We remember the first time we went camping. We rocked up at the campsite with a starter tent (looking back now it could have actually been a child’s play tent). It was £30 from Asda and that included two paper thin sleeping bags!). Having never camped before we didn’t really know what we needed to pack to ensure we had an enjoyable, comfortable and most importantly, dry camping experience. But we thought for a mere £30 we had it covered. Needless to say – we were wrong. We were also cold, uncomfortable and damp throughout the duration of our trip, which was nine whole (horrendous) hours. As soon as it was acceptable to start making a bit of noise (which is basically as soon as the sun rises on a campsite) we packed up and headed home as fast as we could, vowing never to camp again.
That was nearly a decade ago. We’ll admit it took us a while to break that vow, but break it we did. And when we did we ensured we did more research regarding what we needed for our trip. We ensured we invested in some good quality equipment ensuring we lasted longer than the previous nine hours. Some campers have everything but the kitchen sink (some even have that) and if you’re planning on a long camping trip or becoming regular campers – go for it. You really can make your tent a home from home. However, there really is no need to invest a fortune simply to use it once/twice a year. Also, when packing for a camping trip, space may be limited in your car/backpack etc. Therefore, we have put together this guide for newbie campers listing the camping essentials you will need for your first camping adventure.
Of course, when camping you need a tent, that’s a given. However, picking a tent is like picking a car – you want it to be reliable and get some bang for your buck. You need to weigh up how often and for how long you plan to camp. If you’re heading to a music festival, the £30 tent as mentioned above is more than adequate. The likelihood is you won’t spend much time in it and when you do it’ll only be to sleep (possibly in a drunken stupor). Also, tents are often damaged (sometimes on purpose). Therefore you don’t want to spend a lot on something you may not bring home.
If you plan on camping becoming a regular occurrence then splashing a bit of cash on a good quality tent is a must. If you invest in a high end tent the likelihood is you won’t have to replace it as often (or ever). A good strong floor is vital and also a double skin (inner mesh layer) to stop the bugs from getting in. The more expensive tents are often warmer and better at keeping the elements out. Depending on where and when you are camping, this could be a big factor when deciding which tent to opt for.
Regardless of the cost of your tent, we would always recommend getting a bigger than necessary one (if your budget permits). This is because tents can be ‘cosy’. Therefore go up a man size to allow for bags etc. Also choosing a tent with a porch for muddy boots and wet clothes will save your living space from getting dirty/damp. If travelling with kids (or as a large group) a tent with cabins (or pods) is a good idea to ensure a bit of privacy and personal space.
If comfort is key then it’s vital you and your camping companions invest in camping mats. Sleeping in a tent can be tough, especially if you are a light sleeper to start with. Therefore, we advise adding equipment to your kit that will help enable a good night’s sleep. Investing in a camping mat will give an extra and padded layer between you and the ground. They will assist in retaining body heat (as a lot can be lost through the ground). They also reduce the likelihood of getting a bad back from the cold, hard ground.
As with everything when it comes to camping, you can spend as little or as much as you want (or can afford) on a mat. Again, the likelihood is that the more you spend the more comfortable the mat will be. Even if you are putting your camping kit together on a budget a camping mat is doable. In fact, you can pick up a basic one for less than £10. If you are travelling with a partner you should also check out double camping mats which may be more cost effective then buying two single ones.
Sleeping Bag & Pillows
Even if camping in the middle of summer, nights spent in a tent can be cold. Therefore, ensure you have a good quality sleeping bag. You want to ensure that you are comfortable and warm to enable a great night’s sleep. It is important to compare sleeping bags to make sure that you pick the right one for you. If you are hiking with your camping equipment, it’s recommended you opt for a lightweight one. You will also need to think about the shape, size, filling and rating of the sleeping bag you want and whether you want it to have a hood. If you are camping with your partner you may want to consider a double sleeping bag as opposed to two single sleeping bags. Again this could save you money.
When it comes to pillows, camping pillows are usually smaller and flatter than an average pillow. This makes them great if you are trying to pack light for your camping adventure. However, they are not very comfortable. Therefore, maybe you should consider taking your own familiar pillow from your bed at home? This could, in turn, help you sleep better. It is also advisable to pack a blanket or two. These will come in handy just in case you need an extra layer if you are caught in a cold spell.
At least one torch is vital when putting together your essential camping kit. Even in the height of summer when it doesn’t get dark until late, you may still need to pay a visit to the loo in the middle of the night. Depending on where your pitch is on the campsite, this may mean you have quite a walk to the toilet block. With a potentially dangerous assault course of numerous tents and guy ropes to navigate having a torch to illuminate your way will make it an easier task.
We would also recommend investing in a lantern for your tent for after dark. Most, if not all tents have a hook that you can attach your lantern too, therefore leaving your hands free. This then means you can move around your tent without having to balance a torch at the same time. The lantern can, of course, be used outside of your tent too. Especially if you want to sit and enjoy a drink and late night camping snack under the stars. Just remember to pack to extra batteries or failing that invest in a wind-up lantern which will save you money in the long run.
Travel Stove (& Accessories)
If you are planning on cooking while you are camping and not heading to the local pub for breakfast, lunch and dinner then a travel stove is a must. Travel stoves are reasonably priced but in our opinion are worth their weight in gold. If you’re like us you need your morning cuppa to get you going. Therefore, along with your stove don’t forget a camp kettle and cups too. If the camping stove you opt for is gas powered (the likelihood is it will be) remember to check the gas levels before you leave home and take a spare canister with you if necessary.
Other things you will need to ensure that you can cook up a storm while camping and enjoy it include kitchen utensils, pots and pans, crockery and cutlery. You can buy travel versions of everything you could possibly need. They are usually lighter and easier to pack. This saves you the hassle of having to bring the contents of your kitchen from home. You may need to pack food to take with you too if there isn’t a shop on site or a supermarket en route.
In reality, you can sit on the ground. However, as mentioned before the ground can be hard. Especially during the summer months and cold regardless of the time of year, especially at night. Therefore if you are putting together your camping kit together on a budget you could leave camping chairs out of it. However, for us (and our bottoms) we think they are essentials. You can pick them up for a reasonable price (less than £10) or you can splurge and pay in excess of £100 each. It really does depend on what level of comfort you want while you are camping. Chairs with drink holders in the arms are great too in order to reduce spillages.
Again, may seem obvious, however, a range of clothes is essential. When we first went camping we took very little (PJs and a change of clothes for the next day). We were very lucky it didn’t rain or was particularly cold at night. Therefore, we recommend putting together a clothes bale which contains something to wear (and spares) for every weather eventuality. This includes waterproofs, thermals, sunhat etc. There is nothing worse than being wet and/or cold (or sunburnt – Vicky’s been there) when camping. It really does make the experience miserable when it really should be a great adventure.
When camping the only things you have available to you are the things that you take. Therefore, anything you need (or think you will need for your camping trip – pack it/them). This is everything from your daily medication, your child’s favourite teddy bear if travelling with kids to your regular deodorant. There are no cute little complimentary toiletries in the shower blocks. Therefore pack your toiletry bag with all the things you use. Or why not pack a separate bag for your camping adventure(s) with travel versions of your toiletries? This will save you a lot of space in your bag.
Are you a camper? Do you remember your first camping adventure? I hope it wasn’t as terrible as ours. Is there an essential that you think we have missed and should be added to our Essentials For Your First Camping Adventure list? Let us know. If you are about to embark on your first camping adventure we hope this list helps, good luck and enjoy!
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