How to Camp in a Tent: Beginners Guide

how to camp in a tent

Tent camping is an incredible way to connect with nature and escape from the grind of daily life, but it’s tough to know where to start if you’ve never gone before.

If you’ve never been camping, then don’t worry, because in this article our team of experts will show you how. We go over general tips and everything you need to bring, wear, and cook to have the best possible time on your camping trip.

General Tips For Your First Camping Trip

While it can be tempting to dive right into getting ready for your first camping trip, you should read up on some general tips beforehand. This will help make sure you have the best experience possible.

Stay Close to Home

If you’re just starting, we’d suggest choosing a more local area for your first trip, possibly even your backyard. Sticking close to home allows campers to stay in a comfortable and familiar environment.

Plus, if you forget something or the weather turns bad, you can always go back home and camp another time.

tent in backyard

Don’t Break The Bank

New campers often purchase more expensive equipment than they need, thinking that they’ll be camping all the time in the future. Often, they regret the purchase after a few trips when they realize they didn’t like camping as much as they thought.

While we know you’re excited about your first trip, there are plenty of reliable budget options for tents, sleeping bags, and more out there that you can purchase without breaking the bank.

Once you know for sure that camping is a hobby you enjoy, you can upgrade to something better.

Camp in Good Weather

Camping is always more fun in good weather, which is why you should try your best to camp on a nice day or night for your first trip. Make sure that temperatures are moderate and that no rain is in the forecast.

This ensures that you’ll be able to spend plenty of time in the great outdoors enjoying nature, which is the whole point of camping in the first place. Being stuck inside your tent waiting out the rain is no fun at all.

nice weather

Choose a Beginner Friendly Location

It might sound like fun, but you shouldn’t be venturing deep into the wilderness on your first camping trip. Ideally, you’ll choose somewhere close to home like a local park with other campers or even your backyard.

This cuts down on transportation time and will help you get set up in a comfortable environment. If you’re having trouble pitching your tent or starting a fire, you can always ask someone for help or grab a helpful tool from your house.

Practice Setting Up Beforehand

Before you leave, we highly recommend you practice setting up your tent and other equipment. It will help you gain experience with how everything works and will save time once you reach your campsite.

Spend some time in the backyard learning to pitch your tent and set up any other gear that you’re bringing with you. This way, if you struggle or something is wrong with the equipment, you won’t discover it when you’re out in nature with no way to fix the problem.

Basic Camping Gear Checklist: What You’ll Need

While the following list isn’t completely comprehensive, it covers all of the absolute essentials that a camper needs to bring on an overnight or multi-day trip. Make sure you have all of these in your car before you drive off anywhere.

Camping Tent

Assuming you want to go tent camping, a camping tent is the number one item you’ll need for that. It acts as your bedroom, your home base, a storage spot for all your gear, and more. So altogether, it’s pretty important.

Most likely, you’re going to want a dome tent, but there are several different kinds of options available. As we suggested above, you should buy a well-reviewed tent that doesn’t cost too much.

camping tent

Sleeping Bag

While you could bring along an air mattress or cot, a sleeping bag is the typical bed of choice for beginner campers. A good one will be comfortable, keep you warm at night, and let you get a good night’s sleep so you can enjoy the outdoors during the day.

Depending on the weather you expect to camp in, you might want different types of sleeping bags. The main things to check when making this decision are the temperature rating and type of design, the most popular of which are rectangular and mummy-shaped.

Sleeping Pad

Without a sleeping pad, your sleeping bag might not feel very comfortable pressed up against the hard ground. Sleeping pads provide an extra layer of soft protection that will make the surface feel more like your mattress than the floor.

When shopping for a sleeping pad, make sure you get one that is large enough to fit you comfortably, but small enough that it will slide inside your tent without much effort.

sleeping pads

Camp Chair

Camping chairs will add another layer of comfort to your trip, especially if your campsite doesn’t have anywhere to sit but the ground. Camping chairs are usually lightweight, easy to carry, and inexpensive, which makes them a no-brainer to bring along.

