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.