After more years of Camping than I care to admit to, I’ve camped in all weathers all over the UK, so I thought I’d share my top 10 tips for new campers.
Our first family camping set up cost under £200 for everything you can see here
1 Don’t spend a fortune on a fancy set up
If you really are sure you want camping to be a regular part of your leisure time, then instead of investing a lot straight away, why not hit eBay for a second hand bargain, or try the supermarkets. Tesco and Asda for example both stock tents in summer – ideal for your first tentative camping trip.
We believe that bigger is better when it comes to family camping!
2 Make sure you buy a bigger tent than you think you’ll need
That 5 man dome tent might have been a bargain, but once you factor in camp beds or air mattresses, you’re unlikely to actually fit 5 people and all their gear inside! It’s always worth choosing a tent that will give you more space, especially if you are car camping and don’t need to worry about weight and carrying it. Living and sleeping on top of each other is no fun at all, and is a sure way of making you feel cranky, so we always opt for a tent that’s bigger than strictly necessary.
We also highly recommend buying a head-height tent (like the great value Decathlon Arpenaz 4+1 family tent), which means you’ll be able to stand up in it – they make life much easier! Finally, remember that you are unlikely to reach full occupancy in a tent unless you are using small/narrow self inflating mats and sleeping squished up together on the floor.
Me shivering in a tent with hot water bottle and wooly hat whilst camping in Autumn
3 Night time in the UK is colder than you think
Even in June and July, the night time temperature outdoors in the UK is pretty cold, and spending a night shivering in a tent is no fun at all. Always pack extra blankets and layers to help keep you warm at night even in the height of summer!
Find lots of tips on how to keep warm when camping.
Solar chargers are ideal for camping
4 Ditch the electrical devices
Camping with an electric hook up (EHU) is expensive, and it also means your pitch choice and campsite options will be limited. Solar chargers are inexpensive and more than capable of powering any essentials like your smartphone. If you are considering taking devices like hair straighteners – get in the sea.
Leave the tablet at home and take the opportunity to have a digital detox.
Even on a good day, weather can change fast!
5 Plan for wind, rain, gale-force winds and more!
let’s not beat around the bush. The weather in the UK sucks. I’m writing this in the middle of July, it’s windy, cold, wet and I’m still wearing my winter boots and tights.
OK so, sometimes we do get lucky and the sun shines and the rain stops falling for a few seconds, but even if the forecast looks good, always take extra layers and waterproofs just in case.
Most of my camping gear has been purchased out of season
6 Buy camping gear and tents more cheaply out of season
Thanks to demand rocketing, tents are always more expensive around the start of the camping season. So whilst June might seem like a great time to buy a new tent or camping gear, prices are generally much higher at this time of year.
I always buy camping gear in winter or early spring. Most stockists will also have a summer sale at the end of the season too, usually around the end of August, which is another great time to pick up a good deal.
Check out Suse’s top 10 comfy camping buys.
Some supermarket camping bargains I’ve picked up
7 Buy the previous years’ model of tent
Tents, like all consumer goods change frequently. Manufacturers release new models, new technology and add new features to their best selling tent models. For this reason, a current model of a tent is always going to command a premium.
My advice? Look for a previous years’ model as you’ll often find them heavily discounted as retailers try to push the new premium stock instead.
Read our guide is a bell tent right for me?
Seen a model you like? Buy it out of season or wait until next year
8 Plan activities and days out in advance
It’s a fact that kidscan get bored, especially if you are planning a digital detox, so you’ll need to make sure you have plenty of ideas for how you and the family can spend your time.
Depending on your kids, some will happily go off and play and amuse themselves for hours on end. If your kids are lacking in the imagination department however and are more used to being constantly attached to a tablet or mobile phone, do some planning and take a variety of boredom busters with you.
A football, kite, paints, craft items, cards, binoculars, board games, scavenger hunts and nature books are all great ways of fending off boredom when camping, without having to rely on technology.
Campsites all have their own unique personality, some are great, some aren’t!
9 Choose your campsite wisely
The campsite you choose will have a big impact on how much you enjoy your first camping trip. Work out how far you want to travel, whether you want countryside or coast, and if you want heaps of facilities (in which case expect the site to be noisy and busy), or whether you want something more laid back with a wild camping feel (in which case you’ll normally comprise on facilities).
We’ve stayed at some fantastic campsites over the years that we keep returning to, we’ve also stayed at some we’d rather wipe from our memory!
See more tips on choosing the perfect campsite.
Kick back relax and enjoy it!
10 Be prepared!
Take a box of essentials. Things like duck tape, cable ties, extra batteries, a pen knife, first aid kit and so on are all incredibly useful to have. When it comes to camping, one of the great things about it is the unpredictability of the experience.
Relax. Whether the gale-force wind makes pitching your tent a Krypton Factor challenge or you’re trying to pack down in torrential rain….just get on with it.
Resilience and a can-do spirit is something that (I think) marks hardcore campers aside from muggles, so whatever happens, just roll with it and don’t let one little mishap spoil your entire trip.
Share your camping tips with us
What tips would you share with a first time camper? Let us know in the comments below!
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