CAMPING SEASON IS COMING! Are you ready? Our simple tips and FREE printable checklists help you stay organized as you begin preparing for camping season whether you are camping in a tent, camper or RV motorhome!
Using seasonal camping checklists will keep you camping like a pro all year long!
Get Ready For The Upcoming Camping Season
The best way to keep your first trip a positive one, is by being prepared and staying relatively close to civilization in case you have issues with your gear and need to make a quick trip to the local outdoors store because you forgot to pack something or your old worn-out gear fails on its first use after coming out of storage.
Whether you are staying in national parks, state parks, on public lands or private property, it is a good idea to stay in an established campground as you use your equipment for the first time after bringing it out of storage.
If we are going to new places on our first trip of the season, we like to stay at campsites that have everything we need like a picnic table, fire rings, water and power and we make reservations so there are no surprises.
We have stayed at some great places on last minute camping trips but we save those outdoor adventures for later in the season.
How To Prepare For Tent Camping Season
Equipment used in tent camping is on the simpler side, so preparing for the summer camping season tends to be easier.
This is the perfect time to make sure you have the right gear and get new equipment to replace the items that are “on their last leg” so-to-speak. We don’t throw out gear that is still usable but we will purchase the gear that will be replacing the old stuff when it finally fails.
This is especially important for our hiking boots, we always have an extra pair and switch between the old pair and the new pair so we are slowly breaking in the new pair over time.
Merino wool camp blankets are wonderful for layering when sleeping and hanging out around a campsite when the weather is colder than the forecasts expected.
Clean And Inspect All Gear
The first thing we do is unpack our gear and clean everything with a mild detergent and let it dry thoroughly. Check the condition of…
- Tents, stakes, poles, rainfly, shelter awnings and tarps
- Camp chairs and tables
- Lights, lanterns and headlamps
- Solar equipment and gear
- Sleeping gear including bags, mats, mattresses, cots and pads
- Tools including shovels, knives, fire extinguishers etc.
This is also the best time to check its condition and functionality.
Don’t forget to check your safety equipment like your first aid kit and treatments for poison ivy etc. Get more camping safety tips before heading out on your next camping trip.
Fuel Tanks Cleaned And Inspected
If you use a lot of camping propane on your trips … you’ll want to make sure your equipment is in good condition. Check the condition of…
- Propane tanks
- Gasoline tanks
If you use 1 pound propane bottles, you may want to know how to refill 1 pound propane tanks as well as how to inspect them and what to do with empty 1lb propane bottles if they are no longer safe to use.
For extra gasoline tanks, check their condition and fill them up with fresh gas … if you don’t intend to use the fuel but just want it for emergency purposes, it’s a good option to add fuel stabilizer to keep the gas fresh for up to 24 months.
Vehicles Inspected And Repaired
When you are car camping be sure to check the condition of your vehicle and repair any issues before you hit the road. Don’t forget to check the tire pressure and condition of all of your tires and spare as well as all fluid levels and battery condition. Check the condition of…
- Tires and spares
- Jumper cables
- Roadside toolkits
Fabrics Cleaned And Inspected
Wash and thoroughly dry your gear made of fabric. Inspect for holes or worn spots. Make sure to wash your sleeping bags, extra blankets and pillows too. Check the condition of…
- Tents, sleeping bags, blankets and pillows
- Tarps and canopies
Depending on the time of year you take your first trip of the season, you need to be prepared for inclement weather. If you are doing spring or fall camping you may experience wild temperature changes with warm weather daytime temperatures and winter conditions at night.
The weather forecast may not accurately predict cold weather and high winds that would be best served with a winter tent, extreme sleeping pad and sleeping bags with a cold weather temperature rating.
If you are not a 4-season tent camper, you probably don’t have that equipment so make sure you know how to stay warm in a tent in anticipation of unpredictable weather.
You want to avoid tent and tarp leaks in rainy conditions, so this is a good time to apply waterproof sealant to the seams.
Ropes And Fasteners Checked
Avoid using frayed ropes that reduce the strength of tie-down capacity. Check the condition of…
Replace raveled and distressed fasteners with new ones.
Anytime I have a chance to use Glow-In-The-Dark Paracord, I do … even when we are camping in our RV! After the sun goes down, tripping is one of the most common hazards and can be usually avoided with a slight bit of illumination.
