To every camping newb who’s determined to become the Chuck Norris of the wilderness: this one’s for you. This is a crash course in the four most important elements of camping preparation, plus a camping checklist of what you’ll need, because everyone deserves to feel like a boss in nature.
- Research: Do some research ahead of time and read reviews of what campers who’ve gone before you have thought of a site. You’re welcomed to form your own opinion once you get there, but even Chuck Norris doesn’t throw punches around blindly.
- Trees: If you’re not interested in having a dead tree fall and crush you while you sleep, survey your area. The easiest way to do this is to see what’s already on the ground. All clear? Good. You’ve just ensured you’ll live to see another day. On this note, look for some light tree coverage to help cover you if it rains and also shield you from a sun that does not give one solitary damn how hot it makes the inside of your tent.
- Neighbors: If you’ve got neighbors, observe their decibel level before setting up camp. This isn’t Phi Beta Sigma Forest. If you’re looking for peace and wild, that stereo blasting Blake Shelton is not gonna do you any favors.
- Wind Direction: Unless gagging on your neighbor’s campfire smoke sounds ideal to you, pick a spot that’s upwind. Do this by circling your campsite slowly with your head, face, and neck uncovered. The fine hairs on your ears especially will feel even the slightest breeze. When you feel the breeze blow across those fine hairs—stop. You’re facing upwind. Downwind is behind you. And now you are the wind whisperer.
- Tent Tip 1: Forget discount deals. Invest in a decent tent for yourself. You’ll thank yourself when your tent is not leaking from that unexpected rainstorm (thanks, weatherman Rainer Shine!) and your body is not itching from the hundreds of mosquitos who just want to be your friend.
- Tent Tip 2: Smaller tents are easier to put up and tear down. If you’re going camping with your S.O. or friends, opt for something roomier. But if you’re riding solo, you don’t need the Ritz Carlton of tents. Besides, smaller tents give you a wider range of options for where to pop up your new digs.
- Sleeping Bag: Even in the dead of summer, temperatures can drop further than you like at nighttime. Bring a sleeping bag that’ll actually keep you warm. Down sleeping bags are perfect for this. If you’re a hot sleeper, just know that sleeping bags come with temperature ratings to help you choose what’s best for you for your intended conditions. What DON’T they think of, right?
- Sleep Padding: Don’t let anyone tell you an inflatable mattress in the woods negates the purpose of camping. Sure, if you’re looking for rugged, forgo it. But do remember to bring some painkillers, ‘cause your back is gonna be howling in the morning. Blow up mattresses or even sleep pads make the entire camping experience approximately 8 quadrillion times more pleasant. No one’s giving out awards for a crappy night’s sleep, so do yourself a favor and bring the padding.
- Meal Plan: Decide what you want ahead of time and choose recipes that can be modified to only require one pot for prep. Campfire recipes abound on the internet. Also, canned foods are your best friend and save room in your cooler for the fun stuff, like hot dogs and beer.
- Storage: Store your food at least 100 feet downwind from your camp. Bears are real and they’re not looking to have porridge with you. Storage tubs and coolers will do the trick.
- Fire: If you’ve never started a fire before, get ready to feel a burly swell of pride. If you want to chop your own wood, there’s an ax for that. A small shovel is great for moving coals and logs around, a stick near your campsite can be used as your poker, and cotton balls with a smear of petroleum jelly on them are perfect fire starters. Look for fire starter sticks where you’d find charcoal in the grocery store before you head out and you’ll be golden. Like a fire. You’re welcome.
Take charge of these four camping preparation tips and you’ll be a pro in no time. You’ll have some seriously cool memories and will find yourself quickly making plans for next time. Camping’s not hard. It just takes a little know-how. But seriously, FOLLOW THIS CHECKLIST IF YOU WANT TO LIVE.
Okay, it’s not that serious, Aw-nahld. Have fun and don’t forget the beer.