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Camping Tips & Tricks for a Fun Trip: Rain or Shine!

WriterAubrey McShan
10 min read
camping tips and tricks - young friends gathered around a fire roasting marshmallows

Many idealize camping trips as being this easy, effortless encounter with nearby or distant destinations rich with natural or green landscapes and nights under the stars twinkling in the black night sky above. But for a lot of beginner campers, those unrealistic expectations can rapidly unravel into a stressful mess of reality. That’s why we’ve compiled the best camping tips and tricks for beginners to help you pitch a tent — not a fit — like a seasoned camper!

General Camping Tips and Tricks for Beginners

This isn’t your average tips for camping guide! We’ve laid out our best camping tips because we know that the more you plan, the better your camping experience can be. Whether this is your first time or you’ve made a few trips out to the campground already, this guide will help you have the best outdoor stay possible.

Keep in mind that this guide focuses on mild-season camping conditions ideal for first-timer or beginner campers. Safety is always our number one priority. Harsh conditions like freezing temperatures and even mountaineering are not just things beginners should leave for advanced campers; those more extreme conditions require gear that will be much more expensive and often less accessible.

Plan Accordingly, Then Plan Again

When we’re out in the literal middle of nowhere, we have to be equipped to weather nature’s challenges. A clear 3-day forecast one minute can easily shift into a spontaneous downpour the next; a predicted slow weekend you skip making reservations for can spiral into a packed campground with limited rental capacities and spaces to have fun.

  • Have a plan (and appropriate supplies) for unexpected weather shifts.

  • Reserve your gear with the campground in as much advance as possible.

  • Check the reviews for insider insights from people who’ve already been there a time or two.

  • Make sure you have a full tank of gas, your spare tire, and a collection of emergency vehicle supplies like an air compressor and a first-aid kit.

  • Let someone know where you are going and for how long you’ll stay.

Expert Tip:

Consider packing things like wet wipes and extra blankets. Campsites can quickly get muddy, so having extras of these items can help you manage the mess.

Know What You Need

Camping doesn’t have to be complicated (or expensive). Not all beginner campers will need the top-of-the-line, latest supplies. But you should have at least the basics! That includes a decent tent with enough room for people camping with you, a good sleeping bag appropriate for the season, and other supplies like food and water.

We’ve created a convenient checklist that lays out everything you should consider and more. Check out Academy’s camping essentials expert advice to download a copy of our free downloadable gear checklist.

Expert Tip:

Gear is only as good as you can operate it! Don’t just stock up on what you think you need. Make sure you get things that you know how to use (and have a function or serve a purpose in your camping equipment).

Being Over-Prepared Rarely Kills a Good Time

We get it. The more you take with you on your camping trip the more you’ll have to deal with packing it all back up on your way out. While that might on the surface seem like a huge inconvenience, the biggest and real issue occurs when you need something you don’t have.

Most campgrounds should be close enough to a local store for your more basic essentials like toiletries, water, and food; however, if you’re enjoying yourself at the campsite — would you really want to leave? For the most remote locations, that drive could easily be an hour or two for the more specialized gear you may forget to grab.

Expert Tip:

Preparedness for a camping trip doesn’t stop at figuring out what to bring. When packing your car, things like your tent (and any tools needed to pitch it) should be the last items in so they’re most convenient for you when you arrive.

Never Leave Home Without Safety In Mind

When you’re isolated from the major conveniences we rely upon like an urgent care center, police stations, and emergency rooms, you should always leave home with safety in mind! We encourage you to create a safety supply kit that adapts to the style of camping you and your family choose.

A first aid kit is a great starting point, but it’s certainly not the end of maximizing your safety efforts. Depending on where you plan to camp, you’ll want to grab these items that cover you in most emergency situations:

Expert Tip:

Always consider the forecasted as well as other possible weather conditions when building up your emergency supply kit. You’ll want enough supplies for each person in your camping party.

Everyone in the Family Has a Job or Responsibility

Camping tips - father giving daughter something out of his backpack while sitting on a rock

Setting up your campsite isn’t usually a simple or quick process when you’re a complete beginner; however, with routine practice, you’ll naturally get faster and more efficient with your gear. Tents aren’t made equal. Some like the Magellan Outdoors Pro SwiftRise 4-Person Hub Tent assemble in 60 seconds or less!

