I grew up camping. Every holiday or summer vacation, my parents and I hit the road to go “up north” in Michigan to a campground by the lake. We did it so much, my parents eventually became seasonal plot holders and we parked our camper year round and camped every weekend. While I might feel seasoned, it’s been long enough that I’d want to do my research. That’s where guest writers at CreekFire RV Motor Ranch come in. They’ve created some essential advice every first-time camper, and truthfully, those who haven’t camped in a while, need to know. The following article is a part of an ongoing series with CreekFire RV Motor Ranch.
So you want to go camping? Congratulations! You’re in for some amazing outdoor experiences and unforgettable memories.
As a first-time camper, there’s a lot to know about planning and packing for your adventure. We’re here to make sure you don’t overthink — or under-think — things.
Before you hit the road, you need to know …
- … the type of campground that’s right for you.
Not all campgrounds are created equal. And not all campsites are created equal.
“Primitive” camping means pretty much that: No running water. No electricity. No toilets. However, a primitive campsite could be part of a campground that does have those things.
For first-timers, we recommend opting, instead, for a campsite with water and electricity on the individual site. A nearby bathhouse with restrooms and showers is also a good idea. (Trust us, you’ll have plenty of things to keep track of, and where to use the restroom doesn’t need to be one them.)
National and state parks have reasonable rates and decent facilities. Most are located near some sort of natural outdoor attraction. Their campsites generally have a picnic table, a fire circle, a water spigot and an electrical outlet.
Then there are resort-style campgrounds, such as CreekFire Motor Ranch near Savannah, Georgia, that let you experience nature while keeping creature comforts (such as a hot tub, Wi-Fi, a waterfront bar, golf carts and more) at arm’s reach, if needed.
We all have different comfort levels — no judgment! It’s important to be honest with yourself about how much nature you’re prepared to handle.
If you plan to mostly stay put in the campground, find out what activities are offered and which pique your interest. Hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and fishing are the usual fare. (CreekFire Motor Ranch offers them all!)
If you hope to get out and explore the surrounding region, some campgrounds offer shuttle service to nearby attractions. For example, CreekFire Motor Ranch will transport guests to and from historic downtown Savannah.
Campgrounds fill up quickly, so you’ll need to reserve your spots early. Some parks and resorts are fully booked months in advance, especially for peak travel times such as spring break.
- … what equipment you’ll need.
If you’re still testing the camping waters, resist the urge to spend a lot of money on brand-new camping equipment.
Borrow whatever you can from people you know. And if you can’t borrow it, don’t break the bank buying it. (Craigslist is your friend.)
There are four essentials you must cover:
- A tent and bedding. Keep in mind that sleeping bags come with a “temperature rating.” Pick one suited for temperatures just below the overnight lows you’re expecting during your trip. This sleeping bag buyers guide from the outdoor experts at REI can help you find the right one.
- Flashlights and battery-operated lanterns are a must.
- Firewood and fire starters. Most campgrounds don’t allow you to gather firewood on the premises, but most camp stores sell it. You can also bring it with you. Buy or prep fire starters before you go. These simple DIY ideas will do the trick.
- Cooler and ice. You’ll need it for food storage, not just cold drinks.
Of course, there are dozens of other things you’ll need to pack before setting off on your camping trip — from insect repellent to matches to trash bags — so it’s imperative to use a checklist when packing.
That last piece of advice is worth repeating: Print out a camping checklist and use it.
Test your gear before you go. There’s nothing worse than struggling to put up a tent for the very first time after a long car ride or discovering you brought the wrong size batteries for your lantern.
- … how to plan your meals.
If you’re going to eat at your campsite, it’s best to plan your meals beforehand.
Any experienced camper will tell you to prep as much as you can at home. That means chopping veggies, wrapping potatoes in aluminum foil, portioning meat, etc. Then pack your cooler in reverse order (Saturday dinner goes in before Saturday breakfast, and so forth), grouping each meal together.
This method will also force you to think about which condiments and utensils you’ll need to prepare and eat each meal, so you’re not stuck cutting chicken with a plastic knife or eating stew with a fork.
Don’t feel like you have to go all out. There are plenty of easy camping-meal recipes floating around, and honestly, a hot dog roasted over a fire is one of the best things in life.
If you prefer to stop at the supermarket along the way, make sure you take a list so you don’t overspend or forget essentials.
There’s nothing in the world like the experience of camping, but you’ll get much more out of the experience if you don’t “wing it.” Planning ahead is the secret to making sure all your camping experiences are positive. Hopefully, this advice will help you feel excited and confident about your first camping adventure.
What advice would you give to a first-time camper? We’d love to hear it. Leave your comments below.
CreekFire Motor Ranch
CreekFire Motor Ranch is a 105-acre RV destination located in Savannah, Ga. Open since October 2017, the campground offers tent and RV sites, as well as private cabins. Park amenities include pools, a hot tub, tennis, pickle ball and basketball courts, a 1962 airstream trailer outfitted as a food truck, and more. Located less than 30 minutes from Historic Savannah, Creekfire offers daily shuttle service between the campground and downtown Savannah. CreekFire’s mission is to allow RVers and campers to connect with nature and build camaraderie in friendly surroundings, all while experiencing the area’s historical spirit, Southern hospitality and relaxed pace. For more information, visit CreekFire on Instagram (@creekfirerv), Facebook and Twitter (@creekfirerv).