Set Up Your Tent Before Leaving
Set up your tent periodically throughout the year to air it out and make sure there's no mildew. At the least, you should set it up prior to your trip to check for holes, check the seams and make sure all the zippers work. Suffice to say, you should check that all parts, poles and cords are present and accounted for. Tent stakes, in particular, have a way of getting lost, and it's not a bad idea to pack an extra one or two.
A little duct tape in the woods will go a long way to patch holes or tears until more professional repair can take place. I don't recommend sleeping in the car at night, as many people have found out the hard way that vehicles aren't nearly as bug-proof as a tent.
More: 8 Tips for Camping Organization
Four-Wheel Drive Can't Hurt
The funny thing about four-wheel drive is, just when you think you won't need it, you'll find yourself sinking in sludge after a rainstorm or sliding from side to side on a wet road. If you're camping in the winter, there's always a risk of frozen rain or snow; if you're camping in the summer, mud and flash floods are possible. Like many aspects of camping, it's better to be safe than sorry.
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Hang Your Food At Night
Bears roam a large chunk of the United States, and when you include foxes, raccoons and other critters, there's a hefty population of animals waiting to raid your food pack. Many people think storing food in your vehicle is a safe solution—it's not. Bears have been known to swat at cars and break windows, not to mention the risk of your car's interior permanently smelling like red beans and rice or dehydrated beef stroganoff.
At some parks and campsites, there are "bear boxes" for securely storing your food. For everywhere else, either use a bear-proof, durable plastic container, or hang the food pack from a tree.
There are multiple methods for hanging—the important points are to get the food at least 10 feet off of the ground and 10 feet out from the trunk of the tree. Don't ever bring snacks into your tent. And read up on bear safety prior to your adventure.
More: How to Avoid Critters While Camping
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