A lot of people still think that all they need to do when planning a camping trip is find a good campsite and prepare all their gear. Don’t get me wrong; this is very important. But that’s not all there is to do when you’re making preparations for camping. As a matter of fact, I personally think that that’s only about half of it. The other half involves using a little bit of smarts and a lot of common sense. A lot of times, campers tend to find themselves in situations which could have been avoided if only they were paying attention.

When looking for a good campground, always keep in mind that not all campgrounds are appropriate for every camper. If you’re new to camping, for example, it’s always a good decision to pick a public camping spot that’s close to your home. Avoid going to far-off locations when you’re just starting out. Remember also that public campgrounds are run by a government agency; therefore regulations and services tend to be consistent and reliable. Privately-run camping sites, on the other hand, usually vary in their services, amenities, and policies. It’s also never a good idea to set up camp in an RV park when you’re in a tent. The noise from all the air-conditioning and power generators will keep most campers up during the night when they’re supposed to be sleeping.

Some people place reservations for a campground which they have never been to before. How can you be sure that it’s what you really want? Reservations can get lost, camping grounds can fill up, and you may find yourselves traveling over 1,000 miles to some place where you have no campsite. Be sure to get a confirmation by phone or email, and get all essential information about the campground, such as refund policies, check-in times, and rules for visitors.

When you arrive at the campground, the next important thing is to choose your campsite. As with real estate, it’s all about location. As much as possible, make sure that you pick one near the showers, toilets, lakes, ponds, or rivers, and playgrounds, if any. Some people even look for spots near garbage disposal areas, but I shall leave that option to your own preference. Some people like to be near certain areas, while others prefer to be as far away as possible. Now, when pitching your tent, the rule is to find a level spot that is high off the ground. This way any water from rains will drain away from your tent. Select a spot that is also far away from campfires or barbecue areas, and don’t aim your tent door to the East, unless you want to wake up with the sun shining in your face.

Always cook your food outdoors. Campgrounds usually have designated areas for this, so be sure you use them. As for eating, you can eat just about anywhere you like, except inside your tent. Why? The crumbs that will certainly fall from your plate will attract critters, and they will put holes in your tent just to get to the food. Speaking of which, I recommend storing all your food in tightly-closed containers, and if possible, just place them in your car’s trunk, rather than inside your tent. If you have a cooler and you want it close, place something heavy on top of the lid.

Mind the wildlife. You are temporarily staying at a place where bugs, birds, and animals have made it their home. Protect yourself by using bug repellents, and if you want to observe wildlife, do it from a safe distance. If you are in the woods, it’s nice to check yourself and your gear every now and then for ticks. And oh, you may find it very interesting to feed animals, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Lots of campers in the past have tried doing this, only to find the wildlife returning to their tent every so often to get fed and make a nuisance of themselves later on.

When it’s time to go, be sure to pack your equipment dry. Pick up all debris and trash scattered around your campsite and dispose of it properly. Always inform the campground attendant that you’re leaving and that your campsite is available, as a courtesy to him and to other campers who may be just arriving.