How To Go Camping (Essential Tips For Beginners)

How To Go Camping (Essential Tips For Beginners)

There’s no better way to experience life in the great outdoors than hiking all day and then climbing into a warm sleeping bag under canvas. Camping gives you a feeling of freedom, of being at one with nature, and the choice of moving on once you’ve exhausted all of the potential from that area. If you have a family, it’s a great way to bond with your kids, and it’s the one holiday home where dogs are guaranteed a warm welcome.

If the idea of camping appeals to you but you’re put off because you have no idea what to expect or what equipment is necessary. Don’t worry, because this article will give you all of the information you’ll need to ensure your family’s camping holiday is a success. From what you need to pack right through to what activities will be a hit with even the most difficult teenager.

Types Of Camping

There are all different types of camping experiences to have and they all require different equipment, let’s look at the four main types of camping available.

Glamping

Many campers see glamping as cheating and not camping at all. That’s because the only way it resembles camping is you actually sleep under canvas. You have a proper bed, kitchen, seating area and many even have working flushable toilets. If you decide to go glamping you won’t need to read the rest of this article.

Festival Camping

There are different types of festival campsites but the one thing they all have in common is the fact that you’ll have to lug all of your camping equipment from the car park to the campground, and that’s usually a long walk. This usually means buying the smallest tent you can fit in, and taking the least amount of equipment.

Many festival campers buy cheap tents and leave them pitched after they go home. There are also many safety rules, like many festival sites don’t allow any gas cooking at all. Check their websites for all relevant information before buying any kit.

Wild Camping

Wild camping is where you carry all of your kit tent included in your rucksack and pitch up anywhere you like at the end of a long day’s hike. The only two places where wild camping is technically legal in the UK are Scotland and parts of Dartmoor National Park. In all other areas of the UK you are legally bound to seek the landowners permission to wild camp.

Campsite Camping

This describes any camping where you have paid for a space to pitch your tent on a dedicated pitch on a campsite. Many campsites are family friendly and some don’t permit all same  sex groups. Check all onsite rules before you book and see what facilities are available onsite too. Many have entertainment clubhouses which can be noisy and others have absolutely no facilities at all.

As we all have different requirements when it comes to holidays, it’s best to check before you book to be sure to get what you consider the perfect spot. As campsite camping is the most often chosen type of camping, that’s the type of camper we had in mind when putting this article together so read on for all you need to know to go camping.

Camping Essentials

Tent

Let’s start with the absolute essentials, the equipment you’ll definitely need (and probably need to buy) and the kit you already have at home but will need to take with you to make your first camping experience a great adventure. With happy memories for the whole family.

The Tent

This is obviously the first requirement for the camping family, and it will also be the biggest expense and the item you need to get right. The correct size and shape of tent is of the utmost importance for the success of your camping holiday. Do your homework, check out the various shapes and sizes of tents and consider your family dynamics.

For all the information you need to find out how to choose a tent hop over to our article on that very topic. Whatever style of tent you choose, it needs to be classified as sleeping more people than you intend to take camping. This will ensure you all have enough room and don’t feel like you’re under everyone’s feet.

The more space you all have, the less chance you have of falling out over what are usually inconsequential things that are magnified due to lack of personal space. Once you’ve decided on the tent that’s right for your family it’s time to think of all the other essential kit you’ll need.

Top Tip

As you’ll need to be buying pretty much everything you’ll need for your camping trip, it’s a good idea to shop out of season if you can. Camping shops, stores and centres are more likely to sell equipment at reduced prices during the season of the year when the least amount of people are thinking about camping. Black Friday, Winter time in general, plus don’t assume that online will net you the best bargains. You might find kit cheaper online, but camping shows and outdoor stores often drastically reduce kit to make room for the updated version of that kit.

Tent Essentials

Sleeping Bag

Before you start your online search or your tour of camping shows/shops, it’s a good idea to make a list of exactly what kit you need to buy. Here’s a few suggestions of the main kit you’ll need;

  • Sleeping Bags
    You’ll need a sleeping bag for every member of your party
  • Sleeping Mat/Camp Bed
    Be aware that camp beds, inflatable or otherwise take up extra space and that will need to be accounted for when calculating what size tent you buy. Plus if you do decide on air beds, you’ll need to pack a decent pump.
  • Pillows
    You could save money here and take your pillows from home, but remember camping equipment often comes home damp, so unless you have plenty of spare pillows you could have lots of washing and drying to do as soon as you get home.
  • Torch + Head Torch
    We consider both to be essential, a head torch frees up your hands while trying to erect or repair the tent etc, and a hand torch means everyone can operate in relative light.
  • Extra Batteries
    There’s nothing more frustrating than the torch dying on you because the batteries have drained.
  • Camping Table & Chairs
    Sitting scrunched up on the floor might seem romantic in your mind, but in reality, you need the luxury of a table and chairs.
  • Tent Repair Kit
    Things happen, and it’s better to be prepared.
  • Mallet, tent Peg extractor, Extra Tent Pegs
    Trust us, these are all essential
  • Extra Guy Ropes
    Guy ropes come in handy for many things, a makeshift clothesline for example.
  • Windbreak
    A windbreak not only gives shelter from the wind, it also affords you a little bit of privacy.

