Camping - Top Tips for Enjoying a Camping Trip

When my son was 11 years old he started the Boy Scout program. I was recruited to serve as Scout Master (my 2nd time at it). He jumped into the program with full enthusiasm. It fit his personality to learn and achieve and gain ranks. 

One day we were talking about his Eagle Scout award and I happened to mention that I had earned mine at the age of 13 because of an ambitious mother. I could see him start to calculate..."we should look at the calendar," he said. We realized that he could get his Eagle award BEFORE he turned 13 with some careful planning.

I asked him, "are you sure you want to get it that quickly? It's going to be a lot of work." He saw an opportunity to knock off his old man at something and couldn't resist. "Yeah, let's do it!"

Over the next 18 months we logged 20 camping nights for the longest time-consuming Camping Merit Badge. It was A LOT of camping. However, we got good at it and it became an adventure we looked forward to every month.

It was an awesome father/son goal to tackle and we learned a ton!

How to Enjoy the Perfect Camping Trip

Having the right gear and doing a little planning make camping so much fun. Getting the food right and figuring out how to get a good night's sleep are the keys to enjoying a camping trip.

Adventure Story: Sleeping with Rats

...As I put shoes on to go relieve myself I heard something. Whatever it was scurried right by the tent. As I sat and listened, I could hear scurrying all over the place. It was kind of eerie.

I slowly unzipped the tent door and shined the light out. There were several rats bounding around the campsite looking for whatever food we had left out...

Read the Story

Below you'll find the following topics:

  • Tips for executing the perfect camping trip
  • How to build the perfect camping kit
  • Top camping product reviews
  • Best hiking resources

If you're like us you'll love the outdoors and camping will become second nature. Let's get started.

Camping Tips

Over the years we've learned how to set up the perfect camping trip. To really enjoy camping we found you have to conquer hunger and fatigue. The 2 main keys to enjoying camping:

  • Get the Food Right - If you're just learning to camp, it's not the time to experiment with cooking. Keep it simple until you are experienced. You don't want to burn your food or eat raw food and get sick. The best beginner camping food is either ready-to-eat (trail mix, energy bars, etc) or just-add-water (dehydrated meals). We LOVE dehydrated Lasagna pouches you can buy at camping stores. We get the 2 serviing pouches because the 1 serving pouches don't have enough. Just boil water and mix it in. So easy!
  • Get a Good Night's Sleep - A sleepless camping night seems endless. If you are cold or uncomfortable you're in for hours of misery followed by a day of fatigue and poor mood. Get this one right no matter what.

    It's a bit of a challenge. I'm a 6'4, 230lb man. The typical ground pad doesn't cut it and light weight, short sleeping bags are awful. 

    Invest in a GREAT sleeping pad and a GREAT sleeping bag. Besides the waterproof tent, these two items will do more to make your camping trip enjoyable than any other gear. 

    I found a high-end, extra long, zero-degree sleeping bag. Most nights I sleep with ski bibs (even when backpacking) because I absolutely don't want to be cold at night. I'll shed the extra layers if needed but it's better to have and not need than to need and not have. Don't skimp on the sleeping bag.

    I also found a high-end inflatable pad that keeps my pressure points off the ground when fully inflated. It was a game changer. 

Here are a few other tips to consider for your next overnighter:

Basic Tips

  1. Plan ahead - even if you decide to go on a spontaneous camping outing, take a minute and plan just so you're prepared. If your campout is more involved, spend the time you need to make sure you're ready.
  2. Know your route and destination - pull out the map or GPS and locate the trailhead and exit.
  3. Gear up (Camp Kit) - make sure you have the right gear and supplies. At minimum carry:
    • a good shelter/tent
    • a warm sleeping bag
    • a comfortable sleeping pad
    • plenty of water or a filter
    • plenty of food
  4. Dress right - know your weather, climate and terrain. Be sure to dress in layers so you can add or subtract a layer if you get cold or hot. Consider these layers:
    • Waterproof Jacket
    • base layers (for cold weather)
    • zip off pants  - you can have shorts when it's warm and add the pant legs as it cools off
  5. Footwear - take quality hiking shoes. The sole should have deep tread and good traction. We strongly recommend waterproof shoes. Make sure your footwear is broken in so you don't get blisters.
  6. Tell someone where you're going - be sure someone knows where you're starting, your route, and when to expect you home. Don't forget this one! You want someone coming if you get injured or lost.
  7. Buddy up - Take a buddy with you in case you get injured or lost.

