What to Expect Your First Time Tent Camping

November 30, 2016

As many of you saw on Instagram, Colton and I went camping in Beaver’s Bend (Broken Bow, Oklahoma) after Thanksgiving with our brother and sister-in-law. I have been cabin camping a few times in my life, and even a pop-up camper once before.  This trip was my first time tent camping, and I learned a lot in the process.  Here are some tips for you and what to expect for your first time tent camping.

You will get dirty

I am still pulling dirt out of my hair after the world’s longest shower Sunday night.  Most of the trip, my hands were covered in dirt or charcoal, no matter how many times I sanitized.  When you are out in nature, you will get dirty and learn to eat with dirt on your fingers and in your hair.

You will pee in the woods

You may think I am kidding, but it is true.  When the nearest toilet is a long walk from your campsite, you learn to make do, especially in the middle of the night.  It’s funny how much I took running water for granted until this trip.

You will get cold

…or hot.  It depends on the season.  When you are tent camping with no electricity, you don’t have the luxury of controlling your temperature.  I would rather be cold than hot, but at night, it got done to the 30s.  Be sure you bring comfortable, warm clothes to sleep in. I slept in a base layer shirt, light sweatshirt,  fleece leggings, leg warmers, and fuzzy socks both nights.  Bring a ton of warm clothes and blankets for hanging out by the fire at night too.

First time camping

If you are camping in the summer, the opposite will apply.  Be sure to bring light clothes and hope it cools down at night.  Honestly, sweating all night sounds ten times more miserable than shivering.

You will need the necessities

What you think are necessities probably aren’t.  Don’t forget your tent, sleeping bag, lantern, matches and cooking utensils.  A good sleeping bag is key to keeping you warm and giving you a great night’s sleep.

First time camping

Another necessity to think about is food.  You will want to bring something that can be cooked easily, doesn’t require a lot of prep, and can be eaten anywhere.  We had pancakes and sausage for breakfast, burgers and hot dogs for lunch, and chicken fajitas for dinner.  According to Colton, the fajitas were a touch of “glamping,” but we grilled them on our Coleman Propane Stove and they were great.  I needed to get veggies in at some point during the weekend.

First time camping

First time camping

You will walk a lot

My second favorite (first being the massive amount of smores making) part of the camping experience is hiking.  We took a couple of different trails during the time we were there.  Despite it being around 50 degrees outside, the hike heated us up quickly.

First time camping

Not only are you walking to hike, but to take the trash out at night, go to the restroom, take a shower, and more.  Nothing is conveniently located, but it’s alright, because you don’t have anything better to do, the weather is nice, and the sights are pretty.

You will (probably) not have cell service

I am not sure why T-Mobile thinks that Oklahoma is too far away for service, but it does.  Colton and I did not have cell phone service the entire trip.  About 15 minutes of our first hike, we randomly got service long enough to post a photo and find out that our dog broke the fence and someone had her. I am thankful for that brief service time, because we were able to call someone to pick her up.

Since you may not have service, be sure to plan accordingly.  It may be a good idea to bring walkie-talkies or have a plan in case you get separated from your group.

You will get creative

One of the fun things you will discover is that you will find ways to get things done.  We made coffee on the grill, heated water for hot chocolate over the fire, made headlamps with hats and iPhone flashlights, washed dishes with a towel and a gallon of water, and found things to entertain us besides TV and movies.

First time camping

We brought spike ball and played for hours.  During our campfire, we listened to ghost stories and freaked each other out.  The four of us spent several hours by the lake just relaxing in hammocks and building a fire.

First time camping

First time camping

You will experience something beautiful

There is something magical about being disconnected from your phone and being present in the moment. Hopefully, you will find the beauty in the quiet moments and focus on the now.

First time camping

During the hike, I looked across at the beautiful, colorful leaves on all of the trees and just stared, taking in everything. Fall is my favorite season, but I rarely get to see it in person in Dallas.

First time camping

I loved gathering around the fire every night, instead of the television.  We ate dinners together huddled around the fire.  Everyone pitched in together, and it was an incredible bonding experience.

First time camping

Despite being cold, not being able to shower every day, and peeing outside, there was so much more to take in and be thankful for.  We were able to appreciate and live in each moment.

First time camping

First time camping



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What tips do you have for first time tent camping?  Leave me a comment below!

  • Lauren November 30, 2016 at 6:42 am

    I’ve never been camping before, but maybe I’ll try it… maybe not – I’m not a hardcore outdoor girl but this was a cute post and your pictures are STUNNNNNNNING. Great piece!

    • Jessica November 30, 2016 at 10:12 am

      Thanks, girl! I love hiking but I wouldn’t consider myself super outdoorsy. I much prefer my comfy bed to a sleeping bag, but it wasn’t near as terrible as I thought. I really did have a great time. Everyone should try it. 🙂

  • Sara Giboney November 30, 2016 at 10:38 am

    I love this! I just started tent camping a couple of years ago, and my first experience was eye-opening ; ) As uncomfortable as camping can be, there’s always something so beautiful to experience.

  • Sarah November 30, 2016 at 11:45 am

    This is so fun! What a great post. I am not a camper but this post makes me want to try.

  • Crystal November 30, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Love this post! I’m always wanting to go camping yet every summer seems to pass and we don’t go. Maybe 2017.

  • Colleen Sullivan November 30, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Great tips — and so true! I was in total denial that I would actually have to pee in the woods the first time we went camping… still don’t love that part! lol

  • Chrissy November 30, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    What a fun post and such wonderful photos! I haven’t been camping in ages and this really makes me want to pack my bags and go for it! Thank you for the fun and inspiration!

  • Mytha November 30, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    What a fun idea and neat experience. I definitely want to go camping one day.

  • Rachel Ritlop November 30, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    I’ve never been legit camping in a tent lol I always think it looks fun but then the thought of bugs and digging a whole to relieve yourself weirds me out haha

    Rachel | The Confused Millennial

  • Laura Roth November 30, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    These tips are great! I’ve never done tent camping either, but now I’m tempted!

  • Alexa Brooks November 30, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I’m not much of a camper but your photos are beautiful!

  • Rebecca Hicks November 30, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    As always, your pictures are GORGEOUS. Gosh girl, teach me your ways! And I’m so glad you had fun your first time tent camping. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the fall. And those trees in Oklahoma are stunning… Now I want to go camping!!

  • dixya @food, pleasure, and health November 30, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    i went camping with DFA girls last month…and absolutely loved it. i cant wait for you to join us next time + you are an expert now 🙂

  • Meghan November 30, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    I still have not gone camping in a tent, but I feel like even though I havent done this, I have done the list of things you mentioned here. So I dont think it would be so bad roughing it!

  • Mama Munchkin December 1, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    I was brought up a camper but married a man who’s family never, ever, camps. So, my kids have never experienced the open woods. I realize it’s difficult to get started bc you have to purchase so much equipment but then I have heard more recently from other campers that you can rent some of it. I think we will try camping soon. Either renting or borrowing so we can give it a shot!