How to Prepare for Tent Camping

Tent camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors without committing to a full-time rustic lifestyle. But if you've never been camping before, sleeping outside can be intimidating. Get ready for your first tent camping trip by finding the right gear, practicing with it, then following a sensible progression from yard camping to car camping and finally--if you're interested--camping in the backcountry.


  1. Image titled Prepare for Tent Camping Step 1
    Locate campgrounds near you. and are 2 of your best resources in the United States; internationally, campgrounds may be operated by government agencies or privately owned.
    • Reserve a campsite if possible; during the warm season, campsites may be booked months in advance. If you're too late to make reservations, look for a campsite that doesn't accept reservations (first come, first served) for some or all of its sites.
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    Purchase or borrow a tent and practice setting it up until you're sure you can erect it on a windy, rainy or snowy night.
    • Hopefully you won't ever have to wrestle with a tent in such inclement conditions; however, if you do, you'll be grateful you practiced.
    • The tent should have a waterproof rainfly that goes all the way down to the ground, all the way around the tent.
    • If possible, practice in terrain similar to where you'll be camping. Pitching a tent among trees is different from pitching a tent on sand, for example.
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    Do a practice camping expedition in your yard or, better yet, in a friend's yard, to get your first taste of that "away from home" feeling. This gives you a chance to practice using all the gear you'll need, like:
    • A camp stove. You'll also need stove fuel, at least one cook pot, and a dish, eating utensil and mug for every person.
    • A sleeping pad. If you're car camping, you could use an air mattress or even a cot. If you're backcountry camping, you'll want a light inflatable mattress or foam mattress that packs down small.
    • A sleeping bag. Keep in mind that the temperature ratings given for sleeping bags are estimates, but your personal tastes may vary; that's why testing your sleeping bag before you really camp out is so important.
    • A headlamp, lantern or other source of late-night light.
    • A backpack for storing and carrying your gear. If you're car camping you can get away with throwing your gear in boxes or plastic tubs.
    • Enough food and water for the planned duration of your stay.
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    Pack up everything you used in your dry run, plus a few miscellaneous supplies, before you hit the road for your first tent-camping trip. Bring:
    • A first aid kit,
    • Emergency supplies, including a map and compass if you're going into the backcountry, a whistle or mirror to signal for help, and fire-starting materials,
    • A sturdy knife,
    • Repair kits for any vital gear, including your tent, sleeping pad and camp stove,
    • Insect repellent and sunscreen
    • A tarp, groundcloth or "footprint" to protect the floor of your tent.
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    Prepare the campsite, once you reach it, by clearing away rocks, branches and anything else that might puncture or abrade your tent floor. Observe the prevailing wind and weather pattern, and pitch the tent in the most sheltered place available, with the door facing away from the wind.


  • Research how to store your food, too. In bear country you should never store food in your campsite, even if you're car camping; store it in bear-resistant containers, bear bagged (hanging out of a bear's reach) away from the campsite, or in your vehicle. Even if you're not in bear country, you may still need special measures to protect your food from rodents and other animals.
  • Do some research about what kinds of wildlife you might encounter in your area. Know how to respond if you encounter moose, bears, elk or any other potentially dangerous animals.

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Categories: Camping