Top Ten Camping Tips
Camping is a great way to get out and about, whether in the UK or abroad. It's usually cheap and can help you see bits of the countryside you'd normally miss in hotels or B&Bs...sunsets over lakes or mountains, stuff like that. I love camping, and actively avoid hotels on holiday if I can, but sleeping in a tent can be an unpleasant experience at times, and an uncomfortable night in a tent seems to last forever.
Here's a few select tips from my experiences to help you get the most of your camping adventure, in no particular order of course.
1) Always make sure you've got all your tent
I intended to camp while on a diving trip to save money, but packed at 04:00 in the morning. When I got to the campsite after a 10hr drive and some dives I found I'd left the tent poles at home. An uncomfortable night in the back-seat of a Golf followed, then B&Bs for the rest of the week. Much like leaving your passport at home when off on holiday.
2) Try to pitch in daylight
Sometimes night pitching is your only option, but lack of decent light can have you pitching on animal mess, sharp sticks and stones, across footpaths or in a field of bulls, which makes for an entertaining wake up call. When in the backcountry, know when the sun sets and aim to stop for the day at least 30mins before usable light fades. Big tents can also be a complete pain to erect in darkness, it'll save you some money in the swear-box!
3) Take a roll mat
You lose a surprising amount of body heat through the floor, plus solid ground tends to get uncomfortable after a while. Take a roll-mat to make the experience more enjoyable. If you can, a self-inflating mattress like a Therm-a-Rest or Gelert Expedition mat will keep you a lot warmer and protect from bumpy floors. If car camping an air-bed is great, but don't forget to bring a pump.
4) Be aware of your surroundings
When camping I once pitched 20m away from a sedate stream, to awake in the morning to find a raging river 10cm from my tent, which to be honest, scared the hell out of me...similarly, don't pitch at the bottom of a cliff unless you enjoy the fear of boulders squashing you at night. Even in camp-sites you should be aware of where you are, try not to pitch next to the toilet block if it's at all possible!
Know the local laws regarding wild camping (if you're wild camping of course). They vary from country to country across Europe, and although you're unlikely to end up with a criminal record, it can lead to confrontations with landowners if you're discovered.
5) Check before lighting fires
Fires and camping seem to be perfect partners, but unfortunately there are often campsite regulations or even laws which prevent you from lighting open fires. Make sure you've checked whether you're allowed before you try it. Best case you'll get a slap on the wrist, worst case you'll start a peat fire in an area of outstanding natural beauty!
6) Don't forget a torch
Sounds obvious, but camping involves being outdoors at night. The outdoors contains stones, holes, guy-lines and other mess that you want to avoid. A small head torch like the Petzl Tikka 2 provides enough light for night-times strolls around the camp-site, and will also serve to help you cook, read or whatever else it is you want to do when the sun's gone down. Most tents have pockets around the head and foot areas, I find leaving the torch in these ideal for emergency night-time trips.
7) Be considerate to other campers
Half the fun of summer camping is relaxing outside with friends and family, but drunken rampages and vocal frisbee games at 01:00 will not earn you much respect from other campers nearby, or could find you ejected from the site. You'd be complaining situations reversed. The same goes for littering or allowing dogs to urinate on other people's tents...it's not nice, don't do it!
8) Take a deck of cards
Whether family camping, or backcountry trekking, there are times when you're going to be tent-bound, whether through rain or darkness. Take some entertainment! A deck of cards usually provides my partner and I something to do before bed, but travel chess, scrabble or even sudoku are all fun distractions from the inside of your tent walls.
9) Insect repellent
Summer camping and small insects go hand in hand. Always take some insect repellent or you'll be hiding inside your tent from dusk to dawn! For normal UK conditions a natural, or 20% DEET solution should be fine. For Scotland or wetlands camping you may want to up that to 50% DEET. Try to take some long sleeve tops for the evenings as well if midges are likely to be a problem. Take some insect bite relief as well, it's pretty much inevitable that one of them will get you sooner or later.
10) Remember where you pitched
Whether you're in a camp-site, or wild camping, you may end up away from your tent for a trek to the pub, or the nearest hill...make sure you remember a) where you left your tent and b) what it looks like. Little is more embarrassing than attempting to enter someone else's tent, or spending an hour wandering around aimlessly.
11) Take a camera
Whether in the wilderness, or with friends and family, camping will provide a tonne of photo opportunities to help you savour the memories. Make sure to turn it off to save batteries, or take film (if you can still buy film cameras of course).