Are you looking to plan a camping trip and don’t know where to start?  I know how you feel!  We were beginners once as well. This beginners guide to camping will help you know everything you need to have a successful camping trip.

To plan a camping trip takes a lot of work.  This beginners guide to camping will start with the necessary equipment you will need to tent camp.  We will then go over logistics of other aspects of camping.

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Glamping or Camping

Glamping instead of Camping

Since this is a beginners guide to camping we need to discuss the best option, Glamping or Camping?  If this is your very first time camping you might want to consider glamping. 

What is glamping you ask? Well, glamping is staying in a cabin, yurt, or other shelter that is already in place.  No need to worry about putting a tent together. 

Glamping gives you everything you would want on a camping trip.  You get to experience the great outdoors and use a sleeping bag!   You also can still make a campfire and have smores.  It is a great way to get your feet in the water without jumping in and swimming! 

There are many campsites that rent cabins or yurts.  I have even seen covered wagons that you can sleep in.  There are some really fun options.  

But, for those of you who want to go all in let’s explore tent camping a little more.

Beginners Guide To Camping - Supplies

Guide to Camping -Basic Supplies

There are a few important items that you are going to need before you plan a camping trip.  

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Cot
  • Flash Light
  • Ice Chest

Let’s explore some of your options and why you need them. 

Getting the Right Tent

Guide to Camping -Campsite

If this is your first camping trip, you are probably going to have to buy a tent.  There are a few things to consider when getting ready to buy a tent.

How Much Space Do I Need?

This is a great question.  I have a family of six so I thought if I purchased a six person tent it would be perfect.  I was wrong, there is barely enough room for us to lay down and sleep.  There isn’t a lot of room to hang out.

I recommend getting something a little larger than what you need.  It is nice to have a little more space.

What Type of Camping Trip am I Going on? 

The downside of getting something larger is that it is going to weigh more.  If you are planning a camping trip where you will have your car right next to the camp site then it’s no big deal.  But if you are planning on hiking into a campsite, carrying a huge tent would not be convenient.

How Much Money Do you Want to Spend?

Tents come in all prices!  Since this is your first camping trip, I would recommend getting something that is a good quality and has good reviews.  I wouldn’t spend a ton of money on my first tent.

If I decide I love camping so much and I want to do it every weekend then is the time to invest in a more expensive and better quality tent.

Are Pop Up Tents a Good Idea?

Yes, if this is your first camping trip, make it easy on yourself!   A pop up tent is easy to put together.  Our first tent was an old-fashioned do it yourself tent and it was hard to put together.

If you put tents together all the time you become a pro but if it is your first time it takes so much time.  Often, we would arrive at our campsite right before sunset and be rushed to get the tent up while we still had light.  I highly recommend a pop-up tent for beginners.

Have you heard of SUV Camping?

Yes, this is a new thing!  You can actually attach a tent to your SUV.   There are lots of great options for SUV camping!

Sleeping Bags

Sleeping Bag for Camping

There is a difference in sleeping bags.  One beginner mistake we made was thinking that the cute character sleeping bags for kids you can get at Walmart are good for camping.  They are not!  They are good for sleep-overs.

When you camp you want to make sure that you have the correct temperature range.  Some bags will get you warm in single digit temps while others will be a 40 degree or above sleeping bag.

Think about what time of year you are planning on going and buy a sleeping bag that will be comfortable for the weather you will be in.

I hate sleeping on the ground!  I guess I am just too old!  Another beginner’s mistake we made was not realizing we needed a sleeping pad under the sleeping bag.  We sent our daughter to a girl’s camp with just a sleeping bag because we didn’t know that you needed a sleeping pad.

A sleeping pad is essential.  It will give you comfort from rocks and sticks that may be under the tent.  Finding a nice foam pad is essential unless you decide to do what we did and just by an air mattress.

