Car Camping Tips For The Newbie

Know what to pack and how to prep to make sure your camping trip is full of fun and worry-free.
Fjord camping area with cars and tents

Fjord camping area with cars and tents

Camping area near fjord with cars and tents on grass

Similar Topics:

Camping is a great way to separate yourself from the hustle of your daily life, disconnect and create lifelong memories for you and your family. In fact, camping actually provides not only great memories but a bouquet of health benefits as well.

If you’re not a seasoned camping pro, then one of the easiest ways to get started is through car camping. Car camping is a generic term for camping at a campground where you are able to drive your car right up into your campsite and park. Most state parks, national parks and private campgrounds can accommodate or are built for car camping.

If you want to get your family out camping but don’t know where to begin, here are a few tips to make your first trip a smashing success.

Pack Freely

This is car camping, you’re not hiking or canoeing miles into your campsite, so feel free to pack anything you may need. It is always better to over pack on your first couple of trips rather than find yourself miserable or wanting to leave early due to forgetting a critical piece of gear. You can download a complete car camping checklist courtesy of Beyond The Tent.

Photo by: Ryan Cunningham

Ryan Cunningham

Don’t Spend a Fortune

It can be quite easy to get caught up in all of the amazing high-end camping gear you find at the camping store. Trust me, you don’t need any of it to have a great time. If you are new and looking to get out a couple of times and create memories, then start basic. Look around your house and use anything you already have. If you need to buy a tent, start with something cheap that gets the job done. If you find yourself enjoying camping so much that you want to get into more serious trips, then it will be time to invest, but not at first.

Prepare For Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes and other bugs can turn an otherwise great camping trip into a miserable experience very quickly. One of the best devices for keeping bugs away is the Thermacell. It is a butane-burning device that heats a pad that is soaked with allethrin, a naturally occurring repellant found in flowers that is completely safe for people and pets. The Thermacell creates a 15’ mosquito-free zone around the device.

Prepare For Bad Weather

Another culprit of ruined camping trips is bad weather. But it doesn’t have to ruin your trip. Some of my family’s best camping memories come from when we were all together in our tent playing games and waiting for the rain to stop. Without rain jackets, extra games and a canopy tarp, we would not have enjoyed the weather at all.

Don’t Be Afraid To Break the Unwritten Rules

By the unwritten rules, I’m referring to “you can’t go home early”, “you can’t bring your electronics” or “you have to cook meals over the campfire”. Sadly, sometimes trips don’t go as planned and you have to improvise. I’ve left early due to different issues, ordered pizza at my campsite when I didn’t want to cook and even brought my iPad and computer (though we tried to use them as little as possible).

Hopefully, armed with these tips, you are now inspired to head out and give camping a try, you’ll be glad you did and who knows, maybe it’ll be the start of a lifelong passion!

Photo by: Ryan Cunningham

Ryan Cunningham

Ryan Cunningham's favorite camping destination is the BWCA in Minnesota. He currently blogs about all things camping at BeyondTheTent where you can follow his adventures with his family of seven.

Next Up

Tips For Camping at a Music Festival

If you love music but are lukewarm on camping and are considering your first outdoor music festival, get some advice from the experienced, the trod upon and the sunburned.

Our Editors' Favorite Camping Equipment

Our staff share their list of must-have hiking and backpacking gear, plus their favorite places to camp and explore.

Tips and Tricks For Cooking on a Camping Trip

They say that food is love, and just because you're sleeping under the stars doesn't mean you can't eat well. Here are some of the things you'll need to be master chef without even being in the kitchen.

6 Tips For Camping and Traveling With Your Dog

Taking a road trip with your pet can be a wonderful experience. Before you set out, make sure you know what to pack and how to be prepared.

8 Tips For a Newbie Backpacker

If you've never gone back-country camping, before heading out into the great wide open, educate yourself on the basics.

Camping and Hiking Gear: Where to Splurge and Where to Save

Outdoor gear can cost a fortune. Learn what’s worth the extra cost and what you can spend a little less on.

Games and Activities to Keep Kids Busy on a Camping Trip

Camping with kids can create lifelong memories, but if you let them sit idle for too long, you'll soon hear "I'm bored". Don't let that happen. Check out these fun ideas to keep your little ones occupied and enthralled.

How to Find Free Campsites and Keep Costs Down on a Road Trip

Don’t let a tight budget hold you back from traveling. Learn the secrets for finding free places to camp and tips for saving money on the road.

Easy Backpacking Meals: Turkey Tacos

All the ingredients for this recipe can be carried in a small soft-sided cooler bag. The only thing that needs to be cooked is the taco meat, which means you can easily cook it on a small packing stove.

How to Make Seafood Cioppino

This one-pot (Dutch oven recommended) seafood stew can be made at home, but tastes even better when made over an open flame at a campsite.