Newbie – First Trip Essentials

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Often times, someone comes to the various forums and posts something to the effect of:

I’ve never camped before, but I’m buying XYZ camper next week. What do I need for my first camping trip?

And often times, the lists that people come out with are staggeringly overwhelming and cost prohibitive. I’m going to attempt to answer the question of, “What is the bare minimum that I need for my first trip?” This all assumes that you have a quality hitch and setup for your tow vehicle.

#1. It Starts With You

First and foremost – a sense of humor!Your sense of humor will make you or break you. Not everything is going to go perfectly. New units have issues; used units have issues. You’ll do dumb things. Others will do dumb things. Live it, love it.

#2. You Gotta Sleep & Groom Yourself

Right now: you will be staying overnight, so you will need to sleep. This means that you’ll need some kind of bedding material (either sheets + comforter or sleeping bag). It doesn’t have to be fancy, extras from the house work. You’ll eventually want to buy things to leave in the camper so that you don’t have to move it every time- but you don’t need to go out and buy 7-bajillion-thread-count sheets and the $700 comforter that snuggles you gently to sleep.

Right now: you will need some kind of toiletries bag for teeth brushing, hair brushing and possible showers. We keep a full compliment of toiletries in the camper to make trip loading easier. But for the first night, all you need is what you would take to a hotel for an overnight somewhere.

Maybe later: as you camp, you’ll find that the bed may or may not be comfortable for you and your family. Later you may want to look into a mattress topper or extra foam for bunk mattresses.

#3. You Need To Eat

Right now: with our first trip, I’m pretty positive that we simply ordered pizza for the first night! Delivery came to the campground and we ate that. Food can be as simple as you want – hot dogs cooked on the fire or use the kitchen to its fullest. Plates and utensils can all be of the paper and plastic variety. Don’t forget some napkins or paper towels.

Maybe later: we keep a set of our old pots and pans as well as a crock pot in the camper. We bought the cheapest set of utensils that we could find. (Which included the worst knives you could possible imagine; note to self- replace them this year.)

#4. Wheel Chocks

Right now: there’s no cute saying or funniness that I could put- wheel chocks are a necessity. I prefer a heavy rubber wheel chock to the crappy plastic ones that you can get at Walmart. The plastic ones work- I just feel like the rubber ones work better.

While on the topic of wheel chocks, you need to level your camper by raising the low side. You can either use wood (2x8s or 2x10s), or I personally like Lynx Levelers (aka orange lego blocks). Take a look at my information about leveling.

Maybe later: a good between-the-wheel for added stabilization.

#5. Unless You’re a Camel, You Need Water

Right now: you are going to need either a drinking water hose or a means to fill up your fresh water tank, depending on the kind of camping that you’re doing. A regular hose works, but they’re known to leach nasties into your water and make it taste bad, to boot. If you’re not camping where you have water hookups, you’ll need to fill your tank from a potable water source. Again, the drinking water hose can be used or you can put water into a container and fill from them.

A water pressure regulator is required. The linked one is only $10 and is sufficient. But, if you want good water pressure, look at the expensive regulators from the RV Water Filter Store. Well worth the money and the customer service there is top notch.

Maybe later: I started with 25′ of water hose. After about a 1/2 dozen trips, I ended up needing another 25′ of water hose. Depending on your type of camping- especially if you’re in a campground without hookups, some people carry upwards of 250′ of hose to connect to the water supply in order to fill their tank.

#6. Dealing With the Nasty Waters

Right now: unless you do not plan on using any faucet or toilet, you’re going to have gray or black water that needs to be dealt with. See this post for information on what you need for dumping your tanks. You need anything from nothing to a full sewer kit (and possibly extras depending on your camper’s layout).

#7. A Couple of Miscellaneous Things

Somewhere between right now and maybe later: the last few things that I feel are “necessary” for a first trip may or may not be for you (or you may already carry some in your tow vehicle):

  1. First Aid Kit – things happen, be prepared. Hopefully you already have one in your tow vehicle that can pull double-duty.
  2. Multi-tool Set – I have two sub-$20 kits from Sears that I carry; the tools are junk but they get the job done. A maybe later can be a drill which can be handy for everything from stabilizer jacks to tongue jack.
  3. Power Cord Adapters – you’ll eventually camp where you need to go from 50amp to 30amp or 30amp to 50amp or some other weird combination. Personally, I’d buy it when I needed it.
  4. Dry Camping Needs – people who camp without hookups (no electricity, no water) have different needs (possibly a generator for recharging batteries; possibly a second or third battery; etc.).
  5. Flashlights & headlamps – for seeing at night.
  6. Firewood & firestarters – what’s camping without a fire?!

Your Ideas?

Please comment to tell me what you think I missed and why. Try to categorize things between “right now” and “maybe later”. I have a list of things for the “maybe later” (well, technically – “high probability” later), but for a first night out and to get started with the bare minimum, I think the above covers it nicely.

Thoughts? Opinions? Witty commentary?



5 COMMENTS

  1. This was great! We have gone from tent camping to pop up to tt to this year, a 36′ C+ Diesel. I just so happened to have bought most of these items this year after glamping for 11 days in Myrtle Beach. Found out what we needed by both “oh, I could really use…” and by seeing how others had done their stuff.

    The only thing I would add to this list is a water filter for the hose. What a difference that makes. I also made a clothes line that goes on the ladder out of pvc after seeing one at a camp ground last summer.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • That’s a great recommendation! I missed it because my camper camp with a filter and we didn’t buy anything special for it- but you’re right, a water filter is pretty high on the list.

  2. Very helpful. My suggestion for “later” acquisitions and equipment upgrades is to check out Goodwill and other thrift stores for better quality knives and other utensils, pots and pans, and even bed linens, blankets, mattress toppers, etc. Garage sales, Craigslist and buy/sell pages on Facebook are also good resources. You can get by with the basics until these finds hit your radar.

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