13 Simple Tips To Make Tent Camping Easier And More Fun

by The Happy Rock on August 18, 2009

Last weekend we got back from a 4 day 3 night tent camping trip where it rained for hours on two of the four days.  Actually the trip was supposed to be 5 days 4 nights, but we decided to forgo the first day due to heavy rain and tornadoes that hit Northeast Pennsylvania.  Despite the weather the trip was a blast and we wished it was longer!

I have talked about how inexpensive it is to go tent camping before and this time was no different.  My estimate of about $60-$70 a day for our family of 4 was right about on target including entertainment.  We know that tent camping is a great frugal vacation, so I wanted to give my top list of tips to help make tent camping more enjoyable.  I  don’t claim to be a camping expert, but I have been camping a couple of times a year since I was a baby.  Here are my favorite tent camping tips:

  1. Attitude. Attitude is everything when it comes to vacation and camping is no different.  Attitude is the number one factor that will effect your enjoyment of your vacation.   You can camp in your backyard, but as long as you bring your go with the flow, relaxing, happy self it will be a blast.  If you have trouble relaxing or let yourself be bothered by little things, camping can be a terrible nuisance.  It is imperative that you enjoy the small walk to fill up your water container not be annoyed by it.  Relax, slow down, and embrace whatever comes your way.
  2. Be Friendly. Campers are a really friendly crowd as are most of the locals.  The only exception is when you go very backwoods area; you are often seen as more of an intruder rather than a welcomed guest.   Don’t be afraid to make friends with the neighbor campers.   Ask to borrow the can opener you forgot, or ask around to find the great places to visit.  Those relationships can positively change the direction of your vacation.   Sometimes you even find yourself waving at every car that passes, because they wave at you and there just isn’t that many of them.  It is a weird feeling for someone who is used to city and suburb living, but it part of the camping charm.  Having the simple relaxed attitude from tip #1 really helps make you more approachable and makes you more willing to share with others.
  3. One Pot Meals. This is the Rockette’s area of expertise and this is her number on cooking tip.   Make meals that can be mixed in one big pot.  It helps save fuel, time, and hassle.  Keep it simple and prepare it at home if you can.  Some of our meals from the last trip were Moroccan Chicken and Veggies with Couscous premixed and brought in a large freezer bag for the first nights meal.  Rice and beans.  Marconi and Cheese with broccoli. Oatmeal with the cinnamon and raisins and sugar premixed.  The one exception would be meals that you can cook on the fire/grill like burgers and corn and potatoes.
  4. Don’t Sacrifice. Camping doesn’t have to be all about sacrifice.  If you are miserable or complaining then you aren’t doing it right.  Just pick and choose the things that make you the most happy and make sure you bring them. One of The Rockette’s is an air mattress. I like a dining fly so that you can eat and play games without being bothered by bugs too much.   Some people like to bring their bikes.   We have a special lounge chair that is bulky, but really makes chilling and relaxing by the fire amazing.   Maybe it is a special meal that is hard to prepare, but just brings a smile to your face.  You will find your things with some experimentation. Just remember not to overdue it, because all excess adds stress.
  5. Organize. I am not an organized person, but a little organization can go a long way.    Things like packing a dirty clothes bag or having a special food box so that everything can stay in one place.   Currently we use a camping box for all the odds and ends like knives, can openers, cutting boards, clothes line, etc.   We also have a crate for dry food like snacks, bread, and the like.  The cooler keeps pretty much everything else.  The boxes make it easy to move things around and into the car at night.  Just make sure everyone is on the same page and things will be where you expect when you need them.  We also created a packing checklist for camping to help  make sure we don’t forget anything.  We also bring the checklist and add to it if we realize there is something that isn’t on there or there is something that we need to buy.  Having the list removes a lot of the stress and mental gymnastics required when packing.
  6. Leave It Behind. For us this means almost anything that has ties to home.  Laptops, work, TV, PDAs, etc.   It also means that you need to mentally leave the bills, deadlines, and stress at your door step too.  If you aren’t good at this, try visualizing leaving all the ‘stuff’ behind while you drive to you destination.  It can be a great de-stresser.   Camping is a change in pace and you need to let it change you rather than try and control it.  That submissiveness to whatever happens it part of the freedom that makes camping such an enjoyable activity.
  7. Make It Special. Special goes way beyond don’t sacrifice.  It means bringing the box of Swedish fish or your favorite soda that you don’t often get a chance to have.  It means bringing your favorite board game or a new family game that you can enjoy.    Special food(smores and the like) is often a big part of this, but it can really be anything.    If it is the laptop to watch a special DVD that may be your thing.  Just make sure it is something that is worth it.  Last trip we took a journey to visit an awesome free admission family amusement park called Knoebel’s in central Pennsylvania which was the experience that the kids remembered most.
  8. Dirt. Let dirt be your friend.  You will get dirty, just embrace it.  Go play in the rain.  Swim in lakes.  Play in waterfalls.  Dig holes, whatever.  The key is to not only accept that you will get dirty, but embrace it.  Most parks have showers now a days, so just bring some shower stuff and a towel and you can still get clean.  Often times with proper attitude you might even skip shower, because the dirt doesn’t bother you.  Not much feels more satisfying though than the first shower at home after a long camping trip.  Bonus Tip: No shoes in the tent.  The floor of the tent is where you are sleeping take extra care to keep it clean.  It will also reduce your cleanup time when you leave.
  9. Weather. Be prepared for rain.  Bring an extra tarp.  Bring extra clothes and bring rainy day back up plans.    Again the only choice is to embrace it and prepare for it otherwise it will make you miserable.   On our last trip it started to pour as we pulled into the amusement park’s lot and wasn’t stopping anytime soon.  We made a call or two and found a bowling alley and waited it out.  It finally stopped 6 hours later and we were able to run the amusement park from 6 – 10 for only $6.50 a person.  Because everyone had a great attitude we ended up bowling and going to the amusement park for the same price as a day at the park and it was a blast.
  10. Research.  Research can take a few different forms. Talking to friends and family that have been where you are going.  You can even scour the internet for suggestions or tips on your particular park or area.  You can talk to the locals or other campers once you are there.  Finally, note the lessons learned for next time.   One of our most useful tips is to walk new campgrounds before you leave and mark the good campsites on map so that you can get  great site next time you come.
  11. Car Rides. You can’t do too many things to make your ride shorter other than avoid traffic, so just take a great attitude.  I know The Rockette got a special bag of goodies(snacks, games, and toys) from her mom on long road trips.  Bring a deck of cards.  Pack some good snacks. Plan a scenic stop along the way.  Play eye-spy or the alphabet game.  Make it fun.  For younger kids try and plan the ride at nap time or bed time which usually buys you a few extra hours of ride time.   Finally, don’t forget to bring a map. GPSs aren’t as reliable in the back country.
  12. Go With Others. Find some camping friends or invite people who have never been camping.  Usually the more the merry assuming they all understand tip #1.  Sharing meals and supplies and fees also helps cut costs.  This last trip there were ten of us, four adults and 6 children under 8 all in on big tent.   All the people just multiplied the fun.
  13. Attitude. Yes, this is a repeat but only to help reiterate how important it is.  It is your attitude that really makes or breaks a good camping trip, not the weather or the campground or even what you do.   External things do effect your trip, but attitude will trump it all.

