Because it’s always better to learn from others’ mistakes rather than your own, we’ve asked around the GO Outdoors office for some top tips for a successful camping trip.
1. Choose your campsite carefully and book early
Your choice of site can make or break your trip. If at all possible, go with a personal recommendation. Before you book do some extra research: what facilities are on site? What is there to do in the local area, especially on wet days?
2. Never buy a tent without seeing it pitched
Find a retailer that has their tents on display. This allows you to get an idea of how they are pitched, and gives you a real sense of the space and headroom available. Beware – some different manufacturers have very different ideas about the number of people a tent can comfortably accommodate.
3. Make sure you have enough living space
For group, family and festival camping shared communal areas or ‘living space’ is extremely useful for storage, cooking, eating and socialising. Tent ‘berth ratings’ only tell you how much sleeping space there is, amounts of living space can varying greatly. Look for models with additional central areas or enclosed porches, or you could think about buying a larger tent and using a bedroom for living space. A final solution could be to buy a gazebo or tarpaulin to give you extra sheltered space outside, which you’ll appreciate if you’re cooking in bad weather.
4. Always trial pitch your tent before going away
Arriving late and tired at a campsite, to pitch an unfamiliar tent in the dark is not recommended. Trail pitching in the garden or a local park avoids this, and gives time to check for missing parts and faults. Even those taking tents they have used before should at least unpack them to check components before departure.
5. Make lists
Even experienced campers can forget the odd important item out of the dozens that must be packed. Items like bin bags, loo roll, pillows, insect repellent and baby wipes all make life much more pleasant, yet are often forgotten.
6. Plan your meals
Arranging tasty, yet simple camping meals requires a little forethought. Choose quick and simple recipes that can be prepared with minimal equipment and, where possible, with non-perishable ingredients. Also check for other eating options, both on sites and at local eateries. These can be the best option for rainy days (and for the first night if you arrive late).
7. Allow lots of extra time for packing and travel
Hurrying your packing almost guarantees that you’ll forget something important. Arriving late on site makes pitching and arranging food a less than ideal experience.
8. Think before you pitch
When you arrive have a good look around the site before pitching: Where are the toilets? Where might there be morning shade or shelter from the wind? Where might it be noisy? Once you locate a suitable spot, find a flat area to pitch, but try to avoid low-lying areas that might become ponds or rivers if it rains.
9. Don’t eat too late
Try to finish eating and be zipped-up in your tent before it turns cold at night. This stops you and the tent cooling down and also helps to avoid biting insects that are prevalent at dusk. You can always use this extra time ‘under canvas’ to read, relax, play games or discuss ‘tomorrow’s plan’.
10. Stay warm at night
When keeping warm at night, insulation underneath you is just as important as your sleeping bag. An extra duvet or blanket over your airbed or camp bed can make all the difference. Also, try to do something active before you get in your sleeping bag, making that final visit to the shower blocks for example. This will help you get warm before you fall asleep. Finally, thick socks, hats, neck gaiters and thermals all help you to get a cosy night’s sleep, without being uncomfortable to wear.