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  • Writer's pictureBianca Paola Gonzalez

Camping for Newbies 101: The Do's and Don'ts

If you're camping for the first time here's what you should and shouldn't do, and what you must bring.

Para leer en español, oprima aquí.

My first camping trip was quite an experience. My motto for the trip was a piece of advice my mom would always tells me: "you get through one night however it comes". It sounds better in Spanish, "una noche se pasa como sea, which basically means that I won't die if I don't have the commodities I'm used to. You'll get by and survive. That advice served me well in my university days, but now, well... I should've done like my sister who fit our house into the car. I thought she was exaggerating, but her motto was another piece of advice that my mother always gave us: "It's better to have more and not need it, than to have less and need it." I must admit that my sister was wiser this time.

While I limited myself to bringing only the essentials, like the camping tent, a sleeping bag, some socks, a jacket, snacks, an extra change of clothes, my portable charger, and my feminine care items (it was that time of the month for both of us), among other things, my sister brought in addition: a blanket, three jackets (all for her of course), a pillow, towel, food, water, paper towels and toilet paper, flashlights, batteries, matches, beach chairs, etc.

My biggest lesson: "It is better to have more and not need it, than to have less and need it." Engrave that on your head. Don't get me wrong, the experience was a wonderful adventure, but freezing to death was not part of the plan. I swear, I don't know how I didn't catch a cold. But hey, I spent the night how it came and I survived, but I'll make it simpler for you.

For those newbies who have never camped and even those who have, here are some recommendations for you to avoid (or limit) the struggles that my sister and I went through on our first time camping.

1. Bring your camping tent (of course)

We bought ours at Walmart for $30 or so. Supposedly two to three people fit, but comfortably, I say two.

2. Get to your camping location early

Arrive early to ensure a good spot and to set up the tent with good light. It was a little after 7:00 p.m. when we finished putting it together and it took us a while because we could hardly see and because we had no idea how to build it, which brings me to the next point.

3. Practice building your camping tent

It took us about an hour and a half to set the tent because we had no clue what we were doing. I suggest you practice building it with the help of a YouTube video or by following the written instructions. We were lucky we ran into cool people who gave us a helping hand. Otherwise, I think we would have slept in the car.

4. Bring additional stakes

If you misplace one and you don't have extras... good luck. Bring a few additional stakes just in case. The ones that came with our tent were super small, which caused them to come off the ground more easily as the wind kept blowing it. They had no good grip. At Walmart I got longs ones that I trust will be more effective.

5. Bring a hammer

Nope, it's not to be used as a defense mechanism, it is to secure the stakes of the tent and prevent it from blowing away with the wind, as ours did on several occasions. We were fortunate that an experienced couple and a rather audacious guy (in the best sense of the word) helped us. They basically set the whole thing up; we simply light up the work space.

6. Bring flashlights

The plural use of the word is on purpose. Two are good, one to help you light the way when you move around and the other to leave it on inside the tent.

7. Check if there are restrooms available

Apparently the camping site we went to had a restroom. We didn't know that until the next morning when we were leaving and, remember I mentioned that my sister and I were on our period? Well, you can imagine the hassle of going to an improvised restroom...We used the car that was parked nearby and we managed despite the darkness, the wind, the cold air, the discomfort, and the fear of someone walking by with their flashlight on, which happened in several occasions.

8. Bring a blanket and a pillow

If you're camping on a mountain and don't want to end up with a sore neck or frozen, these two items are essential. They probably should be at the top of the list. My pillow was an inflatable one that came with my sleeping bag. It deflated overnight. In addition, I didn't bring a blanket, only a hoodie. I trembled all night and the people snoring around me gave me a really cool symphonic orchestra. In short, I didn't sleep, but as I always say, it is part of the adventure. Next time, I guarantee you that I'll be better prepared and hopefully these tips will help you do the same.

9. Check the weather

Always check the weather so see if the day you chose is nice and sunny. You'll be sleeping outside after all and doing so with rain is less than ideal.

10. Check out these camping essentials

For your next camping trip, I recommend that you keep this list of all the essentials that you must take for your camping experience. Make sure to cross out as you add items to your backpack so you don't leave anything out. If there's something I forgot to add, leave it in the comments section to add it. Don't forget to take into consideration everything I shared in this writing and just enjoy the adventure.


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