If you have your own special tips or additions I would love to hear them in the comments.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Mouli Cohen August 18, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Great list! I went camping recently for the first time in years. I have to say that I pretty much did everything on this list (even number 6) and it was fantastic.


Mrs. White August 19, 2009 at 12:06 am

I love the picture! It sounds like you all had a great time!

The best part of this post was about leaving it all behind.

We live in rural Vermont in a retreat-like setting. So it feels like we are camping just because of our surroundings.


FFB August 19, 2009 at 10:51 am

You so have to prepare for foul weather. But with a good attitude it can be fun. I remember camping trips with RIDICULOUS rain but in the end we had fun and it made for a great story. Totally do your research and talk to the locals. Find out what you can do in the area. We went camping a few years back and found out there were a series of waterfalls in the area. It made for a great little hike for us.

NE Penn, huh? Anywhere near the border of NY and NJ? I’ve done a bunch of camping around there.


Zengirl August 19, 2009 at 7:24 pm


I am new to camping, so this list will be very useful for me when we do go. Thanks for sharing.



Kyle August 20, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Wow, that was a tough spam question.. My wife and I both want to get into camping. When we were in high school we both camped, however, neither of us has done it since then. Hopefully next year we can find a way to start working it in to our busy schedule.


Tim August 21, 2009 at 12:00 am

That was a great weekend…:-)


ChristianPF August 21, 2009 at 5:11 pm

These are great tips, now if I can just convince my wife to go with me!!


