Tent Camping Tips for First Timers


So you’re thinking about taking your first tent camping trip! It can seem intimidating to take on a new skill. But camping doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some tent camping tips to help you get outside and sleep deep under the stars.

Do your research first

REI, independent creators, and other outfitters have tons of information online about all things outdoor recreation, including camping. Watch some videos, see how to set up a tent, and learn best practices for camp cooking and packing before you set out. There’s a wide world of educational content out there, so you can learn a lot before you even load the car.

Don’t spend a ton on gear

It’s important to try new things, and camping can be an ideal way to connect with nature, save money on accommodation, and experience a slower way of living. But if you’ve never tried it before, it’s a good idea to go easy on the spending. Wait to make big investments until after you’ve fallen in love with camping. If you don’t already own your own gear, see if you can borrow from friends or rent from local outfitters. Many REIs and other gear stores will have rental tents, pads, and sleeping bags available, which is a good way to ease into camping without a big upfront cost.

Practice at home first

There’s nothing worse than pulling up at a campsite after dark, tired and ready to get cozy, and realizing that you forgot one of your tent poles. Practice setting up everything and using your gear before you head out if you can. It’s better to learn at home that your tent didn’t come with stakes or that the propane bottle you borrowed is actually empty.

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Pack for all possible conditions

This doesn’t mean you need to bring your sub-zero parka for a summer camping trip at the lake. But it does mean that you should check the weather before you set out and bring a few contingency comfort items, like extra layers, a beanie, and spare socks. Wet clothes and too few layers are the thieves of fun when it comes to sleeping outside. And if you’re car camping, there’s no harm in bringing a bit more to make sure you’re comfortable.

Learn Leave No Trace

Whether you’re camping in the backcountry or sleeping on a level tent pad right by your car, it’s important to learn and embody the Leave No Trace ethic to help protect the wild spaces you’re recreating in. You can find out more about the importance of LNT here.

Don’t forget food storage

When you’re camping in bear country, or even if there are just bold squirrels or ravens around, food storage is a big consideration. What you do will depend on where you are. But in Montana, it’s important to properly store all attractants. Besides wanting to avoid having a bear as your tent-mate, we all have a responsibility to protect wildlife. And a fed bear is a dead bear.

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Let gear air out after your trip

Before you store your gear away when you get home, be sure to give your tent time to dry completely. The same goes for sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and any other items that might have gotten damp, either from the ground or morning dew. If you pack them away, even slightly moist, your next camping trip will be a disappointment of mold and mildew that it’s best to avoid.

Remember your reservations

As outdoor recreation surges in popularity and national parks see increasing visitation that spreads out to surrounding communities, planning ahead for your camping trip is essential. Make your reservations as early as you can. And if you have your heart set on a national park visit to Glacier or Yellowstone, check private campgrounds in nearby gateway communities. You can often find better deals with more amenities. And many RV campgrounds also have tent sites to choose from.

There’s a whole lot of Big Sky Country out there to explore. For a site where regenerative tourism and outdoor fun meet, book a stay at a Starry Night Lodging campground at the gateway to Glacier and Yellowstone or in the heart of Butte, America.