A Beginners Guide to Camping

Oregon RV camping

Oregon RV camping trips offer a great opportunity for the entire family to get outdoors and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Pacific Northwest. A day spent hiking or hanging out by the lake and a night full of campfire smoke and S’mores can make memories that last a lifetime.

If you have never camped before, your first trip out can feel intimidating. What should you pack? Where should you go? What amenities do different campsites offer? What activities need planning in advance? These are all important questions that need answering before you head out on your next Oregon RV camping trip, but especially for first time campers.

To give you a better idea of what you need to know before camping for the first time, here’s your basic guide to camping in Oregon.

How do You Get a Campsite?

While camping allows you to spend the night outdoors, you still need to make a reservation just like booking a room at a hotel. In the Pacific Northwest, campsites can vary from the rugged to the more relaxed. First time campers may want to avoid sites found on the back roads of national forests in favor of one that is more family friendly. A lack of a bathroom, running water, or the ability to have a fire may make camping too difficult and unenjoyable for some members of the family who aren’t excited to live like Bear Grylls for a weekend.

Booking a campsite can be tricky, especially during a pandemic when many people are seeking outdoor entertainment options. The best places to find an open campsite are campgrounds managed by U.S. Forest Service, Oregon State Parks, and Washington State Parks. Some counties also have their own campsites, especially for those looking to do some Oregon RV camping.

The majority of campsites can be reserved, however, some are only available on a first-come, first-serve basis. While this does give some opportunity for last-minute campers to find a place to stay, you probably don’t want to run this risk if you don’t know where to look.

What Gear do I Need for My Trip?

Packing for a camping trip depends on a variety of factors – time of year, duration of the trip, amenities offered by the campsite, etc. – but what you bring really depends on whether you’re RV camping or sleeping in a tent.

For those without an RV, by far the most important gear you’ll bring on your camping trip is your tent and sleeping bag. Nothing makes a night out under the stars more miserable than an inability to comfortably fall asleep.

Unless you want to spend the night finding out how truly uncomfortable sleeping in the car is, you’ll want to bring a few of the following supplies:

  • A tent large enough for the entire family or multiple tents
  • A sleeping pad to place under your sleeping bag
  • An insulated sleeping bag
  • A tarp to place under your tent
  • Pillows and a blanket

Everyone needs shelter at night, and you don’t want to pile family members on top of each other to make space. Make sure you have a large enough tent or tents for each member of the family. Placing a tarp under your tent will help to prevent moisture from seeping in, and a sleeping pad will make you far more comfortable, even if your sleeping bag is well cushioned. It gets cold at night out in the forest, so make sure you can stay warm once the sun sets.

What Supplies Should I Pack?

We recently covered all of the emergency supplies campers need to have on hand, but the basics need to include enough food and water for at least three days longer than your planned trip.

Cooking at a campsite conjures images of roasting hot dogs over an open fire, but you might find the reality a little more challenging. Oregon gets very dry during the summer, which means a fire ban might be in place during your camping trip. No one wants to eat cold hot dogs and S’mores, so you may want to consider bringing a camp stove. A basic one burner stove will allow you to make a meal, even if not ideal.

Don’t assume the campsite will have trash cans for you to dispose of your waste. In fact, most campsites do not have a place for trash so as to avoid attracting wild animals. You’ll need to bring a few trash bags and a way to clean any utensils or dishes you use.

Speaking of animals – leaving food out at night offers a great way to meet some of the local wildlife. If the idea of hearing the rustling of tiny critters tearing through your campsite at night doesn’t sound all that appealing, you need to make sure you put all of your food away before heading into your tent for the night.

What Activities do I Need to Plan?

Most activities don’t need any planning once you’ve arrived at the campsite. Hiking, fishing, kayaking, etc. can all be done at your leisure. Some campsites may offer canoe or kayak rentals that need to be booked in advance, but these types of amenities are not all that common.

If you plan to get on the water, make sure to bring a lifejacket or some other type of floatation device as lakes and rivers don’t have any lifeguards. When hiking, make sure to let others know where you’re going in case of an accident.