So, you're heading off on a camping trip? Whether you want to pitch the tent by the beaches of the Great Lakes or inflate the camp bed atop the cliffs of the Californian Big Sur, it's always important you get the planning stage right. Perhaps you haven't even decided on a destination yet, and need some inspiration on where to set the compass for? Cue this guide to camping vacations, which comes with info on what to pack and where to go.

Camping trip planning – who's coming?

A great first step when it comes to planning a camping trip is to find out exactly who's coming. That might sound easier than it is, especially as you'll need to gauge the size of your tent, the style of your stay, and the things that you take depending on how many people are tagging along.

Camping trips as a couple

There's plenty to be said for the romance of a camping jaunt. There's really nothing like it – heading to the woods or the mountains or the lakes to find somewhere totally secluded out in nature, a little hideaway to call your own. If you are going to be trotting off with someone special, it might be worth considering stays in glamping pods or luxury tents, which offer a lacing of extra luxury in the form of king-sized beds and even steaming hot tubs.

Planning family camping trips

Family camping vacations are a great way to get some quality time with loved ones. Of course, they can be a bit trickier to plan than if there was just the two of you. You'll need to pack in extra sleeping bags, more dining equipment, warm coats for all – the list goes on. There are some upscale glamping options out there for families too, in the form of wood cabins in the forest and clusters of pod-style abodes with bunk beds.

Camping trips with groups of friends

If you and your pals are after something a little more thrilling than your usual sun, sea, and sand vacation, an escape to the wilder corners of the country can oblige. Multiple tents might be required to house everyone, unless you plump for something on the glamping side of things – an oversized RV, perhaps, or a large yurt with lots of sleeping quarters.

Your camping trip checklist

Having the right equipment at hand is essential to any smooth-running camping trip. It doesn't matter if you're just hopping away from civilization for a weekend or attempting a long-haul trek up the Pacific Crest Trail with only the canvas in tow, it's important to ensure you check and double check what's needed for the journey.

The right gear

Getting the right gear depends on precisely what sort of camping trip you're off on. Lone rangers looking to wild camp on remote mountainsides will need the hardiest of stuff – specialist tents, tough cooking stoves, the thickest sleeping bags. And at the other end of the spectrum are folk heading to plush glamping stays, where your bedding is Egyptian cotton and there's a kitchenette and BBQ grill to take care of the food.

The right clothes

It might seem obvious but packing the correct threads for any camping escape is key to your experience. We're not just talking wooly sweaters for those chilly evenings under the stars. It's also about swimming stuff for dips in alpine lakes, hiking wear for treks along forested trails, and lazy clothes for when it's time to curl up and watch the world go by from behind the zipper.

Amazing locations for camping vacations

There's no shortage of bucket-list-busting wilderness areas where a camping vacation promises a real adventure. Just in case you're stuck for inspiration or want to ferret out the hottest camping trip destinations near you, there are a few exciting suggestions below.

New York State – forests and lakes and mountains

Forget the hubbub of Manhattan and the Bronx, New York State is a wilderness of epic proportions. Two mountain ranges – the Adirondacks and the Catskills converge just north of the big city, while the famous Finger Lakes region stretches westwards. The result is a great swathe of land where you can find cozy cabins by snowy Nordic ski tracks, wonder at mighty Niagara Falls, and hike between historic industrial towns up the Hudson Valley.

California – out in the desert

The Golden State is where the dreams of campers who love to go deep into unchartered territory can come true. Right up there with the most amazing landscapes in the country are reserves like Yosemite and the rest of the Sierra Nevada, which are crumpled by giant dome-like peaks and drop down to shimmering lakes in Tahoe. Further south, it's about venturing into the Coachella Valley and the Sonoran Desert, where the cacti groves, red-rock canyons, and clear night skies add up to a doozy for tent-carrying travelers.

Texas – between canyons and vineyards

Don't overlook Texas when it's time to set up camp. You can discover lovely landscapes of deep gorges and gushing white-water rivers in the Lone Star State. But more than that, the Texan lifestyle really lends itself to being out and about, with enough BBQ brisket and evening rodeo shows to go around.

Wild campers abound in Montana

Magical Montana might just be the most daring escape for would-be campers in the US. The Rocky Mountains spike the clouds throughout much of the state, creating glacier fields and turquoise-hued glacial lakes that are the stuff of mountaineer's dreams. In short, it's the place to go if you're after something truly off the grid.