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The First-Timer’s Guide to Camping background image

The First-Timer’s Guide to Camping

Camping is pretty straight forward but there are some things you should know beforehand.

1 October 2019
Read time: 6m 17s

Are you thinking about going camping for the first time? Here are some of the frequently asked questions and the answers you need to get started on your camping adventure.

So, what types of camping are there?

There are various forms of camping. Glamping, for instance, a soft entry into the world of camping. Whilst you may be in a tent or perhaps a yurt, you may also enjoy the luxury of a four-poster bed!

Campsite camping is the most popular form where you’ll pay for a pitch for a specific period. It’s an attractive option for friends, families, groups or solo campers. It provides security and peace of mind that you won’t be asked to move along in the middle of the night. 

Wild camping is riskier because you head out into the wilderness. This means that there are no amenities so you only have whatever you can carry in your rucksack on your back. This is only legal in Scotland and Dartmoor National Park in the UK but there are other areas in Europe that allow this. 

Wild camping
Wild Camping is legal but only in certain areas.

What food should I take camping?

The food you take is going to depend on how adventurous you are cooking outdoors, how much equipment you’re taking and how long you’re heading away for. 

If you’re planning a weekend camping trip and you have the means, you can take food that can be kept in the fridge and every mealtime can become like a summer barbeque. 

Keeping things more simple and you could take pre-packaged food and snacks including fruit that doesn’t need to be kept cool such as apples and oranges and energy bars. Dried fruit and veg is another good choice. If you’re going to be hiking on your camping trip, make sure that you take some nuts to provide that big boost of protein.

If you are adventurous and you do your research, you can eat off the land providing there are no rules in the vicinity stopping you from doing so. Plucking berries, mushrooms and so on can lead to a real sense of co-existing with the earth. Experiment but if in doubt, play it safe and have a bar of chocolate instead. 

For longer trips, you can keep breakfast simple with ready-to-eat cereal and cereal bars and oat cereals like porridge which can be made on a simple gas burner. If you want to be a little more adventurous baked beans are a good choice with eggs which can be cooked easily on a camping stove. You just need to make sure that you remember the can opener!

Pasta meals are great options as they fill you up with carbohydrates ready for a day’s exploring and even a packet of stir fry or pot noodles. Do make sure that you also pack the marshmallows for the classic camping dessert over a flame. 

In terms of drinks, you should pack plenty of bottled water, unless you know that you are going to be near a safe water source. Coffee and alcohol are popular but they do act as diuretics so make sure you compensate accordingly.

Camping food
Although it is easy to be adventurous with your meals, simple dishes are just as good!

What equipment do I need?

The most important piece of equipment you need when camping is going to be a tent. You have an important decision here and that’s choosing the size of the tent. There are a multitude of tent types and sizes and you may be surprised at how small even a large one can feel once you are inside.

You should also think about what you’re going to keep inside the tent; a raised camping bed perhaps or if you are going to sleep on the floor. 

If you are going to be carrying a lot of luggage and accessories and have a family, it is best to go for one bigger than what you think you will need. Wet and dry areas are good in case it rains as it will help you keep your living quarters free of mud. 

Do be aware that there are some campsites that will specify that they only allow certain sizes of tents. So, it’s always worth checking this before you travel and make plans to stay in a certain location. 

You should also think about how easy it is to pitch the tent, with or without assistance. It’s worth checking reviews of a tent before you buy and make sure that you are doing some dry runs. Pitch the tent in your garden a couple of times before you take it camping so you can feel confident in tackling any inclement weather. 

Aside from the tent and the tent pegs, you will also need a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. There is a range of materials for sleeping bags and the type you choose is going to depend on where you are camping. We’re going to explore weather concerns a little further down. A sleeping mat, air bed or camp bed is also recommended to ensure that you don’t wake up in the morning with a painful back. 

You then need to think about items for cooking and preparing food including pans and cutlery as well as a water carrier or a jerry can. 

A lantern or torch will also be useful to ensure that you don’t have to rely on your phone light if you need to get up in the middle of the night. 

Camping chairs are optional but recommended, particularly if you are going to be spending time on the campsite through the day and bin bags are a must to keep things neat and tidy. 

Pitching tent
Write a list. Camping is straight forward but there is a little planning involved.

The big question, should I be concerned about weather?

If you’re worried about the weather then you need to make sure that you are preparing for the worst. Be aware that the equipment that you need for winter camping is different from summer. That’s certainly true for the sleeping bag because you should be aiming to purchase a zero degree sleeping bag for the winter months. This isn’t usually necessary for mid-year camping, but that can change depending on your altitude. 

You should also make sure that your tent is waterproof and wind-resistant before you take it out for a spin.

Choosing the right campsite can also be useful when planning for bad weather. You need to make sure that you are avoiding any ground where there’s a possibility of flooding. That means if there is a forecast of heavy rain, you shouldn’t be choosing a site close to a river or lake. 

Regardless of when you are camping, you should always make sure that you check the weather forecast before you set off camping. 

As well as taking the right equipment, you also need to make sure that you are packing the right clothing. Layers are great for camping because you can remove a layer or add one depending on the weather. This is particularly useful if you’re camping somewhere like the Scottish highlands where it can be hailstones one minute and glorious sunshine the next. 

We hope this helps you understand everything you need to know about your first time camping. Regardless of what type of camping you choose, we’re sure that you will have a fantastic time underneath the stars. 

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