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A First-Timer's Guide to Camping in Every Season


Escaping to the mountains for a camping trip provides a great opportunity for family members and teammates to bond. Experienced campers know that there is a lot that goes into planning a trip. The amount of preparation can be intimidating for first-time campers, but with teamwork and communication skills the camp spot can be set up quickly and effectively. The following guide will help first-time campers better understand how to camp, what to pack, what to do, seasonal setbacks to consider, and how to remain safe while camping.

How to Camp

Before the trip, campers will want to research camping spots approved by the U.S. National Park Service. They are typically marked with signs and may include their own fire pit, picnic tables, and restroom/shower areas. You may be required to make reservations ahead of time, so it’s important to prepare to pay any fees that may be associated with reserving a campsite. However, not all sites require a reservation ahead of time — there are many available to the public for free, on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Next, you have to decide whether you want to stay in a tent or camping trailer. A tent requires some assembly. To set up a tent:

  • Clear an area, getting rid of sticks, rocks, leaves, and pinecones (these can be uncomfortable to lay on) and make sure it is level
  • Lay down a tarp where the tent will go
  • Layout and account for all of the contents of your tent (poles, stakes, and rain cover
  • Lay the tent on top of the tarp
  • Assemble all of the tent poles
  • Insert assembled tent poles into corresponding loopholes on the tent
  • Raise the tent and stake it to the ground. Typically the stakes are provided with your tent bag, but it is best to make sure before you go camping that you actually have them
  • Put the stakes through the loops found in the bottom corners of the outside of the tent
  • To finish the assembly, attach your rain tarp to the top of your tent

Camp trailers usually come with the same essentials that are found in a home but downsized significantly. Each trailer will have their own accommodations, however, almost all of them can be found with a bed, a small table, sink, and even a bathroom. Prior to choosing a camping trailer, you will want to establish what you must have in terms of camping trailer accommodations, and go from there.

camping trailer in the woods
Camping Trailer | Image by MrGajowy3 from Pixabay

What Do You Need for Camping?

There are endless items to bring up camping to make for the ultimate experience. However, there are a few basics that everyone should pack. These basic items include:

  • Appropriate clothing for the type of climate you will be camping in (warm clothes for cold weather, cool clothes for warm weather, etc.
  • Basic hygiene and cleaning products such as hand sanitizer, dish soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, sunscreen, mosquito spray, deodorant, lotion, etc.
  • Bedding (pillows, a sleeping bag, air mattress, or camping pad)
  • Cooking supplies such as cast iron pots and pans, thermostats, spatulas, cutting board, etc.
  • First aid kit
  • Fire starter
  • Firewood
  • Food
  • Hatchet
  • Knives, cooking utensils, potholders
  • Lantern
  • Plates, bowls, and cups
  • Ramps or carriers needed to load/unload any toys (ATVs, motorcycles, jet skis)
  • Silverware
  • Water

Things to Do When Camping

One of the many benefits of camping is the endless outdoor activities to engage in. Activities like football, volleyball, soccer, and badminton are perfect for camping spots with extra space. For those who are able to get a spot near the water, they may choose to go swimming, jet skiing, boating, or fishing.

Most camping spots should accommodate nature-related activities like hiking, bird watching, and geocaching. Even during downtime, campers can bond with friends and family by participating in extreme outdoor activities, or choose a more relaxed activity i.e. sharing stories, singing campfire songs, star gazing, etc.

Seasonal Considerations When Camping

Each season brings with it new considerations, opportunities for adventure, and risks.


Spring weather can be cold and rainy one day and sunny the next. This can make planning a spring camping trip a little difficult. However, don’t get discouraged just yet. As long as you take into consideration the uncertainties of spring weather, your camping trip is sure to be a good time. If the weather is good enough, go on a hike, go fishing, or even ride your ATV or motorcycle. Just be sure to watch for wildlife — in some areas, it may be mating season (more specifically for bears), while other wildlife may be migrating.

Because of the frequent weather changes, depending on your location, it can rain during the entirety of your stay. So make sure to prepare for wet weather by bringing tarps to put over and under your tent, a rain/wind jacket, umbrella, waterproof boots, warm thick socks, and plenty of changes of clothes just in case you get wet. You will also want to have a lantern, fire starter, and plenty of firewood that is stored in a dry area — since it can be difficult to start a fire with wet wood. As with any season, it is important to have a first aid kit on hand to temporarily aid with any minor cuts and bruises until you’re able to get proper medical care.


While camping in the summer, it is important to keep in mind that in some areas, the heat can be intense, which is why it is important to be well-hydrated. Not only can water and cool liquids help cool you down, but it can help prevent medical issues, like heat stroke.

Camping during the summer is a great time for those who want to go fishing, swimming, boating, jet skiing, ATVing, and riding motorcycles; but while doing so, you will want to make sure to bring ways to protect yourself from the summer sun. This includes sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and awnings to create shaded areas. If riding ATVs and motorcycles is on your agenda, then you will need to bring safety gear such as a helmet, goggles, riding boots, and an ATV ramp to help ensure you’re safe before, during, and after your ride.

There are many bugs out during the summer, especially by water, which is why you should bring bug spray and bug bite kits. It is also common for wildlife such as deer, mountain lions, and even bears to walk around during the evenings to get their water supply and cool off; bringing protection can help in case you find yourself in harm's way of the animal. Prior to camping, research what animals are common in the area and what to do if you find yourself interacting with them.


For most areas, autumn kicks off hunting season, making it very important to be mindful of hunters in the area. While the days may still be warm, the evenings can get very cold. Similar to the items you would pack for a spring camping trip to keep you warm and dry, for an autumn camping trip, you will want to bring a supple amount of bedding and warm clothes, as well as tarps, bug spray, and a first aid kit.

Fall camping is the perfect time to explore outdoors and become familiar with different wildlife, greenery, and insects. Learn about the wildlife and plants in the area so you know what to avoid while hiking with the family (i.e. poison ivy, venomous snakes and spiders, mountain lions, etc.).


When it comes to winter camping, it’s very important to make sure to bring plenty of warm clothes, fire starters, emergency kits, and warm bedding. Packing items such as lanterns, vaseline (to prevent dry skin and lips), extra batteries, flashlights, and extra insulation can help keep you warm and prevent your internal temperature from falling too low. It is also helpful to store your boots on the inside of your sleeping bag at the bottom, to help keep them dry and warm as well.

Winter is when the majority of animals hibernate and/or migrate for the winter. Watch out for caves and avoid going into them, since there could be an animal in there. Plan ahead and research your desired camping spot before heading out on your adventure to better prepare you for what may come.

First-Time Camping Safety and Health Tips

The health and safety of everyone in your group is the most important. This is why you should assess outdoor conditions and follow park regulations at all times. Potential health, safety, and legal risks that may come with failing to do so include, but certainly are not limited to heat exhaustion, hypothermia, cuts, scrapes, bruises, fines, tickets, and more.

Common Campground Rules and Regulations to Keep in Mind

The following tips can help to minimize risk and maintain your group’s health:

  • Avoid littering and follow the pack it in, pack it out rule
  • Follow any camp quiet hours
  • Follow speed limits
  • Obey any site occupancy restrictions
  • Obey rules regarding pets
  • Supervise your children at all times

Camping is a great opportunity to build better relationships, but if you’re ill-equipped and unprepared, it can cause more harm than good. When you have the right equipment, a day full of activities, and great company, then you’re sure to have a trip you’ll never forget.

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