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Camping 101

Camping can be a beautiful and fun experience for anyone, if it's done right. Camping does not have to be a mountain climbing, deep woods, dodging bears adventure. You can make it as strenuous, as you please, but the average camper just wants a weekend away from the chaos of life. So if this sounds like you but you don't know where to start... follow these steps.

1. What type of camping vacation are you looking for?

A quick weekend away with the family, a quiet place for yourself, a couple's retreat, a place to enjoy the great outdoors? Answer this question first, everything else will depend on it.

2. Location, Location, Location.

Now that you know what you are trying to achieve, you can pick a place for the adventure to start. Camping in your backyard is never a bad idea. You can get an idea of what you will need and take a few tries at setting up that new tent or RV. When you are ready to set foot outside the backyard, the average camper starts with a campground. There are public and private campgrounds and depending on what you are looking for, they both have a lot to offer.

Public: Adventure goers and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy state parks. There are many pros to a public/state park campground:

  • Many outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, etc.

  • Beautiful scenery

  • Less expensive- state park fees in Wi range from $20-$35 per night, private campground fees can range from $40-$70 per night (2015).

  • More privacy- usually state parks' sites are more secluded

  • Nature centers and education opportunities

Private: Looking for a camping vacation that can keep everyone entertained, then a private campground may be more your style.

  • Amenities- privately owned campgrounds usually have many amenities to help make your stay a little easier. From laundry facilities and restaurants to playgrounds and pools, every extra amenity helps.

  • Activities & themed weekends- Many private campgrounds have staff that provide activities, games, and crafts to keep the kids happy and busy.

  • Easier campsite set up- usually paved roads, level sites, full hook ups available

  • Pools & water features

Now, how does one go about choosing a campground even once they’ve narrowed it down to a type of park…

Traveling Time: the average weekend camper says they camp within 2 hours of their home. Makes your vacation feel longer when you don’t spend the whole arriving and departing day on the road.

REVIEWS: Reviews, reviews, reviews, seriously. Always read reviews on campgrounds before you go. There are so many beautifully kept campgrounds but you don’t want to get stuck at a stinker. You can always check Woodall’s/Good Sam to see national campground ratings. Most campgrounds have reviews on Trip Advisor and Google. You should search for their website and social media accounts. Many campgrounds now have Facebook pages and other social media sites; you can usually get more information, see pictures and read other reviews too.

3. Make a Reservation

Private parks generally book up faster than public parks do. Depending on your location, campground reservations should be made in advanced. Popular private parks can book up months in advanced on weekends so it is best to book as soon as possible. State parks usually have more availability; you should check your state's DNR website for information on your local state parks. Many private and state parks have online reservations available- you can book on these sites or at least check availability.

4. Planning & Packing

If you have some time before this trip starts, it’s best to plan out the trip. For a camping trip to a public park and where more than camping is involved, you will need to research your park and its rules and regulations. If you are fishing or ATVing you made need a permit or licenses. You many also want to loosely plan out some activities for you and your family. Hiking trails, fishing areas, picnic spots, and nature centers may be at the campground or in the area, research your options for these type of activities too. If you are at a private park, activities are usually provided- ask the campground you chose if they have a themed weekend or activity schedule during your stay.

Packing- It can seem overwhelming but make a list, check it twice and you’ll be ok. (Another plus of a private campground- they usually have a camp store). You can find many types of packing lists on the internet specific to your type of camping. See our packing list here.

Food- Don’t forget about food while you are planning and packing! Planning out your meals & snacks is going to make your camping trip much easier. If you are a grill master, camp cooking will be a breeze. If you're not, don’t fret; there are many simple recipes you can cook over the fire. Google and Pinterest are your friend. Research some easy recipes and pack that cooler. See our camp recipes Pinterest page here.


Stop worrying that you forgot something, grab your keys and go! Make sure you know your campground’s check in time. When you arrive there should be a guard shack or front office that you check in at. Then head to your site and set up. If this is your first time camping at this campground be sure to ask about their policies on generators, sewer elbows, fire rings, electric amps, and anything else you may need to know before setting up. Now get that fire going and break out the marshmallows!

Always remember to leave your campsite as you found it. Check your campground’s policies on garbage, recycling, pets, fire ring clean-up and other site regulations. Did you put your garbage in the dumpster? Clean up after your pet and dispose of it in the dumpster (not the fire ring, where people cook their food)? Did you pick up your litter and/or cigarette butts? Did you separate your recycling? All of these little things can make camping more enjoyable for all of us! Don’t forget to pack trash bags!

Did you survive your first camping trip? Do you have any tips for first time campers? Do you have a question about planning your first camping trip? Let us know! Leave a comment or email us at!


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