Ultimate guide to car camping for beginners

Cut through the detail in this website with our step by step guide to camping trailer free.

Girl on scooter camping with family

If you are a beginner camper or new to family camping, a website like this can initially be a lot to take in. Often you want to just skip through all of the detail and jump to the important bits. If that's how you feel, then follow our step by step guide to camping below and in the article links and you will be on the road before you know it.

The resources below are in cronological order to allow you to work through the list systematically over time, and not all at once.

1: Camping tips for beginners

Children campingA poorly planned and equipped early camping experience can really turn people off camping for life who might have otherwise really enjoyed it. Before you do anything, avoid making rookie mistakes by checking out our camping tips for beginners

First impressions are important, especially when you are also juggling the demands of children as well, so don’t make your first camping trip your last. 

2: Camping setup for beginners

Camping setupIn this website we've tried to include as much variety as possible to help you to build a camping setup that suits your circumstances. If, however, you want to know what we think a typical beginner camper should include in their car camping setup, including young adults, young couples and families, our recommendations are detailed in our camping setup for beginners article. You will also find advice and tips to keep your gear volumes down for camping trailer free and also links to our buying guide.

As you will see, we recommend you start out with a more basic camping setup to avoid investing a lot of money into high end camping gear that could ultimately stay in the garage.  Our beginners camping setup is still functional and comfortable and will be compatible with most of the advice and tools available on this website. Many of the items listed will also be equally useful around the home as well if, in the end, they don't get a lot of camping use.

As you accumulate your camping gear, you might be thinking about how best to store it at home. If so, also check out our home storage solution.

3: Packing checklist

Now that you've worked through the elements of your camping setup and decided what goes in it, you need to develop a packing checklist to make sure that you pack everything you need for any given camping trip.

Our packing checklist includes the items we have included in the above camping setup for beginners.You can start with the basic checklist, download it and personalise it as you go.

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4: Choosing your car and accessories 

Car for campingThis website focusses on family camping (for up to 5 people) without the need to go out to buy or otherwise get some kind of trailer to help carry everyone and everything to the camsite. And the good new is, when choosing your ideal car for camping, you don't need the biggest car in the yard - we have identified four cars in the mid-size range that may be suitable, depending on your requirements of course.

Before you invest your hard earned money in the most expensive component of your camping, we do encourage you to read through our Car and accessories section. That said, here are our two key resources to help you to choose the right car for you:
  • Calculator - weight of car load: Before you choose your car, calculate the weight of your car load and make sure your car is built to carry that weight.
  • Car buying checklist: Summarised in this checklist are all of the things we think you should consider when choosing the right car for camping trailer-free.

If you find your current car is not adequate for your needs, or if you don't actually own a car, read our article on hiring or renting a car. Hiring or renting a car could be an interim measure until you can upgrade to something suitable. Alternatively, it might be the way to go in the longer term for the relatively short period of time in the year that will need such a car just for camping.

5: Finding a campsite

Location iconYou’ve decided on a camping getaway and cleared your diary. Now it’s time to decide on where you want to go, actually find that ideal campsite, and if necessary, book it. Like anything new and unfamiliar though, finding a great camping location to suit your circumstances can be at best hit and miss.

For beginner campers, it's good idea to err on the side of caution and start out at an established campground with toilet and shower facilities, drinking water and within easy access to fuel and a grocery store. Check out our article listing popular online resources to help you find a great campsite to suit your camping "skill level".

6: Preparing for camping checklist

TickGetting ready for a camping trip isn’t just about your camping setup and gathering that all together. Although important, you also need to prepare for the trip as well as attend to all of the housekeeping tasks that can often get overlooked in the 101 things you feel you need to do before you head off. 

An organised and step by step approach to preparing for a camping trip can really save you time and stress, and you will be reassured that you are prepared for anything forseeable and nothing important is left behind.

To print the document, go to the preparing for a camping trip article for a PDF copy or to download an editable Word version if you wish to customise the document to suit your circumstances.

7: Packing your car for camping

Car_roof_loadedYou've got your camping setup together and a suitable car and you're ready to head off camping. Packing your car for camping is the next challenge - which by the way is not something you should try for the first time on departure day.

With the above trailer-free camping setup, and a well planned approach to packing your car, you will be amazed at how much easier packing your car for camping will be. Check out our packing your car for camping article. As you will see, the way in which you pack and load your car for camping depends on the amount of internal cargo space you have as well as the number of rear seat passengers.

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8: Pitching and packing up

Other really useful articles in our toolkit for camping beginners relate to the whole camping process once you arrive at camp. No matter the conditions or your length of stay, a well-planned approach to setting up your campsite can get you into holiday and relax mode as soon as possible.