A decent amount of experience has brought me into writing this article. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past on the field of camping, and I feel a sort of obligation in teaching you how to avoid them. Some of the camping tips that I will present here are learned lessons while others are insights that I gathered during hours of online reading.
In this article, I will present you with 45 camping tips that, in my opinion, make a huge difference when applying them. In many of those, I put a link to an in-depth article that I had written previously, so you get the picture more clearly. In others, I’ve attached a Youtube video, so you get a more visual explanation.
1. Prepare For The Worst Case Scenario
Camping is a very unpredictable experience and ensuring camping safety is essential.
For those of you who are preparing for a first-time adventure in the wild – I do suggest you take some precautions.
Getting hurt is a possible scenario, especially while hiking. For that, I recommend you get yourself a first-aid kit beforehand.
If you are planning on camping in the winter or autumn, you should prepare yourself for an unpredictable storm with an emergency sleeping bag as well.
For last, I suggest you get yourself a personal tracker, so you may be rescued anywhere along the road if anything happens.
2. Check Puddles Depth
We all know how annoying is getting into a deep puddle and then suffering from wet socks all day long. Besides comfort, damp footwear increases the chances of blisters and infections.
My favorite way to avoid that is by dipping my trekking poles into a puddle before stepping into it. Also, you can use the poles to navigate in thick mud and dirt.
In outdoor activities, such as camping, our gear many times get multiple usages besides its primary one, and this is a perfect example for that.
In general, trekking poles are useful in keeping you balanced to overcome slippery slopes and tricky descents.
3. Choose The Right Socks
Hiking and camping with the wrong socks might impact your experience significantly.
For instance, choosing ones which are too thin may result with your socks continually sliding down your feet. On the other hand, socks that are too thick may pressure your feet and cause ankle pains.
When picking the right pair, I suggest that you choose cotton socks that would keep you warm during night time and won’t be too thick and occupy too much space in your boots.
Wearing two layers might work as well, especially in protecting your fit dry when damp occurs. Nevertheless, I would suggest that you try this at home first so that you won’t be surprised on the road.
4. Consult The Locals
When you are camping in a new area for the first time – I recommend that you ask the locals as many questions as you can.
Don’t be afraid of what other people think about you – if you can prevent mistakes – that’s worth it. What I like to do is to start with the Information Center and reassure that my camping plan is reasonable.
Sometimes the locals provide you with some additional tips that may improve your experience and lead you into the right decisions.
Asking where camping is permitted and where is it wise to buy food are reasonable questions, for instance.
5. Consider a Down-Filled Sleeping Bag
When it comes to choosing sleeping bags, there is no doubt my favorite type is down. The main reasons for that are that down-filled sleeping bags keep you warm even in extreme conditions.
Low-quality sleeping bags is something I used to compromise on; however lousy experience has taught me differently.
Get yourself a high-quality sleeping bag even when it’s expensive.
On that matter, I recommend that you take all the necessary means to keep it dry since down sleeping bags do lose their capabilities when are damp.
The alternative here is synthetic sleeping bags which are in general okay, although they do not insulate as much as good as down.
6. Ventilate Your Tent
Keeping your tent ventilated is essential in preventing condensation. There are many ways in which your camping tents may get damp inside; among those is body sweats, breath, and wet gear.
If your tent doesn’t feature vents – condensation may accumulate and result with your sleeping bag getting damp.
If you are about to get yourself a new tent – please make sure that there are vents and the bottom and on the roof – these two are essential for air circulation.
I will elaborate on these two, later on, however, I will mention now that it is necessary to keep your door a little zipped open and your wet gear outside your tent.
7. Favor Vibram Sole
If you’ve read my previous article on slippery hiking boots, you probably know by now that Vibram soles are my favorites.
I have plenty of experience with hiking boots, and Vibram rubber has never failed me.
The high-quality rubber ensures a sufficient grip over wet rocks and roots which is essential when hiking or camping.
On the other hand – the proper tractions may allow you to walk long distances in all type of terrains while maintaining durability.
The Vibram company was founded in 1937 and produced numerous models of soles, some of them in the military industry.
It is no coincidence that the company is active for over eighty years and still considered number one.
