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How to Plan the Perfect Lake Camping Trip: The Ultimate Guide

How to Plan the Perfect Lake Camping Trip: The Ultimate Guide

Picture this: you and your friends roasting marshmallows over a fire while sharing stories under the stars. The perfect camping trip is within reach with a little bit of planning. Whether you’re looking to spend a weekend in the woods or an extended vacation by the lake, follow these tips to ensure your trip goes off without a hitch.

Why lake camping is the best

Lake camping is one of the best camping types for many reasons. It offers a different camping experience than land-based camping, with the added bonus of exploring and enjoying the water’s beauty. The views of the lake can be breathtaking, and the sound of the waves is soothing, making it the perfect place to relax and get away from the stresses of everyday life. Additionally, lake camping allows for a variety of activities, such as fishing, canoeing, and swimming, that everyone in the group can enjoy. Plus, it is often easier to find a great camping spot near a lake, meaning that you don’t have to travel as far to find the perfect camping site. Finally, lake camping can be less expensive than camping in more remote locations since the cost of camping gear and supplies is often much lower near lakes. All in all, lake camping is one of the best types of camping to do, offering a one-of-a-kind experience full of tons of fun activities and beautiful views.

Man camping in Estonia, standing at lake with a backpack, drinking coffee

Perfect Lake Camping Planning Guide

Choose your destination

If you are planning a lake camping trip with family or friends, it is essential to choose a destination that everyone agrees on. To ensure a successful and enjoyable trip, you should consider who is coming, what activities you would like to do, when you will be going, how you will get there, and the type of campsite you would like. Once you have answered these questions, you can start researching your destination. Look for national or state parks that work with your camping style, and check the maximum number of days and cost of fees for the campground. You may also want to consider the campsite’s proximity to any activities you plan on doing and any available pictures of the site. By doing this research and planning, you will be able to choose the best destination for your lake camping trip.

Make a Budget

Planning and budgeting your lake camping trip is vital to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience. Knowing what you can afford and what you need to buy ahead of time will help you make the most of your trip and make sure you don’t find yourself stranded without the supplies you need.

First, make sure to plan ahead and decide how many people are coming and how long you’ll be away. With this information, you can calculate how much food and drink you need and create a budget that works for your group. Consider shopping at Costco or other commercial markets to purchase in bulk and save money.

Second, decide where you’re going and what accommodation you’ll use. While wild camping is free, you should still have a few ideas of where to set up camp for the night. If you’re looking for something more luxurious, check out cabin rooms or lakeside houses. Keep track of your costs with a spreadsheet, and remember to factor in the cost of a campsite.

A good rule of thumb is to budget around $40-50 per person for food, booze, and campsite fees. Remember that these costs can fluctuate depending on your campsite costs and group size. Finally, don’t forget about backup shelter, just in case.

Research the Campgrounds at your destination

Researching campgrounds at your destination can be a daunting task. To make the process easier, you should begin by conducting an internet search for campgrounds in the area. Search terms like “camping options near [desired destination]” will yield a list of campgrounds. Once you have a list of potential campsites, you can begin to narrow down your selection by researching the type of camping experience each offers. Does the campground allow trailers or RVs? Are there any fees associated with the site? Are there any photos of the campsite available? Decide which style of camping best matches your needs and budget.

Check the Weather conditions

It is essential to check the weather conditions when planning a lake trip to make sure you have the best possible experience. The weather can significantly impact your trip, from the clothes you need to pack to the level of comfort you will experience. Knowing the temperature and potential for precipitation can help you plan accordingly. For example, if rain is in the forecast, you should bring a rain jacket, a waterproof tent, and a tent footprint to keep you dry. Additionally, the temperature can change drastically with the sun setting if you are camping at higher elevations, so it is important to bring layers. With the proper weather knowledge and preparation, you can be sure to make the most of your lake trip.

Make your reservation

Once you have decided where you would like to go camping and which campground you will book, you can make a reservation for camping on a lake. You can make a reservation through for national and state parks. Be sure to have your dates and number of people ready to begin making a reservation. For other campgrounds, check their website to see their booking process and reservation windows. Depending on the time of year and location, you may need to book your campsite months in advance to ensure availability. Make sure to also consider the facilities offered at the campsite, such as toilet and shower facilities, camp kitchen, picnic tables, a playground and equipment hire. Finally, if camping in a National Park or State Park, you might need a permit to do so. Do your research and make sure you have all the required documentation before you go.

