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Camping 101

This page is dedicated towards providing new campers the information necessary to make their camping trip successful and fun.  Experienced campers may find this information very basic, however we understand that not everyone has had the same experience.  If you have any helpful hints or find that there is information lacking, please contact us with your comments and we may even add your tips to this page!  

Let's start with the basics of camping. 

Lesson #1  Do the research.  If you have never been camping before, you should do a little research prior to your trip.  Here are a few questions that you should ask prior to your camping trip.  If you plan to visit Camp Dakota please visit the Camp Dakota FAQ to find out the answers to these questions.  


What equipment should I bring? 

Do you know how to operate the equipment? 

Is there cell phone service?

Will there be running water? 

Are there showers?  Do they cost money? 

Is there firewood for sale?  How much does it cost?

How much money should I bring? 

What type of clothing should I wear?

How cold does it get at night?  

Is there ice available?  How much does it cost?

Do I need cash or are credit cards accepted?

Is there electricity available?

Is there food available for sale nearby or do I need to bring everything with me?

Can I bring my pet?

How close is the nearest gas station?

Do I need written directions / map or will my GPS work there?

What time is check-in / check-out?

Is the road to the camp a good paved road or do I need a 4 wheel drive to get there?

What is the weather forecast for the area that I am camping?

Do I need a reservation?

The list

The following is a list of camping items to review.  Not everyone will need everything on this list and there may be things that are not on the list that are critical to your personal comfort.  But this list is a great place to start.  

  • Toilet paper

  • Tent

  • Sleeping bag

  • Sleeping pad

  • Pillow

  • Camping stove and fuel

  • Lantern and fuel

  • Flashlight

  • First aid kit

  • Camping chairs

  • Camping cookware (Frying pan, coffee pot, cooking pot, can opener and the spatula)

  • Cooler (and ice)

  • Food

  • Cooking oil​

  • Condiments, spices and seasonings

  • ​Disposable or reusable plates, bowls, cuts, silverware

  • Dish soap

  • Sponge or scrubber

  • Lighter or matches

  • Firewood

  • Sunscreen

  • Rain gear

  • Swimming suit

  • Towel

  • Extra batteries 

  • Change of clothes

  • Boots

  • Warm jacket

  • Sun glasses

  • Warm hat

  • Extra socks

  • Water filter or purification tablets

  • Spare tarp

  • Length or cord or rope

  • Camp axe

  • Pocket knife or multitool

  • Duct tape

  • Cell phone and charger

  • Personal items

  • Toiletries

  • Games

  • Map 

  • Compass

  • GPS

  • Whistle

  • Signal mirror

  • Trash bags

  • Foil

  • Paper towels

  • Corkscrew

  • Camera

  • Extra key for your vehicle

Lesson #2  Camping vs Glamping  If you have never been camping but want to give it a try, you may want to ease into the camping experience slowly.  You can accomplish this by renting a yurt or a cabin tent  which are a big step up from pitching a tent and sleeping on the ground.  These enhanced camping options mix the camping experience with the some of the comforts of home.  If you decide that one for these options would work best for your family, carefully read through the list of what comfort items will be included and what items you will need to bring from home.  


Lesson #3  Car camping versus Backpacking  Car camping is nice because you have an emergency escape should you require it for some reason.  You can bring more stuff with you than in a car than you can carry in a backpack.  Car camping can take you to some pretty cool locations as well.  Just keep in mind that most of these types of camping areas require reservations.  During peak seasons, the most popular sites are reserved months ahead of time so plan accordingly.  


Backpacking is nice because you don't have an emergency escape.  You are forced to deal with any issue that comes your way, using only what you brought with you.  This fact alone makes backpacking Type II fun for some people.  It's outside their comfort zone and therefore is a personal challenge.  Backpacking also takes you to places that you just can't see from your car.  Some of the most beautiful places on the planet are only accessible by foot trail!     

Prepare yourself physically

Lesson #4  Make a list  Bring only the stuff you need.  The specific items on that list vary greatly depending on the location of the trip, etc.  Going camping at the beach on a sunny weekend?  Probably don't need the rain pants.  Going camping in the mountains in the spring?  Better bring the wool socks and that rain coat.  Pack smarter not harder.  A basic list of camping items is included at the bottom of this page which you may use as your guide or there are a number of lists available online.

Lesson #5  Practice makes perfect  OK not necessarily perfect.  But better.  Practice makes you better.  Set up that new tent in your yard at least once prior to your trip.  That way if you have to pitch that tent in the dark you will have a better experience.  Buy a new camping stove?  Try cooking a meal on it at home to make sure you know how to use it and are familiar with how it works.  


Lesson #6  Prepare your body  Camping can put stress on your body in ways that you might be surprised.  Setting up tents, building campfires, and sleeping on the ground are not a part of most people's daily routine and may stress your body in new ways.   If you are new to camping you may want to start out with a single night car camping or yurt camping trip before you commit to a week long camping vacation.  

Backpacking can be particularly exhausting for folks who are not in good physical shape.  Don't bite off more than you can chew.   Before you set off on that long term backpacking trip, do a few a few day hikes with your pack.  Or try a single overnight hiking trip a couple of miles from your car.   


Lesson #7  Keep a positive attitude.  It's important to keep in mind that camping is an experience that can often be challenging. Keeping a positive attitude will help you deal with challenges. Ask yourself a few questions.  Are you camping to have fun with your family?  Are you camping to expose yourself and your loved ones to new challenges?  Are you stepping outside your normal comfort zone?   If the answer to these questions is "Yes" then you should prepare yourself mentally prior to your trip.  Be ready emotionally to deal with any small crisis that may arise. 

There will be multiple small crises.  It's going to happen.  Things get forgotten.  Camping gear breaks.  Insects and animals live in the forest.  Sometimes it rains. Part of the rewarding experience of camping is the satisfaction that you receive when you overcome these small crises.  


The wrong attitude:  "Camper A" discovers that he zipper on the tent and one of the tent poles are broken.  Accusations begin to fly.  Feelings get hurt.  The broken tent gets thrown away and everyone packs up and either heads to the store to purchase a new tent or just abandons the camping trip altogether and heads for home.  

The right attitude:  "Camper B" finds that the zipper on the tent and one of the tent poles are broken.  He/she calmly examines the broken pieces and devises a solution.  With a few minutes of work using some string, a stick from the forest, duct tape, and a couple of hair clips, a temporary fix as made and the crisis is averted.  Not only did "Camper B" solve the problem of the broken tent pieces, but he/she also provided a positive example to those around him/her without any panic or drama.  

Type I versus Type II fun

When preparing yourself mentally for camping, you should focus on the rewards of both Type I and Type II fun.  Type I fun is the kind of fun that everyone enjoys in the moment that it is happening.  Playing a board game or watching a movie with your family can be fun in the moment and is an example of Type I fun.   


Type II fun is the kind of fun that everyone enjoys after the experience is over.  This type of fun is more likely to make long lasting memories and is often described as an Adventure.  Type II fun usually requires that an individual or group take steps outside of their comfort zone and challenge themselves.  

Camping often includes both types of fun.  Roasting marshmallows by the fire is Type I fun.  Pitching a tent in a rainstorm is Type II fun.  Both can be rewarding.....but no one ever tells the story about the time you cooked marshmallows at a family gathering 10 years later.  It's just not an interesting story.  But that rainstorm.....that will stick with you.  Type II fun can make the BEST memories!    For those in your family who dispute this fact, ask them to tell an epic story that doesn't include any hardship, fear, or danger.  It can't be done.  Type I fun may be easier to do, but it's really pretty boring.  

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