In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essentials of planning a camping trip, from selecting the perfect spot to packing the right gear.

What to Know Before Planning Your Camping Trip

Before you dive into planning your camping trip, consider the different types of camping that might suit your style: backpacking, car camping, tent camping, camper camping, solo camping, and group getaways. Each type of camping offers a unique experience and also requires different preparations. You should also think about the best season for your trip, as weather conditions can significantly impact your experience as well.

Step-by-step Guide to Planning Your Camping Trip

Step 1: Choosing Your Campsite

Selecting the right campsite is important. Consider what is important to you: Do you prefer a secluded spot away from others, or a campsite with full amenities like showers and electrical hookups? Websites and apps can help you find sites with your preferred features. Always check the site regulation, especially concerning fire policies and wildlife interactions.

A campsite with partial shade and lots of trees
Research the different campsite options before your trip

Step 2: Essential Gear Checklist

The gear that you need to pack will all depend on the type of camping you choose to do. Here are some quick considerations:

  • Backpacking: Focus on lightweight, multi-use items like a tent, sleeping bag, pad, stove, and water purification system
  • Car Camping: You can afford to bring more, including camp chairs, larger stoves, and coolers.

Invest in sustainable gear to minimize your environmental impact, such as solar chargers and biodegradable soaps. For a full breakdown of what to bring, check out our guide with top camping essentials

Essential camping gear including a blanket, boots, and water bottle
Make a list and plan ahead the camping gear you'll need to bring

Step 3: Meal Planning and Food Prep 

You should plan your meals to be both nutritious and easy to prepare. Nutrition is especially important if you anticipate doing a lot of hiking, biking, or other physical activities during your camping trip. Easy to prepare meals will help eliminate stress and allow you to focus on having fun on your trip. Consider non-perishable items like pasta, rice, and canned goods for longer trips. Pre-pack meals in reusable food containers to reduce waste. If you are bringing a cooler, consider pre-cooking things so they only need to be warmed up at the campsite. Always pack extra snacks for energy while hiking or for lounging around the campsite. 

Flat top grill with eggs and bacon
A flat top grill gives you a lot of meal planning options while camping

Step 4: Itinerary Planning

Balance relaxation with activities. Plan hikes, fishing trips, or bird watching excursions, but also schedule downtime to enjoy the serenity of your surroundings. Include safety tips and a plan for emergencies by always packing a medical kit

Step 5: Leave No Trace Principles

A universal rule for camping is to adhere to the Leave No Trace principles, meaning you should leave a campsite with minimal environmental impact. This includes packing out all your trash, being mindful of local trees and plants, and using established fire rings. Fleet Farm offers a number of packing supplies that can help you achieve this goal, including stainless rim tableware to offset disposable plates and bowls, reusable ice packs to minimize plastic waste from bagged ice, and pop-up trash cans for easier collection. 

Two people cleaning up a campsite and following the leave no trace principle
Before you leave your campsite have a plan to pick up all trash

Step 6: Last-Minute Checks

Before you head out, double-check your gear, confirm your reservations, and check the weather. Make adjustments to your plan as necessary to ensure safety and enjoyment. 

Additional Camping Tips and Considerations

If you’re camping with kids or pets, additional preparations are necessary for their safety and comfort. Plan ahead with what you’ll need to keep little ones and furry friends entertained so you can pack accordingly without having to leave the campsite to pick up things you may have forgotten.

Learn How to Waterproof a Tent for Camping

An often overlooked item when planning a camping trip is waterproofing a tent. Everybody remembers to buy the tent but often don’t set it up in advance or waterproof it. By spending an afternoon familiarizing yourself with setting it up and then waterproofing it can eliminate a lot of stress when you are at your campsite. Start by applying an instant waterproofing spray evenly over the tent’s fabric while it is set up and already dry. Pay close attention and focus on the seams as they are often most vulnerable to leaks. Allow the tent to dry from the waterproofing spray in a shaded area to ensure the sealants adhere properly. Then pack up the tent as you normally would for your camping trip. At the campsite, it is also smart to set up your tent with a tarp underneath the tent so that any unforeseen pooling of water will happen under the tarp. 

Two people setting up a tent at their campsite
Waterproofing a tent and knowing how to set it up will eliminate stress when you arrive

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Camping Trip

The biggest mistake a lot of people make is overpacking, which can weigh you down and complicate setups. Focus on the essentials and the items you realistically see yourself needing. Also don’t underestimate the importance of checking the weather and preparing for sudden changes.

With the right preparation, camping can be incredibly rewarding and memorable. We hope this guide helps you plan a memorable and stress-free adventure in the great outdoors.