Camping in the USA is amazing. The campgrounds are huge and you’re connected to nature. In this article, I’ll share all my tips and tricks.
Camping in the USA vs Camping in Europe
When I was little my parents took me camping in The Netherlands, France and Luxemburg, and it was definitely not my favorite thing to do. Campgrounds are pretty crowded, people are loud and toilets and showers were crappy. But ever since I’ve been camping in the USA, I love it! Camping in the USA is different from camping in Europe, the campgrounds are way bigger and you feel much more connected to nature. In this article, I’ll share all my tips and tricks for camping in the USA.
Like everything else in the United States, campsites are very large. You can easily fit three tents in one site. On the site, you will find a large picnic table, a fire ring and sometimes even a grill. There’s also a parking space for your car. If you’re in an area that’s home to bears, you will also find a special bear-proof food locker on your site.
If you’re traveling to the United States by plane, it will be difficult to take all your camping accessories because of the weight limits of your luggage. Of course, you can go shopping at Walmart when you arrive in the USA. In this store you will probably be able to buy everything you need, and more.
But even better is to order camping equipment through Amazon, in that case, you’ll get exactly what you need before you go camping in the USA. You can have it delivered at a post office or at the hotel you’re staying at the first night (make sure to check with them if it’s ok to have packages delivered there).
The first thing you need to go camping is a tent. You can find tents in all shapes and sizes. Are you traveling with a family? Make sure to pick a large tent. Are you traveling alone or with your partner? Get a small 2-person tent that’s easy to set up.
If you’re expecting rain during your camping trip, make sure your tent is waterproof. I’ve been using this tent during my solo camping trips in the USA and I absolutely love it!
Since nobody likes to sleep on the floor, you’ll need a sleeping pad. You can pick the cheapest air mattress or sleeping pad, they are usually pretty good. Don’t forget to buy a pump as well if you have a larger sleeping pad. Are you planning on camping on cold grounds? Then choose a self inflating sleeping pad, they have better isolation. Those are a little more expensive though, but definitely worth it.
Since I’m also backpacking a lot, I bought a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress. This matrass is lightweight, packs really small, and very comfortable.
When you’re buying a sleeping bag, make sure it’s good for the right temperature. Sometimes the temperature drops fast at night (in Bryce Canyon the temperature went down from 35 to 5 degrees Celsius), so make sure you get a warm sleeping bag. There usually is a temperature range in the description, make sure you read it very well. Sleeping bags can be expensive, but in this case, it’s better to get a good one, so you’ll be sure to sleep at night.
A cooler is a nice piece of camping equipment to keep your food and drinks cold. They also come in all shapes and sizes, you can get a big one with wheels, or a smaller one that just fits a couple of water bottles. Pick the right one and you’re good to go. You can buy ice pretty much everywhere, and it usually lasts 2 to 3 days.
You want to make a campfire if you go camping, right? Make sure you buy wood, because it’s useful for cooking and also for keeping warm. You can buy wood at Walmart and sometimes on the campground (if it has a store).
Camping kitchen equipment
Last but not least: you need camping kitchen equipment. Make sure you have some plates, cutlery, cups, and a dishpan, so you can wash your stuff and keep water next to the fire. For cooking dinner (or breakfast, or lunch) it’s best to buy a big frying pan. Also make sure you’ll get a few trash bags, for your garbage.
Do you need to make reservations?
If there are some locations you definitely want to visit, I highly recommend making a reservation. Especially in high season, the campgrounds in the national parks are completely full. For a lot of campgrounds, you can make a reservation about six months in advance, through National Park Service.
There are also campgrounds that operate on a first come first serve basis. When you arrive at the campground, you’ll see if there are still spots available (not always though). If there’s an open tentsite, reserve it by putting a chair or cooler in the site and pay as fast as possible at the self service paystation. The earlier you arrive at the campground, the more good tentsites will be available.
What to eat?
One of the most fun things to do during a camping trip in the United States is cooking on a campfire. You need some patience, it’s not the fastest way of cooking. For example, breakfast took us 1,5 hours to make. But it was delicious! We mainly cooked sausages and eggs in our frying pan and threw corn on the fire (make sure to wrap it in aluminum foil, and season it with pepper and salt). For dessert you can roast some marshmallows, it is a real treat!
Pro tip: Don’t know what to cook? Get a camping cookbook to get inspired!
Some advice before you go
– Look for a steady rock at your first campsite. You can use as a hammer to get your pegs in the ground.
– Most campgrounds have quiet hours, usually from 10 pm till 6 am. So go to bed early and get up early to catch the sunrise.
– Sometimes making a fire is not allowed, check before you make one.
– Take a flashlight. There usually are no lights at the campsites (only at the lavatories).
– If a campground has showers, you’ll have to pay for it with quarters. So save as much as you can!
More camping tips?
Do you want to know more about camping? These are some great guides: