Camping Logistics

How To Plan A Camping Trip

If you’re relatively new to the outdoors, planning a camping trip may seem like a daunting task when you think about everything involved. Even experienced camping veterans make mistakes that could have been avoided with proper gear and trip prep. By taking the time to plan a camping trip before loading up and hitting the road, you have an opportunity to stop potential problems before they ever happen! Your goal is a worry-free camping experience that leaves you plenty of time to enjoy Arizona’s beautiful places without the hassle of forgotten items or discomfort! Check out this awesome resource that will help you plan a great camping trip with ease…then reserve your spot, and enjoy!

Elements of a Great Camping Trip

When you head out, you and your camping crew want to be comfortable and safe while enjoying the outdoors. It really is possible to be comfortable while camping and your comfort level has a direct effect on how much fun you will have! Think about it…If you’re not comfortable, you'll spend time thinking about the comforts of home and your trip may be cut short because you were inadequately prepared. A lack of preparation may create unsafe conditions as well! It’s best to take care of the details before your trip so you can relax and enjoy the adventure with less stress. After learning how to plan below, check out this comprehensive camping checklist for inspiration and ideas about exactly what to bring on your trip! 

If your camping gear has been stowed away over the winter, it's time to break it out and make necessary repairs before you load up for your next adventure. You don't want to get camp set up over 100 miles from home with any of your gear in less-than-acceptable condition. Gear repair is exponentially easier at home than it is at the campsite so do your future self a favor and take care of it beforehand.   

Are you in the middle of packing for a camping trip right now? Listen as you work! We invited the following experts to share their best camping tips and tricks. Listen to learn new techniques—like gear you need, what to eat and how to prep your camping meals, how to be safe at camp, and why time in nature is so good for us in the first place. These pro tips are sure to improve your camping experience and set you up for a successful trip outdoors. 


Camping Logistics - how to plan a camping trip

Check the Weather

Know what you’re getting into (or want to avoid) before your trip! By understanding what the weather conditions will be like during your stay, you will be able to effectively plan your clothes, sleeping arrangements, and even the timing. If it looks like rain or snow, you can always pick a different park or reschedule your spot for another time.

There are a variety of weather apps available to download for weather updates at your fingertips. Searching the park name + weather in Google will also give you a great reliable weather forecast in the park you will be visiting. Each park has a weather page on our website complete with average temperatures too!

If there is rain or snow in the forecast…

  • Decide if you want to potentially camp in rain or snow
  • Pack appropriate clothing and rain gear
  • Plan easy-to-prepare meals
  • Bring dry firewood and have a plan to keep it dry
  • Place a doormat in front of your tent to wipe your feet
  • Check the windshield wipers on your vehicle
  • Pack an extra tarp, waterproof boots, gloves, and snow bibs
  • Bring tire chains and a shovel (just in case)
  • Add an extra lighter or waterproof matches to your pack

If the weather calls for especially hot or cold conditions during your trip, adjust clothing choices and outdoor activities accordingly. Please always keep safety in the forefront of your mind. 

Download Maps

Maps not only give you a lay of the land, but they can clue you into awesome recreation opportunities as well! Know before you go what’s available in and around the park to increase your time actually doing the fun stuff when you’re out there, instead of taking precious vacation time to research river access, trails, and other points of interest. Besides the mapping apps that come with your smartphone, our visitors use What3Words and OnX Maps with ease and success. OnX has downloadable maps that can be used with location display in airplane mode so you can have digital maps at your fingertips even with no service or spotty reception.

Each park on our website has a mapping page. Just go to the main page for whichever park you will be visiting, click on the “Explore” tab, then the map link will be available. Download the appropriate map and either mark it digitally or print it out, to include points of interest you discover before you even leave on your trip! 

It's always a good idea to let someone know where you'll be camping and when you plan to return. Text them a link to the park or coordinates of your destination with additional information that pertains specifically to your trip.

Camping Logistics - how to plan a camping trip

Photo courtesy of @skyislandadventures

Meal Prep

Prepping your meals will allow you the freedom to eat great food in camp with half the effort! Sure, hamburgers and hot dogs are a mainstay campground meal because they’re easy, and the kids love them, but camp often enough and you’ll be looking for options like the ones found below.

Cook foods like pasta, rice, and chopped vegetables at home, let them cool, then place them in a large Ziplock bag. In camp, heat up a pot of water on your camp stove, or on a rock near the fire, then place the bag in the water. When the food has reached the desired temperature, open and serve right from the bag.

Foil meals are another easy, fun option for a delicious campground feast! Try one of these options to bring a home-cooked vibe to mealtime during your next camping trip. Foil meals are anything you can wrap in foil to heat up easily in camp either on a grill, near the fire, or on a camp stove.

Almost any one of your favorite casseroles can be easily transitioned into an easy camp meal by double wrapping in foil after cooking them at home. Remember to leave yourself top access to your meal while wrapping. After your foil meal is heated to the desired temperature, remove your foil pack from the heat source with gloves or tongs, place on a plate, open the top, and enjoy!

Pro tip: After double-wrapping the foil meals, place them in a Ziplock bag or Tupperware container so it doesn’t leak in your cooler.

Pack For Success

Through your pre-trip research, you will have determined what the weather is likely to be, how many nights you plan to camp, what outdoor activities are available, and how to find your destination.

Pack weather-appropriate clothes, and always bring extra! An extra layer won’t hurt during cold weather camping, and if caught during a summer monsoon it’s nice to change out into something dry back at camp.

Since you’ve pre-determined which activities you will be enjoying on your trip, make sure to include everything you need for a successful experience before leaving home. It helps to keep activity items separate from other camping gear for easy inventory before packing up and hitting the road.

Vehicle Check

Ensure your vehicle is in good running order before leaving on your trip. Mechanical problems can put a damper on any trip, and many times these camping pitfalls can be avoided with a pre-trip check. If the oil changes are up to date, there are no warning lights on your dash, no existing problems, and the tires are inflated to the correct psi, you should be good to go. 

Start Exploring!

There’s no better time than the present to get out there with your newfound knowledge and explore Arizona’s beautiful places! Whether you’ve already been to a park, or want to try something new, there’s plenty of options throughout the state. Check out this short list of great camping parks and hit the road. Print out the free camping checklist and start making memories…It’s that easy!

Click to Explore Cattail Cove State Park

Click to explore Dead Horse Ranch State Park

Click to explore Roper Lake State Park
Click to explore Lyman Lake State Park


Final Thoughts...

Even the most prepared campers can be hit with bad luck. If this happens to you it doesn’t have to ruin your trip! If a problem arises, take a step back and look at it critically without falling victim to downward spiraling confidence. After you’ve identified the problem, contact a park ranger to help. Our rangers are happy to help you negotiate anything you encounter while camping in one of our parks and have salvaged a number of trips thanks to their outdoor ingenuity.

We hope you’ve been instilled with enough confidence to plan a trip to one of Arizona’s amazing parks. Click below to learn more about the parks and reserve your spot…Start making tomorrow’s memories, today!

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