Batteries Replaced Or Recharged
There is nothing worse than having a dead flashlight when you need to see around a dark campsite. Check the condition of…
- All battery types including backups for each type of battery used in common equipment, especially D-cell, AA and AAA
- Take note of any specialty batteries and their condition
- Chargers for the equipment that uses rechargeable batteries
Replace or recharge batteries in your lights, radios, GPS units and other battery-powered gear. If your gear is old and unreliable, it may be time to invest in a few new camping lights that can run on solar power and are dual purpose!
Cooking Equipment Cleaned And Seasoned
Wash and thoroughly dry your cooking utensils and equipment. Check the condition of…
- Dutch ovens
- Skillets, pots and pans
- Camp stoves
- Solar ovens
- Cooking and serving utensils
Also, verify your camp kitchen equipment is in working condition and check for rust … this is especially important for cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens that were not properly oiled and maintained for storage. Check out our Cleaning And Seasoning Cast Iron Dutch Oven Cookware post for more tips!
Examine all of your clothing for fit, condition and relevance. Check the condition of…
- Shorts and pants
- T-shirts and jackets
- Rain gear, hats and mittens (for warmth and to keep you dry)
- Underwear and socks
- Pajamas and sleeping gear
- Shoes and boots
The difficult thing about spring and fall camping adventures is the unpredictable weather. When you are camping during the winter months you can be sure you’ll be dealing with cold weather and in the summer you know you’ll probably be dealing with a lot of heat. But spring and fall weather can be a little trickier.
A great way to prepare is to dress in layers so you are cool enough for outdoor activities if you experience conditions of summer heat but you have additional layers to cope with lower temperatures.
Winter camping clothes should include synthetic materials for your inner layer because you want that base layer to wick away sweat in cold conditions but you also want that in hot conditions too.
Check the condition of your rain gear including boots and rain jackets. Also, check out these camping in the rain hacks to help you prepare for a soggy trip and make a backup plan just in case it gets really bad.
Necessary And Optional Gear Packed
It is easy to forget to pack something in your tent camping gear box if you are packing from memory. A good camping checklist is your best friend! Check the condition of…
- Personal hygiene items and toiletries including toothpaste, body soap, shampoo, toothbrush, towels
- Sunblock (for everyday use) and waterproof sunscreen (for water activities)
- Toilet paper
- First aid kit
- Bug spray
I like to keep similar gear in smaller storage boxes that are easy to manage and pack. Keeping all cooking and eating equipment together makes mealtime simple. Don’t forget to pack special equipment and consumables like…
- Dish soap
- Dishwashing cloth, cleaning brushes and scouring pads
- Drying towels and mats
It does you no good to have your camping stove without enough propane to run it! Check your camp stove recipes for ingredients as well as any special equipment necessary to complete the meal.
Other consumables would be things like clean water for your refillable water bottle, soap, shampoo, insect repellent etc. If you want options other than using bug spray, see how to keep bugs away while camping.
RV Spring Preparation: Getting Your Camper Ready For Summer
There is a bit more involved for RV-ers when getting ready for the season, mechanically speaking. We’ve got RV tips and hacks to help you with storage, organization, trip planning and more.
Whether you have a towable travel trailer or drivable rig, there are additional things to consider.
Opening Your Camper In Spring
That bad news about winter camping is that you have to deal with low temperatures and possibly freezing conditions. The good news is that you are dealing with fewer crowds at you camping destinations.
The OTHER GOOD NEWS is that you probably don’t have to de-winterize if you’ve been using your RV throughout the winter.
How to open a camper for the season depends on if you have it winterized with antifreeze. If you need to de-winterize your RV, you want to flush the fluids first.
How To De-Winterize Your RV
Generally speaking, here are the steps to de-winterize an RV water system:
- Add a Spring Fresh Water System Cleaner And Deodorizer to the fresh water tank. Alternatively, you can use a bleach/water mixture.
- If you decide to make your own, the ratio for the bleach/water mixture is this: 1/4 cup of household liquid bleach to one gallon of water for every 15 gallons of tank capacity.
- Pump the water through all the water lines and fixtures.
- Let it sit for about 4 hours.
- Drain the system and flush it out until the water smells (and tastes) bleach-free.
- NOTE: These are the general steps for de-winterizing an RV water system, but you should check your owner’s manual for specific instructions from your RV’s manufacturer.
