Published: May 14, 2024

People camping

Camping is a quintessential Colorado activity. If you are planning a summer trip, here are some must-know tips. 

1. Choosing a campsite 

Spur of the moment camping trips can be fun, but if you’re new to camping it’s usually better to plan ahead. Here are some things to consider when choosing a campsite. 

Make a reservation. Many campgrounds require a reservation, and spots can fill up fast. This means you might have to plan out your trip well in advance to snag a spot. Take some time to research the areas you’d like to visit and familiarize yourself with the reservation process. You can explore a variety of options online through resources like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Colorado Parks and Wildlife or the federal recreation site

Know the rules. It’s important to review the rules and requirements for your specific site before booking your trip. For instance, campgrounds may restrict the number of cars you’re allowed to have, prohibit dogs or have fire bans in place. This means you may need to arrange a carpool, leave your pets at home or skip the s’mores. Knowing (and following) the rules can help you avoid unexpected citations and fines. 

Check the amenities. Not all campsites are created equal, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you book your trip. Here are some common terms that are used to describe the amenities for different types of campsites: 

  • Full hookup or electric: These sites are typically reserved for RVs only. That’s because they usually come equipped with electricity, sewage connections and paved roads. They may also include amenities like picnic tables, potable water, trash receptacles, supply shops and more. Full hookup campgrounds can usually be accessed on paved roads. 
  • Basic: These sites can accommodate tents and car campers. They typically have amenities like picnic tables, trash receptacles, potable water, bathrooms, grills and fire rings. These campgrounds are usually accessible by partially paved and unpaved roads. These campsites may also come with bearproof lockers (call ahead to double check). 
  • Dispersed or primitive: These sites are ‘bare bones.’ They have few, if any, amenities. In many cases roads to these campsites are not paved or maintained, so it’s usually best to have a high clearance vehicle with all-wheel or four-wheel drive. They may also require walking, so be prepared to carry all your gear a few hundred feet or yards to the site. If you stay at a primitive site, you’ll likely need to collect and carry out your own trash, pack drinking water and use vault toilets (some may not offer toilets at all). Disperse campsites can also fill quickly and don’t have reservation systems, so plan on arriving early and have a backup plan in place. 

Keep in mind that this list provides a general overview of possible amenities and conditions. However, you will need to review the specifics of individual campsites, as they may vary depending on location. 

2. Packing your bags 

Check your gear before heading out to ensure it’s in good working condition, and repair if needed. 


  • Tent (with footprint and stakes)* 
  • Sleeping bag* 
  • Sleeping pad* 
  • Pillow 
  • Camp chairs* 
  • Lantern, headlamp 
  • Mallet, hammer (for stakes) 
  • Local firewood (outside firewood may be prohibited)


  • Camp stove, fuel* 
  • Firestarter, matches, lighter (check fire restrictions beforehand) 
  • Pots, pans* 
  • Sharp cutting knife 
  • Utensils (cooking and eating) 
  • Plates, bowls, mugs, cups 
  • Cooler* 
  • Water bottles 
  • Camp sink, biodegradable soap 
  • Dish towel 
  • Trash, recycle bags 
  • Water jug 
  • Cutting board 
  • Food, drinks, snacks 


  • Quick-drying pants, shorts* 
  • Quick-drying tees, long sleeves 
  • Warm layer (e.g., sweater, sweatshirt, etc.) 
  • Rain jacket* 
  • Windbreaker 
  • Extra socks, underwear 
  • Gloves 
  • Sleepwear 
  • Sturdy shoes (e.g., boots, sneakers) 
  • Water sandals, swimsuit 
  • Hat, sunglasses 

Personal care

  • Toilet paper, wipes 
  • Hand sanitizer 
  • Trowel (primitive camping) 
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste 
  • Toiletry kit 
  • Quick-dry towel 
  • Medications 
  • First aid kit 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Insect repellent 


  • Camp reservation (if needed) 
  • Power bank 
  • Cellphone, electronics 
  • Pet gear, supplies 
  • Entertainment (e.g., books, games, etc.) 
  • Binoculars 
  • Navigation tools 
  • Field guides (e.g., flowers, insects, trails, etc.) 
  • ID, wallet 
  • Bear cannister* 
  • Trekking poles* 
  • Backpack*

* These items can be rented from Outdoor Pursuits at the Rec Center.

* These items can be rented from Outdoor Pursuits at the Rec Center.

3. Planning your meals 

Meal planning can be stressful, especially when you’re out in the woods. If you are worried about creating a camping menu or packing food for your trip, here are some tips to help make it easier. 

Keep it simple. Keep your menu simple by packing a limited number of easy meals. Things like oatmeal, sandwiches and other basic staples are low stress and simple to make. 

Be mindful of perishables. If you plan to bring perishable foods like lunch meat, eggs or hotdogs, plan ways to keep them cold. You’ll need a cooler of ice, and it’s usually best to freeze foods in advance. You can always thaw them once you’re ready to cook. It’s also a good idea to keep perishable foods separate from drinks to avoid cross contamination.   

Don’t forget the little things. Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean your food has to be bland. Plan to pack spices, seasonings and condiments with you as part of your meal plan. If you’re worried about keeping condiments cold, consider buying single serving packets of mustard, ketchup or mayo. 

Use prepackaged options. Lugging around a cooler can be hard work, especially if you are going to a walk-up campsite. If you want to lighten your load and don’t mind splurging a bit, you may want to consider bringing prepackaged, freeze-dried options. These meal packs are lightweight and can be prepared with hot water. 

Keep bears at bay. Black bears are common in Colorado. You can help keep them at bay by using bear-resistant food containers, keeping your campsite clean, not eating in your tent, clearing food out of your car, locking your car doors and stashing your trash. Keep in mind that bears may also be attracted to other scented products like toiletries and sunscreen. 

4. Being good a steward 

Camping comes with a variety of regulations and other unspoken rules. Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you’re being a good steward while enjoying the great outdoors. 

  • Use established campsites. 
  • Avoid damaging natural features or taking natural souvenirs home with you. 
  • Use biodegradable soap and dispose of wastewater at least 200 feet from natural water sources. 
  • Don’t burn or bury your trash. 
  • Check for fire bans ahead of time and follow all restrictions and regulations. If fires are allowed, be sure to properly extinguish your campfire by ensuring that the coals and ashes are cool before abandoning it. 
  • Bury human waste away from natural water sources in a hole that is at least four to eight inches deep (do not bury toilet paper). 
  • Clean your campsite by disposing of trash and putting everything back where you found it. 
  • Respect your neighbors by observing quiet hours, keeping your voice down and not cutting through other campsites.  
  • Avoid camping right next to other people. 
  • Avoid trespassing on private land by sticking to designated trails. 
  • Do not approach or feed wildlife. 

Following these rules can help everyone have a more positive camping experience and prevent damage to your surroundings.  

Outdoor equipment rentals

Outdoor Pursuits offers outdoor equipment rentals for activities like camping, hiking, climbing and water sports. Equipment rentals are available for all students, staff and faculty (no Rec Center membership required).

Adventure Resource Center

Stop by the Adventure Resource Center on the first floor of the Rec Center to explore guidebooks, resources, atlases and wall-sized maps of Colorado areas.

Apothecary Pharmacy

Need to stock up on sunscreen, aloe vera, bug spray, allergy medications or other essentials? Stop by the Apothecary Pharmacy at Wardenburg Health Center for over-the-counter products.

Medical Services

Sometimes, accidents happen. If you get injured or sick while camping, you can make an appointment with Medical Services on campus.