Depending on how long it takes you to pitch your tent, consider assigning each family member a task or job. Doing so helps to keep them focused on something while you assemble the tent and tackle other site setup responsibilities. That way, boredom doesn’t have time to slide its way into your campsite. Try giving older kids more helpful tasks where needed. Bring along outdoor activities and/or games to keep smaller children entertained long enough for you to get the basics of your camp setup.

Expert Tip:

Practice setting up your campsite in your backyard once or twice prior to leaving for your first campground or destination. Doing this will allow you to catch any gaps you may have missed in your campsite gear as well as help your family familiarize themselves with any jobs you give them.

Tips & Tricks for First-Time Campers

At Academy, we believe camping for your first time should be fun, an unforgettable experience you won’t forget. But things happen, right? That’s why we place so much emphasis on being prepared! If you’re a first-time camper, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Don’t be! We put together this Expert Advice guide to help you easily digest our first-timer tips for camping that help you skip the stress and ditch the hassle.

Expert Tip:

Don’t leave home without duct tape! It can be so handy to have when your tent snags on a stick caught underneath it. But it can also seal bags of food you pack away, fix tent leaks, and so much more.

Get To Know Your Campground & Equipment

  • Buy a tent larger than you expect. Sleeping bags and cots are bulkier than you might expect. The space they take up can easily crowd a tent. For example, if you’re a family of four, go ahead and buy a six-person tent for extra breathing room.

  • You should know a little about the campground or destination at which you plan to set up your camp — potential weather, emergency services, etc.

  • It’s handy to know any relevant local laws, campground policies, as well as how to make reservations and where to go to pick that reserved equipment up.

  • Familiarize yourself with every piece of gear you bring to know how they work in advance and what their functions are.

  • One of the best camping tips for beginners is to consider camping close to home, especially when camping for the first time. That way, if you’re not comfortable or if bad weather strikes, you can pack up and try again another time.

Safety & Comfort Considerations

A woman and her dog sleep in their tent in the woods

  • Unless you’re with experienced campers, most beginners will be more comfortable in a developed campsite — especially one with toilets and running water.

  • Always have a groundsheet underneath your tent! They’re designed to help you protect your tent from the elements (like stray sticks sharp enough to pierce through the bottom of your tent).

  • Don’t leave home without letting someone know where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone.

  • Ahead of your trip, familiarize yourself with local, potentially dangerous, plants like stinging nettle or poison oak, ivy, or sumac to prevent accidental exposure.

  • Once you arrive at the campsite, set your tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad up early. It is much easier to do in the daylight!

  • Plan your first trip around good weather (warm, little-to-no rain chances, etc.) to have the best first-time camping experience you possibly can.

Meal & Food Tips & Tricks

  • Create a meal plan. Doing so saves you time at the campsite as well as any potential stress.

  • Consider the number of ingredients, recipe skill level, cook time, and cleanup required for each meal before creating a meal plan.

  • Practice using your camping stove prior to going on your first camping trip, so you know how long it takes to boil water, how to use it comfortably, and how long cooking a general meal takes.

  • Plan to pack mesh food covers if you’re concerned about bugs or debris getting into your meals. Cooking in a tent is never recommended. If rain is in the forecast, consider adding a canopy to your gear list.

  • Think about any required specialty diet considerations you or your family needs for their meals.

  • Pro camping tip: Prep your meals around their simplicity for your first trip.

  • Cut, slice, marinate, premix, and freeze any meats, sides, and other ingredients at home. Meal prepping ahead of time means more time to have fun!

Expert Tip:

Don’t forget to set up a handwashing station next to your cooking setup. All those extra trips to the campground restrooms are time you could spend doing the activities you actually care about.

How To Choose a Good Campsite

View of a lake campsite with a red tent to the right and a wide lake to the left

  • Think about your site if it were raining or extremely windy. Is there any landscape (like a gathering of bushes) that would help protect your campsite?

  • Keep your eyes out for any decayed trees standing around your campsite. They can fall if the wrong weather swoops in and potentially can be a significant danger to you and your family.

  • You’ll want to know the behavior of the most common local bugs in the season you go on your camping trip. Doing so will help you navigate to choosing the best site for you. For example, mosquitos love water, so you’d likely want a spot far away from any campground water.

  • You always want a flat, level spot as opposed to those with a slight incline or a steep hill. Also, keep an eye out for rocks and sticks that could damage your tent.

