Tent Camping Ultimate Guide for Beginners [FAQ]

Outdoor Tent Camping Ultimate Guide

Introduction to Tent Camping Ultimate Guide

A question I get asked all the time by people is “How do I get started with outdoor tent camping?”. It’s a good question. The simple answer is that there are several ways to make your first trip into the great outdoors. This is why we created the Tent Camping Ultimate Guide.

I’ve created a comprehensive guide that will help any beginner get started tent camping. You’ll learn a bit about one of the most popular outdoor activities in the United States and worldwide. Take a look at the stuff you need to complete your first trip, and of course, there are some great tent camping tips to help you on your way.

Keep reading the Tent Camping Ultimate Guide for Beginners and then go out and camp out even if it’s in your own or your friend’s backyard to start. Yes, you can camp in your own backyard to get the hang of it. Just pretend your home isn’t there and you can gamify the experience by limiting yourself to two entries into the home until you’re done tent camping.

What Are The Main Types of Camping

How You Get To Your Campsite Determines The Type of Camping

The type of camping that you do is usually about how you get to your camping location. If you’re backpacking, then you’re getting there by foot. If you’re camping from your Jeep, then you’re getting there by your Jeep. So, the type of camping is usually all about how you will arrive at your campsite or campsites and how much stuff you can bring along.

Backpacking or hiking usually severely limits the amount of stuff that you can bring along. Going in your car, off-road vehicle or RV will allow you to pack a complete kitchen, large tents, and generally more stuff. Going by canoe or kayak (paddlesport camping) has a limit more than a backpack but much less than a car can hold.

No matter how you get to your location, you’re probably going to be staying in a tent or an RV. Even if you’re glamping, there might be a plush tent with more amenities that make you feel more at home.

Tent Camping

tent camping ultimate guide three tents

Tent camping is the most common type of camping and is a style of camping where one or more tents are used as the main sleeping or resting accommodations. The term tent camper is commonly used for those participating in this activity. Keep reading the tent camping ultimate guide for more information on camping with a tent.

The term for setting up a tent is called pitching a tent. Pitching a tent can take minutes to hours and can range from extremely easy to very difficult. Most modern tents are very easy to set up and takedown, usually taking 20 to 30 minutes. Larger tents may take much longer.

Tent camping is popular in many regions of the US and even worldwide. Tent camping is usually considered the “most traditional” style of camping. Tents provide protection from the weather and with an extra layer of covering such as a tarp or netting, can often offer shelter from the rain and bugs too.

The usual practice for tent camping is to pitch a large tent that has one or two doors at its front for access for people entering or exiting. It can be made to accommodate one or more persons. Most of the time, the tent’s original packaging will tell you to have many people a tent can accommodate.

RV or trailer Camping

tent camping ultimate guide airstream trailer

An RV or recreational vehicle is either self-propelled or is towable. RVs are usually referred to as the self-propelled variety and towable are usually called trailers. Some are even called campers.

They can be very expensive or reasonably priced based on the models chosen. They can be a pop-up tent-style trailer, a van with a bed, or even a huge four-wheeled mammoth with all the comforts of home. The largest of campers are more like glamour camping or glamping than they are actual campers.

If they’re towable, you have to take into account how you will get it around. The smallest pop-up campers can be towed by most vehicles with a hitch. The largest trailers will need a two and a half or larger pickup truck to pull them. RVs are usually self-propelled and include their own engines to pull them around. RVs have their power built-in.

In this “Tent Camping – Ultimate Guide for Beginners” article, we will be focusing mainly on tent camping.

Tent Camping Preparations Start At Home

Choosing a Campground

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The choice of choosing a campground comes down to either developed or undeveloped campgrounds. Are you wanting to go glamping with all the conveniences, roughing it with just what you bring, or somewhere in between? Also, how are you going to get there? Are you going to hike, drive to your location, or have pack-animals come along and bring you your stuff?

There’s no right or wrong answer. If you like to rough it, then rough it. That doesn’t mean that you have to avoid all the amenities on the trail. Maybe bring 90% essential items and the other 10% as great to have items.

There are beautiful and fun campgrounds in every single state. Also, there are probably a bunch of campgrounds located very close to you. Next, there are plenty of online paths to take to choose a great location to camp. It’s best to go online and type “campgrounds”.

Clothing Essentials

I’ve found it helpful to dress in layers. There’s less chance of being too hot or too cold when I have a layer to add or remove. I also find that having clothes that are appropriate for the occasion makes me feel more prepared, so it’s easier to relax and enjoy the experience.

