How to Camp

Camp Site

Camping isn't everyone's cup of tea, all that great outdoors and those communal showers certainly keep some at bay. But if you find yourself agreeing to a camping trip, be it part of a festival or a brave new adventure, a little preparation can go a long way. See our top tips for camping and find out how to stay dry, full and sane!

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    1. PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE. Preparation is key when it comes to camping. There's no use turning up with everything but the kitchen sink as there won't be space to store it, but it's equally useless rocking up without the essentials. Write a checklist and include even the basics. Our top checklist items would include silk sleeping back liners to keep you warm at night, snap lights for a gentle glow in the tent, pocket knife, portable speakers, peg hammer, wellies and, if you're out in the wild, a solar camp shower.

    2. PLAN YOUR MEALS. As well preparing everything you might need for a comfortable, dry night's sleep, you'll need to plan your meals too. Think ahead and create a checklist of ingredients. Try to plan meals around tinned goods, instant soups, and long life packaged items which travel best. It is also possible to bring frozen meat in ice packed coolers. If you're travelling with children, try to plan fun meals such as hot dogs over the fire. Another tip is mini foil parcels: chop and wrap whatever veg you have to hand with a bit of oil in a foil parcel and let it cook gentle over the BBQ. If you're planning to cook all your meals, a trangia stove is invaluable here. It's the orginal and the best, combining light weight, durable design with a convenient package featuring a stove burner, pans, kettle and windshield. Strike anywhere matches (kept in a waterproof bag) will also come as a blessing in damp conditions. Don't forget the can opener and corkscrew!

    3. PLAY THE ENTERTAINER. While kids will find plenty to entertain them in the great outdoors, their faces may well drop on a rainy day. Bring along a few of their favourite games or books to play in the tent, a pack of cards and some portable speakers. Try to be inventive if you're caught out: play guess the celebrity, Pictionary, charades or invite the children to write a diary of their holiday.

    4. PICK THE PERFECT PITCH. You don't want to be to near the toilets, or too far away from a water pump. Never pitch under a tree, but do try to pitch close to a hedgerow that may help buffer the wind. Opt for a flat patch on reasonably high land to avoid flooding in case of bad weather. If you can't find a flat patch, pitch the tent with the door facing down the slope to avoid water trickling in. It's also best to pitch on a moist (not wet) bit of land. If it's stone dry it could turn into a puddle in the event of rain. Clear the land of twigs and stones before you pitch to avoid damage to the tent - and your back!

    5. TACKLE THE TENT EARLY. Try to arrive at the campsite in the morning and leave yourself plenty of time to pitch your tent before dark. Hammer pegs in at 45 degree angles for a sturdy tent and line the base with an insulating foil mat to keep the heat in.

    6. KEEP YOUR CLOTHES DRY. Since nothing worse than soggy socks, make sure you keep all your clothes dry. One idea is to pack each outfit in a separate plastic bag. That way, everything stays dry whatever happens to your backpack, you won't have to empty your whole backpack in order to find something to wear and the plastic bags double up as a laundry sacks to keep your clean and dirty clothes separate. While you're bagging items, you may want to roll up your sleeping bag and pillow and pop them in a bin liner when you wake up. It will keep your bed clothes free from dew during the day.

    7. BE MEAN TO THE MOSSIES. Throw lavender, pine or rosemary on the fire to keep the mosquitoes at bay or try insect repellent candles and spray.

    8. STRIKE UP THE BARBIE. Make sure your campsite allows BBQs or bonfires before lighting up the coal. Check the wind direction - you don't want the smoke flying back into your tent - and make sure meat is cooked through and collected water boiled for at least five minutes before drinking.

    9. BE KIND TO NATURE. Leave your camp site as you hope to find it: clean. Take any litter you can't recycle home with you. During your stay, avoid using chemical washing up liquid and shampoo - when you pour the water away, it might damage the habitat.

    10. DON'T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY. Don't be put off by the level of thought and preparation involved in camping. Once you've done it once, it could well become second nature. Try to take any mishaps and bad weather in your stride - and be inventive if you find you've forgotten an 'essential'. It's surprising how resourceful we can be in an emergency!

Last Updated: July 2010