  • Don’t forget to consider the sun when you choose your site! If you want to sleep in, you don’t want to be in an open field or part of the forest. The shade will be the better choice for you.

Camping Safety Tips for Parents

  • Rule 1 - Always respect the fire when lit: Camping often means you’re far away from emergency services. Better avoid any life-threatening emergencies that are quite preventable than to risk it.

  • Rule 2 - Wear your whistle at all times: Whistles can be heard hundreds of feet away. That range becomes potentially life-saving in emergencies where someone wanders off a bit too far alone.

  • Rule 3 - Never eat plants: Certain mushrooms or berries can be especially hazardous for adults and humans, so it’s generally a good idea to teach your whole family to leave wild plants alone.

  • Rule 4 - Wild animals are not pets: Critters linger around every bush and tree trunk when you’re camping. A stray skunk spray will certainly put a damper on that fun we want you to have!

  • Rule 5 - Never go off unsupervised: If this is your family’s first time camping, you always want to enact the buddy system: especially with smaller kids who need supervision. You’ll be surrounded by unfamiliar landscapes, so it’s best to skip anyone getting lost.

Expert Tip:

Prepare anything you can (like your food, snacks, and gear) in advance in a way that makes settling into your campsite easy. That way you can get right into the trip without any disruptions or stresses.

Tips for Camping in the Rain

Rain falls on a blue and red tent with two girls looking out.

  • Make sure you actually prepare your campsite (and gear) for the rain. On your camping checklist, always pay attention to things like ponchos, rain boots, and tarps.

  • Never skip the groundsheet in rainy conditions. If you expect rain on your camping trip, you might want to pack an extra one for good measure: one for under the tent and another for the inside floor of it.

  • As counterintuitive as this might first seem, always keep your tent vents open to help the air within your tent circulate freely.

  • Don’t let anything wet come inside your dry tent.

  • Try to avoid setting up your tent and campsite in the rain if at all possible. If this is not avoidable, bring a spare canopy to keep your other gear (or yourself) dry.

  • Don’t skip the waterproof rain jackets.

  • Skip the campsites rich with mud, puddles, or close to the water.

  • Down sleeping bags don’t do well while wet, so if rain is in the forecast during your trip, opt to bring your synthetic camping bags instead.

Camping Best Practices + Campground Etiquette Tips

While the goal here is the help you have fun at your campsite, always be considerate to the staff and other campers every time you camp. Everyone you camp with should be respectful of others and their property — this is especially important when you add any pets to your camping equation.

One thing you should get into the habit of practicing even before you leave for a camping trip is Leave No Trace! Leave No Trace is all about how you can help positively impact the world in seven basic principles that make for a safe, considerate trip.

  • Principle 1: Be prepared. Plan ahead.

  • Principle 2: Camp, travel, and walk on a durable surface to protect the land and waterways.

  • Principle 3: Always properly dispose of trash.

  • Principle 4: Leave what you find or replace any site alterations before you leave your campsite.

  • Principle 5: Use a camping stove to minimize the effects that campfires can have on the environment.

  • Principle 6: Always use caution with every wild animal. Respect the wildlife during your visit.

  • Principle 7: Always be considerate of others.

Expert Tip:

Seal up extra food in a large bin while you’re away from your campsite and lock it in your car at night. Any leftover food you don’t plan to save for later and other garbage should never be left at your campsite unattended. You’ll only likely attract unruly bears, hungry raccoons, and/or other local wildlife in the area to your campsite.

Tips for Preparing for a Camping Trip

Campsite at sunset with a pot over a fire and a stack of firewood and a tent in the background.

  • Step 1: Create a shortlist of which campground you want to visit. We recommend opting to camp closer to home for your first trip.

  • Step 2: Research your shortlist and decide on which campground you’ll go to first.

  • Step 3: Pick a date, and arrange all of your reservations in as much advance as possible.

  • Step 4: Survey the existing gear you have (and/or buy the basics) and practice setting up your campsite in your backyard if possible to see if you have any gaps in supplies you’ll need to fill. You’ll want to prepare for any possible weather conditions.

  • Step 5: Plan your meals ahead of time.

  • Step 6: Download a camping checklist (or create your own). Use that as a packing guide before leaving your home.

Have Fun Out There!

Ready to go camping? Now you know what to expect and how to prepare for your next camping trip, so you actually have fun: rain or shine! Before you go, we created a camping essentials guide and a downloadable checklist for you.