Things to Think About on Day 1
Make sure you arrive to your campground with plenty of daylight left so you can check your camping spot. Make sure you are not in a flood area--don't camp at the bottom of ravines or in creek beds in a desert because flash floods can surprise you in the night. Also, be aware of rockfall, dead branches, animal lairs and anthills. Ensure people know where you are before you leave for your camping trip and while exploring the terrain during your trip. Be familiar with the area, and bring a compass and map if you plan on going off the beaten trail. Otherwise, stick to trails, and be sure you know where the ranger station is. Bring appropriate clothing for the season and weather.
Purify the Water
Though the water that flows in the creek next to camp looks crystal clear, campers shouldn't drink it without purifying it first, either with a filter, with iodine, by boiling it or a combination of all of these, especially when camping out of the country. Iodine, which is light and easy to carry, may be your best option if you are going backpacking or traveling abroad. It will kill bacteria, amoeba cysts, viruses and Giardia. Pay attention to the directions, and allow the disinfectant to work before drinking the water (usually from 15 to 60 minutes, depending on the temperature of the water).
Don't feed wild animals people food. It is unhealthy for them, and it encourages them to hang out in camps, where they can do damage to camping equipment, raid your food, and possibly hurt a human being. Also, pick up all garbage and food that might attract animals. Don't try to get close to any wild animals, especially bears, moose or elk. Make noise while hiking so animals know you are around.
Leave No Trace
Pack everything out that you bring in, including your waste if you are in certain sensitive areas (such as the desert). Not only are you respecting the environment, but you are also leaving your camp spot pristine for the next campers to enjoy. Take one step further and clean up other people's trash.
Be Careful With Fire
Do not let your fire get out of control, especially in drier areas such as the Southwest. In fact, check in with your local park service or the National Forest Service before starting a fire, or chance burning down an entire forest. Don't start a fire unless you have water to put it out should it get out of control. Utilize existing fire rings rather than building new fire rings, and make sure you completely put your fire out when you leave. You can do this by saturating it with water if you have enough or burying coals with damp dirt. Also, don't build a fire near your tent or a tree, and refrain from building a fire directly next to a rock. You will scar the surface of the rock, ruining its beauty for future campers.