Top Camping tips

If you’re new to camping, the tips on this page are sure to make your camping trip far better!

What to take

There are many different styles of camping, and some of them are extremely minimalist. My focus is heavily flavoured by cycle touring, and hiking. These are activities where you transport all your camping gear, either on your bike, or on your back. When you do that, two things become vital to reduce: bulk and weight.

If you’ll be driving onto a campsite, and pitching your tent right next to your car, the picture obviously changes enormously, but that’s not where my focus will lie.

Tent

Shelter is vital, and that begins with a tent. Unless you’re on an expedition where your survival will depend on your tent, what tent you take doesn’t matter half as much as the salesperson in the outdoors store will try and convince you.

As long as it’s big enough for you (plus anyone else who might share the tent with you) and ideally also your kit, packs up reasonably small, doesn’t weigh too much, has a bug screen and is waterproof, it’s all good.

Sleeping gear

Sleeping mats add comfort, but more importantly, they insulate against ground cold. Unless you’ll be camping in winter, you don’t need a top of the range sleeping mat.

Sleeping bags need no explanation, and are rated as 1 season (summer only, and then really only warm nights), 3 seasons (some usage in late spring, all summer, and early autumn) and finally 4 seasons. The warmer a sleeping bag is, the bulkier it is.

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This starts with cutlery – eating is tricky without it. Some people use only a spork, but I use a full cutlery set. You also need something to eat out of – I use a collapsible bowl.

If you’ll be cooking, you need 3 things: a source of heat, something to cook food in, and a water container. Camp fires seem very idyllic, but are usually very impractical and destructive. Only ever make a camp fire on a camp site that permits it, and never when wild camping. Far better is a gas stove (except in very cold weather, when a multi-fuel stove will be better). Gas stoves are quick and efficient, and can be very small.

The size of what you cook in depends on how many people you’ll be cooking for. I have a small set that consists of two pots (one can be used as a mug) and the gas cannister for my stove is stored inside, when not in use.

Don’t underestimate how much water you’ll need. When wild camping – as I prefer to do – water rapidly becomes an issue, as you can only carry so much on you, or on your bike. To overcome this, I rely on a water filter.

Power

We live in the Digital Age, and almost everyone takes at least a phone along when going camping. The moment you start taking gadgets along, you have a need to keep them charged. The easiest way is to simply take a hefty power bank along.

In addition to phones, you will want lights, for when it gets dark. A decent Cree T6 LED rechargeable torch will give you hours of light. Torches aren’t particularly good for lighting a campsite though – they throw a targeted beam, not a floodlight. If you have a transparent water bottle, simply place the torch tight against it, and let the water diffuse the light – instant ambient lighting!

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Where to set up camp

Flat

This varies greatly – are you wild camping, or camping on a camp site? Regardless, some important factors remain constant, and that begins with finding somewhere flat to pitch your tent.

If you’re forced to camp on a slope, you will slide down during the night. However, if you put some of your kit under the downward half of your sleeping mat, you can create a hollow in which to sleep. Remember, the downhill/uphill must be to your left or right. Your head and feet should be level.

If it’s impossible to find somewhere to keep your head and feet level, ensure your feet are on the downhill side, and again try to prop up the bottom of your sleeping mat, by placing kit underneath it. This may stop you sliding downhill.

Water

Before you pitch your tent, look carefully at the ground. You’re looking for signs of past flooding. Try and avoid pitching the tent in the gully between two slopes. At all times, ask yourself this: If it started raining heavily now, where will that water flow? The last place you want the water to go is right through your tent!

Out of sight

On a proper camp site, there’s no need to hide away, but when wild camping, usually it’s best to prefer spots that are more out of sight. If nobody knows you’re there, then nobody will bug you.

Emergencies

In a perfect world, nothing ever goes wrong. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, and the 5 Ps apply: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

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Especially when going camping alone, consider telling someone where you’ll be going, and when you expect to be back. Once at your camp site, consider sharing your location with someone, so if something did go wrong, it will be far easier to find you.

ALWAYS take more food than you think you will need! If you badly twisted your ankle, somewhere out on Dartmoor, where you have no phone signal, you don’t want to add starvation to your list of woes!

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