- Choose large, popular, secure campgrounds rather than small, cheap, remote, unsupervised campgrounds. It is better to camp next to an RV with an air conditioner running all night than a drunken party.
- Use a good highway map to plan your travel route and do not depend on GPS or cell phones.
- Reserve campsites early because summer weekends fill quickly.
- Pack an extension cord and try to secure sites with electrical service.
- If destination is more than 400 miles away, reserve an overnight camp spot 300 to 400 miles along your travel route.
- Use heavy-duty duffel bags and strong milk crates to maximize packing efficiency.
- Invest in roof top and trailer hitch racks. Large families may have to use utility trailers.
- Tie duffel bags on roof top basket with 2 ropes and trucker’s hitches.
- Pack cooler and food at back of car and leave it there the entire trip to prevent animal scavenger problems.
- Pack fast drying polyester, nylon, wool, and silk garments because they will keep you warmer when wet and will dry faster. Avoid cotton jeans, sweat shirts, sweat pants, socks & underwear. Exception – cotton shirts in hot weather.
- Pack polyester T-shirt, polyester hoodie, polyester athletic pants, and wool socks for cool weather sleeping.
- Prepare for cold and rainy weather.
- Include shower kit, grooming kit, medicine, books, radio (Sangean), games.
- Pack a fast drying micro-fiber towel rather than a cotton one.
- Select a six-person tent because it is the most comfortable and practical size for couples and small families. Couples could save a few dollars and sacrifice a little comfort by buying a 4-person tent. Smaller tents are not comfortable and larger tents require excessive packing space, require extra set-up time, and may exceed campsite or tent pad boundaries. Exception: smaller tents may be necessary for people who drive motorcycles or small cars.
- Avoid tents with large vestibules and garages because these extras require unnecessary setup space and more tent stakes
- Make (or buy) a ground cloth that is smaller than the tent floor so that rain water will roll down the tent wall and soak into the ground rather than puddle under the tent floor.
- Set up tent at least 15 feet away from fire ring.
- Secure inside Velcro straps to poles and deploy guy lines to prevent wind damage. Secure all guy lines on each side to one stake.
- Position adjustable end of guy line rope up near tent guy out loop rather than down near ground stake.
- Set up a kitchen fly for cooking, eating, and relaxing. It should be high enough to stand in.
- Buy (or make) sidewalls for cool and stormy weather.
- Assemble a tool kit that will help you quickly set-up camp, resolve routine camp problems, make emergency repairs, & break camp at the end of your trip. Include tent & shelter stakes, baton, guy lines, extra cord, knives (Mora & Victorinox Tinker), axe (Estwing Camper’s Axe), small crow bar, sewing kit, felling wedge, trowel, pliers & rake.
- Use large (6 to 10-inch) nails as tent stakes.
- Buy 3mm, 3/8-inch, or 450 paracord to make guy lines, clotheslines, and other conveniences. Burn ends after cutting.
- Buy armless quad chairs because they fold small and are easy to carry.
- Buy 4-foot folding tables for food preparation and dining. Larger tables are hard to pack.
- Buy small roll top table and pack it near cooler to be used as quick food prep table and general utility table.
- Invest in a thick, insulated, durable & comfortable mattress. It is the most important piece of bedding you can buy.
- Spread a large synthetic indoor/outdoor carpet on tent floor to insulate from the cold ground and provide extra comfort.
- Pack king-sized wool or synthetic blankets or quilts. Sleeping bags are rarely needed by most families.
- Buy rectangular sleeping bags rather than mummy sleeping bags because rectangular bags can be opened to make quilts or zipped together to make a double-wide sleeping bag.
- Buy synthetic filled bedding rather than down-filled because synthetic bedding will keep you warm when wet and will dry faster.
- Assemble two – one for car and one for tent. Include adhesive bandages of varying sizes, Neosporin, Benadryl, Aloe burn ointment, aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, itch eraser, poison ivy cream, elastic bandage, rubber gloves, & large gauze pads
Stove and Fuel
- Pack a propane or butane stove and fuel. Campfire cooked meals are great but don’t rely on finding firewood.
- Don’t move firewood more than 30 miles.
- Be alert to poor quality firewood sold in some campgrounds, look for outside vendors.
- Pack fire starter kit.
- Pack extra head lights and batteries.
- Use rope lights for secondary shelter and a dome light for the tent.
- Find 3 enamelware or stainless steel pots with small or folding handles that nest together. Consider Billy pots with bailed handles. Avoid aluminum and thin lightweight backpacker cook sets that can quickly scorch food.
- Use tin cans of varying sizes that nest inside pots as mixing bowls.
- Consider cast iron fry pan and learn how to maintain it.
- Use 9-inch pie pans instead of plates and bowls.
- Use Opinel #8 & #10 folding knives as kitchen knives.
- Plan one-pot meals (soup, stew, goulash, red beans & rice).
- Pack perishables in 50-quart cooler without handle or wheels.
- Repackage foods in plastic containers. Glass containers can break in cooler and cut you.
- Plan to buy ice, food, and supplies almost every day and eat a few meals in restaurants.
- Make S'Mores with kids.
- Leave campsite nicer than you found it. Pick up cigarette butts and other trash, remove tent stakes left by previous campers, and remove nails left in trees.
- Open tents and tarps to dry after every trip. Hang them in garage or spread them out for 3 days before repacking.
For more suggestions, please watch my YouTube videos
Modern Tent Camping