Make a packing list

A packing list for a lake trip should include the following items:

  • Tent
  • Tarps
  • Ropes
  • Lanterns
  • Stove
  • Blankets
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Cooler
  • Grill
  • Firewood
  • Ice
  • Bait (if fishing)
  • Groceries (including lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, fruits, and meats)
  • Permits and/or reservation confirmation
  • Entertainment such as podcasts, Netflix, games, cards, and books
  • Utensils and cookware for meals
  • Extra clothing for changing weather conditions
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Toiletries
  • Trash bags

Plan your meal

Planning meals for a lake trip doesn’t have to be stressful. Follow these steps to make sure you have delicious meals every day of your trip:

  1. Gather meal inspiration: Use Pinterest, your favorite cookbooks, or other resources to plan the meals you want to eat at the lake. Make sure to plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
  2. Create a meal plan: Write down the meals you want to eat each day of your trip. If you’re camping with others, collaborate on ingredients to avoid having too many of the same items.
  3. Make a grocery list: Put together a detailed grocery list of all the items you need for your meals. This will help you avoid overpacking food.
  4. Pack perishable items: Remember to keep perishable items like meat and dairy in a cooler with ice packs to prevent contamination.
  5. Prepare food ahead of time: When camping, prepping portions of your meal ahead of time can save you a lot of time. Measure out spice blends, pre-grind your coffee beans, chop veggies, and marinate your meat the day before and store them in reusable containers, so they’re ready to go when you arrive.
  6. Start cooking early: Allow yourself plenty of time to cook and clean up before it gets dark. Begin preparing dinner at least an hour before sunset.

These steps will help ensure you have a delicious and stress-free camping trip!

Determine your activities

When planning a lake trip, one of the most important things to do is determine what activities you want to do on the trip. The first step is to decide who will be going on the trip. Consider everyone’s interests and abilities when deciding the activities. This could include swimming, boating, kayaking, fishing, or swimming. Once you have decided which activities everyone wants to do, it is time to plan the trip.

It is essential to check if there are any legal requirements for the activities you plan to engage in. Whether you’re planning to go fishing, boating, or swimming, some areas may require certain permits or licenses. Research the area you plan to visit to check for any legal requirements.

Next, research the area you plan to visit. This will help you determine where you should plan to stay, what gear and equipment you need to bring, and what types of activities are available in the area. Look for blogs and maps that show you the area and the activities available.

Finally, consider the elevation of the area you plan to visit. This will help you determine what and how many clothes you should pack. Also, remember to book tickets in advance if you plan to visit any theme parks.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your lake trip is a success and that everyone enjoys the activities they participate in.


Once you have everything planned, it’s time to go and enjoy your camping trip! Make sure you have all the essentials and gear ready, as well as a plan for where you’re going, what meals you’ll be having, and any activities you’d like to do. Don’t forget to take our camping trip planner to help you make the most of your adventure and make some fantastic memories with your friends and family. Happy camping!

Pretty woman stirring burning logs in campfire


What should I consider when planning a lake camping trip?

When planning a lake camping trip, there are several things to consider. First, determine which activities you want to do on your trip, such as camping, day hikes, fishing, or swimming. You may need advanced permits or guides to do some of these activities, so research those in advance. Secondly, research the best national parks for your camping style and check the maximum number of days per stay and the cost of fees. Some campsites are available for reservations, while others are on a first-come-first-serve basis. Also, check for photos of the campsite, as sites near rivers or swamps can often be prone to mosquito bites. Wild camping is also an option, but you should have a few ideas of where to set up camp for the night.

If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience, check out cabin rooms and lakeside houses. Finally, plan what activities you want to partake in during your trip. Consider what you and your family enjoy and are interested in, and research legal requirements for the activities you plan. You may also need to book tickets for theme parks in advance to avoid wasting time.

How can I find the perfect campsite?

1. Decide what type of campsite you’re looking for. If you’re a novice camper, consider a campsite in an established campground at a state or national park. If you’re an experienced camper, you may be able to rough it out with a tent in a more remote location.

2. Research which national state park works with your camping style. Make sure to check the campground’s maximum number of days per stay and the cost of fees.

3. Check to see if you can make reservations for the campsite you’re interested in and if photos of the site are available. Sites near rivers or swamps are a recipe for mosquito bites, so look for sites with plenty of trees, as they will add a veil of privacy.

4. Utilize online tools to help you find the perfect campsite. Campspot makes it easy to find the amenities you’re looking for within a budget that works for you in all 50 states.

