Here are the basics on tent camping in Florida, based on questions our readers ask. Suggestions for camping locations are at the bottom of this page.
When Should I Camp?
Tent camping in Florida – including backpacking and car camping in Florida is best enjoyed between October and March, when the muggy nights with high temperatures yield to a cool evening chill.
Backpackers will find Florida’s backcountry most comfortable in January and February. These months tend to be drier than the rest, although you will still find it humid outdoors.
How Should I Camp?
In an established campsite, unless you’re in a place like the Ocala National Forest that allows random camping except during general gun hunting seasons.
To protect yourself, don’t camp on the banks of a stream, lake, river, or pond. Alligators do roam at night.
To protect yourself and your food supply, use a bear bag or bear canister in bear territory. Hanging your food isn’t just to foil the bears, but to outwit the wily raccoons that congregate near established campsites.
All of the National Forests in Florida require that backpackers use a bear bag or bear canister to protect their food.
It’s also smart to use one while camping on public lands around the Orlando metro, and anywhere west of the Suwannee River.
Even if you are car camping, you need to put your food away locked in your car after meals in these same areas.
How Do I Cook?
Wildfires spark easily in Florida, so please refrain from building a campfire unless a fire ring is available.
Use a camp stove for cooking. Our favorite for backpacking is the Jetboil.
Where’s the Bathroom?
At a developed public campground, you’ll find a bathhouse, usually with flush toilets. Some National Forest camping areas, water management district camping areas, and other free public campsites have vault toilets.
If there isn’t a vault toilet or portable toilet in place, it’s time to use your backcountry bathroom skills: liquids on the ground, solids in a hole.
If privies are available, use them. Otherwise, dig a hole at least 400 feet from any campsite or water source. Pack your toilet paper or wipes out in a zip-closure plastic bag.
How Do I Clean Up?
When camping in a primitive campsite, particularly an undeveloped site, follow Leave No Trace ethics.
Leave the site as pristine as when you entered it. Eliminate any signs of a campfire unless there is an established fire ring. Be sure to pack out all garbage from your campsite.
Why Is My Tent Wet?
Florida’s heavy humidity means condensation will occur even when it’s not a rainy day. A single-wall tent will likely get wet on the inside. A double-wall tent will be wet on the outside.
Some backpackers carry a pack towel to sponge off the worst of the wet. We pack our tent wet, on the outside of the pack, and start hiking. Take a break when the sun comes out and set it up in the sunshine to dry.
Where Should I Camp?
Check out these sections of our website that outline camping based on your ability and preference.