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A Beginner’s Guide to Camping for the First Time

Tempted to try camping for the first time? With the ongoing travel bans and restrictions, it’s looking like the summer of 2021 will be the year of staycations. With campaign and caravanning becoming increasingly popular as a cheaper alternative to hotels and Airbnb. So take this time to get prepared and acquainted with the realities of a camping holiday. I’m here to help you with just that. Here’s my beginner’s guide to camping for the first time. It’ll be full of my top tips for first-time campers, spanning from the types of camping available and how to prepare to the actual setting up of camp and enjoying your trip.

What are the Different Types of Camping?

If you’re a first-time camper, you may not realise that there are many different types of camping out there for you to try. With anything, there are positives and negatives to each type of camping style. And you may find you suit one particular form of camping, where-as your friends prefer another.

Campsite Camping

First up is the traditional, campsite camping. This is where you pay for a pitch on a campsite. You can book individually or book in a larger party of friends and family. Some sites offer just grass pitches, but others will also offer grass pitches with electric hook-ups. When you arrive at camp, you’ll either be given a dedicated pitch, or you’ll be allowed to choose your own. Campsites tend to have communal toilet and shower facilities, as well as a separate area for dishwashing. But be sure to check this with the camp before booking.

Glamping

This form of camping tends to be for those who hate the idea of sleeping in a field on a glorified lilo. The glamping experience is filled with a little more luxury than traditional camping. This can extend from full king-size beds and soft furnishings to bathtubs and decked-out kitchens. There are now lots of sites around the UK that are specifically for glamping and offer Yurts and Teepee’s for people to stay in. Or you may choose to book a company that will assemble and dismantle your glamping accommodations for you.

Wild Camping

Now for the wilder form of camping. Wild camping. This basically means heading out into the wilderness, rucksack filled with the basics and small tent in tow, ready to pitch in the wild. No toilet blocks, cleaning facilities, a complete disconnect from the world. Wild camping etiquette usually suggests that you pitch up late in the day and leave as early as you can the next morning. Taking all mess away with you. But it’s worth noting that wild camping is only legal in Scotland and in areas of Dartmoor National Park. Meaning if you wish to wild camp in England or Wales, for example, you would need to gain the landowner’s permission first.

Festival Camping

And then there is festival camping. Each festival has a different camping vibe, but speaking from experience (hello Reading Festival 2012 and 2016) it can be the best and worst type of camping on offer. Unlike campsites, festival camping is a free for all in terms of pitches. Basically arrive early and squeeze your tent in where you can. If it’s just you and one other person, it may be best to take a smaller tent. But if there’s a large group, try and split the cost and get a larger, better quality tent. The atmosphere is amazing and almost makes up for no showers and smelly toilets.

What Shall I Pack for Camping?

Having the right camping gear is an essential part of a successful camping trip. ¬†And one of the most important top tips for first-time campers. Obviously, the number of supplies vary depending on the duration of the trip and the type of trip you’re embarking on. So if you’re camping for the first time, or haven’t camped in a while, here’s my camping checklist:

  • A tent. There are lots of different brands and sizes available. Aim for a tent slightly bigger than you think you need. Be sure to pack a mallet and spare tent pegs also.
  • Sleeping bag. One for every person who is travelling. Even during the summer, it gets cold at night.
  • An airbed. I own a double-height airbed and it’s changed my camping experience. It keeps us warm as it’s a little higher off the ground, plus it’s sturdy so means a comfy night sleep. You can also opt for a sleeping mat or camp bed.
  • Camping stove. You’ll need this to make your meals during camping. Don’t forget the fuel for it too.
  • Cooking utensils. This will vary depending on how many in your party, but at the minimum, you’ll need cutlery, a cutting knife, something to eat off, mugs and a water bottle, as well as pots and pans.
  • Lighting. Lanterns are great for illuminating your tent during the night and make it feel super cosy too. Pack torches (and extra batteries) as these will come in handy during your night time trip to the toilet.
  • Camping chairs. Trust me, these are important. Sitting on the ground all trip is not fun.
  • Bin bags. Take a few bin liners, so you can keep your tent tidy.
  • Clothes. Be sure to pack clothes for all eventualities. This includes warmer base layers, swimming costumes, sunscreen and hats, rain jackets and sensible shoes for walking in.
  • Coolbox. If you are planning on cooking your own meals when camping, you’ll need somewhere to store fresh ingredients. Get a decent size cool box, as well as some ice packs to keep it extra cool.

With all camping gear, it’s best to do your research before purchasing. Read reviews, ask friends or check out blogs from other camping experts. You need to be sure your kit is up to the terrain and weather you’ll be camping in. It’s also a good idea to pack some things to keep you entertained, especially if you’re unable to explore as much as you want. Books, magazines and a pack of cards and great for passing the time.

Food to Take Camping

As well as the above list, you’ll also need to ensure you pack enough food and drink for your trip. Some campsites may have a shop on-site or one located nearby, but many don’t. The food you take will depend on a few factors, how many people are camping, your diet and your budget. It’s good to try and plan meals ahead of time, making them as simple as possible and preparing anything you can before time. If you can why not cook the whole meal at home before you leave? That way you will only need to reheat the meal once you arrive in camp. If not, check out some great one-pot recipes, they’ll make your life a lot easier when trying to cook on a tiny camp stove. Snacks (such as protein bars, nuts and fruit are ideal to pack too.

Before Your First Camping Trip

There are a few things you should do before your first camping trip. It’ll make the experience a lot more enjoyable and it’s a great habit to get into for future trips too. This list may develop and adjust over time but for this beginners guide to camping, here are my suggestions.

  • Practise pitching your tent. By testing your tent before you go, you’re able to see if there are any missing or damaged parts to your tent. Plus it gives you valuable experience in pitching your tent, hopefully cutting down the pitching time when you arrive at your destination. It took me and Dan hours to pitch and then pack away our first two tents on our practice go. So definitely worth doing.
  • Check the campsite rules. Be sure to check the rules for the campsite(s) that you’ll be visiting. They may have varying rules surrounding cooking equipment, tent seizes and vehicles on site.
  • Get familiar with your gear. Try everything once or twice whilst at home. So try and boil the kettle on your camping stove. Pack your sleeping bag away a few times. Blow up your airbed. You’ll then be able to see that everything is in working order. This way if there are any issues or you don’t have something you can sort it before your trip.
  • Create a camping essentials checklist. By creating a list you’ll be less likely to forget something. It’s a great way to see how much you’re actually packing for your trip. And if it looks too much cull some of the non-essential items.

Can I go Camping Without a Car?

Yes, this is totally doable! I didn’t have a care when I camped in the New Forest and in Folkstone and we got on just fine. If you’re a first-time camper with no car and a reasonably sized tent, you’ll be considered a backpacker to many campsites. For most sites, this means there will always be room for you and you will not need to book ahead. Plus your fee may be slightly reduced too. I discovered this whilst checking in to the Camping in the Forest site at Ashhurst, New Forest. I was informed that any backpackers at any of their sites around the UK would never be turned away. Plus they’ll be charged a backpacker rate per night. Meaning spontaneous camping trips don’t need to cost an arm and a leg.

And there you have it. My beginner’s guide to camping for the first time. I hope, whenever we’re allowed to camp again, it’s helpful. If you liked this post be sure to check out my post on Camping in Folkstone and my Campsite Review of Ashurst Campsite in the New Forest.

Until next time.

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