There is nothing better than sleeping in the great outdoors, under a blanket of stars, cooking in a forest, hiking through mountains, swimming in lakes and leaving your busy day to day life for a trip camping. I grew up camping most summers and was lucky enough to go on a camping road-trip last summer around the Canadian Rockies. So I have a decent amount of experience under my belt when it comes to putting up a tent and how to find the perfect pitch. But it can be quite intimidating if you have not done it before and there is actually quite a lot involved for a successful camping trip… That is why I have put together this Camping for Beginners guide.
Finding a campsite
First things first decide on an area you would like to visit. Check what kind of activities are around you, also what is in the surrounding area should you have any issues e.g a hotel as a back up and also what facilities the campsite offers e.g toilet/showers or perhaps a swimming pool?
Then start your research for good campsites in that area. There are tonnes of campsite finding sites online as well as comparison sites (sites such as Pitch-up, UKCampsite, Campsites, Camping in the forest to name a few). If you have found a campsite through your own research and they have a website you may be able to book with them directly. I would recommend booking your pitch in advance for peak times and busy areas as campsites get booked up quickly and it would be such a disappointment if you just turned up and unable to camp, not to mention the stress of finding somewhere else, especially if you have travelled far.
What you will need
I want to keep this Camping for Beginners guide as simple as possible and don’t want to alarm anyone, but it is surprising at how much you actually need for a camping trip, even for just a one night trip. It also may seem expensive at the beginning as you build your camping kit, but it’s a one off to set you up and then you can have many weekends away for next to nothing. You can also build your camping kit the more you go, I have seen some pretty cool setups over the years from serious campers. But as this is a Camping for Beginners guide I have put together a basic list of all the things you will need for your starter kit.
- Tent – This is an obvious one… You can pick up pretty basic but still decent tents for £30+ I just have a basic 4 man tent which sleeps 2 adults perfectly and has plenty of room for our bags and to move around in. *Tip – The more basic the tent the easier to put up and back down!*
- Air bed – Not a necessity, but I would encourage if you want a decent nights sleep or suffer with bad back (see my recommendations for my choice of airbed).
- Stove/disposable BBQ – Either will do but you can pick up small stoves relatively cheaply and if you want to go on several trips or you are going for more than one night they make for the more economic option. Check whether the stove comes with gas canisters, otherwise you will need to buy some.
- Chairs – Again not an absolute necessity but if you want to improve your comfort for the trip I would recommend – they make a big difference.
- Bedding/Sleeping bags and Pillows – Either a sleeping bag or your own duvet for home comforts if you have the room/option to take that. It does get quite cold at night!
- Table – Something for you to cook on, play uno and hold all your important beers!
- Lights – Something that can easily be forgotten but is a necessity if you want to be able to see after sunset!
- Mallet – This is your best friend when putting up the tent!
- A pan/frying pan or two – Depending on how many of you are going and for how long will depend on how much you will want to cook. We take a wok and sauce pan for the 2 of us and it works just fine.
- Cutlery – Unless you want to eat like the animals around you!?
- Plates – Same as above ^ I would also recommend taking the plastic kind…
- Cups – But no one is judging if you drink straight from the bottle!
- Cool bag/box for food – For a couple of days a large cool bag with ice cubes and ice packs keep all our food as fresh as possible.
- Ice cubes (buy on the morning of trip to keep food cool) – They just help to keep things as fresh as possible – BEWARE they do melt very quickly in the summer heat…
- Bucket – To put other food or drink in with cold water/ice to keep things cold – this is optional and depending on how much food and drink you are taking but a really handy thing to have.
- Washing up equipment (Sponge, liquid and tea-towl) – easily forgotten but you will need to wash up your cutlery, pots and pans etc. to eat again and no one likes a messy campsite! Most campsites have an area for you to wash and dry your things but you will need to bring your own washing up liquid and cloths! Don’t worry too much if you do forget, campers are usually friendly people and someone may offer you some of theirs!
- Games – Arguably the most important item on the list. A camping trip is not a camping trip without swing ball or uno… Make sure you pack enough to keep you occupied.
- Layers – Even in the hot weather, the evenings can get pretty cold.
- Towel and Toiletries
Additional things that you may want…
- Gazebo/shelter – To shade you from the sun or if it rains
- Wind break – To help section off your own space and protect stove from wind
- Electric hook ups – For those who want to go a bit more advanced, if you can’t live without your electricity then this is a possibility. Please note that this does start to increase the price of camping!
There are so many great companies out there that rock the outdoors world, it can be quite daunting to figure out where the best deals and offers are and the stores that offer decent quality. I have put a list together with my personal favourite outdoorsy shops that cover everything from camping for beginners to avid adventurers.
Dominating the outdoors industry since 1998, Go Outdoors are experts in their field. They have an immense range of tents and camping equipment not to mention other outdoorsy equipment! If you have a Go Outdoors card you can pick up some great offers and exclusive discounts.
Another store that has been around for a while, Millets has been one of my ‘go to’ stores for all my camping needs whether that be for a weekend festival or for my hiking trip in Canada. They always have great offers both online and in store. I picked up my holy grail camping item in there a couple of years ago and have been promoting that shop ever since.
This is a new-comer on my list but I’ve recently discovered how amazing value this shop is! Similar to Go Outdoors they cover a wide range of outdoorsy and active equipment. I will be going back there soon to add to my collection, that’s for sure.
Sports Direct are really well priced and have you covered for all your outdoorsy wear. I also picked up a swing ball set through them for only £10 – bargain!
This may be an obvious one for some as you can get pretty much everything including the kitchen sink on Amazon. I would say to shop around and check out the shops I’ve mentioned above before choosing Amazon over ease because I actually found things in those shops much cheaper and better quality compared to Amazon. That’s not to knock Amazon at all… Like I said if you want ease and have Prime then Amazon can be an absolute dream and super handy for any of those last minute panic buy moments.
Something a little less obvious is Poundland. I have been so impressed the last year or so with Poundland’s outdoors products. I picked up lots of our kitchen equipment from Poundland along with some fun outdoorsy games.
My holy grails and top camping products:
Top tips For Camping for Beginners
- Practice pitching your tent at home beforehand to ensure you have all the right bits and make sure it is quick and easy when you go to do the real thing.
- Pack a pair of cheap/old flip flops for the shower block – you will thank me later.
- Make a packing list and shopping list to ensure you have everything you need and you don’t over/under pack.
- Head lights are super handy for inside your tent and midnight toilet runs.
- Use a bucket with cold water to keep food and drink cool.
- Look for a flat area when pitching your tent, ideally an area without lumps, bumps and stones.
- Lock food away securely if you can to avoid being ransacked by animals.
Keep it simple and make sure you have everything mentioned in this camping for beginners guide and you will be set for your first camping trip!