Almost everything you need to know for a flawless outdoor experience.

Whether you are a longtime camper, a novice or would like to camp, here are several things to consider to make your journey even more enjoyable. And remember the campers’ motto: families who camp together stay together.

Important Things to Keep in Mind


Give everyone their own duffel bag or backpack to make getting dressed easier. A large garbage bag works great for dirty laundry. Remember, shower facilities might be a distance from your campsite, so everyone needs shower shoes and towels.

Gear Storage:

Plastic storage bins are a great way keep gear organized at the campsite and also a good place to store it at home. An empty storage bin next to the tent is a great place to keep shoes at night. Remember, even though there is not a cloud in the sky, everything outside the tent is likely to be soggy with dew in the morning.

Ice Chest:

To get the maximum performance out of an ice chest, pre-cool it with ice at least six hours before loading with food and drinks. When it’s time to load it, use a fresh block ice, which lasts longer than cubed ice. Also, be sure to fill it with refrigerated or frozen foods, so the ice doesn’t melt as fast as it would by cooling down warm food and drinks.

Sleeping Bags:

Unzip sleeping bags during the day in order to air them out. Sleeping bags absorb body moisture during the night and this dampness reduces the efficiency of the insulation inside the bag.


Headlamps are the new flashlights because they allow hands-free movement. If you’ve ever tried to brush your teeth while juggling a flashlight, you will immediately understand the benefit of a headlamp. Wherever you point your head, that’s where you will have light.

Camping Meals:

Simplify your camping menu by incorporating common ingredients for several meals. For instance, frozen chicken breasts can be grilled and used for  burritos as a no-fuss dinner. Put leftover meat in the cooler, and eat it on sandwiches or salads for lunch. Use your imagination with a morning egg scramble that can incorporate many leftover ingredients from previous meals.

Leave No Trace:

It’s no fun to find cigarette butts, bottle caps and scraps of aluminum foil on the ground or in the fire pit when you get to your new site. Use this as a teaching opportunity for your kids. Show them that leaving the area cleaner and more pristine than you found it is both great for the environment and a nice thing to do for the next family.

Campground Etiquette:

Camping etiquette, such as not disturbing other campers with loud noise or not allowing children to run around the campground unsupervised, is common sense. Other things are less obvious, though, such as not washing your dishes at the drinking fountain and not collecting firewood from around your campsite (it might belong to someone else). Be considerate of neighboring campers and to those who will occupy your campsite next.

Protection from Unwanted Wildlife:

Whenever you are camping in an established campground, assume local wildlife is accustomed to free snacks. Campers either unintentionally feed them by leaving behind unwanted food or sometimes even intentionally feed them. Don’t ever take food inside the tent, and be sure to secure food at night or any time you are away from the campsite. Birds and squirrels can be the worst offenders. If you leave food on the picnic table, it’s likely to be strewn about when you return. If you’re camping in bear country, campsites will have a locker for securing your food at night. These lockers are often large enough to
house a 70-quart ice chest, but if your ice chest will not fit, put it into the trunk of your car. Remember, bears can spot a cooler and they do understand the contents, so it’s extremely important that it not be visible inside the car. Bears will break windows to get to food, and that could make for a breezy ride home.

Leave Wood for the Next Campers:

Often people arrive at their campsite at night and would like to build a fire, but it can be hard to find wood in the dark. Leave a few logs and some kindling for the next campers. It’s a nice thing to do.

Make Friends:

Get to know your neighbors by offering them drinks or food. If you go fishing and have some extra to share, it’s a great way to bring smiles and make new friends. You might enjoy each other enough that you will want to meet up again during another outing. Many campers find lifelong friendships during trips they’ve taken.

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Tent Commandments

Where to pitch:

Find a smooth, rock-free spot. Placing your tent on rocky terrain can tear it. Clear the camping area from debris as much as possible.

Ground cloth:

Always use a ground cloth if camping on rocky terrain. A ground cloth minimizes tears and adds extra softness. It will also help to reduce moisture in the tent.

Take off your shoes:

Never enter the tent with shoes or boots on because outside dust and dirt will stick to the tent, which makes it harder to clean. To keep the inside tidy, sweep up and wipe down often.

Stitch it:

Even if you are careful, tears do happen. A sealer is the best way to stitch holes. Be sure to pack up a sealer for every trip.

Dry it out:

Your tent will likely get wet during camping, so be sure to dry it thoroughly in order to prevent mildew. When you return home, hang it over a clothesline, patio chairs or a fence. If weather doesn’t permit drying outside, hang your tent from two nails inside the garage. Be sure to place the tent in the sun at least once after camping. The sun is a natural sterilizer.

The Sigwerths take a break from busy family life for an outing at Binder Lake. Darrick is the manager of perishables at Hy-Vee and Laura is a certified heath coach with Take Shape for Life. Featured: Laura, mom; Darrick, dad; Darrien, age five; Dominick, age three and Daniel, age one.

These and more camping tips can be found at: or

Thank you to US Rents It for setting up and loaning the popup trailer for our photo shoot. We are also hugely grateful to Missouri Valley Archery for supplying camping items, including clothing, used for the photo shoot and for their amazing assistance throughout the entire process.

For RV rentals and sales, US Rents It is located at 1513 Industrial Dr.

For camping equipment, accessories and more, Missouri Valley Mercantile is located at 2436 Missouri Blvd.