19 Tips for First-Time Campers
Camping is a wonderfully fun way of getting away from it all, whether you decide to stay in your home country or venture abroad.
But there’s a lot to know if your first camping trip is to be a success, so in this guide, I’m going to share some of my best tips with you to help make sure that your first camping adventure is comfortable, affordable, safe, and memorable … for all the right reasons!
Tip #1 – Go large!
When buying a tent, always go bigger than what you need.
For example, if you’re camping as a couple, instead of getting a two-person tent, get a four-person tent. By its very nature, living in a small tent is cramped, so go large for more space and comfort.
I camp on my own with just my dog and have a four-person tent. It’s still easy enough to put up on my own and if the weather takes a turn for the worst (which it inevitably always does) I don’t feel as though I’ve been crammed into a shoebox!
Tip #2 – Prepare for the night
Even though the summer days are warm, nights can be very chilly, especially if you go camping in the mountains or in a semi-desert environment.
Trust me when I say that not being able to sleep because you’re too cold is not fun and can ruin an otherwise enjoyable trip. So, make sure that you invest in a good quality sleeping bag which is suitable for the time of year in which you are camping.
It’s also important to note that most of the heat is lost through the ground, so having a good insulating mat is also advisable.
Tip #3 – Plan your menu in advance
You can save yourself a lot of hassle and wasted time by planning what you’re going to eat in advance.
Not only does this make your trip more enjoyable, it means that you’re less likely to take too much food and have some spoil, or not take enough food and run out of supplies part way through your trip.
Tip #4 – Layer-up
The weather is unpredictable, especially if you are here in the UK! The temperature can also fluctuate a lot between the early morning, afternoon, and late evening. So, even if the forecast is good for your holiday, always take various layers of clothing.
If you have a selection of base layers, T-shirts, fleece tops, and waterproofs, you can layer-up accordingly. You’ll actually be warmer and more comfortable if you wear multiple lightweight layers than if you wear one thick, heavy sweater.
Tip #5 – Make an itinerary
It’s always better to know in advance what activities you want to do while you’re away camping.
Some things need to be booked in advance, whereas others require certain items of kit that you must take with you.
By all means, allow some flexibility, but don’t leave it until you’re at the campsite to figure out what it is that you want to do!
Tip #6 – Choose your campsite carefully
The campsite that you are on can literally make or break your trip!
Different campsites have different facilities on offer and their rules can also vary regarding dogs, campfires, etc. Some places are suitable for families, whereas others are for adults only. If you have lots of kit, you may want somewhere with larger pitches, and if you want to go hiking straight from your tent, you’ll need a site that’s well-located unless you’re happy to drive to a suitable trailhead.
Most good campsites have a website, so make sure that you research your chosen site thoroughly before you book. Remember, a quick phone call to the site owner is also a good idea if you’re not sure about anything.
Tip #7 – Keep it simple
When you begin camping, you don’t need to spend a fortune on gear and gadgets.
The chances are that you’ll love camping, but you don’t want to spend megabucks on kit that you only use once if you decide that the experience isn’t for you.
Check out eBay and Facebook Marketplace for bargains, and always try to shop for camping gear out of season when it’s usually cheaper.
Tip #8 – Take a torch or battery-operated lantern
This may sound like an obvious tip, but you’ll be surprised at how many people forget to take a decent torch on their first camping trip.
If the campsite you’re staying on doesn’t have lights that come on at night (and most don’t) then once the sun goes down, it’s going to be BLACK and you don’t want to be stumbling around in the dark if you need to make a bathroom trip in the night.
Also, take a few spare batteries just in case.
Tip #9 – Make a list
You’ll need to take a lot of kit with you when you go camping, and it’s extremely frustrating to arrive at your destination only to discover that you forgot your tin opener! So, make a list of everything that you want to take with you, and tick each item off as you pack it.
Divide the list into sections. For example, you might want to make a list of all the cooking and eating utensils you’ll need, clothes, washing gear, etc. Compartmentalizing everything makes it less likely that you’ll forget something.
Tip #10 – Check out social media
Everyone who goes camping had to start somewhere, and you can get lots of great advice, hacks, and tips by checking out various groups on social media.
Here are a few good UK groups that you can join on Facebook:
- Camping People UK
- Caravanning & Camping in the UK
- Cheap Campsites in the UK
- Camping with Children/Family Camping in the UK
Tip #11 – Testing
Be sure to test that all your gear is in working condition before you pack it, especially if you have borrowed kit that’s not been used for a while.
Make sure that electrical items work properly, and check your groundsheet and airbed for punctures and leaks.
Also, if it’s your first time putting up a tent, you may want to practice in our garden first.
Tip #12 – Pack strategically
When you pack, do it so that your tent and your lights are the last things to go into your car. That way, you’ll be able to pitch your tent as soon as you arrive at the site, which can be a godsend if you arrive late.
Basically, you need to pack the non-essential things first and the most important items last.
Tip #13 – Arrive early
Even if you’ve reserved a pitch, always aim to get to the campsite in good time.
Pitching a tent and getting your bearings in the dark is never the easiest task, so always plan to arrive in daylight.
Tip #14 – Prepare your pitch properly
Before putting your tent up, think about which way you want it to face. For example, if the ground has a slight slope to it, you may want to pitch your tent so that you are sleeping with your legs down the slope, rather than your head.
Pitching near a hedge can help shelter the tent from strong winds, as can some trees, however, try not to pitch directly under a tree’s branches as birds may leave lots of white presents on the top of your tent!
Also, don’t forget to check the ground for any divets, stones, and sticks. Not only are they lumpy and uncomfortable to sleep on, but a sharp stick could damage your groundsheet or tent.
Tip #15 – Take a stove for cooking your meals
Although cooking on a campfire is a highlight of any camping trip, you can’t rely on a fire for cooking all your meals.
If you’re a beginner, it can take ages to build a fire, and if the weather turns nasty, you won’t be able to have a fire at all. The safest bet is to bring a small camping stove with you that you use for cooking and save the campfire experience for roasting marshmallows!
Tip #16 – Take spares
Take spare guy lines, tent poles, tent pegs, gas, etc., with you. If something fails during your trip, at least you have a replacement.
Tip #17 – Pack up properly at night
It can be tempting to fall into bed after a long day and a few beers without tidying away properly. But food smells and litter attract insects, foxes, and other nocturnal pests, so always tidy up and put any food waste safely out of harm’s way in a secure container.
Tip #18 – Go solar
If you don’t want to be tied to a pitch that has an electrical hookup, get yourself a cheap solar charger that you can use to keep essential devices, such as your mobile phone fully charged.
Tip #19 – Take essentials
Pack a box of essentials, including duct tape, cable ties, first aid kit, water-purifying tablets or filter, and a penknife. If you plan on cycling or kayaking in an inflatable, take a puncture repair kit!
Camping can be unpredictable and it’s useful to have bits and pieces that can help you in a tight spot.
Camping trips can be a super-fun experience for singles, couples, and families. Use my top tips to prepare yourself perfectly for your first camping excursion, and have a great time!
When you get home from your camping adventure, why not share your experience and any other tips you have with us in the comments box below?
Enjoy the adventure!