Visually Inspect & Wash Your RV
Washing the exterior and interior of your RV allows you to clean it and do a basic visual inspection at the same time. And really, who can stand going camping in a dirty RV … yuk!
As you are visually inspecting your rig, you are looking for the overall condition, structural integrity, presence of moisture (especially inside closets and storage areas that are not openly visable) and leaks, etc.
Minimally, your visual inspection should include checking the condition of the following items…
- Seals and gaskets
- Vents and covers
- Brake and wheel bearings
- Windows and screens
- Holding tanks including fresh water, grey water and sewer
- Paint and condition
- Exterior and interior lights
- Exterior and interior doors, drawers, compartments, latches and locks
- Exterior and interior appliances and furniture
Test Your RV Appliances & Systems
Common sense tells you that one of the best places to test your RV is at your home where you have ample tools and a nearby RV service center if you need professional help. The last thing you want to do is find out a major system in your RV has failed over the winter and needs extensive repairs when you are in a remote camping spot on your first trip of the season.
Minimally, your testing should include checking the operation of the following items:
- Refrigerator and freezer
- Interior cooking equipment including microwave, oven, range and hood
- Exterior built-in kitchen equipment including stove, BBQ grill, refrigerator, faucet and sink
- Water pump and fresh water systems
- Sink faucets, drains and shower
- Toilet operation
- Water heater
- Furnace heater
- Air conditioning system
- Electrical systems including 12volt system and 110 system
- Power converter
- TV/DVD and stereo systems
Tips On Testing RV Accessories And Systems
Every RV is different but we wanted to share the general things we test and inspect on our rig after it has been in storage for a while or before we go on a big RV road trip.
Fill Your RV’s Fresh Water Tank
You want to check for leaks in your RV water system.
- Fill your fresh water tank,
- run the water pump,
- then check each line,
- faucet/fixture (hot and cold) for leaks.
Assess The Condition Of Dump Hoses
As if dumping waste tanks is not bad enough, you don’t EVER want to deal with leaking sewer hoses … eww!!! Learn this lesson the easy way, dump hoses have a limited lifespan and you want to check for holes or tears BEFORE you use them!
Also, make sure the hose clamps are tight … because … if they blow off … it ain’t pretty!!! Take it from me, we learned this lesson the hard way … ugh!!!
Spending a few bucks on a new RV Sewer Hose Kit will make this unpleasant task a little more tolerable!
Check The Waste Tank Valves
It starts out clear, but eventually the fresh water makes it to the grey or black waste tanks. Not my favorite part of RV-ing, but that’s why my husband wears a super-hero cape in my eyes! LOL
My hero-of-a-husband has waaaaay too much experience with our black tank … but I’ll leave that story for another blog post! Here’s his advice: NEVER check these valves unless you are hooked up to a dump station … then, work the handle in and out to ensure the valve is opening and closing properly.
Check the valves, fittings and seals for leaks. And, for the love of all mankind, don’t forget your RV Dump Disposable Gloves!!!
Inspect The Caulking
This spring pre-camping season check will help to avoid water leaks as well as intrusions of insects and rodents through gap openings in your RV. Make sure the caulking is not cracked or missing around windows, vents, air conditioning units, doors and anywhere there is a seam.
- Remove old sealant and apply new waterproof caulking where needed.
Examine RV And Tow Vehicle Tires And Wheels
Replace tow vehicle and RV tires that have cracks between the treads, sidewall cracks, or any type of dry rot.
- Also, inflate the tires to the proper air pressure PSI.
- Check the electric brakes for proper working order.
- Make sure the lug nuts are appropriately tight and that you have the proper size lug wrenches for ALL of your wheels.
- Be aware, some trailer wheels require special socket types.
- For towable campers, check the bearings to see if they need to be re-packed or replaced.
Check The Hitch
Whether you have a tow-behind travel trailer, a fifth wheel or a motorhome that tows a car, you need to inspect the hitch before you drive. Make sure the receiver is properly mounted to the tow vehicle.
Minimally check the functionality and compatibility of the following items, if applicable to your style of hitch:
- Draw bar
- Hitch ball
- Latching mechanism
- Sway control device
- Spring bars
- Safety chains
- Power connection and wiring for brake control, lights and signals
- Fifth-wheel plate, plate jaw and handle, hitch plate, pin and pin box, and side rails.