Advanced Tips

  1. GPS - On hikes you've never done before or in terrain where you can get lost easily, take a GPS dievce.
  2. Topo Maps - If you are scaling a steep trail or bushwhacking through thick brush you'll need a topo map so you can read the grade of the territory.

Outdoor Tips

  • Leave No Trace
    Leave the outdoors better than you found it
  • Buddy System
    Always take someone with you
  • Give Notice
    Always tell someone where you are and when you'll be home
  • Safety First
    Be prepared for the elements and first aid situations
  • Layer Up
    Dress in layers so you can adjust your temperature

Recommended Camping Gear

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Marmot 2-Person Tent

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Sleeping Bag - Cold Weather

High end 4-season survival sleeping bag for overnight campouts

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Reflective Foam Pad

Comfortable, radiant, heat-trapping sleeping pad

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Waterproof Snow Pants

Waterproof snow pants for warmth and protective shell

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Survival Kit - 1 Person

Overall Best Ready-made Emergency Kit

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Survival Kit - 2 Person

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Safety First

We all have different risk tollerances. As I've gotten older I've consciously slowed down a lot and take fewer risks. I've seen guys with life-altering injuries who can't enjoy the outdoors any longer. I talked with a man this week who has messed up his knees and joints so much he can't go on a simple hike. That can't be me!

When we venture out, we need to keep in mind that we have future outdoor experiences to enjoy so we need to get home safe after every one. Our chances of survival and safe return increase with a few principles:

  1. Prepare before you go out
  2. Take adequate first aid supplies - just in case
  3. know your limits and opt for safety over risky activities.

Having the right first aid supplies handy can help a lot. Make sure you have the right supplies for the activities you're doing. 

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Survival Medical Guide

Critical first aid field guide for survival situations

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First Aid

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First Aid Kit - EDC

Personal Everyday Carry IFAK First Aid Kit

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First Aid Kit - Tactical

Tactical, Portable IFAK First Aid Kit

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Shop First Aid Kits and Supplies

The Perfect Camp Kit Checklist

There are so many variations on camping (backpacking overnighter, car camping, campers, etc.) it's hard to put together the perfect list. We're going to shoot for the basics to cover any camping scenario knowing you'll customize the lists to your style.

Shelter, Sleeping, Clothing

  • Tent - Make sure your tent is waterproof and large enough to accommodate your party. If you're shopping for a tent, keep in mind that the manufacturers size tents for tight-packed sleeping arrangements. For example, a 2-man tent fits 2 people but it's tight. A single person fits very comfortably. A 4-man tent is more like a 2 man tent. An 8-man tent is perfect for 6 people. You can fit 8 people but it's a tight fit.
  • Sleeping Bag - Don't go cheap here. Buy the best sleeping bag you can afford. You want to get a warm, comfortable night's sleep.
  • Pad or Cot - If you are car camping, consider a cot. If you are camper camping, make sure your mattress is comfortable. If you are packing in, invest in a great pad that keeps your body off the ground.
  • Layered Clothing - Make sure you bring layered clothing. Most regions of the country have temperatures that swing significantly from the heat of day to the cold of night. Most people have shed their outer layers by mid day but as evening comes on they need to add those layers back. Even when backpacking, be sure to bring layers you can wear or shed. Make sure to keep the clothes dry if you take them off.

    Consider wool socks when it's going to be cold. Wool insulates really well, even when wet.
    • Bring extra underwear and socks - on every outing - trust me, a fresh pair of dry, clean underwear goes a long ways some times.

Water, Food and Kitchen

  • Water - In the outdoors people tend to be more active than at home. Bring enough water for everyone in your group. Also, make sure you can filter and store additional water. I've been on a number of Scout campouts where the boys all run out of water because they underestimate how much they'll consume. Having a water filter on hand has been super handy.
  • Food - Plan to bring food based on your camping experience. Cooking over an open fire is very different than cooking on a stove. If you're inexperienced, bring mostly ready-to-eat or just-add-water dehydrated meals. Once you get comfortable with camp fires, try a meal like tinfoil dinners or roasting hot dogs to learn how to cook in the outdoors. Eventually you can try dutch oven meals, cooking on a spit, or more gourmet meals.
  • Kitchen - There's a trade off between keeping your gear light weight and having what you need. If you're backpacking in to your camp site you should have a light weight stove and mess kit with the bare essentials. Car camping allows you to bring a bin. Our bin contains a Coleman stove, pots and pans, reusable plastic plates and utensils, cups, extra fuel, etc.

