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A Beginner’s Guide to Camping

Camping can be a cheaper way to go on holiday but it’s also a lot of fun. You’ll wake up to lovely views and plenty of fresh air and fall asleep under the stars.

In the evening, you won’t be cooped up in a small hotel room, you may be sat around a campfire or laughing with friends and family with a drink in hand and watching the sun set. In this guide, I cover the basics of camping and everything you will need to make it a camping holiday to remember for all the right reasons.

Picking a tent

There’s a lot of tents out there but picking the one that works for you is essential. Whether you’re camping by yourself, as a couple, with a big group – you will want to pick the tent that suits the holiday you want.

I personally would avoid picking up the first tent you see in a supermarket’s seasonal aisle as these are often cheap and cheerful and more suited for festival camping.

If you’re travelling solo or as a couple and want to wild camp or camp at a site cheaply, you’ll want to go for a small one man or two man tent. The bigger your tent, the more the pitch will cost you. Some pitches are non-electric which lowers the price too.

If you’re looking for more comfort or on a family holiday, I recommend getting a tent that fits more people than who is going. For example, if you’re a family of four, I’d recommend getting a six man tent. You don’t want to be packed in like sardines – and the extra space can be used for storing clothes and food.

Are you going somewhere that’s always blue skies? You won’t need to worry about buying a tent that can withstand a lot of rain however if you’re planning to go somewhere in the UK you’ll want a tent that won’t wilt at the first sign of moisture. All tents come with a water resistant rating, make sure this suits the climate you’re going to and the season! Once you buy a tent, after many uses, if you find the tent is absorbing water rather than it pouring off, you’ll need to reproof the tent. This is easy to do, all you need to buy is reproofing spray.

The first tent I bought didn’t have a groundsheet sewn in, meaning that it had to be connected – this was easy to do but I found that the tent was a lot colder because air and sometimes rain found its way in. Now I have a tent with a groundsheet sewn in, I wouldn’t go back to what I had before.

White and blue camping tent with two chairs outside
My first tent! Used a tarp at the front to give us more shelter

I recommend visiting Go Outdoors, Decathlon or any outdoor shop and having a look at the tents in store before buying. You’ll get a better idea of the size of tent and whether it’s something you think you could spend a weekend or week in!

Have a trial run

With your new tent, find a campsite not too far from home or spend a night camping in the garden to try it out. You’ll be able to pitch the tent without the added stress of being far from home and if you decide that camping isn’t for you it’s no big loss!

With your trial run you will be able to see if there’s anything you wished you had brought and let you see if the tent you bought lives up to your expectations.

Find a campsite

There are lots of campsites to choose from but it really depends what kind of holiday you are looking for. If location and scenery are important to you, you will want to find a campsite that has that forest feeling. Many campsites will have onsite facilities, good to double check what these are if you’re looking for something to entertain little ones. I’ve been to a campsite with a chippy before!

Pitchup.com is a great website for finding campsites. The Camping and Caravanning Club have sites across the UK, if you’re a member you can get a discount when staying on their sites. I’m not a member of this but if you find yourself coming back to one of their campsites a lot it might be worth joining.

Campsites I recommend:

  • Camping in the Forest, Cobleland and Glenmore campsite – Camping in the Forest feels like a nice middle ground between holiday park and wild camping. I enjoy these campsites as they have beautiful scenery. The Glenmore campsite has a beach and on site pub!
  • Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping – this is a big park with a restaurant and bar. From our pitch we had a lovely view of Ben Nevis and at night, we could see some of the climbers who had set up camp on Ben Nevis. They have an open field electric pitch which means you get to pick your own spot.
  • Luss campsite – lovely views!
Glenmore beach
Glenmore campsite – there’s lots of walks and a beach!

Camping essentials

Obviously the tent is a big essential here but apart from that here are a list of things I recommend taking. When you’re packing for a camping trip, I try to put as much as I can into plastic boxes as it means things won’t roll around the boot and I can use it as a place to store food when everything is unpacked.

Sleeping bag and/or a duvet and pillows – Sleeping bags are good for keeping you cosy but I often found I needed another layer as I wriggle around in my sleep. If you’re quite tall, I would recommend getting a sleeping bag with extra room as I often found my feet felt like they were about to poke out the end! I take pillows from my bed – probably helps me sleep better at night too.

