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Beginners Guide to Camping

Camping is more popular than ever, with more and more people choosing a 'staycation' holiday here in the UK.  With the right camping equipment, you can holiday at a low cost with friends and family for years to come.

If you are new to camping, this guide will direct you to all the knowledge you need to purchase your camping gear and have a successful first trip away. 

What are the different types of camping?

It's always wise before purchasing anything, to have a think about the type of camping you want to have a go at, as different forms of camping will require or even allow certain types of equipment. Below is a brief overview of some of the most popular types of camping in the UK and what makes them unique. 

Campsite Camping

By far the most popular choice with GO Outdoors customers. This type of camping includes any camper that has paid for a pitch on a campsite for a period of time, ranging from groups of friends, to couples, through to large families. A dedicated pitch means that you will have your own space and be surrounded by other holidaymakers, and you're usually able to park up next to your tent. Make sure you check the rules of your chosen campsite before your trip as some sites will be specific on the size of the tent you can bring, not to mention many family campsites won't allowed single sex groups.

Campsites will often have on-site facilities such as wash rooms, showers and toilets, with some more family orientated campsites having playgrounds, and entertainment to keep the kiddies occupied. 

Festival Camping

Festival camps come in different shapes and sizes and are often not split into specific pitches (so it usually comes down to where you can fit your tent, best to arrive early). One thing most festivals will have in common is that you've got to get all your festival gear from a car park to the campsite (depending on the festival, this can be quite some distance). Festival campers will sometimes opt for the cheaper, smaller options in tents and camp alone or with a friend. As a tip, It's worth considering the size of your festival group and looking into whether a large tent with a living area is worth splitting the cost, this could mean you get a better quality tent for less money. 

Festivals each have their own rules when it comes to the size of tents you are allowed to pitch, or the type of cooking equipment you are allowed to use on site (many festivals now do not allow gas for example). It's worth checking with your chosen festival's website to make sure that your gear adheres to these rules, or it will likely be confiscated. 

Wild Camping

Wild camping is the idea of heading out camping, only taking with you what you can comfortably carry in your rucksack and pitching your tent on a non-sanctioned campsite. Wild camping is only LEGAL in Scotland and certain areas of Dartmoor National Park. If you wish to wild camp anywhere else, you are urged to seek the permission of the land owner.

Wild campers look for lightweight gear and take the bare essentials. If you can't carry it, you don't need it. 


Glamping can be quite divisive, camping purists may deem anybody who takes electric or mod-cons with them as 'glampers', however we like to think of glamping as the luxurious side of camping. Glamping can include booking into pre-pitched sites, or the growing number of Yurt and Teepee sites that are cropping up around the UK.

Glamping is a good idea for those of you who may not like the idea of 'roughing' it in your own tent, and like a little more luxury from your holidays.

What size tent will I need?

Tent berths (2 man tent, 4 person tent etc) are based around how many people the tent can realistically hold WITHOUT any luggage. When choosing your tent, it's best to take into consideration:

  • How many people are camping (4 people will be comfortable in a 6 berth tent etc)
  • How much kit are you taking
  • How many bedrooms do you need (for larger groups)
  • Does your campsite of choice have any size limitations (some sites may charge for two pitches for the largest tents)
Most of the GO outdoors range of tents are pitched at our stores around the country (Note: not all tents can be pitched, the full range is always available online). Not all tents of a similar berth are the same size, so it's worth popping down to your local GO Outdoors to really get a feel for exactly how big a tent is.

For more information, visit out tent buying guide on the link below.

Tent Buying Guide

What do I need to take camping?

If you are new to camping, it's worth getting a hold of the bare essentials (or borrowing from others if possible). If you find that you enjoy camping, then over time you will be able to build up your kit and create a home away from home.

Each type of camping involves different kit, and every camper is different in what they consider to be a necessity. We cover a comfortable camping checklist for families/groups over on our checklist guide on the link below.

Camping Checklist

We recommend taking our checklist as a starting point and adding/removing to fit your needs. A checklist is a great way to start your shopping trip, it's also a good thing to use when packing your gear for your first camping holiday to make sure you remember everything that you need.

