What Do I Need to Know About Camping?

Posted by Madison on July 8, 2010

We’re planning a camping trip. Well, let me rephrase that, I’m planning a camping trip. Scott’s idea of vacation revolves around nice hotels, hot showers, and eating at restaurants.

Apparently his parents took him camping so much as a little kid, that he’s scarred for life and never wants to do it again; however, he did agree to go for the kids sake. (But between you and me, I actually think he’ll have fun… he just won’t want to admit it!)

I haven’t been camping since I was a little kid so I don’t remember all of the logistics. Obviously, we need a tent (I saw some on sale at Costco – maybe these would work?) and some gear. But beyond that, I don’t remember any of the details.

Camping itself is a very frugal alternative to regular vacations; no pricey hotels or flights. So it should be a money saver, right?

Your turn! Tell me everything I need to know about planning a camping trip!

Do you like to go camping? What tips do you have? How do I find the best campsites? What things do you spend money on and what things do you skimp on?

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Comments to What Do I Need to Know About Camping?

  1. Get a tarp in case it rains, to have under your tent, and one for the top, just to be safe. The last thing you want is to be wet, lol. And I think you need to dig a ditch around the tent for the same reason, but I don’t know how that works.

    Have fun!

    PS, regarding the idea of building a house, just wanted to comment that according to one of the “rich guy” books (I don’t remember which one right now), millioanaires DON’T build houses, they get them ready, because of the hassle of building one, and the expense. Something else to consider 😉


  2. If there’s an REI camping store in your area, check to see if they’re having a used gear sale. Sometimes you will be lucky and find a tent for a low price.

    I’ve bought other gear for 50% to 70% off the original price. Unfortunately, used gears from REI aren’t covered by their lifetime warranty.

    It is worth becoming a member there.

    I have couple of tents from Target, and they work well. They’re easy to assemble Just make sure the tent is water proof.

    As for camping stoves, you can get a decent one from Target. Here’s an example, http://www.coleman.com/coleman.....038;brand=

    You don’t need high grade fuel canisters to cook food. Propanes will suffice! Only time you’d need butane or high end fuel is if you were backpacking or in really high altitude.

    If there will be bugs/mosquitoes flying around the camp site, bring insect repellent. If there are bears, make sure the campground has lock boxes for food. Clean out your car, or else a bear may tear it up to get food. They can smell long distance.

    Paul Pak

  3. We bought a tent a month and a half ago from Amazon. It was a very roomy two person tent, easy to set up, and well rated there.

    Richard Rohde

  4. Hello Madison!

    Thank you for the mention:).

    My husband and I LOVE to go camping; make a bottle of soapy water that you can squeeze out and use to wash/rinse dishes off–it will really come in handy.

    Have fun!

    Amanda L Grossman

  5. Camping is the best.

    Since you mentioned kids, depending on how old they are, you might want to get 2 tents, one for them and the other for the adults. I remember as kids having our separate tent when camping made it feel like we were out on our own.

    I would go with a small charcoal grill for cooking out, and then just get hot dogs for the kids, as they usually last better in the cooler than other meats. Plus, you can grill fish if you plan to go fishing, and get fruits that will last without refrigeration as well for snacks.

    Don’t forget marshmallows as well, no camping trip is complete without roasting marshmallows.

    What you bring depends a lot on where you are going, like a national park without much in the way of facilities or a campground that has bathrooms and running water, etc., because you may need to bring water as well or wood for a campfire, but some campgrounds will supply this.

    I see the PO Box in my email notifications from MyDollarPlan, so I don’t know if that location applies to you, but I was wondering if you were going to Devil’s Lake or somewhere in that area. It’s really nice around there and lots to do for kids. If you really want to get in the great outdoors though, head up to the Ashland area and the national parks up there. That’s a whole different type of outdoors and camping.

    The tarp idea in the above comment is essential as well for keeping dry.

    Have a great time.


  6. Car camping is great! Our family started doing it when I was a little kid in the 1960’s, and we graduated from local weekenders to big cross-country expeditions to Yellowstone, the Tetons, Zion, Mesa Verde, and many other places.

    I’ve never lost the urge and later started backpacking, hiking, and mountaineering as an adult. I’ve since done that cross-country camping trip many times (48 states by now) and also to Alaska, the Himalaya, and elsewhere.