Kitchen Essentials

If you’re starting from scratch, there are a few absolute kitchen essentials that you’ll need to buy and a few things you can take from home.

  • Camping Stove/Barbeque
  • Relevant Fuel (Camping Gas/Charcoal)
  • Matches/Lighter
  • Kettle, Pots & Pans
  • Plates, Cups, Bowls
  • Cutlery & cooking Utensils
  • Washing Up Bowl & Washing Up Liquid
  • Dish Clothes
  • Tea Towels
  • Tin Opener
  • Waste Bags

If your budget and space in the tent allow, a decent cool box or mini fridge are a good idea too.

Personal Essentials

First Aid Kit

That’s the general camping and cooking equipment covered, now for the necessary basic requirements for each member of your camping party. Whatever season you’re planning on camping, you will need;

  • Waterproof Clothing (Jacket & Trousers)
  • Clean, Dry Pyjamas (Preferably Made From A Breathable Material Like Cotton)
  • Sun Hat/Rain Hat
  • Walking Boots/Wellies/Hard Wearing Trainers
  • Extra Underwear (Including Socks)
  • Sunscreen/Sunglasses
  • Towels
  • Soap/Shampoo
  • Hand Sanitiser/Bacterial Wipes
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Any Regular Medication
  • First Aid Kit
  • Insect Repellent (Depending On Where You Are Camping)
  • Toilet Paper
  • Waterproof Container (For Storing Dry Clothes)

Always pack an extra set of dry clothes when camping, preferably clothes that retain heat and dry out quickly. Try to remember some easy to put on shoes for night time toilet excursions.

Camping Tips To Make Life Easier

Checklist

Now we’ve dealt with most of the essential equipment, let’s look at a few tips and tricks to make your camping holiday a success.

Work From A Checklist

When packing clothes and personal items make a checklist and put a tick by everything you pack. Then when it’s time to break camp use the same list and put another tick by every item as you pack it. That way you won’t leave anything behind.

Check The Local Weather Forecast

Before you leave home do a weather forecast check for the area you will be staying in. This gives you the advantage of packing the correct clothing and also gives you the chance to plan a few activities, both indoors and outdoors to keep everyone happy.

Pack Your Car In Order Of Preference

Make sure that the last thing packed into your car is the first thing you’ll need once you arrive at your campsite. So the last items packed into your boot should be the tent, and depending on your planned arrival time, the torches, sleeping bags etc.

Keep The First Aid Kit Handy

Accidents happen, always when you least expect them or need them. It makes sense to keep a rudimentary first aid kit handy . Plasters, antiseptic cream/wipes etc are always handy when camping.

Keep The Kids Occupied While You’re Erecting The Tent

Nothing can sour the mood quite like bored kids getting in the way while you’re busy putting up the tent. Get them involved either with helping to put the tent up or get them exploring the site for activities.

Plan To Arrive In Daylight

It’s easier to put the tent up in daylight and it is easier to inspect the pitch for rocks, sticks or anything else that might cause you discomfort when you’re lying on the floor trying to sleep.

Make Yourself Familiar With Campsite Rules

All campsites are different and have different rules and regulations. Some don’t allow open fires or ball games at all. Others have designated areas for both. Check online before arriving or at least as soon as your tent is pitched. No one wants their holiday spoiled due to a misunderstanding of the permitted activities.

If You’re Struggling With The Set Up, Ask For Help

Most campers are a friendly bunch and have all been in your situation at one point, so if you can’t get the tent poles to sit where they’re supposed to, or whatever, ask your camping neighbours for help.

Respect The Privacy Of Others

With that said, it’s ok to be friendly with other campers, but not everyone wants to be sociable all the time. If your neighbour isn’t too forthcoming with their welcome, maybe don’t bother them, speak to a different camper instead.

Don’t Venture Too Far From Home

If it’s your first camping trip, it’s a good idea to not travel too far from home. If you have forgotten some of the essentials, or the weather gets too bad, or even if you decide that camping’s not for you and yours, you can go home quickly.

Borrow Kit From A Friend

If you’re not sure if the whole camping thing is suitable for your family, instead of going to all of the expense of buying all the necessary equipment, borrow the basics from any friends you have who go camping.

Keep Wet Wipes Close At Hand

Wet Wipes

Camping really demonstrates just how useful wet wipes can be. From muddy hands to a spilt drink, wet wipes will come to your assistance frequently when camping.

Have A Trial Run With The Tent

Get familiar with erecting the tent and breaking camp before you go away. Put the tent up in your garden or on common land just to be sure of how to do it and that you have all the correct components.

Zip The Doors Up

Before erecting the tent make sure the doors are zipped closed. This will ensure the correct tension is applied to the tent. If you pitch the tent with the doors unzipped, they might not close.

Keep The Duct Tape Handy

Duct tape or gaffer tape as it’s sometimes called, is such a useful tool in the camping toolbox. You can use it to repair the tent, fix your glasses, stop a leaking water container, make a plaster stick with wet skin, the list is endless. 