Gear and Equipment

  • Knife/Multi-tool - A good pocket knife or multi-tool (our preference) is a must. You'll prepare fires, food, shelter, and much more with a good blade or tool set.
  • Lighter - Be sure you can start a fire (if they're allowed) for cooking, light, warmth, and protection.
  • Headlamp - When it's dark you'll definitely want a light. Managing camp, getting ready for bed, cooking, going to the bathroom, etc. are all activities that require light. Having a headlamp instead of a flashlight allows you to have both hands available.
  • Cordage - It's surprising how often you use paracord or rope in a campout. Whether you're securing a tent, strapping gear to packs, hanging food and items from branches, you'll find good line a handy asset.
  • Hatchet/Axe - Having a chopping blade handy is important for preparing fires. Your weight requirements determine the tool size. If you can't have a fire, consider leaving the chopping tool at home.
  • Toiletries - Make sure you have good hygiene in the outdoors. At minimum bring:
    • toilet paper (we love the personal pocket tissue packs)
    • toothbrush and toothpaste (personally I require floss too)
    • lip treatment
    • body wipes
  • Soap - Be sure to bring biodegradable soap for kitchen duties and hand washing.
  • Bear Spray - Use for protection against animals and humans.

Additional Supplies

There are many variations beyond these basics. We'll list a few. Keep in mind they add weight and bulk but some are great creature comforts.

  • ball or frisbee
  • camp chairs (for around the camp fire)
  • tent footprint
  • extra sleeping pad
  • bear canister
  • dutch oven and related cooking items
  • water cooler
  • mosquito nets

Top Rated Products

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Stove Fuel

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Base Layer

Durable, stretchable base layer for cold weather

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Wool Socks

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Fiskars Hatchet

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Top Camping Product Reviews

I'm a former Scout Master. I've used or seen others use just about every outdoor product you can imagine. When it comes to camping, there are some pretty tried and true products you can rely on. Here are some of the outdoor products we recommend taking on all outings.

Click on the image to read the review or click on the button to purchase.

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Swiss Army Pocket Knife

The Swiss Army Knife is a classic EDC multi-tool that covers everything.

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Arc Plasma Waterproof Lighter

Ideal enhanced option for rapid fire starting

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Hand Saw

Portable, foldable hand saw with case 

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Fiskars Axe

Sturdy, light weight, well balanced axe ready for camping

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Camping Tarp System

Budget camping tarp shelter for trail activities

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Camping Cookware/Mess Kit

Modern cookware mess kit with accessories

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Toiletry Kit

Toiletry kit for the trail or camping

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Hand Sanitizer

Clean your hands and body with effective hand sanitizer

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All Time Best Sellers

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Personal Water Filter - Sawyer

Affordable, long lasting personal water filter and purifier for the trail

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Leatherman Wave Multi-Tool

The most popular, reliable outdoor multi-tool on the market

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Rechargeable LED Headlamp 450 Lumens

Durable, rechargeable 450 lumen LED head lamp for hands free trail use

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Hydration Bladder

2 Liter leak proof hydration bladder for trail daypacks and backpacks

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Hiking Resources

Being prepared with some survival skills, trail information, and weather forecasts can make your hike relaxing and help you get home safe.


Don't get lost! Find the right map for your area. We recommend reviewing the map BEFORE your embark on your adventure. Get a feel for the topography, water sources, trails and roads, etc.

Choose Your Map


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Survival Handbook

Layman's survival field guide for the outdoor survival

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Time to Hit the Trail

We love our trail time! We hope your outings this year are memorable, relaxing, full of adventure, and safe. 

We'd love to hear about any memorable stories you experience. Submit them to us and if we feel the story matches the site we'll publish it.

Gear up, prepare, and hit the trail! Enjoy!

1This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
2 As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
3 Most reviews are based on personal experience from one of our content editors. Some are based on research and the opinions of other reviewers.


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