They’re perfect for sitting while you eat meals, watching the sunrise and sunset, gathering around the campfire, and more.

Camping Stove

You could probably get by without one if you’re camping in your backyard or for only one night, but a camp stove is nice to have. They’re small, lightweight, and make it easy to cook your favorite meals when out in nature.

They’re typically gas-powered like a portable grill, which makes them simple to work as well. If you want a hot meal while you’re camping, then a camp stove is a must.

camping stove


A quality camping cooler will help keep your food and liquids cold and is perfect for transporting frozen meats that you intend to cook later. Not all coolers are created equal, so look for features like adjustable handles, insulated interiors, and a drain when shopping.

This will all help keep the interior of your cooler cold and your food fresh!

Cooking Essentials & Utensils

Once you’ve decided on the food you’re going to bring, pack any cooking essentials, such as a spatula, pots, pans, and more.

You’ll also need to bring all of the staples for eating and drinking. To start, you should pack some disposable plates, forks, spoons, knives, and cups.

camp utensils

Camp Cooking Guide

It’s important to plan out your meal schedule for your entire camping trip before you leave. If you brought something like a camp stove, this could involve packing ingredients for hot meals.

You might want to make eggs for breakfast or pack some ground meat and vegetables for a hearty camp stew at night.

You should also bring along plenty of snacks for the daytime, especially if you have a limited cooking capacity. Nuts, protein bars, granola bars, and dried fruit are some of our favorites if you’re looking for ideas.

Lastly, a good very first camping trip wouldn’t be complete without some s’mores. Pack some graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate, and get ready to roast some by the campfire on your first night.

camp cooking platter

What You Should Wear Camping

The best tips we can give you for clothing are to prepare for a rugged trip and to be ready for any weather conditions.

Even if you’re summer camping, we’d recommend packing some layers, as you never know how the temperature might feel when you’re outside at night.

At the very least, pack a fleece or sweatshirt that you can throw on when it’s cold, and also prepare for bad weather by packing a rain jacket.

In general, athletic wear will be your best choice for camping during the day. Bring along enough gym clothes to last your entire trip and a quality pair of sneakers. If you expect to do a good deal of hiking, then a pair of hiking boots would also make a good investment.

person in camping gear

Extra Tips For a Successful Trip

While following the camping tips above will have you more than ready for a successful trip, we have a few more that will bring some extra fun to your experience.

Bring Games or Other Fun Activities

Along with hiking and exploring the nature around you, playing some games is an excellent way to occupy some time on your camping trip. As far as outdoor activities, frisbee and horseshoe are some of our favorites.

If you have a bigger group, you could even put together a game of capture the flag or kickball.

If you’re stuck inside your tent, there are very few things that beat good board games. Bring along something like Monopoly for a fun night with your group.

kid playing frisbee

Come Prepared For Anything

Part of the fun about being in nature is that you never know what to expect. You could randomly stumble across incredible views or see interesting animals while you’re exploring.

On the negative side, you might run into some rain even if the weather forecast didn’t call for it. Through it all, the best advice we can give is to keep an open mind and be prepared for anything to happen.

As Henry David Thoreau says in one of our favorite travel quotes, “the world is a canvas to the imagination”.

person with open mind

Go With an Experienced Camper

Bringing an experienced camper with you on your first trip can make it a much more enjoyable experience. Since they know what they’re doing, it will make things like setting up your tent and remembering everything you need much easier, since you can always ask them.

You’ll also pick up on some of the camping tips they’ve learned over the years, which can give you some fun advanced knowledge to use in the future. Overall, bringing someone with experience along will add a comforting and helpful presence.


If you follow the tips in this guide, then we have no doubt your first-time camping will be a successful one.

Do you have any other tips for first-time campers that you think we missed? If so, please let us know in the comments. Happy camping!

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