5. Consider the abilities and interests of your camping party. If you have some novice campers, it is best to pick a campsite with running water and flushing toilets. If your family doesn’t mind roughing it, you can pick a more remote campsite.

6. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, double-check the campsite’s ratings and reviews. This will give you a better understanding of what to expect when you arrive.

7. To avoid disappointment, reserve your campsite in advance.

Following these steps will help you find the best campsite for your trip. Make sure to do your research and choose a spot that best fits your camping style, interests, and budget. With the proper preparation and knowledge, you’re sure to have a great camping experience.

What items do I need to take on a lake camping trip?

When planning a lake camping trip, it’s essential to make sure you have all the necessary items. You will need a tent, a sleeping bag, a pillow, a Roll or blow-up mattress, a torch and flashlight, a first aid kit, a BBQ and food, a fold-up table and chairs, cutlery, waterproof and spare clothing. In addition, it’s a good idea to bring the ten essentials and camping gear, such as a stove, lanterns, bungee cords/rope, blankets, ice, bait (if fishing), and a bear canister (if in an area with bears). Also, bring power banks, level blocks, and trash bags so you can pack your trash. Finally, don’t forget to bring a food checklist and emergency pack.

What activities are available at the lake?

At the lake, there are a variety of activities that can be enjoyed. From fishing to kayaking and swimming to boating, there is something for everyone to do! Rocky Mountain National Park is an excellent destination for taking hikes, spotting wildlife, and taking a scenic drive. Hiking and biking trails, as well as climbing routes, can also be found in the area. Eloika Lake is ideal for fishing, as speedboats are not allowed to create big waves. You can read a book on the dock, enjoy ice-cold drinks from a cooler, or relax in the water with inflatables.

How can I stay safe while camping?

Step 1: Make preparations before your camping trip. Make sure to let several people at home know all the who, what, when, and where details of your trip. You can even send them a pin with your exact location if you have cell service at your campsite. Also, find the nearest emergency center to your campsite and ensure you have a first aid kit. Familiarize yourself with any wildlife that may be in the area.

Step 2: Set up your camping area. Lay down and secure a tarp beneath your tent for an extra layer of protection. Pack your thickest socks for sleeping. Bring airtight containers and bags to protect non-perishable items from damage, spillage, or bugs. Don’t forget the campfire marshmallows and s’mores essentials!

Step 3: Bring the necessary camping equipment. These should include a first aid kit, tent, sleeping bags, camping mattresses, flashlights, extra batteries, camping stove and fuel, camping lantern and fuel, camping cook set, water carriers, waterproof containers, sunscreen, insect repellent, and camping cooler.

Step 4: Ensure your camping gear and supplies are stored in labeled storage bins. These bins will make storing, transporting, and accessing your camping supplies easy.

Step 5: Follow safety protocol when around wildlife. Make noise when walking through the brush near your campsite to avoid surprising animals. If you do see an animal, remain calm and slowly back away, keeping at least 25 yards away from less aggressive wildlife and 100 yards away from more aggressive animals like bears and mountain lions. Store food in provided food storage lockers and dispose of all trash in the campground’s dumpsters after cooking and before bed.

How can I protect the environment when camping?

When it comes to protecting the environment when camping, following the 7 Leave No Trace principles is critical. These principles include planning, camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly, understanding campfire rules and always extinguishing fires completely, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors. When camping, it is essential to camp at your designated campsite. It reduces your impact on other areas, disposes of all trash and never feeds animals, stores your camp stove, and disposes of crumbs to avoid attracting wild animals. Additionally, be sure to leave your campsite in the same condition you found it – or better – by packing out what you pack in and properly dowse your fire before leaving. Following these guidelines can help protect nature and preserve the outdoors for future generations.

What should I do if I encounter wildlife while camping?

If you encounter wildlife while camping, the first thing to do is remain calm. All animals are more scared of you than you are of them, so slowly back away and try not to startle them. For less aggressive wildlife, keep at least 25 yards away; for more aggressive animals like bears and mountain lions, keep at least 100 yards away.

To avoid attracting animals, store all food in the provided food storage lockers or dumpsters and dispose of all trash before bed. Additionally, never store scented items like food and toiletries (including deodorant, toothpaste, and hand sanitizer) in your car, as they can attract animals.

If you are camping in bear country, follow general safety guidelines. Store all scented items in the food storage locker, and never leave these items in your tent or car. Finally, be sure to follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles, including camping on previously camped surfaces, disposing of all trash, and leaving wildlife alone.