Our guide to the ultimate camping setup starts with the basics ~ packing. Before you can set up camp properly you need to plan and pack. If you have never been camping before, it is a good idea to set up camp in the backyard to know what it is you need to pack. Packing blindly will leave you missing important things like tarps, tables, and beds. If you think you have everything you need, set up camp in the backyard, and check.
Make A Checklist
You will need some of these very basic things for a good camp set up:
- Read our Camping 101 guide for beginners
- Tent or Shelter or some kind
- Beds and sleeping bags or blankets
- Tarps to go under the tents or under the awning for a nice porch
- A way to start a fire, firewood, and something to cook with (Pans)
- A stove or some kind, although this is not a MUST if you have a campfire and fuel for that stove.
- Check the regulations of where you are going to ensure you can have a fire
- A place to store food properly (If you are in bear country, something to keep the bear’s out.)
- Tables and chairs are always a nice touch but not needed
- Things to eat on and with, plates, flatware, and such
- A small tool kit including a small shovel to use to level ground and such
- Portable power banks to power devices or extra batteries
Do you have the list? This isn’t a complete list, obviously, you’ll need your personal items such as clothing and toothbrush, but it’s a good list to start. If you are camping in an RV or a tent, both are recommended that you go through a trial run to ensure you don’t forget any major piece.
Many times the campgrounds have small camping stores that you can purchase small items in. These things are things like small propane tanks for small gas grills or toothbrushes. But, if you forget your towel or sleeping bag, this could be hard to come by and if you do, pricey. And, be sure to pack extra! Be sure to download our free official camping checklist.
Camping Set up – The Ultimate Guide
You are all packed and have arrived at your camping site. The first thing to do is set up the shelter, if you are in a tent, this means to find the tarp and put up the tent. Lay down the bedding, if that is bed mats or bed frames, the sleeping bags, and pillows. Get the food in order and in a safe place where you can keep it in sight and animals out.
When putting up the tent keep in mind where the sun is going to rise and where there is shade when it’s hot out. These are simple things that can keep your tent more comfortable in the morning.
If you are in an RV or Camper you will need to chuck the wheels and get it level. If you are a full hook up to get the hookups hooked up, the awning out and set up the porch. Ensure that everything is running properly and hooked up.
The Fire Pit
Depending on the weather, the fire pit can have many purposes. It can be used to cook, warm water in for coffee or tea, or showers, and is a good heat source for those cooler nights. Getting the fire pit set up and safe before dark is important as well as where the fire pit is located.
Many campgrounds have a fire pit that is permanently placed. They clean these out often and it is where it is. However, if you don’t have this, you have the option to make one.
Making a fire pit, where permitted, means that you will have to come up with a way to contain it. Usually, people use fire rings. However, that isn’t always an option, so building a wall with dirt will do. This will keep the fire from spreading on the ground. Also, remove anything that is combustible nearby.
Things like dry leaves can take the fire out of control in a hurry. Be responsible with your fire! Or you could also get fancy and bring along your own BioLite Firepit, this would also help in charging up those devices as well. There are of course other portable fire pits, actually, that could be an entirely new subject we speak on one day. Look also at our campfire 101 for more tips and tricks.
Food Storage when Camping
If you are camping where there is a lot of wildlife, you need to prepare. Getting the proper food storage can save you from disaster later. And, it’s important to keep the bears and other wildlife safe as well. If the animals get used to food from humans they will not like to eat what is in nature.
And, they will lose their fear of humans. Which this can lead to worse things. As the animals become more used to being around humans they will come closer and closer. This is not safe for the bears or you and helps the poachers.
Remember animals have amazing noses. So when setting up your ultimate camp, keep in mind that everything smelly is food. This can be things like cosmetics and soaps as well. Everything from canned goods to drinks, bottles, toiletries, trash, sunscreen, bug repellent, fuel, things you use to prep food like knives that have food smell on them need to be put up. It completely depends on the area and what types of wildlife and bears are present.
Sometimes full bear lockers are needed, and those are usually supplied by the campgrounds. However, just be mindful of what the animals are in the area. Raccoons and squirrels can raid campsites at night. When making s’mores or nightly snacks, pick up the trash. Our recommendation is to purchase these Thin Bins Collapsible Containers. Each container is collapsible to 1/3 its original size for easy compact storage and organization.
Keep a clean Campsite
When camping, always keep a clean campsite. This sounds simple, but it’s easy to get out of control. Camping with a family, the kids need to be mindful as well. Leaving trash laying about will allow it to blow away and litter the area.
Throw things that can burn in the fire and have a trash bag nearby. Clean your dishes and keep the ground of the tent swept clean to avoid sand and dirt getting into the sleeping area. Keep food put away to not tempt any nearby critter and do your dishes. This will help with the critters and bugs as well. Keeping a campsite clean isn’t hard, after all, it’s mostly dirt but being mindful is important. Clair from hello hiking wrote an complete article about it: How to keep your camsite clean.
Socialize at Camp
Camping should be fun for everyone. Setting up the camp so the children can run and play is important. Allowing them a bit of freedom will help with the sanity at camp as well. So, set up the ultimate campground set up in a way that everyone can see each other. This will help everyone enjoy their experience more.
Put away the devices and be in the moment with the friends and family around you. If you didn’t bring anyone along, take a look around, there are usually other friendly campers nearby that are ready for a chat. Making an inviting type look to your camp will help draw others in. Set out a conversation piece or two or just enjoy nature and the sounds that come with it.
Tearing Down the Ultimate Camp
Camping time is over and it’s time for the teardown. Try to pack in a way that is simple to unpack. Keeping things that are stored in the garage or shed together as well as the personal items will make the unpacking go more quickly. Divide up the work and effort of the teardown. And, keep things together such as tents with stakes and poles. This will allow for a better set up in the future.
Getting the camp torn down and packed is a job and everyone should pitch in. If it is left up to one person, it can get overwhelming when there are multiple people to look after.
If you are camping in an RV or camper take a checklist list and a walk around to finalize things. Ensure the chucks are removed and all hoses are disconnected properly. If the bathroom and sinks were used there will be a pit stop at the dumping station. Ensure there are proper hoses and tools available for that as well.
Roll up the awning and ensure everything inside is locked down. Pull in any slides that might have been stretched out.
Getting home from the ultimate camping trip means there will be laundry. Start that laundry right away. This will help get life back on track for normal the next day.
Put all the camping gear away and take notes on what needs to be done for the next trip. Think of something that would have been useful? Add that to the checklist for the next time. The more camping experience there are the easier the entire experience will be. The idea is to just get out there and enjoy what camping and hiking have to offer. There is always time for improvement.
I have been camping and going outdoors for over 15 years! My first experience was when I joined the scouts. There I learned a lot. From building a campfire to set up a really big tent. Then I know this is awesome. Around 2005 I also started Geocaching. This is a lot of fun. And every time we go camping we look at the map to see if there are some nice caches around.