Campsite set up for beginners
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Easy Campsite Setup for Beginners – What You Need to do FIRST

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Ok, you’ve purchased or rented the gear, packed the car, got everyone to the campsite, checked in and now you’re camping for the first time! Now what?

How do you actually set up all this camping gear you bought?

Campsite Set Up:

Once you’ve figured out the tips and tricks of camping, now you’re actually out there. What do you need to do first?

It’s tempting to get every last thing out of the car, but we strongly suggest you don’t do that. Get things out of the car as you need them, but the first step to setting up a campsite is having a snack.

1. Snack

It’s important to fuel up, so have a snack. The next steps take some teamwork, and no one wants to work with a hangry team. 

Crackers with spray cheese on a camping picnic table

Eat an apple sauce pouch, cheese and crackers or a protein bar.

Make it something quick so you can start to get the campsite set up and start enjoying the fun part of camping with your family.

2. Setup the Tent

First part of campsite set up is pitching the tent. Don’t grab it and throw it just anywhere. LOOK at the site and all it offers. Where is the sun going to shine when it rises?

Where are the other campers likely to pitch their tents? Where is the campfire pit and where will the smoke likely blow? Where are the trees that might drop acorns or large branches on your tent?

Is there a hiking trail that runs near the site that you may want to keep your tent away from?

And last and most important, where is the largest spot of flat land without rocks and tree roots? You’re likely going to have to ignore everything else and pitch the tent there. 

Tent set up near a picnic table, camp stove and camp chairs near the picnic table

If there is not flat land, pitch your tent such that your feet will be going downhill, you don’t want to roll down during the night and you for sure don’t want to sleep with your head lower than your feet.

If rain is in the forecast, be sure to put on your rainfly right when you set up your tent. No one wants to scramble and try to get it on while it’s raining.

Practice setting up your tent in your backyard before you go, so there are no surprises on how the tent goes together.

3. Unpack the Car

Don’t unpack the whole car. If you’re a beginner to camping you might be tempted to pull everything out so you can see it all.

You don’t need everything out right away and you don’t want your stuff spread out all over to get dirty and be tripped over. Unpack the essentials first to stay organized.

The kitchen box and campfire accessories are the next things you’ll need. Set up shelter and food, everything else is optional.

Truck packed with camping gear. Blue and green tote bins, camo duffel bag, camping chairs, propane cannister, drinks, cooler, air mattress in box and stuffed animals

Make a note of what you want easy access to right away and pack those items last next time you go camping. For us, we usually want the cooler either inside the car or one of the first things unpacked.

4. Setup the Sleeping Arrangements

Once the tent is up, put the sleeping stuff in it. Blow up air mattresses and set up sleeping arrangements right away.

No one wants to be fumbling with sleeping bags at bedtime and if you need to use a loud air pump, your fellow campers won’t like the noise past quiet time either.

baby sleeping in a tent

Most air mattresses need a slight refill right before bedtime anyway as they relax and work the creases out. You’ll also realize if one of the sleeping mats isn’t in good working condition and figure out a way to fix it BEFORE it’s bed time and everyone is super tired. 

Know where your other night time gear is before it gets dark. Set your headlamps and the baby monitor in easy to get at areas.

You don’t want to trip over things while putting your baby to sleep because you don’t have your headlamp.

5. Start a Campfire

Starting a fire always takes longer than you think and you want to have a nice fire going before it’s dark. You also may want a good bed of coals for cooking over and that takes even more time, so it’s best to get the fire going right way.

Also, one of my main goals when camping is to sit near a fire and do nothing, so it’s best to start early. 

Campfire log cabin style

If you have more than one capable person, the sleeping items can be set up and the fire can be started at the same time. Then set up your camp chairs so you’re all set to relax!

6. Figure Out the Next Meal

After we’re done setting up the campsite, our first camping meal is often dinner. Get things prepped, get tinfoil dinners wrapped, get water boiling if that’s what’s needed.

It’s very easy to start relaxing and having fun and before you know it, it’s dark and the whole family is hangry again.

scrambled eggs, sausage in a burrito

Get water from the closest spigot or start filtering it from a nearby lake or stream. Always get more water than you need. Have an easy meal ready for the first night, as complicated cooking is the last thing you want to do after setting up camp.

Dehydrated camping meal pack, biscuits and gravy

Dehydrated meals are always easy to make and a lot of them are very tasty! Our favorite is Biscuits and Gravy, it’s not just for breakfast!

7. Setup Creature Comforts

Set up your screen tent before it rains, your tent lights, your hammock, clothes line, camp games and blow up chairs. Get the rugs out to prevent dirt from sneaking into your tent while you’re setting everything up.

8. Enjoy Camping with your Family!

Sit by the fire. Play some camp games. Nap in the hammock. Eat dinner or have a snack like popcorn.

Woman sitting in a red camp chair cooking popcorn over a campfire

If you’ve forgotten something, either figure out the closest store, ask a fellow camper if you can borrow something from them or figure out how to do without it.

This is camping, part of the fun is having camper pie filling on pancakes because you forgot the syrup!

pancakes, fruit and bacon on a blue plate

Write down what you need to pack next time in a notebook, and update your packing list accordingly.

That’s all there is to it. Now you know how to get out there and scurry around!

Happy Camping!

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