Air Mattress

The air mattress makes camping so much more enjoyable.  You know you are going to get a good night’s sleep if you purchase a good air mattress.  The only problem is it takes up a lot of room in your tent.   I still think it is worth it!

Another Options

We have also used an egg crate mattress topper.  This works really well. It fits nicely at the bottom of the tent.


We did not get cots for our first camping trips but I realized I would enjoy camping so much more if I slept better.  The air mattress is nice for the kids but the cots are better for adults.

We were able to grab some great quality cots at Sams Club. You can also check out Amazon for some great options.  We purchased the Coleman Pack Away Camping Cot and it was very comfortable.

Ice Chest

You probably already have an ice chest, but I highly recommend bringing it on your camping trip.  We usually keep our drinks cold  as well as food that we are planning on preparing during the camping trip in the ice chest.

Since this is a beginners guide to camping, we will recommend a few ice chest options.  We started with an Igloo ice chest.  This brand has been around for a long time.  It does the trick.   Coleman is also a great choice.

Now, if you are going to be camping for a long period of time.  It might be worth investing in a Yeti Cooler Yeti’s can keep ice frozen up to 7-10 days or 3-5 with regular use.

Flash Lights

You will need a flashlight.  Another option is a lantern but you will need something to see at night.  You can always use the flashlight on your phone but I think it is better to purchase a bigger one. 

We love using the flashlight for ghost stories and passing it around the circle.  

Beginners Guide to Camping - Cooking

guide to camping

As I plan a camping trip, food is always a big concern.  I want to make sure I purchase enough groceries before we hit the road.  Since this is a beginners guide to camping, I am going to share with you some basic EASY food to make.  Keep in mind cooking at the campsite can take more time than if you were in your kitchen. 

Breakfast for Camping 

  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Sausage
  • Bread
  • Butter

With these ingredients, you can make egg sandwiches, French toast, or just eat them a la carte. Bring a skillet and you should be all set!

Lunch for Camping 

  • Bread
  • Lunch Meat
  • Peanut Butter
  • Jelly
  • Chips
  • Fruit

We always like to keep lunch simple and just have a picnic.  A lot of times we are hiking or exploring the area nearby so this makes sense. 

Dinner for Camping

  • Chicken , Steak, or Hamburger
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Peppers 
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Corn on the Cob

Foil dinners are the best! With the ingredients above you can have a wonderful meal. 

Desserts for Camping

  • Graham Crackers
  • Marshmallows
  • Hershey Bars
  • Yellow Cake Mix
  • Big Can of Peaches, Apples, or Cherries
  • Cinnamon

The ingredients are perfect for Smores and a Dutch Oven CobblerThese are easy desserts for your first camping trip. 

Snacks for Camping

  • Granola Bars
  • Chips
  • Beef Jerky
  • Cookies
  • Candy
  • Camping Popcorn
  • String Cheese

I like to have a few high proteins snacks that I can stick into my hiking backpack while we explore.  I also like to have some fun sugary snacks for when we are hanging out in the tent.  

Cooking Essentials

cooking at the campsite

Cooking at the campsite is really fun!  You really have to plan ahead of time so you do not forget anything! Obviously, different cooking tools will be needed for different meals you are preparing. Here are a few items we bring every time.

You would probably die if you saw our car on the way to a camping trip.  We have it loaded so full that you can’t get out!  

Hot Tip – Guide to Camping

Camping takes a lot of work! Being prepared is awesome but it take up a lot of space!

Guide to Camping Compete!

Beginners Guide to Camping

Hopefully, this beginners guide to camping will help you decide what you need to purchase before you hit the road. 

We have had some amazing camping trips and a lot of fun being in the outdoors.  Camping is an experience everyone needs to try at least once.  Here is to creating a wonderful experience your family will not forget! 

Facebook Group

If you have any questions when planning your trip come join me in my private Facebook Group.  

This group is a place where you can ask any question about your upcoming trip and help others plan their trips.  It is also a place where I put travel deals.