Preparing for Your Tent Camping Trip with KOA

While tent camping is a bit simpler to pack for, you'll still want to plan ahead for everything you need to bring, and everything you want to do. Keep the following tips in mind when preparing for your tent camping adventure:

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When selecting your ideal tent camping destination, look at different places you've always wanted to visit and explore. Consider locations near relatives to grab some quality family time during your trip. Or think about different events or activities you've always wanted to experience. All of these ideas can help you come up with some location options for your perfect tent camping trip. It's also easy to just pull in and pitch a tent for a quick stop along the way to another destination.

Looking for tent camping near you? You don't have to go far from home to enjoy a camping experience. If you're short on time, you could pitch a tent at a campground nearby.

If you're interested in electricity, check to see if the campground offers electrical hookups. This can be important for things like charging cell phones. Water access is another important issue. How far do you have to walk to fetch for camp?

KOA puts a lot of thought into campsites to eliminate the usual issues that make tent camping less enjoyable. KOA Campgrounds offer you privacy and size that lets you spread out without being too close to your neighbors. Tent Sites are also typically off the beaten path, so you don't have to deal with a lot of foot traffic, while still offering easy access to amazing sites, attractions and parks near you. With so much space, you have plenty of room for you tent and all the activities you want to do at your campsite – while at the same time maintaining that private camping experience.

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Reserving a Tent Site

Not sure when to camp? Each season offers something special. Watch nature come alive in the spring. Summer brings plenty of opportunities for water sports and playing in the sun. Head out for Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day for holiday fun at KOA. Fall camping trips let you see the color changes in the foliage up close. You can also camp to catch your favorite fall events, such as Oktoberfest. Looking to tent camp in the winter? Head to a southern KOA Campground.

KOA makes it easy to reserve a site for your next tent camping adventure, from weekend getaways to multi-week vacations. You can reserve a tent camping site in a few different ways:

  • is a great place to reserve a tent camping site. Search for a site in one of our 500+ locations, compare amenities, and reserve online.
  • The KOA App: The KOA App is a great way to search and book while on the go. Perfect for when you're already on the road (not driving of course!), find campgrounds and tent sites on your route and book right through the app.
  • Contacting the campground directly: You can always call or email the campground, or drop by the front desk, and the staff will be happy to answer any questions, and help you find and book a reservation.

Join our KOA Rewards program and save 10% every time you camp at a KOA Campground!

You must be 18 to make a campsite reservation. Most of our locations require a deposit to hold your camping spot reservation, typically equivalent to one night's stay, but the specific amount may vary by location. Should your plans change, you have the option to change of cancel your reservation.

We generally require 48 hours' advance notice if you need to cancel a reservation. If you need to cancel, please contact the location directly no no later than 4 p.m. at least two days before you are scheduled to arrive. Specific reservation and cancellation policies may vary by location, especially during peak travel times or special events.

Don't wait to claim that perfect tent camping spot. Reserving a campsite well in advance of your trip ensures you get the dates you want in a spot that lets you take advantage of all that KOA has to offer. Early reservations are particularly important during peak camping times and around the summer holidays when everyone is looking for a campground getaway.

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What to Pack for Your Tent Camping trip

It's time to pack up for your trip, but what do you bring? Tent camping does require a little more gear than staying in a cabin. Your specific checklist may vary, but here are a few tent camping tips and essentials to get you started:

  • Tent and related gear: You'll want a tent, of course. Make sure it's in good working order, with required stakes and cords. Extra stakes are often handy; as well as a hammer or mallet (or the back of a hatchet, if you have one handy) to drive them in. Extra cord can be valuable too, whether securing a pesky tent flap in the wind or hanging up a clothesline.

    Then there's what goes inside your tent. Take the weather forecast into consideration when choosing your blankets or sleeping bags, and consider a sleeping pad, mattress or cot for sleeping off the ground. You can never have too many blankets! Light sleepers may also want to pack a pair of earplugs, and those that don't want to get up with the sunrise, a sleeping mask.

