Planning a Camping Trip: Shelter

Camping is a great way to get away, especially during these times. It’s fairly inexpensive once you’ve invested in your gear, and you can socially isolate pretty easily. I used to do it with my kids about 17 years ago – just myself and three kids. I had a lot of fun doing it, even if it was a struggle at times.

Now here we are about 17 years after my last camping trip. Older and wiser, we have a pop-up trailer now like the one pictured above. Planning for our first trip means seeing what we still have and what we need.


Whether you’re camping in a tent, trailer, or RV, you need to choose how you will be protected from the elements. If you’re shopping for a tent, don’t go by the number or people they indicate in the advertisements. That number is the number of people the tent will sleep if you all sleep right next to each other or in a certain pattern.

When I camped with my 3 kids, we typically had a large tent that was indicated for 8 people. We had two airbeds in each end and an area in the middle we could use for walking in, changing clothes, and storing anything we didn’t want to leave outside or put in the vehicle.

Tents have to be waterproofed and sealed, even the ones that say they are already. It’s an extra layer of protection from the elements, especially if you end up in a thunderstorm with downpours. You can find seam sealer and waterproofing for tents in most outdoor stores. Set the tent up and run the seam sealer all over the seams of your tent, then spray on the waterproofing over the whole tent. Waterproof both the roof and the rainfly if the tent is equipped with that – it’s more protection and better to do too much than too little. This should be done once a year to your tent.

We used to set up our tent on a tarp. This gives the floor of the tent secondary protection against anything on the ground that might put a hole in the floor. I would choose the site, then move any obvious sticks and rocks out of the way. Keep a good broom with you for this as well as cleaning the tent daily. The tarp would go down next, then setting up the tent on top of it. Ours was slightly smaller than the tent footprint so that if it rained there wasn’t a chance of water collecting under the tent floor and leaking. Make sure to bring a mallet and possibly a claw hammer for pounding tent stakes into the ground and removing them. I never had a problem removing stakes but I know some people have. Also, know what kind of site you have. There are different stakes for camping in a soft surface like sand or snow.

Now I have a pop-up camper. We’re going camping for the first time in it, and the concept is really the same that I used with the tent back in the day. The beds slide out on either end and in the middle is a table that can be turned into a bed, a small cooktop and sink, as well as a small refrigerator.

Travel trailers and recreational vehicles are also a consideration. I would recommend renting one and trying it out before committing to that much of an investment, unless you’ve had experience camping. We might move up to a trailer one day. One of the reasons people like them is there is a bathroom in them. I don’t like it because the bathrooms are generally very small and then you have to worry about cleaning it out every time you use it. I refuse to do that job.

Once you’ve decided on your immediate shelter, think about a secondary one. I used a screen room when I tent-camped with the kids. It gave us shelter outside of the tent if it was raining as well as the screen helping contain us away from bugs. Our pop-up has an awning and screen room to use. We usually put whatever picnic table is at the campsite in here.

If you’ve never gone camping before, I recommend buying everything you think you need, then going to a nearby state park and “practice camping” for a few days to see what else you need. I tent-camped alone with 3 of my kids by myself nearly 20 years ago. There were a few adjustments I made after our first time where I learned from experience. Now, I can’t wait to get back out there.

2 replies »

  1. We camp once a year. Tent camp. LOL Can be challenging here because of thunderstorms. Once we did come home. We were at a nearby state park and it poured on the 4th. We left our tent and just drove home. Next day we went back and it was beautiful.