8. Consider a Foam Sleeping Bag
I’ve been discussing quite a lot about the pros and cons of foam and air sleeping pads feature.
My final decision on that topic was that foam sleeping pads are many times better than air ones since they are lightweight and you can prepare them quickly.
Air pads are usually heavier and tend to make noise when you change positions while sleeping. I wouldn’t entirely disqualify air ones, in some cases, they are also lightweight and relatively cheap.
However, with foam pads, you don’t have to worry about leakage and mold that may develop inside due to mouth inflation.
If you have any hesitations regarding that dilemma, I highly suggest that you read the article I’ve just linked to.
9. Pack Your Tent Appropriately
When we finish camping, it is so easy to throw everything away to storage and forget all about it until our next trip.
Regarding tents, what we usually do is packing it back inside its carrying bag. The problem here is that these sacks are generally very tight and doesn’t do good to the tents on the long haul.
Packing it tight may result with PU coating degradation and a sticky canvas.
When you pack your tent – make sure that it is entirely dry and put it inside a loose meshed sac in the corner of your closet.
Take a few moments to pack up your gear appropriately to avoid complications in the future.
10. Use The Same Clothing For a Few Days
When camping, you should avoid heavy backpacks as much as you can.
It is quite apparent to keep your gear lightweight, including your footwear, tent and sleeping bag; however, you shouldn’t underestimate the weight of unnecessary stuff either.
I suggest that you use the same shirts and pants for approximately three to four days.
You should accept the idea that you are going to get dirty while camping and bringing different clothes for each day is exaggerated.
Also, if you plan on making a few stops along the road at hotels or any other accommodations – take advantage of it and clean dirty clothes on the spot.
11. Don’t Camp Next to Water Streams
When choosing a campsite, I highly recommend that you pick one which is not adjacent to lakes, streams or waterfalls.
The main reason is that water tends to evaporate overnight and wet your gear. Camping next to streams would make it difficult to hang your clothing up to dry, for example.
Also, evaporation would moisten your sleeping bag and result with condensation on the outer side of your tent which might get inside at some point.
Instead, pick a campsite which is at least one mile far from any water source. If you still, for some reason, chose to camp near water – please take extra cautious and do not drink from; stick to water bottle instead.
12. Darken Your Tent
There is nothing like a good night sleep, and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get one when camping.
Nevertheless, the conditions are different, and perhaps you are going to rely on your tent ability to reduce sunlight.
Even if your tent is bright, there are means to make it darker. My favorite one is using a colored sheet or tarp and place it over the canvas or otherwise – under the tent’s fly.
Another option would be buying a tent which features a darkroom technology – I’ve elaborated on this one in the previously linked article.
Frankly, every method is excellent as long as it allows you to take that extra sleep past sunrise.
13. Don’t Touch Your Tent From The Inside
Perhaps some of you are already familiar with the phenomenon that tents tend to leak when touched from the inside.
In short, that happens because you break the water surface tension when applying pressure on the tent walls.
When this one breaks, water can get inside much more easily even if the fabric is well water resistant. To avoid that, I suggest that you pick a tent which is a bit larger than you need.
If you already own a tent – try placing some gear between you and your tent that you don’t might it would get wet – it’s better than your sleeping bag getting damp.
14. Get Yourself a Headlamp
When I first built my tent during my journey to the 96-mile West Highland Way in Scotland, I had to do it after sunset.
I can’t tell you how frustrating that is to maneuver between its different parts in the dark – especially if you haven’t practiced on that before.
I’ve tried to hold my flashlight in my mouth and to build something that would resemble a tent, and it did eventually work.
If I had a headlamp the whole story might sound different. Even if it’s just for going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, there is nothing like having your two pairs of hands-free if something happens.
15. Make a Wise Descent
It doesn’t matter if your hiking footwear is of high quality – when hiking long descent wrong – there is a good chance your hiking boots will hurt your toes.
The first tip on that matter I’ve found useful is to go down in a zigzag instead of walking straight. This way you might walk longer, although you decrease the burden on your toes significantly.
Besides, I suggest that you use trekking poles when hiking long distances, and when descending a slippery trail in particular.
