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What First Time Campers Need to Know


According to Kampgrounds of America’s September 2020 North American Camping Report, one fourth of the year’s campers took their first camping trip during the pandemic this last summer. Millennials represent 55% of new campers, and 82% have children. It is expected that camping will continue to grow, as it has been over the last several years. The pandemic has given it an extra push because people feel camping is a safe way to vacation.

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There are several types of camping: car camping with a tent, backpacking, RV camping, cabin camping, and glamping. Tent camping is a great way to start with the smallest investment. Here’s how you get started.

Recreational Equipment, Incorporated (REI) provides an online shop – here — to buy what you need to get started car camping, but it takes a little more than a list of things to buy. To really camp, you need to have a love of nature, and an understanding that camping is not like being at home or a nice hotel. There is no electricity, no furniture, no stove, no refrigerator, and no cell phone service in some camp grounds. While there is no heating or air conditioning, there is all of the wonder of nature.

Camping 101 Tips

To get started, a great idea is to borrow equipment from friends who are experienced. Or for those who don’t have camping friends, REI rents camping equipment and Tennessee State Parks has partnered with Arrive Outdoors to rent camping gear. But if you are determined to go it alone, here are a few tips.

Have the Appropriate Clothing

Make sure to take everything you will need. Clothing will need to be appropriate to the season, but also be prepared for any eventualities, like a summer downpour or early snow. Never take anything you don’t want to get dirty because camping can be muddy, dusty, and sweaty.

Sturdy shoes, like a pair of hiking boots that have already been broken in, and a pair of waterproof slip-on shoes for an on-site shower area, is a must. If there is canoeing or kayaking, have shoes that can get wet and dry fast.

Make a Food Plan

Out in the woods one can’t just pull something out of the fridge and make a meal, everything has to be carried in and out of the site in the car using a thick cooler, a YETI is a good one. A thick cooler keeps ice from melting. Other food must be sealed in airtight containers that keep out bugs and away from frisky raccoons or in some places attract bears. Planning food helps decide how many coolers and storage will be needed. It also helps with decisions on what pots and pans to bring along.

Camping means bringing along most of the kitchen, such as a spatula, a whisk, a scrubber, soap to clean up, and a wash tub. To cook, a two burner stove and extra fuel canisters will provide all you need to cook any meal. And some things can be cooked over the fire.

Set Up Your Home Away from Home

Upon arriving at the camp site, the first thing that needs to be done is to set up camp. This means putting together the tent, pulling together a cooking area, pre-setting up the campfire, and making an eating space with camp chairs and a folding table.

Once the tent is set up, roll out the sleeping bags over an insulated sleep pad. It is best to put a ground sheet under the tent. First timers should pre-set up the tent at home before going out to a camp site or into the woods to know how it all fits together.

Have Good Lighting

Unlike in the city, it gets ultra-dark in the woods. That’s why you can see the stars better. Bring along several types of lighting. A couple of flash lights and fresh back-up batteries, a head light, a lantern or two, and the campfire will keep things warm and bright.

Make sure that you have a flashlight near the tent opening before you go to bed for those who might have to take a trip to the bathroom during the night. Stumbling in the dark can be dangerous.

Find a Camp Ground that Fits Your Needs

Campgrounds have different amenities. If you have no desire to wash in a creek or share the bathroom with a deer, find one that offers a community restroom and showers. Some also provide a picnic table and a grill. And since camping is becoming so popular, make sure to have reservations well in advance.

More Camping Information

More information about camping and camping equipment can be found on the REI website. They also offer classes and trips.

To learn about your Tennessee State Parks and make a reservation for a campsite, click here.

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