Check The Awnings
RV awnings protect from sun and rain, so don’t head out for the first camping trip of the season without a good inspection of each awning.
- Roll the awnings in and out to inspect the mechanisms (including the motors if your RV has electrically operated awnings.)
- Check the fabric for holes, tears and mold.
- Minor rips can be repaired with RV Awning Repair Tape before they become major tears!
Inspect And Charge Batteries
Most RV batteries are the lead-acid type and need to be inspected for fluid levels, terminal cleanliness and general condition.
- Disconnect the batteries, inspect them for cracks and clean off any corrosion.
- Now, connect the batteries to a charger until they are sufficiently charged.
- After you reconnect the batteries to your RV, spay the terminals with a Battery Terminal Protector to prevent future corrosion.
- If your battery needs a little more than a seasonal inspection and cleaning, we have tips on How To Choose, Use And Maintain The Best RV Battery.
Check The Fluids And Filters In Generators, Engines And Brakes Of Tow Vehicles And Coaches
Whether you are preparing for the camping season in a little pop-up camper or glamorous Class A Motorhome, you need a healthy engine to get you from one campsite to the next on your summer camping trips.
- Make sure your fluid levels are topped-off including oil, coolant, brake and windshield washer fluids.
- Check air filters and clean or replace, if necessary.
Inspect Driving Lights
Getting a ticket because one of your tail lights went dark is a bummer!
- Check that your running lights, brake lights, head lights and turn signals are properly working before you hit the road.
- Faulty lights are usually caused by burned out bulbs and a fast bulb replacement will be the remedy.
- Unfortunately, the failure may be caused from rodents chewing through electrical wires and the repair will be a bit more complicated.
Examine Your RV’s LP Gas System And Appliances
Of these appliances, which would you miss the most if it went offline: heater, stove, oven, hot water heater or refrigerator? Personally, I HATE cold showers!!! When you are using LP gas for your appliances, you want to make sure the system is running properly.
- Make sure your LP gas alarm is functioning first, then verify all stove knobs are in the off position.
- Now, open your RV’s propane tanks (one at a time) and notice if you smell the lovely aroma of sulfur … *she said sarcastically*! LOL
- But seriously, if you smell propane, you probably have a leak that needs attention.
- If you don’t smell anything, spray a little soapy water on the valves and regulators to visually see evidence (bubbles forming) of leaks.
- If all is good … clean, light and run each appliance that uses LP gas.
- Lastly, top off your propane tanks. We like using the Costco propane refill services at the clubs where it is available because they have good prices and we can pick up extra supplies at the same time.
Check Your Safety Equipment And Replace Batteries
Test your emergency equipment. Check the condition of…
- Fire extinguishers as well as smoke, carbon monoxide and LP gas detectors.
- If any of your safety equipment runs on batteries, replace them at the beginning of the camping season and pack another set as a backup.
- You should also have the equipment we have listed in our FREE Printable RV Tool Kit Checklist, get it and more tips in our blog post!
Test Your RV’s A/C Unit
Our summer camping trips usually consist of escaping the Phoenix heat in the mountains of northern Arizona … so, we usually don’t need to run our air conditioner. But, we do inspect it as part of our RV spring preparation for our summer camping trips.
Check that no rodents or birds have nested around the exterior condenser area, make sure the coils and filers are clean, then start the unit and let it run for a while to make sure it is working properly.
Necessary And Optional Gear Packed
I’m speaking from experience here … it is sooooooooo easy to forget to pack something if you are packing from memory. Using our FREE printable Ultimate RV And Tent Camping Checklist will keep you stress-free and having a great time during the summer camping season and beyond!
Great Resources For Planning Camping Trips
The final step in getting prepared for the camp season is to find good spots to enjoy. Many outdoor enthusiasts relish long days on the trail while other campers appreciate short hikes along with other diverse camping activities like hunting for firewood in a warm fleece jacket then enjoying a cup of campfire hot cocoa around a crackling campfire later in the afternoon. No matter your preference … there’s an app for that!
Check out the best camping apps that will help you spend less time planning your trip so you can spend more time experiencing it!
Free Template For Planning Camping Trips
Our FREE printable camping trip planner template makes it easy and fun to plan your trips and keep you organized!
Menu Ideas For Camping Season
Once you get your gear ready to go, you need to think about what you will be eating. Try some new recipes on your menu this year.