- Know how to get where you’re going. This should include details of how to get to your destination even if your mobile phone connection quits. Know the campground number and possibly how many miles it is from an obvious landmark like the park entrance.
- Know the conditions. When you’re exposed to the elements wind, precipitation, and even sunset time matter. Wind makes both cold and fortunately hot feel colder. Weather predictions show highs and lows, but remember that most of the day it will between those. This may be obvious to some people, but I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people pack for the high.
- Plan for failure. Rain, dead batteries, malfunctioning stove, your favorite sweater getting spoiled by gooey marshmallow. Bring so extras and a backup plan.
- Bring the right gear. This can often make the difference between enjoyment and misery. Despite being exposed to the elements you want to be full, warm, and dry.
- Know your gear. Learn how to setup your tent, light your stove and … before arriving at the campsite. Minimize your impact. Dispose of trash and recyclables properly. Pack away your food whenever you’re not actively cooking or eating. Especially strong smelling food at night. You may sleep past sunrise, but it’s a guarantee the squirrels and other scavengers will be up looking for food as soon as there’s light.
- Wear layers. Regardless if it's hot or cold layers insulate you body to maintain your temperature. A big thick jacket is nice when that cold temperature is exactly what your dealing with, but once you get hiking it may be too much. Without layering you could be stuck in the too hot, too cold, too hot, too cold dance. Layers can be easily added and removed as appropriate. It’s also a good idea to try to anticipate your body’s needs. If you wait until you feel cold at night before putting some layers on you’ll be uncomfortable for a good period of time before those new layer kick in. Alternatively, you could put on those layers just as the sun is setting and you cruise into night happy as a lark and looking like a pro.
- Pre-plan your meals. With some exceptions, most of us don’t go camping to spend the whole night cooking and cleaning. With a little forethought one can feed the whole family with minimal effort. Pre-cut and/or par-cook some ingredients… Everything tastes better outdoors so even re-heating and just combining ingredients at camp can result in some amazing flavors.
- Don’t get lost. When hiking paying attention to landmarks and the sun can help you from getting lost.
- Tell someone where and when you’re going.