Trekking poles act like another pair of legs and therefore provide a better weight distribution. Combine the two to improve your hiking experience and general feeling.
16. Pack Your Food Before Going to Sleep
One mistake that I’ve done many times before is sleeping in a messy environment. Let’s admit it – after a long hike, all we are looking for is to put our heads down and go to sleep.
Unfortunately, one time the food I kept outside attracted a bear to my campsite. Luckily I was sleeping and figured that out in the morning by seeing the footprints he left in the mud.
Bears are one of the reasons why camping might not be safe, although keeping your food inside may reduce the chances of encountering one significantly.
Besides, sleeping in a clean environment would make you generally feel more comfortable and worth the extra effort.
17. Don’t Be Afraid of Wet Firewood
It is very likely that you are going to encounter wet firewood when arriving at your campsite. It doesn’t matter what season that is – you should keep in mind that weather is an unpredictable factor.
At first I was hesitated to do so, however, over the years I have learned how to light wet firewood.
In general, you should find a considerable amount of kindling and tinder to get your fire going. You should organize these in the shape of a teepee while maintaining proper airflow.
In some cases you may use your knife to cut out the outer layer – perhaps the inner one is still dry.
18. Use a Sleeping Bag Liner
Countless campings have repeatedly taught me that sleeping bag liners are worth it. Not only that they pack small, but they also serve a wide range of purposes.
You may use these as a travel sheet, for example, or maybe use them instead of the Couchsurfing blankets which are usually dirty.
Besides, sleeping bag liners keep your sleeping bag clean and prevent it from soaking sweat. They are a nice touch and increase warmth without adding too much weight to your backpack.
If you are still building your gear list towards your next journey – please take into account liners; they are useful and relatively cheap.
19. Seal Your Tent
There are many reasons why your tent might leak. In some cases it has nothing to do with your tent water resistance – perhaps the weather is too harsh, for example.
Some cases include a tear in the tent floor or worn up seams. These scenarios might result in water coming inside your tent and ruining your entire camping experience.
I recommend that you spend a couple of minutes searching for tears beforehand and fixing them at home. Use proper glue and seams to reseal your tent.
If you are not prepared and still got a tear during your journey – cover it with some dirty socks and place your sleeping pad on it to apply pressure.
20. Don’t Cook Inside Your Tent
We all appreciate a good meal, even when we are far away from home.
Although harsh weather conditions might tempt you into cooking your food inside your tent – I highly suggest that you don’t do so.
Even when adequately ventilated, using a stove inside might be toxic due to carbon monoxide (CO). The significant danger with that gas is that its transparent and got no odor.
In other words – it’s impossible to know that it’s there until its too late and caused suffocation.
Always cook your food outside your tent. If it’s raining – wait a couple of minutes or use a tarp for cover.
21. Use a Compass
One of the mistakes that I’ve done on my first hike was not taking a compass. For some of you bringing one might sound primitive, but trust me, it does make a difference.
On that hike, I took the wrong turn and walked south instead of north for two hours. I had to compensate that mistake by hiking one hour extra for the next fours days since, in summary, I wasted fours hours walking back and forth.
If you are walking with a smartphone, which you probably are, you might download a compass application as well – this one works as long as you’ve got GPS reception.
22. Learn How to Make a Campfire Beforehand
A proper campfire is essential when camping. Whether it’s for roasting marshmallows or perhaps for keeping you warm – you are going to need one.
When I was new in camping, I’ve tried to build a few – however, they worn-out very quickly. It’s essential to prepare and learn some techniques on building a campfire, perhaps even one who would burn all night.
There are many methods for this, such as creating a pyramid fire or a reflector – about all of them I’ve elaborated on the linked article.
Also, building a long-lasting campfire would allow you to sleep with fewer layers so you wouldn’t sweat that much and moisten your sleeping bag.
23. Use a Tarp Under Your Tent
One of the things that I’ve learned is that there are many reasons why you should put a tarp under your tent.
For instance, a proper one would prevent tears in your tent floor due to broken branches or sharp rocks.
Besides that, I’ve found it useful in shading your tent when hanged from above – by using a tall tree, for example.
Tarps are relatively cheap and occupy little space, so basically there is no reason why you shouldn’t get one – its better to be safe than sorry.
