Camping for Beginners

By Samantha Lemna | October 23, 2017

Okay so you’ve seen your friends’ photos all over facebook instagram and snapchat. They went camping – and wow does it look like fun. You’ve decided it’s time to give camping a try for yourself. Whether you camped as a kid (didn’t your parents make it look easy?) or you’ve never set foot in a campground you’re probably looking for a little guidance when it comes to booking a campground gear food and everything else that goes along with a little adventure in the great outdoors. There’s lots to think about but don’t worry we’ll break it down for you in our camping for beginners guide.

RV or Tent?

The first decision you need to make is if you’re going to tent or RV. Your decision will depend on your budget desired level of comfort camping style type of activities you want to do where you’re going and how long you’re travelling for. If you’re planning on heading out with a significant other friends kids or pets this may affect your decision.

Tents are awesome because you get that true camping experience. It’s closer to nature and more of a traditional experience. You can go places that you can’t with an RV. There’s more availability and variety in campsites – you pay less for a site and you can camp for free much more easily. Tenting is inexpensive and your gear takes relatively little maintenance. However you do have more vulnerability to weather and animals it’s less clean and comfortable.  Tents take more time to set and pack up storage may be a struggle and you don’t have the conveniences of electricity running water heaters and appliances. If you decide on a tent here’s our guide to buying one .

RVs vary widely in their size and amenities offered. You can get a simple bed on wheels with an outdoor kitchen or you can invest in a luxury home on wheels. With power heating and running hot/cold water the convenience and comfort levels are much higher with an RV. Setting and packing up are quick and easy plus there’s lots of storage. You are also more protected from bad weather and animals. You are going to pay for all of this though. RVs are expensive. Besides the purchase price you’ll have to pay for insurance gas maintenance and higher campground fees. You’re also limited as to where you can go and many RV campgrounds are glorified parking lots. It can be a less outdoorsy experience.

You’ll have to decide which one is right for you. You don’t worry about purchasing an RV or tent and all the associated gear yet. First you want to try camping out to see if it’s for you before you make any investment. If you can ask to borrow gear from a friend or family member – just be sure to return it in good or better condition. There are also lots of places that offer rentals such as MEC  Rent Eh Tent  SportsRent  and Rent-A-Tent Canada . For RVs you can go through companies such as WheelEstate . If you’re renting privately just make sure the owner has adequate commercial insurance on their RV.


Next you’ll need to pick a campground.

If it’s your first time it’s best to go somewhere that isn’t too isolated just in case you forget something important and to help ease you into the camping lifestyle. You can either reserve a campsite ahead of time or claim a first-come first-served campsite. We definitely recommend booking ahead especially if you’re in an RV and planning to camp on the weekend in June July or August. First-come first-served sites are often claimed by people arriving early in the week or at the very latest on a Thursday before a weekend. Call ahead to the campground before you leave to see if there are sites still available. You can check out this article if you’re deserpate to find some last minute spots.

Camping Gear

So what do you need? Probably less than you think. Many people overpack when they go camping. Keep it to the essentials but do be prepared for different types of weather especially if you’re camping in the mountains.

If you’re in an RV it’ll likely have what you need so you’ll just have to worry about food and your personal items. Ensure that you have linens (bedding and towels) kitchenware (dishes cutlery cooking utensils pots pans et cetera) and RV-friendly toilet paper. You may also need propane to fuel your appliances if you’re not staying in a powered site.

For yourself you’ll need clothing proper footwear sunscreen bug spray a first aid kit flashlights (or a lantern or headlamp) multi-tool or knife toiletries and anything you need for your planned activities. It’s a good idea to bring cards or games or books for your down time.

If you’re in a tent your packing list is a little more extensive. You can use these lists to help you pack whether you’re in an RV or a tent: REI’s list  Eagle Creek’s list  and the government’s list . Don’t worry about bringing EVERYTHING – what you need will depend on the weather your activities and how you’re planning on camping. Just make sure you’ll be able to keep yourself warm fed and hydrated. Don’t forget to bring what you need for pets and kids to keep them happy and safe.