Camping bed – I originally started out camping with a blow up bed but after a day of travelling then putting a tent up, having to blow up a bed was the last thing I wanted to do. Plus the pump I had for it made this loud squeak – not ideal if you end up getting to a campsite late! If you do take an airbed, buy a couple of sleeping mats to put under to help keep the bed dry from the ground below.

Camping chairs – take a few folding chairs so you can sit outside your tent and enjoy the hopefully nice weather. If you’re going out for the day, they can be packed up easily and put into the car so you’ll always have somewhere to sit.

Lantern or small lights – I take a big wind up lantern that gives the tent a good light in the evening. I also have a few camping lamps from Decathlon that I can attach to the inside of my tent in each of the ‘rooms’. This is nice if it’s dark and you want to read a book in bed.

Torches – I pack a few torches, enough for everyone going. It’s handy to have for night-time walks to the toilet block. I also like to have a windup torch in case the batteries go dead in my other torches.

Midgie spray – an absolute essential in Scotland! In the evenings, you’ll want to lather this on to avoid those pesky midgies.

Sun cream, first aid kit, hand gel, any medication you take

Tent mallet and extra pegs – a mallet makes it easier to get pegs into the ground, especially on ground that’s tough.

Camping optionals

Electric hook up – this isn’t essential but for some it may be! If you want to have electricity, you will need to get a mains kit. Take along an extension lead too so you can charge a few things at once – just make sure you don’t overload it. When you leave the tent for the day, remember to unplug the mains!

Solar lights – I like to put solar lights around the tent so that at night, it’s easier to spot which tent is yours and also because I like lights!

Heater – even in the summer months, Scotland can still be quite cool especially during the night. I take a small heater that I place on top of a little table and makes my camping experience a lot cosier. This heater that I use, will cut out if it falls over which is a great safety feature.

Hot water bottles

Tent carpet – some tents may come with a carpet. It’s a nice extra which makes the tent warmer and comfier to sit on.

Foldable table – if you’re going to be cooking, it’s nice to have a table to sit and eat outside.

Small foldable table – I bought a tiny table in Decathlon which I put a lantern on during the evening to give the tent a nice light. It’s also somewhere I can put my hair straighteners and mirror in the morning and can also be used as a little table for card games or drawing. It’s nice and compact so it doesn’t get in the way.

Gazebo or tarp – a gazebo can be useful if it’s rainy and you’re camping with others in separate tents as it’s a place you can all sit together. A tarp is smaller but you can make a porch for your tent with it, where you can keep your shoes dry without traipsing them into the tent. Some campsites will charge extra for gazebos.

Windbreaker – this can add privacy to your space and as the name says, help give shelter from the wind!

Camping stove and gas – if you’re going for a week away and don’t want to be eating at restaurants every night, you’ll need a camping stove and plenty of gas. I recommend the Campingaz range – you can even get a camping rotisserie!

Cutlery, cups plates and cooking utensils – outdoor plastic plates and cups are easy to store in a picnic bag – some people like to buy a set of cheap cutlery to use for camping only rather than taking plastic cutlery which might not cut into food so well.

Electric coolbox – keep food cold if you’re cooking so it doesn’t spoil.

Kettle

Plastic bags – to help keep your tent tidy.

Slip on shoes – I like to take a pair of cheap shoes that I can chuck on quickly for when I wake up in the morning and really need to use the toilet!

Small brush and pan set – I recommend this for sweeping up any mess that may get into your tent. It’s handy for tidying the tent when you’re packing it away so the next time you unpack it you don’t get any nasty surprises.

It might seem like you need to take a lot camping but you only need to take what you think you’ll need. Some people like to camp minimally whereas others (like me!) like to take everything but the kitchen sink – it’s totally up to you!

Reasons I love camping

I didn’t think I was going to enjoy camping as much as I do, I went on a camping weekend to see if I liked it and from there, I’ve been to numerous campsites across the UK.

  • I feel like camping allows you an atmosphere you wouldn’t get from any other holiday.
  • Plenty of outdoor space to sit at night and relax, not confined to a small room.
  • On some campsites, you can have campfires.
  • Despite the initial cost of a tent and some equipment – camping is much more affordable than staying in a caravan or hotel.
  • Seeing the stars at night.
  • Feeling all cosy at night wrapped up in blankets.
  • When you go exploring, you don’t need to pack anything up – you can leave it in your tent.

I hope you found this guide useful, let me know in the comments if there’s anything else you’d like to know about camping!

Green camping tent with trees behind it

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