I tend to wear jeans or other sturdy pants, depending on the weather. I also decide whether a long sleeve shirt, short-sleeve shirt, or t-shirt will be needed. On really cold nights, I’ll pack a thick sweater or coat too.

When packing clothes for the day and night, consider packing some extra clothes if you’re going on an extended trip. For example, if I’m going camping for five days, I’ll pack seven to eight shirts. It’s always good to have a backup outfit in case something gets dirty or stained (if you do end up spilling something on yourself while eating). If you’re roughing it, like hiking or backpacking, then you can pack less clothing.

A good pair of boots is essential! If you don’t have boots, a sturdy pair of sneakers will do. I wouldn’t wear sandals or flip-flops since they aren’t as sturdy but you can bring them if there’s a lake or pond nearby to go swimming. Sometimes with a pond or lake, you might encounter some gross stuff to walk on before you get in the water.

Also, bring gloves for cutting or sawing! You really need them if you’ll be out in the cold. A hat, rain gear, a sweater, and a good pair of sunglasses are some of the most important things to take with you when camping.

Choosing The Right Camping Tent

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You usually choose a tent based on

  • seasonality factors (3 seasons or 4 seasons)
  • terrain or usage of the tent (hiking lightweight or car heavy-duty)
  • shape of the tent (Tepee, Dome, Ridge or Geodesic)
  • number of people that the tent will accommodate (one person or 8 persons)

There are many other factors as well including whether a tent is freestanding, its footprint, rainfly, and if there are other rooms attached. Other rooms attached can include storage, motorcycle covering, or screen porch.

There are many ways that you can get to your tent campground. You can arrive at your tent campsite by car, truck, RV, motorcycle, bicycle, backpacking, hiking, canoeing, and kayaking. These are just a few ways to get to where you’re going.

There are many different shapes of tents including dome, pop-up, ridge, geodesic, inflatable, backpacking, hammock, cabin, tunnel, bell, beach, frame, and even car-top tents. A tent is usually made of polyester, nylon, canvas, PVC, cuben fibers, and polycotton.

Choosing The Right Camping Sleeping Bag, Pad, and Ground-covering

Sleeping Bags

Usage of Sleeping Bag

The two main categories of Sleeping Bags based on usage are

  • Camping
  • Backpacking

The camping variety is usually pulled out of your car and they’re both heavier and bulkier for comfort. You’re not too concerned with needing to lug these around in the backwoods for any considerable length of time.

With backpacking, you’re needing to stuff your bulky tent and sleeping bag into as small a space as possible and take up as little weight as possible.

Temperature Ratings of Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bag temperature ratings are usually based on you using a sleeping pad. The rating itself determines the lowest temperature that you will feel comfortable at depending on the ambient temperature.

  • Winter Camping (15 degrees or lower) needs to withstand cold conditions
  • 3 Season Camping (between 15 and 30 degrees) 
  • Summer Camping (30 degrees and higher)
Shape or Style of Sleeping Bag

Decide whether you want a mummy bag, semi-rectangular, or rectangular sleeping bag

Insulation Type of Sleeping Bag

You can choose two main types of insulation materials:

  • ​Synthetic Insulation – nonallergic, dries quickly, affordable, good while damp
  • Down Insulation – very durable, compresses well, great in cold weather, lightweight

If you choose down insulation, make sure the down comes from ethical sources. Look for RDS (responsible down standard) or TDS (traceable down standard) on the label. We don’t want any animals abused so that we can sleep better.

Parts of the Sleeping Bag to Focus On

While choosing a sleeping bag, be concerned with these additional parts:

  • Sleeping bag hood snug fitting
  • Sleeping bag shells water repellant
  • Any stash pockets
  • Zippers that work correctly

Sleeping Pad

​​A sleeping pad is basically a mattress for sleeping in a tent or underneath a sleeping bag. Tah Dah! It promotes a good night’s sleep because it makes you more comfortable. It also keeps the cold from the ground from creeping into your sleeping bag. 

There are three varieties that you can buy:

  • Sleeping Pad
  • Air Pads
  • Self-Inflating Pads

The sleeping pad is usually made of dense foam and is very lightweight. It is the least comfortable of the three but they never really need repairs like the other two. You can also carry them on the outside of your backpack without fear of damage.

Air pads tend to be the most compact because you take all the air out of them. They are very comfortable but can be very expensive for really good ones. You can adjust the firmness by over or under-inflating the pads. They also tend to make more noise at night. Yuck! 