Although it seems simple to use, there are strategic ways to place the tarp appropriately – by folding its edges towards the ground, for instance.
24. Organize Your Backpack Wisely
While seems obvious, organizing your backpack is easy to miss and many times underestimated. When spending time in an unfamiliar environment, it’s essential to know where everything is.
If you are planning a long hike with several campings along the way – I recommend that you pack your gear in a first-in-first-out way.
For example – if your sleeping bag is the last one to go out when you are building your camp – make sure you pack it first, so it is placed at the bottom of your pack.
At first, working in an organized way may seem exhausting and unnecessary, however, if you turn it into a routine – it very quickly becomes a habit.
25. Take Advantage of Your Sleeping Bag Loops
Have you already noticed these loops on your sleeping bag? If you haven’t take a second look. The purpose of these may seem obscure at first, although these loops do serve a couple of goals.
When placed at the bottom of your sleeping bag – they might be there to help you roll up your sleeping bag or perhaps to connect to your sleeping bag liner.
When placed on the sides, you can use the loops to hang your bag to dry or to tie it up to your backpack.
In the wild you should take advantages of the little details – they might make all the difference.
26. Measure The Footwear Before Buying Online
Buying hiking shoes and boots online is very tempting – many times it is cheaper than getting a pair at the store nearby.
The more I got into the topic I realized that there is a specific risk with buying online. Recurrent consumers comments and reviews showed that the size is not always right, so sometimes the shoe came too small or otherwise – too large.
I’m not saying ordering online is wrong; however, I do suggest that you measure the footwear beforehand.
Look for the desired boots at shoe stores and try them first. After you are sure, it’s the right model – order it online.
27. Choose High Hiking Boots
If you haven’t bought any footwear for your journey yet, I highly suggest that you stick to hiking boots and tall ones in particular.
Trails terrain many times changes during long hikes – starting with beautiful grass and flowers and ending with terrible mud and dirt.
For that, I believe it’s better to prepare for the worse. Once water and soil get inside it’s hard to get rid of it, and there is a good chance your socks are going to get damp all day long.
Combine wet socks with continues friction, and you get the perfect recipe for blisters and infections.
Make in-depth researches, read reviews and watch Youtube videos to ensure your future hiking boot will get the job done.
28. Pack Your Sleeping Bag Inside Your Backpack
There are many ways in which you can tie your sleeping bag to your backpack. You can use your carrying bag straps and backpack loops, for instance.
In some cases, you can use the compression buckles on the sides or even the lid of internal frame packs.
After testing different techniques, I came to one conclusion – placing your sleeping bag inside the backpack works best.
The main reason for that is that sleeping bags work best when they are dry, and hanging them from the outside increases the chances of them getting moist and tears.
Although many of you know that down-filled sleeping bags are influenced the most by damp – take into account that synthetics also lose performance.
29. Don’t Zip Your Tent Completely
When getting in our tents intuition tells us one thing – we should seal our shelter as much as we can to prevent cold and insects.
Frankly, it does make sense; however, it wouldn’t be on your favor with condensation. With tents that features some proper vents with an excellent air circulation – it is okay to zip it entirely.
Nevertheless, with tents that feature low breathability – leave a gap open. Doing so would decrease condensation more than it will increase cold in the inside.
To avoid snakes you can leave it a little unzipped at the top of your tent’s door – the annoying reptiles cannot climb there.
30. Clean Your Tent The Right Way
Tents are a high expense, and you most certainly wouldn’t like it to get ruined by cleaning it up the wrong way.
You shouldn’t use a washing machine to do so since their soft fabric will be compromised. Instead, use a soft sponge, soak it in soap and gently wrap off any dirt remains.
Do not use any detergents or softeners – they might react with the Polyurethane coating which covers your tent and ensures water resistance.
When you leave it up to dry, pick a spot which is not exposed directly to sunlight. Leave it out to dry for a couple of hours and pack it loosely inside a dry place in the corner of your house.
31. Take Pictures
One thing that I regret is that I haven’t taken enough pictures during my first campings.
People used to ask me how they were, and I was able to tell by memory, although there is nothing better than actual pictures.