  • Tent Site Gear: While most tent sites include a picnic table with attached benches, you'll want to pack a comfortable camp chair for extra seating, and for sitting around the campfire – one for each person (and one fore each of any spoiled pet). You'll also want to pack lighting for when the sun goes down if you site doesn't include it: flashlights are fun for the kids, but a headlamp is extremely useful for hands-free use. For inside or outside the tent, a good lantern can be helpful as well.

  • Entertainment: Don't forget toys! While KOA has more than enough going on around the park to keep you occupied, what's a camping trip without your own favorite activities!? Fishing gear, hiking poles, bikes, card and board games, pack all the things that you enjoy.

  • Personal Items: Packing clothing that matches the weather forecast is smart and utilizing "moisture wicking", "quick drying" and "UV protection" clothes are also recommended. As anybody that's familiar with camping knows, layering is key for managing the different temperatures when you're hiking during the day, and snuggling up to a campfire at night. Don't forget all the essentials like toothbrushes, hairbrushes, sunblocks, mosquito repellant, and a travel first aid kit.

  • Food: Everybody knows food tastes better when you're camping! Be sure to bring all the meals needed for your camping trip based on the length of your stay, and don't forget the snacks, spices, and drinks. If you have food that needs to stay cold, be sure to pack a cooler and get some extra ice. If you plan to eat hot meals, make sure you have matches for the fire, and propane gas for the stoves. Canned food is an easy way to whip up a quick meal, and dried foods like jerky or dried fruit are a perfect mid-day snack. If you're a fan of hot tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, make sure you bring the necessary equipment to warm up and brew the drinks.

  • Cooking Gear: Whether cooking on a campfire or a camp stove, make sure you bring the necessary gear. It helps to plan your camping menu first, because then you'll have an idea of what you'll need in terms of pots/pans, utensils, cooking oils can openers, condiments, and storage for leftovers.

When packing, consider whether you actually need an item. While you don't want to forget anything important, you don't want to go overboard. Packing items in plastic tubs with lids helps protect the items from the elements and makes storage a little easier. Stack the tubs inside your vehicle or in a corner of the tent if you have space.

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Expert Tips for a Safe and Successful Tent Camping Trip

Here are some Additional valuable tips for making tent camping your new favorite experience:

  • Plan for tent setup: It's a great idea to do a "dry run" of setting up your tent before the trip jsut to make sure everything works and there are no issues. Also give yourself some extra time when arriving at the campground for setting up the tent and campsite – headlamps are fun and all, but not when trying to assemble a complicated tent in the dark.

  • Prepare for the weather: Weather becomes more of a factor when tent camping. In a cabin or RV, you have protection from rain, cold and other elements. In a tent, there's just a thin piece of fabric between you and the outdoors. Bring plenty of warm bedding, even in the summer, as nighttime can get chilly. Have a backup plan in case of severe weather. Waterproofing your tent is also important, and making sure to retire a tent that shows signs of age such as peeling or leaking. If your tent does get wet, make sure to allow it to fully dry before storing it.

  • Make campfire-friendly meals before you arrive: Just because you don't have access to a kitchen doesn't mean you have to go without fancy food. If the idea of hot dogs and baked beans don't excite you while camping, you can plan ahead and prepare some meals that are easy to cook over a campfire. Check out some of KOA's great camping recipes. Also make sure store your food securely to avoid theft by campground critters!

  • Go during the week if possible: if your schedule permits, try to go during the week to avoid the weekend crowds. Typically rates are also a bit cheaper during the mid-week.

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Additional Resources

10 Tips for Tent Camping

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How to Choose a Family Camping Tent

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Tips for Keeping Bugs Away During Your Camping Trip

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Save On Every Deluxe Tent Camping Trip with KOA Rewards

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