Self-inflating pads are the coolest thing ever I think. They’re almost a great combination of the two types. They’re made of dense foam and can be adjusted for firmness. They are excellent as far as insulation and warmth are concerned. They can also incur holes or tears so sometimes field repair is required but are more durable than air pads alone.

My choice is to use self-inflating pads but make sure to buy the right one for the season that you’re wanting to camp in.

Ground covering

My first suggestion is to definitely buy ground covering that goes underneath your tent. Some say it’s a gimmick but you can’t beat the extra insulation from the ground and it will keep the bottom of your tent clean and potentially puncture-free. That’s a win-win.

If you’re backpacking to your campground, you can buy ultra light ground covering for your tent to keep the weight down. If you’re driving up to a campground by car or RV, then you don’t really have to worry about weight as much.

Camp Cooking

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Camp Cooking Methods

Camp Stoves

Like everything else in our Camping – Ultimate Guide it depends on how rough you’re willing to go. If you’re hiking into your camp location then you will want a butane backpack stove which is very lightweight but works great. Propane and kerosene are the normal types of camp stoves available for the average camper who lives out of their car or RV.


Charcoal is usually used in developed campgrounds, such as Federal Campgrounds, that have a grill setup that you can add charcoal underneath the grill. These are great for ease of use and provide a very consistent distribution of heat to cook with. Some charcoal comes with fluid added already for ease of starting. Otherwise, you start charcoal with lighter fluid, maybe some folded or crumpled paper, and then light the fluid to start. You know when the charcoal is ready by the ashy gray-white color.

Wood Fires

You know camping is all about sitting around a glowing fire at night and toasting marshmallows over it. It’s what you normally think of when you go camping. It’s a tradition and you should observe the tradition and learn to build a wood campfire. Some campgrounds have a pre-built fire ring of some sort to keep the fire controlled and all you have to do is add wood. You can even cook all your food over a wood fire.

Things to bring to cook

You will want to bring along the essentials to cook outdoors. Don’t forget

  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Pancakes
  • Tortillas
  • Cheese
  • Beef and Chicken
  • Fruit
  • Milk – Shelf Stable
  • Hot Sauce
  • Noodles
  • Vegetables – Onions, Carrots, Potatoes, Beans, Garlic
  • Bread
  • Butter
  • Salt, Pepper, and Other Seasoning
  • Coffee
  • Oil and Vinegar
  • Mustard, Ketchup and Relish
  • Sweetener – Sugar, Honey, Syrup
  • Cereal or Granola
  • Nuts
  • Marshmallows, Chocolate Bars and Graham Crackers for Smores

Make a meal plan for each day that you’re camping and include breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Things to bring to cook with and eat with

Don’t forget to bring

  • Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
  • Pots and Pans and Potholders
  • Cooking Utensils, Tongs and Measuring Cups
  • Plates, Glasses, and Mugs – Try to bring reusable type and not actual glass type
  • Table Cloth and Clips to Keep them Down
  • Lots of Water
  • Matches or Lighter
  • Paper Towels
  • Trash Bags
  • Dish Soap
  • Clothes Pins
  • Cooking Spray
  • Potato Peeler
  • Scrub Brush
  • Dish Rags/Towels
  • Ziplock Bags
  • Cutting Board
  • Folding Table

Plan Outdoor Activities

You’re going to want to have some type of activities planned for the campsite. Whether it’s roasting marshmallows/smores or playing hacky sack, plan something that allows for relaxation time.

At The Campsite

Always remember that whatever you bring to a campsite, please pack it back out or dispose of it properly. You should leave mother nature as pristine as possible for future campers. Also, be nice to your fellow campers and they will be nice to you.

First Things To Do When You Arrive At the Campsite

If you’ve just arrived at your campsite, there are certain things that you should always do first.

Take Care Of Your Feet

If you’ve arrived by foot while backpacking or hiking, you will first want to take care of your (peds) feet. If it’s not snowing or in bad weather, now is a good time to put on more comfortable shoes. Maybe if you’ve brought flip-flops, now is a great time to break them out. This will allow for your feet to thoroughly dry off and allow them to breathe.

Stretch Your Sore Muscles

Next, because you’ve probably built up a lot of toxins in your muscles, it might be a great time to stretch those particularly sore muscles. This will allow you to first of all relax but also get you ready to take on the task of hiking tomorrow.