It’s easy to fall into your schedule and hike fast to get to your destination on time before sunset. I believe that the spiritual experience is an integral part of your adventure and you should take a few minutes to admire your surroundings.
Hiking intensely would end up with knees and ankles pain. Make a rule to stop every hour to rest and capture our beautiful nature with our eyes and camera.
32. Feel Confident Walking in Snow
For a person who comes from a hot climate country, snow is something I see only abroad. At the beginning I was a little hesitated regarding walking in snow – I merely wasn’t sure which footwear to use.
Over the years I’ve learned that hiking boots are good for snow for a couple of reasons.
First, they provide proper ankle support, so you are covered even if you slip and fall. Besides, they feature sufficient traction and grip so that you can walk in long snow distances.
They do not work so well in deep snow – then you should use snow boots instead. Don’t be afraid to walk in snow even if you are not used to one – you get friendly with it very quickly.
33. Take Advantage of Wifi
That might sound odd – how can someone possibly use wifi where there is no reception? Well, if you wish to use your smartphone to navigate – you don’t need any.
What I’ve learned during my journeys is that you can download the map in Google Maps beforehand – even in the airport.
Once you’ve downloaded the map, all you need is a GPS reception to navigate, which is much more accessible than internet connections.
Also, you can find Wifi spots along the road in almost every popular trails. What I used to do is to make several stops at local towns, have a nice meal and reach my family back home using the local internet connection.
34. Use a Map
With nowadays technology, using a map for navigation may seem primitive. Nevertheless, I favor using a map over GPS since it may show locations that aren’t appropriately mapped on devices.
For example, a paper map may show you grocery stores and campsites which are rarely found on GPS’s. My favorite routine is stopping at the information center, asking the locals and getting a map of the area.
I’m not saying the GPS’s are useless – on the contrary – they are more accurate than paper maps – perhaps the combination of both works best.
Don’t be afraid if you’ve never used a map before in your life – I wasn’t either; however, you do get used to it pretty quickly.
35. Use The Heel Lock Lacing
Hiking footwear usually features proper ankle support, although sometimes you might still get ankle pains. As I’ve mentioned – there are a few reasons why that could happen – one of them is an improper fit.
When your feet can move freely inside your boots or shoes – it might get continuously smashed in the ankle area. One solution for that would be using the heel lock lacing.
The best way to learn how to do it is by following the video below, although I will say that the idea behind it is to keep your heel fixated in place.
Besides that, you shouldn’t use socks which are too thin – get a thick pair for a better snug.
36. Purchase an Eye Mask
This one seems little, but trust me – it could make the difference between adequately functioning and total exhaustion.
What I like about eye masks is that you use them almost everywhere, from grabbing a nap on your flight to staying asleep a few hours past sunrise in your tent.
As I’ve mentioned above, darkening your canvas is essential to gain this extra sleep. Nevertheless, I’ve learned from experience that eye masks transcend almost every method.
Since eye covers are considerably small, it’s common to lose them – frankly, I’ve lost more than three already. That is where proper organization comes into place, just as I’ve discussed above.
37. Know Your Surroundings
The one lesson that I’ve learned from my mistakes is that most of them can be avoided by knowing your surroundings well.
When you are familiar with the environment, you can anticipate the weather quickly, you know where you should camp, and you can avoid risks more efficiently.
There are many ways to know the area better – you may watch Youtube videos, read guides on the internet or perhaps reading the news concerning possible risks.
As I’ve already mentioned, I believe that the most accurate way is asking the locals or people who have already made your particular journey.
You can find all kinds of experts and previous travelers on forums across the internet.
38. Keep Your Footwear Outside Your Tent
When anticipating rain, there is this ongoing dilemma – should I place my hiking shoes inside or outside my tent?
If you put them inside your sleeping bag and gear might get filthy, and if you leave it outside – they might get wet and stay this way until morning.
Well, I allow me to make a verdict – you should keep your footwear outside your tent. If you put it inside – not only that your gear might get dirty, but water would also evaporate from your wet shoes and increase condensation.
Concerning outside rain – merely use a plastic bag and wrap your boots hermetically so water won’t be able to penetrate.
39. Stuff Your Sleeping Bag
The typical way to go when packing up your sleeping bag is folding it in half and then rolling it up tightly.
