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The Ultimate Summer Camping Guide

July 08, 2019 5 min read 0 Comments

The Ultimate Summer Camping Guide

Camping trips are the ultimate summer getaway – what better way to take advantage of the warm weather than by shedding your responsibilities, sleeping out under the stars, and waking up to a breathtaking landscape, a whole day of your favorite outdoor activities waiting just around the corner (if not closer)? This definitive summer experience should always be a definitive success – take advantage of our Ultimate Guide to ensure that you’re enjoying the ideal camping adventure.

A pristine campsite is the centerpiece of every memorable summer excursion. It’s the difference between an average evening playing cards in your tent, and an epic night stargazing in the desert or enjoying a fire beside a mountain brook. The perfect site is equal parts natural beauty and practical function. To find it, you’ll need to consider...

Choosing A Campsite

1. Location

Where in the world are you going? Many people center their camping trips around a particular outdoor activity (fishing, hiking, canoeing, etc.) and choose camping locations with plenty of access to those activities. If you aren’t sure what you want to do during the day, choose a landscape that interests you and take it from there.

2. Relaxed, or Rustic?

Once you’ve narrowed down your geographic location a bit, you’ll have to decide what kind of camping experience you’re after – a more laid-back setup with lots of nearby amenities, or a more rugged and immersive kind of outdoor living. This isn’t to say that rustic camping isn’t relaxing and relaxed camping isn’t rustic, but most people tend towards one end of the spectrum or the other.

3. Tent or Camper?

Depending on where you’re aiming along the spectrum of relaxed/rustic, you’ll choose to make camp in either a tent or an RV/camper. The more rustically inclined will tend to choose tents, while those who prefer a less-involved setup and easier access to traditional comforts will prefer campers with power and water hookups.

4. Nature or Nurture?

Whether you’re in a tent or camper, you’ll have to choose just how isolated you are from the rest of civilization. If you’re looking to be surrounded by nature, drive that camper down miles of dirt roads into the boondocks, or sling your tent in a backpack and hit the trail into the wilderness. If you’d prefer to be closer to towns, restaurants, and (perhaps more importantly) toilets, stick with RV parks and paid campgrounds that offer bathrooms, and electricity and power for RVs.

5. The Nitty Gritty

When choosing an individual site, you’ll want to be on the lookout for a few different characteristics of an ideal spot:

  • Aesthetic value (if it looks perfect, it very well might be)
  • Flat ground for a good night’s sleep
  • Natural shelter from sun, wind, and weather
  • Proximity to other campers/sites
  • Proximity to access points/points of interest
  • Presence of a fire pit, picnic tables, water source, etc.
  • Trees/rocks for stringing up a hammock, tarp, or clothesline

Helpful Resources For Finding A Campsite

The following links are useful resources for finding places to camp. If you’re planning a trip during a busy holiday (particularly Memorial Day, Father’s Day, July 4th, and Labor Day) you may have to make a reservation well in advance in order to secure a site.

Forest Service and National Parks:

Databases/Reservation Websites:

Free Campsites:

What To Pack

Credit: Rei Co Op

What you pack depends on who you are and what you’ll be doing, but here’s a list of basic essentials to consider:

  • Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, blankets, pillows, and whatever else you need for a solid night of rest
  • First aid kit
  • Pocket-knife/multi-tool
  • Food
  • Water bottles
  • Water storage and/or filtration system
  • Camping stove
  • Lighter + firestarter
  • Cooler
  • Cooking supplies (plates, bowls, utensils, pots and pans)
  • Lantern, flashlights, headlamp, and extra batteries
  • Toothbrush, hand sanitizer, and other toiletries
  • Clothing and footwear that will keep you protected from the elements
  • Hat/sunglasses
  • Swimsuit/towel
  • Camping chairs/stools
  • Foldable table
  • Tarp
  • Bug net
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Hammock
  • Campsite activities: guitar, speaker, cards, Frisbee, football, slackline, etc.

Setting Up Camp

Once you arrive at your campsite with all of your gear and supplies, you shouldn’t wait to set up camp. Park your camper or pitch your tent; set up chairs and tables; string clotheslines, tarps, and hammocks; unpack cooking supplies and anything else you’ll want to have easily accessible. The sooner you unpack and set up, the more time you’ll have to relax, explore, and enjoy the outdoors.

A few general tips for setting up camp:

  • Pitch your tent on flat ground and set up your sleeping gear immediately after. That way you can crawl into bed at the end of the day without fumbling to find sheets and pillows in the dark.
  • Keep all of your gear and supplies as consolidated as you can to avoid losing track of anything. Staying organized is particularly useful at mealtimes, when a missing utensil can mean a grumbly stomach.
  • If it might blow away, keep it tied down. If it shouldn’t get wet, keep it under a tarp or in your vehicle. Weather can change fast, and these precautions will save you lots of stress if it turns bad while you’re away from camp.  

Camping Etiquette

Proper etiquette is an indispensable part of any great camping trip – it ensures that everyone is free to enjoy their time and get the most out of their experience of nature. Obviously, this means respecting the posted rules and regulations of any campground or wilderness area you’re visiting. And aside from adhering to these local rules, you should always strive to Leave No Trace – LNT isn’t just important camping etiquette, it’s likely the most crucial component of outdoor etiquette in general. If you aren’t familiar with LNT principles you should read up on them  here, but in a basic sense, LNT means leaving your campsite exactly as you found it. The best way to do this is by cleaning up after yourself, respecting wildlife, and building campfires responsibly (never leaving them unattended and making sure they’re cool to the touch before you leave). And of course, you should respect other campers – give them respect, and you might even get something extra in return (see below!).

Things to Do

Explore the outdoors and enjoy the warm weather! If you don’t have any activities planned and aren’t sure where to begin, chat with forest rangers, park employees, campground attendants, and your fellow campers. More often than not, they’ll be able to provide some great tips on local sights and scenery and can point you in the right direction if you’re searching for any specific type adventure. When in doubt, pick up a map of the area and take a stroll to a lake or river – it’s impossible to have a bad time hanging out by the water in the summer sun. Or just build a fire, take it easy, and relax around camp – you found the perfect site, so go ahead and enjoy it!

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