Always Keep An Eye On Your Valuables

Sadly, not everyone is honest, and if you make it easy for thieves to steal your valued possessions, they probably will.

Use The Correct Tent Pegs

Different campsites are set on different ground types. This means different tent pegs are suitable at different sites. You should be advised on the correct pegs when you book your pitch, but it’s worth checking if they don’t mention them.

Consider The No Shoe Rule

If you ban any outdoor shoes from the tent, it will be far easier to keep the inside of the tent clean and tidy.

Take Photos As You Unpack

It’s often difficult to pack the tent away after a few days camping. You forget what goes in which bag etc. If you photo each part as you unpack it, packing it away will be far easier.

Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep

Sleeping

Sleeping is the most important part of any holiday, without a decent night’s sleep, none of us are at our best. Tempers get frayed, voices get raised and the holiday spirit is lost in a flash. Here are a few tips to help you get a decent night’s sleep under canvas.

Keep Warm

Even during high Summer, the temperature at night can drop dramatically. Be sure to pack extra clothing/blankets or use a thicker sleeping bag to ensure you don’t get caught out by the weather.

Pack Some Earplugs

You’ll be surprised by just how much noise there is in the countryside at night. If you are a light sleeper anyway, you’ll have enough with hearing everyone breathing, coughing or your neighbours night time excursions to the toilet block without the nocturnal wildlife activity. Wear earplugs to block most of the sounds out.

Use A Thick Ground Mat

Not only is the ground hard, it is also cold. A decent ground mat will help to give you a comfortable and warm night’s sleep.

Use A Tent Carpet

These make the floor of the tent warmer and more comfortable. If you don’t have a tent carpet a car rug will work just as well.

Never Go To Bed Damp

In the world of camping, any moisture at night equals cold. So always wear dry clothes to bed, and never have your face inside your sleeping bag. Your breath contains moisture which once it gets into your sleeping bag will cause the temperature to drop. 

Use a Hot Water Bottle

If you’re susceptible to the cold anyway, be prepared, take a hot water bottle to keep you warm.

Camp Kitchen Tips

Snacks

Cooking meals under canvas is a whole different experience to cooking at home. For a start space is at a premium plus it’s not safe to cook inside the tent ever. Apart from the potential fire hazards, there’s also the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. This is where the windbreaker comes into its element.

Take Lots Of Snacks

Cooking on a camping stove takes far longer than cooking at home. So be sure to pack lots of snacks to keep those hungry troops fed.

Take Foods That Don’t Need Cooking

If you’ve been out all day enjoying yourself and you come back exhausted, or if the camp stove starts to play up, or if the weather’s unbelievably atrocious you’ll be grateful for a meal that needs little or no cooking to prepare.

Take Old Tea Towels

Whatever tea towels you take camping are going to get used a lot. If you take your oldest tea towels with you, they can be thrown away when you get home and replaced with some brand new ones. This saves on washing and prevents your favourite tea towels getting damaged or worn out.

Have A Meal Plan Worked Out

Once you’re camping things can become hectic, if you have a few meals already planned before you go camping your life will be a lot easier once you get under canvas.

Prepare A Hand Cleaning Area

Often the toilet/facility block is a fair way from your pitch which means every time you want to wash your hands you have a long trek. That’s not ideal especially if you are on cooking duties. You need to establish a hand washing station close to the kitchen area to save you time and energy.

Deal With Rubbish Immediately

When you’re preparing meals at camp. You won’t have as much room as you have in your kitchen at home. To maximise your space, have a rubbish bag at hand and dispose of all of your waste as soon as you get it. Empty packets, peelings, egg shells etc will soon clutter up your cooking area and can be a health hazard too.

Pack A Large Water Container

To cut down on trips to the water tap, use a large water container which will only need refilling once a day.

Make Sure The Camp Stove Is Working

Before you leave home, check that the camp stove is in working order and you have sufficient gas to run it. Once you arrive at camp, you need everything working in tip top order.

Keep Tea Bags Close To Hand

You will find tea the most used commodity while camping. Always be sure to pack enough tea bags and keep them close to hand.

Check Out Local Restaurants

You’re not going to want to cook every night, sometimes it’s nice to eat out. Check the eateries close to your campsite before you leave home. Don’t rely on your phone for internet once you’re camping as signals are sketchy at best.

Tips For Breaking Camp

Whenever possible, break camp on dry, warm days to allow the tent and camping equipment to dry out. Use your checklist to pack all items of clothes and equipment away to ensure nothing is left behind. 

Use a dustpan & brush to clean the inside of the tent before packing down and be sure to remove any rubbish from your pitch as you leave.

Brush the bottom of the tent clean before you pack it away to remove any mud/dirt or dust. Using a fire bucket full of water, wash all tent pegs before packing them away, use a brush to remove any packed on mud.

When you get home air the tent and sleeping bags etc to be sure they’re dry before storing them away. This will prevent any mould or damp damage occurring whilst they are in storage.

If you found this article useful feel free to check out some of our other camping articles by clicking the following links;

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