I’ve been doing so for quite long until I noticed that at some point the filling wasn’t evenly spread and that I got a straight flat line in the folded area.
That got me to dig a little deeper into the subject, and the results were surprising. The better way is to stuff your sleeping bag as it is without rolling it up as tradition goes.
By doing so, the areas which suffer more pressure consistently change with each packing. Ever since that is my way of packing, and frankly – I recommend that you adopt it yourself.
40. Find Dry Wood in Wet Conditions
There is a good chance that at some point you will be preparing your campfire; however, all the wood around you is wet. When I was at this point, when I was still a beginner, I just gave up on fire and went straight to sleep.
Since then I’ve gained some knowledge and experience and realized that dry firewood can be still found even in wet conditions.
One way is to dig in thick piles of soil or branches – at the bottom; you may find wood that water hasn’t yet reached. Another way is to chop down dead wood which is probably dry on the inside – using an axe.
41. Wear Lightweight Hiking Boots
When choosing the right footwear, my personal choice would be picking a lightweight pair of hiking boots.
The advantage of boots is that they usually feature a tall structure and a long tongue that keep soil and dirt out. Comparing to hiking shoes, they are generally heavier.
For that reason, I recommend that you get yourself a lightweight pair – you might be surprised to find out that some hiking boots even weight less than shoes.
A thin pair would probably be a bit more expensive, although in my opinion – entirely worth it. A massive pair would compromise your agility and may more distant walks more exhausting and stressful.
42. Sleep With Clothes On
There is the ongoing debate regarding sleeping naked or with clothes on to get the maximum warmth. I have discussed the issue quite long in this article and found that it is better to sleep with clothes on rather than naked.
Still, you shouldn’t exaggerate with it – sleeping with too many layers would end up with you sweating and with your sleeping bag getting damp.
When you get into your sleeping bag after a long hike, you should also keep in mind that you do not wear clothes which are already wet from your walk.
If that is the case, leave the hung to dry and wear another pair instead. Keep in mind that a damp sleeping bag is what will get you cold the most.
43. Weigh Your Backpack
We all know that our backpack shouldn’t weigh too much, however, many times are not sure on the exact measurement.
I’ve read across the internet and came across an interesting article by REI that showed that hiking packs shouldn’t exceed ten percent of your total body weight. For example, if a person weighs 75 kilograms, his backpack should be more than 7.5 kilos.
Knowing your pack weight is essential in preventing back pains and injuries; however, it is also crucial for carrying it in airplanes cabins.
If you are trying to avoid the annoying check-in, please measure your pack and compare it to the specific airline restrictions.
44. Know Fill-Power & Fill-Weight
Almost every product which is down-filled has this description of fill-power and weight. Still, very often we are no familiar with the terms and go with intuition.
Basing a purchase on hunch many times leads into the wrong decisions. Fill-power describes the ability of the down to EXPEND – the higher the number, the more cubic inches it may occupy when not compared.
On the other hand, fill-weight is the AMOUNT of down invested in the product. These two are different since products with a high fill power might not get you warm enough if they don’t contain down enough – fill weight.
If you are about to make a purchase, I highly recommend that you read an in-depth guide beforehand.
45. Measure Your Backpack Dimensions
Measuring your pack length width and depth is essential because not all of them fit into airplanes cabins.
Airlines tend to restrict hand baggage sizes and weight, so I suggest you check your flight in specific. In general, your backpack shouldn’t exceed maximum dimensions of 55x35x25.
When you put your pack in a cabin you don’t have to check it in – that would save you a lot of time, money and stress.
If you don’t have any tape measure in reach, you may search your pack on Amazon or Google and get the measures online in seconds.
Camping is a challenging experience since the environment and conditions are many times new to us. At first, it may seem easy – we go out, having some fun and returning back home.
However, there are obstacles along the road, and the more journeys you take – the more you get familiar with those.
In this article, I’ve tried to cover these which seemed the most essential. Of course, there are many more to cover, although, in my opinion – it is best to learn from experience.
I hope my article increased your confidence and would help you in preventing avoidable mistakes. If you have any new insights and ideas – let me know all about them by leaving a comment below!