Jonathan@Friends&Money August 22, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I think that being friendly is essential if you are camping, because you have to get on with those around you or you would end up having a miserable vacation. Some excellent tips


Steve August 23, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Thanks a lot! just in time! I’m going to Turkey next week, and in the program there is camping in Iznik! I’ll try to follow these tips and come back to tell my thoughts !


car insurance phi August 24, 2009 at 7:59 pm

If I had to pick one of the things you listed as the most important, I’d say it’s “attitude.” I take a group of local kids camping a few times a year and can say that having a positive attitude regardless of the scenario/campsite will have an overwhelmingly good effect on your camping trip.


Eric Martin August 25, 2009 at 11:49 am

Great list – As others have said, #13 is key!

I’m flattered that you used a picture from my family’s camping trip – but am curious why you didn’t use one from your trip?

Funny story about this picture – it is also being used by a Norther California forestry group to show the proper way to have a camp fire.



The Happy Rock August 26, 2009 at 12:28 am

@All – Thanks for all the comments.

@Eric – Thanks for the great shot. I would love to use a picture from our trip, but neither my wife or I have a knack for taking great pictures. You guys obviously do! Thanks again. Keep camping!


Camping Mom September 7, 2009 at 10:47 am

Excellent tips! My family and I have been camping each year for the last 3 years. the first year was a disaster, but it’s been getting better. I have to agree that camping is by far the most affordable way to take a vacation there is.


Joseph Pannell January 21, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Learning about wild foods for me makes camping so enjoyable. I take a book with me and study the different plants to see what is edible in each location in each season, catching your own fish and then cooking it on a fire or scavenging for shell fish could not be beat. Take a tipi or yurt and then youve got a warm fire at night and you wont boil in the day. I couldnt agree more about leaving all your electrical equipment back at home, a good head torch and you are set. Frankly unless its done properly and you’re getting back to nature and living as basic as you can it doesnt feel like camping to me, also music, lots of instruments, all your friends and some nice ale, lovely stuff. Cant wait for the summer!


Steven September 6, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Yeah, I agree with the first and the last tip that you said. It’s all on the attitude. My wife, me and the kids went to a camping trip but my wife was really moody that day, she was irritable and all and that mood ruined everything. We didn’t enjoy the camping trip, we ended it sooner than we expected. And the lesson learned, do not bring someone who don’t want to go camping, that’s a big no-no.


Cassie@Army Surplus October 28, 2010 at 1:55 am

No. 12 tip – Go with others. Honestly speaking, I’d rather go to camp with my family alone but I guess you have a point there. Inviting other people can cut the camping costs. And also, the more campers the merrier. As long as they share food and other supplies, i think that would be fine.


Josnky November 30, 2010 at 6:18 pm

You left 1 thing to make camping more fun and I think it’s important especially if you have kids – Make sure there’s always something to do both in good weather and bad. Take board games but try to avoid video games because of its anti-social nature, bring a ball, take the bikes, etc.


Pam@Pennysaverblog March 7, 2013 at 10:51 pm

I love tent camping! My husband and I went on a four month road trip through parts of the US and Canada last year and we tent camped the entire time. We had a blast and didn’t have to spend a fortune on hotels.


Lucinda Newton April 21, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I have to say that I agree with every tip! We (my sisters and I and our grown children and grandchildren) all go camping to a state park in Vermont every summer for a week. We rent anywhere from 4 to 5 sites or more depending on how many different families come and try and keep the sites close enough that we can all get together at one campfire once the little ones go to bed. We are all tenters and I have to say that being friendly is so important. I have been camping since I was a young child and some of my best friends to this day are people that I met camping in Maine back in the 70’s.
We also started something else that has become fun for us. Because we have 5 to 6 families going for the week we have started having each different family in charge of feeding the whole gang one night. They are in charge of buying the food, cooking and cleaning up afterwards. It makes for such a relaxing time for the rest of us when we know that someone else is in charge of cooking and guilt free time to just sit around. :)
We also have electronic free camping. Even our cell phones don’t work in this campground so everyone on the “outside” world knows that they have to call and leave a message if they need to get in touch and then a couple times during the week I might go downtown where there is service and check messages.


Lucinda Newton April 21, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I forgot to add that I am already searching for a special recipe for my night of cooking.


Annette@thecampingzone.com June 19, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Those are some great tips and I liked your attitude -especially about the rain. You never know, and there is no sense in moping if it starts raining. Things to do inside the tent are nice for kids as well, as they need play time and some rest time if they are younger.


Jim@walmart March 26, 2016 at 12:51 am

Very nice tips for camping. I am an avid camper and it is always refreshing to see how others plan and prepare for their camping trips.


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