Before your first camping trip

There are a few things worth remembering before you take your first trip away in your new tent.

  • Check your gear - We aim to supply the best possible camping equipment, however sometimes faults can occur during manufacturing. It's worth checking all the gear you buy to make sure it's ready for use when you get to the campsite. If you find any issues, bring the item back and we'll be happy to help where possible, it's easier to correct these issues before your trip than when you reach your destination. 

  • Pitch your tent - Pitching your tent at home or on a local field will give you an idea of any faults that need addressing, it will also give you valuable practice at pitching. 

  • Make a list - We hear stories all the time of people forgetting items, whether it be tent poles or something as simple as a tin opener. Making a list of all the gear you plan to take gives you something to check off as you pack your bag or car.

  • Check the rules - Whether you're going to a campsite, a festival or wild camping, do make sure you check any relevant rules to your stay to make sure all your kit is compliant. 

Cooking outdoors

Cooking outdoors is one of the most fun aspects of camping. Whether you choose to live off the barbecue, cook up a feast on a double burner camping stove, or keep it simple with a tiny backpacking stove, there are plenty of options for what to cook and how to cook it while out camping.

The internet is full of fantastic simple meals that you can cook while camping (Why not check out our FREE Camping Recipe Cookbook). Before you go on the hunt for these, it's always worth noting that you're using your cooking equipment correctly and safely. Knowledge such as the right kind of gas, and where you can and probably shouldn't cook can save your life. So make sure you take a look at our cooking outdoors guide below:

Guide to Cooking Outdoors

Helpful tips from fellow campers

The best thing about the world of camping, is that somebody is always willing to help out. Our Facebook and Twitter pages are chocked full of passionate campers, always willing to lend some advice when somebody needs it. So we asked them to leave us a few tips that they wish somebody had told them before their first time camping:

  • "Pitch your tent in your garden beforehand to make sure it's all there and you know how to do it. Also, take photos of how it came out of the bag for reference so it'll go back in again." - Ric
  • "I always make a list of the things required, and tick it off as it goes in the car. It's just too annoying to forget something." - Rob G
  • "Check you equipment before your first trip!" - Adam
  • "Have a trial run. Better to bicker in your back garden than in the middle of a campsite in front of 100s of families. We've all been there." - Laura
  • "Take spare pegs and invest in hard ground pegs" - Bex
  • "Consider a site with good facilities for first camping experiences. Also an electric hook up can be useful and should not be viewed as 'glamping'." - Hannah
  • "Take loads of plastic bags for wet clothes, wet shoes, rubbish" - Clair
  • "Freeze the milk in summer for your cool box." - Lisa
  • "Remember to bring a tin opener" - Frank
  • "On undulating ground never pitch your tent in a dip as this will be first place pools of water will form if it rains." - David
  • "Make a home cooked curry, chilli,spag ball so once youve set up camp a re heat meal so you can just sit and relax after" - Ola
  • "If taking kids, plenty for them to do.... From colouring in, magazines, sticker books, DVDs, for in the tent as well as outside... Footballs, tennis, cycling etc" - Nikki
  • "Gaffer tape! Always take this. I've repaired tent flysheets, splinted broken poles, mended cooking utensils with this stuff!" - Marie
  • "Make sure you pack a dustpan and brush and kitchen roll to try and put your tent down dry and clean ready for the next time. Too much hassle to hang it over the line when you get home!!!" - Alex H
  • "Enjoy yourself. Rain or shine. It's an adventure!!!" - Rob D

DO remember that all campers are different and that while tips can help out, they may not apply to what makes your trip as enjoyable as possible. Prepare for a lot of trial and error, as with anything - practice makes perfect.

How to care for your tent

If correctly looked after, your tent will last for many trips. Caring for your tent means ensuring it is packed away clean and dry. Prolonging the life of your tent may also include having reproof it to ensure it remains waterproof.

This information and more can be found in our guide to caring for your tent, below:

How to Care for Your Tent