Put On More Comfortable Clothes

Then take a minute to change clothes into something more relaxing. These might be clothes that are specifically designated as your campsite PJ’s. Like maybe a pair of shorts and a t-shirt to relax in. If you can bathe in a nearby stream, then do that first.

Eat A Quick Snack

Next, work on getting a snack into your body. You can make a quick snack just for this purpose. You will probably be famished and need sustenance. Do it now. Dinner can come later after setting up your sleeping arrangements. Now also might be a great time to prepare for nearby bears by hanging up your food. Just saying.

Now you will want to set up your campsite.

Next Set Up Your Campsite

This is the part where everyone hiking, backpacking or simply arriving by car needs to get busy to prepare for the evening. If you’ve arrived late at a large campground, again please be as quiet as you can.

Set Up Your Tent

Clear the ground of major debris, like piles of leaves, in a shape that closely approximates the outline of the bottom of your tent. You want your tent to be fairly flat so that you can get a good night’s sleep. No lumps or bumps to stab you in the middle of the night.

Next, if you’re going to use a tarp or ground covering, lay it out now.

Next, unfold your tent and place pegs in the major corners of the tent. This will spread out the tent so that it has tension on each of the corners. Next, add any poles that raise the tent from the ground. Then once the tent is fully erect apply any guy wires or support strings that are available for your tent.

Help anyone else in your party by helping them set up their tents. Go from tent to tent to help. Everyone needs shelter so make sure everyone is prepared.

Start A Fire and Setup Lighting

You’re going to want to relax a little now that you have your shelter set up. Having a good fire is very comforting and makes everyone relax. So, make it your mission to get a great fire started immediately.

Also, now is the time to make sure you can see at night. There’s nothing more frustrating than to get into the woods and not be able to see at night. You’re going to want to make sure you have all the lighting set up, including lanterns, flashlights, and headlights. Do it now. You won’t regret it.

Fill Up Water Containers

If you don’t have enough water in your own personal containers, then make sure you find a source and get those containers filled immediately. You’re going to want water so get it now.

Prepare The Meal

Now is the time to start getting the food prepared. Everyone is going to be completely famished. The little snack you had earlier was just the appetizer. Now is the time for the rest of the meal.

Once the food has been prepared and the food is eaten, make sure to clean up immediately afterward. You will want a clean place to start for the next meal. Also, make sure that you hang up any food in a high place if you’re in bear country. Really do it anyways in case there are other little varmints around.

Play Your Games or Activities

After the meal, is a great time to break out the game you planned from home. This will be a great time for family, friends, or co-worker bonding. Enjoy and savor the moment.

Make some smores. It’s the right thing to do at any campsite campfire. It’s amazing and fun too.

You might want to tell some ghost stories. Heck, you’re out in the woods. That’s the time to scare the crap out of your friend.

Relax and Get Some Sleep

There’s nothing better than sleeping in the woods in your own tent and sleeping bag. It’s amazing. You sleep so well in the outdoors.

Make Breakfast But First Wash Up

Wash your face and hands so that you can be clean for breakfast. You should feel refreshed and cleaner after washing up.

Grab your pancake batter and get busy. Bacon too. Everyone is hungry and they can’t think of anything else but eat. Everyone is also going to want plenty of coffee, so get that going as well.

Again, like the night before, clean up the breakfast dishes and mess. Clean up after every single meal. You don’t want food and waste lying around the campsite.

Plan Out The Day’s Activities

Yesterday you had to set up and it took a little time. Today you’re already set up and you can lounge around, have fun and explore your immediate area. Maybe teach anyone that doesn’t know how to use a compass, how to use a compass. Teach them things that you know or remember from Boy Scouts.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Repeat the fun over and over again until your camping experience is over with. Start another fire and prepare the meal. Play your games and activities. Remember the great things and experiences that you came in contact with within the great outdoors. It’s all about doing something different but enjoying it.

Conclusion of Tent Camping Ultimate Guide

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Take Your Dog Tent Camping

The tent camping ultimate guide is a great way to learn different ways to prepare and to enjoy the great outdoors while sheltering in a tent. A tent is an amazing home away from home shelter. They allow you to get close to nature and to possibly rest more relaxed and better than at home.

 It’s a fun, gratifying, and enjoyable way to spend time with family and friends. Just follow our guidance and utilize some of our tips and before you know it you’ll be in the woods enjoying nature.

So, get to planning and get out there and have an amazing tent camping trip.

Check out our own Outdoor Activities Wikipedia

Camping is just one of many Outdoor Activities where you can learn quickly and have fun. 

Camping – Wikipedia

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