Camping Clothing

Bring clothing suited for the weather and the activities you have planned. Also be prepared for storms cooler nights and abrupt weather changes. Layers are your friend! Here’s a quick list of what you’ll need to bring:

  • A hat
  • Gloves
  • Waterproof rain jacket or windbreaker
  • Short-sleeved and long-sleeved shirts
  • Shorts and pants
  • Specialty clothing – if you’re planning on swimming or doing an activity that requires certain clothing don’t forget to pack what you need!
  • Sleepwear
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Shoes – have at least one closed-toe waterproof pair that you’re comfortable walking in and bring sandals if you’re planning on heading to the beach.

The best materials are those that dry quickly and wick moisture away from your skin like nylon and polyester. Wool (or a wool blend) is also an excellent option especially for socks and a warm layer. Lighter colours are better when it’s hot though you may want heavier fabrics for night-time. Long shirts and pants keep you warmer in cold weather and protect you from the sun and bugs when it’s hotter.

If you’re just starting out you don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe. Just make sure to bring some extra clothes for weather changes and in case you get wet. Staying warm and dry is the priority!

Camping Food

You probably won’t need as much food as you think you do but it doesn’t hurt to have a little extra especially if you’ve got the storage room in an RV. Having an RV makes food easy – you can keep it cold cook it easily and you don’t have to worry about animals. Tenting makes food storage and cooking a little more difficult but it’s perfectly doable with the right equipment.

If you’re tenting you’ll either need a cooler or bring food that won’t need to be kept cold. Get the smallest cooler you can and pack it as full as you can with food and ice or ice packs – this keeps food cold. You’ll also need to store your food in your vehicle or in bear-safe containers.

You can basically eat the same you do at home when you camp. You just want to make sure you are efficient with what you bring – using your ingredients wisely and have less leftovers. You’ll probably want quicker meals with less clean up too as you likely won’t have a dishwasher. If you’re campfire cooking make sure your fire is hot enough and your meat is cooked properly.

Breakfast can be as quick and easy as a protein bar or the full meal deal. A popular camping breakfast is the eggs bacon and toast. You can hard-boil the eggs scramble them or make a hearty omelette. You can exchange bacon for sausage or leave out the meat altogether if you’re vegetarian. Pancakes oatmeal yogurt cereal and fruit are also popular for breakfast. Don’t forget your morning coffee or tea!

Lunch is generally eaten on the go or as a break in between activities. Sandwiches are always a good option paired with some good snacks such as fruit raw veggies and dip nuts jerky or a power bar.

Dinner tends to be a bigger meal when you camp. After a day spent at the lake hiking or even just relaxing it’s time to chill out with some good food by the fire. It’s a good time for the full plate of protein vegetable starch or you can venture out into soup stir fries pasta pizza salad and more. Really anything works!

Your basic camping pantry will include olive oil salt pepper and a few other spices. Plan out your meals in advance so that you’re not having to bring along extra food and risk it going bad. Don’t forget to have lots of water available and check your campground’s rule before bringing alcohol. Here are some more recipe ideas .

Camping Activities

There’s lots to do when you camp. Hiking biking quadding and swimming are all popular activities. Many campgrounds have beaches playgrounds and interpretive programs for families to enjoy. Some host movie nights trivia nights guided walks and more. You can rent kayaks or canoes or even try out some watersports. Some resort campgrounds even have pools mini-golf and clubhouses. Don’t forget to check outside of your campground too. There may be incredible trails for you to explore or nearby museums or historical sites.

Many people bring sports equipment like soccer balls badminton sets bocce or similar things. You’ll also likely want to bring a book cards or games for chilling around your campsite.

Now you’re a little more prepared to get out and enjoy camping. It’s not always a smooth trip – sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate or you forget something important – but it’s usually a memorable one. Time to get started with planning your next big adventure!