land in Colorado in addition to our home south of Denver and we stayed in South Africa for several weeks this past February.  We’ve enjoyed splitting our time and really started thinking we could do this on a more consistent basis.  Perhaps, we could even give up on house but it was clear we couldn’t live and work for extended amounts of time in our current trailer.

The “before” trailer was 24-foot with no slide and a small, awkward to get into double bed.  Add two border collies to the mix and it was obvious we needed a change.  There are a lot of questions to answer when looking around for a recreational vehicle.

Trailer or Motorcoach?  We like the trailer because we can park the trailer and use the truck for outings.  Given the right circumstances, our dogs can stay in the trailer while we are gone.

Fifth Wheel or Pull-Behind Trailer?  We opted for the pull-behind so we can use the truck bed for bikes and other items.

Length of Trailer? We clearly wanted a great bed space with room on either side to get out and around.  For us, the smallest one possible.  The smaller the trailer, the more options we have for parking and maneuvering.

Slide Outs? We decided one slide out was enough.  The main living area expanded which meant dogs wouldn’t be constantly underfoot but we would minimize the moving parts and hopefully, reduce any technical issues.

Construction type and age? We wanted a four-season trailer so taking trips in the spring and fall would be less risky with dropping temperatures and potentially freezing water.

Truck bed open or enclosed?  Our truck has a Softopper on it.  If you haven’t seen these, check them out.

Budget?  We were fortunate to have a trade and enough cash to not need any financing. But we did have a number in mind and were determined not to go into debt.

Tow vehicle?   We had fairly new cars and this old truck. Our 1998 Chevy 3/4 ton was showing her age.  She had no electronics and every year we’d put another $500 into replacing something and that was okay traveling here and there but not for extended periods and especially with our aging dogs.  We decided to get rid of an extra vehicle and have just a truck and a car.

We traded in our old pickup truck (1998) and my husband’s 2017 Hyundai Elantra for a 2016 Chevy Silverado with an extended cab that has doors so picking up our one dog and getting her settled.  It also has a six-foot bed instead of the eight-foot bed which makes our overall length a bit shorter.

Next:  Read about our lessons learned and how we “remodeled’ our trailer once we got back from our month-long test run.

The Chaco Phenomenon

As I visited the trip catalog on the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center (CCAC) site, I saw the trip I’d been wanting to take for a long time.  As the daughter of  Colorado parents who’d traveled and camped in the west extensively, I heard their amazing accounts of Chaco Canyon and put it on my list.  However, this did not seem to motivate anyone around me to go and I because I wasn’t sure I wanted to venture on my own, I took a chance on this trip.

DSC03375Having a great experience with (CCAC) through the NEH and having a strong desire to visit Chaco Canyon, I decided to splurge as a gift to myself for retirement.  The one distinct advantage that CCAC is their partnering with scholars and the Native American community.  While an NEH scholar, I had the honor to tour Mesa Verde with two well-known members of the Santa Clara Pueblo and listening and feeling their stories is something that still brings tears to my eyes.  This trip to Chaco was no exception.  They had planned an archaeologist with extensive knowledge of this culture and a Hopi tribal member and his wife.  These three people accompanied us on our trip and this is what made it so extraordinary.

Our group was small: just eight participants, our drivers Dave and Winona (from CCAC), Erin Baxter our archaeologist and Phillip & Judy Tuwalestiwa.  One of the major things I learned on this trip is that magic is hard to describe and is better felt.  Not only was this an amazingly well-prepared trip but the combination of our group was unique and entertaining.


Crow Canyon Trips