    For car camping, just get a decent tent, an ice cooler (Coleman), a decent stove (again Coleman), decent sleeping bags and **(air) mattresses**, lantern and flashlights, some cooking gear and plastic storage containers, water container, bucket, and you’re good to go. You can probably get most of it at Costco and Wal-Mart or the local sporting goods store. Whatever you forget you can pick up later.

    Don’t forget those little luxuries like folding chairs and a portable fishing rod.


  7. We are packing up tonight to head out for the weekend. We bought a tent last summer and only went out once. This is the first time this summer. We have 2 kids, ages 4 & 2. This is fairly new to us, so I don’t have much advice yet, but maybe by Monday I will be a wealth of information.


  8. Air mattresses. Gotta have those. Folding chairs. A good coleman stove, an all in one pots and pans set with utensils and pillows!


  9. Just returned from our camping trip last weekend. Be aware of the biting flies – they are very mean! Unfortunately I don’t think there is any repellent for these little beasts, so bring light, long sleeve shirts and pants in case they appear.

    We had wonderful camping meals! If you are not familiar with cooking over a campfire bring a stove for sure, and a cooler with ice to keep fresh food fresh. Some light preparation ahead of time is needed but then you can still eat yummy food. Here are what we ate:

    1. Chicken wings & rosemary infused oil + red potatoes in aluminum foil pouches over campfire
    2. Scrambled eggs with fresh herbs from our garden on the stove
    3. Baked Potato Soup – roux was made ahead of time, then add some campfire roasted potatoes, and crispy bacon bits
    4. Ribeye Steaks & Bacon fat roasted shredded cabbage in an aluminum foil pouch over the campfire
    5. Freshly made Guacamole & chips


  10. I’m jealous. I love camping but haven’t been in a while. Too hot here anyway. Definitely check out a Coleman stove if you are going to be doing this a while. I found one for $10 at a garage sale. Almost new. These days I have to have a air mattress. Don’t skimp on quality there. Have fun!


  11. We just got back from a two week road trip with our baby (who turned 1 the same day yours did!). This included 3-nights of camping at Rocky Mountain National Park in CO. Here are some of my recommendations:

    1. Air mattress! or cots! The ground is REALLY hard. We knew this, but decided to leave ours home for space reasons – bad idea – we cut the camping one night short!

    2. Two nights of camping is probably the most I would do with kids. It’s a lot of work!

    3. We forgot our bottle opener!

    4. I would bring a pot to boil water over the stove or fire so you can be sure to clean your sippy cups/bottles – we were stuck using cold water, and that made me nervous. Don’t forget dishsoap!

    5. To find the best campsites – we used to always camp at Devils Lake when I was little, and we’d take a walk around the campground to pick the sites we wanted for the following years. This time around, I was able to find someone’s pictures of the sites on Picasa, which was really helpful.

    6. Never can have enough wipes, papertowels, etc. You can find plastic tablecloths for the picnic tables, which is really nice with kids who don’t use plates yet.

    7. In our early years of camping, we always forgot a hammer for the tent stakes.

    8. Multiple lanterns!

    9. Agree on extra tarps – don’t want to get all wet!

    10. Watch for poison ivy.

    Also, pack light! We packed so much stuff we didn’t use – after 14 days of loading and unloading, that got old! We did use a pack n’ play for our son – not sure what your plans are for the baby. As kids, we always used cots.

    Good luck!

    PS – I’m with Scott, give me a $300 hotel room anytime!


  12. Before you go, find someone in the area near your campgrounds who sells fire wood. Unload your vehicle at the camp site and then pick up the wood. Typically it will cost between $40 and $50 for a 1/2 a face cord, which will be more than enough for a three day camping weekend. You can save about $50 doing it this way over buying the bundles of wood from the campground.


  13. My parents use to bring a giant cardboard box along to use as a play pen/play house for the kids. At the end of the trip we’d just burn it in the fire since it was pretty trashed already. As far as local camping goes, I’d highly recommend Yellowstone Lake near New Glarus, WI. They have educational programs for the kids and invite everyone down to watch the bats emerge from the bat houses at dusk. Best part are that the bats keep all the bugs away!
    Check reserveamerica.com for making camp site reservations!


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