Hugh’s best camping tips
I first shared my best camping tips a few years ago. This was soon after I opened campsites at Wild Boar Wood and Beech Estate. It’s been one of the most popular articles on our website ever since. I’ve had a lot of feedback on it and I’ve also picked up a few new tricks from camping friends and customers over the years, so I thought it was time to re-visit and update it. I’ve read some really worthwhile articles giving great camping tips and sensible advice on how to avoid many of the camping pitfalls, as well as clever shortcuts and common sense ideas – so some of these are included too. It’s not meant to be the hard and fast ‘rules of camping’ – just a few of the things I’ve learned along the way, which you may find useful too. Here’s the original article with a few updates!
Tricks of the trade
There was an interesting post placed by a new camper on a page I set up on Google+. A camper due to go camping in the UK for the first time was asking for some advice and tips before he headed out on his camping adventure. I’m not necessarily a camping guru, but over the years running The Secret Campsites’ two campsites at Wild Boar Wood and Beech Estate (formerly Eco Camp UK), I’ve learned a few tricks of the camping trade. So I thought about some handy camping tips and advice I had picked up along the way.
This list is by no means definitive, some of the camping advice will be obvious to regular campsite visitors and veteran campers. But here are some of the better camping advice and tips I’ve been given. Please feel free to email us any ideas you have and we can include your best camping tips and advice in my next update as well.
Camping tips on tents
Personally, I’m a big bell tent fan, but if I want shoot off quickly I pack my three man tent and go.
- My big camping tip when it comes to tents is always arrive during daylight if you are putting it up the first time.
- Always check the ground around which you will be popping your tent up on for lose stones, old tent pegs and sharp objects. A rock pressing into your back whilst trying to sleep will be a real annoyance.
- Take five minutes more setting it up and when the hurricane hits at 3am, you won’t be crawling around getting soaked trying to stop it blowing over.
- Extra tent pegs are always handy – the ones supplied with you tent may not be the best – so think about buying some heavy duty ones to replace them! A rubber mallet is also useful for banging them in and, if you have space in the car, you can now get peg sets with a removal tool that twists pegs out easily.
- Always pack your tent back away properly or you may regret it on your next camping trip.
- Microfibre cloths (or similar) are handy for wiping down the inside of a tent with condensation or the outside of a tent after rain
- Always dry your tent out: tie it outside your flat window, put it in the garden, sling it over your car. Do whatever you can to get it dry – a wet tent will stink next year when you get it out.
|Check out our tips on how to store a bell tent|
What to pack for your camping trip – the basics
- Camp box – a big camping tip is to create a separate camp storage box. Have this packed with your utensils, matches, torches, spare batteries, suncream, toilet paper, insect spray, spare pegs, tomato sauce, coffee, tea bags, cling film, foil, long life food stuff, spices, oil etc etc etc. Then all you need to do is throw it in the car and chuck in the sleeping bags, tent and beds and you’re almost ready. Stop at a farm shop on the way and you have your dinner. If you take out the hassle and the hours of preparation, you will camp more often.
- Camp chairs – more important than the tent. Sitting on the ground gets boring very quickly – especially if like me you enjoy watching Fire TV and putting the world to rights!
- Great sleeping bag – in the UK it gets very chilly some nights, so a good quality sleeping bag can make the difference between a great camping experience or a disaster. Also pays to take an extra blanket!
- Good camp bed or mat – Get off the cold ground and get comfortable. I favour the half foam/half inflating camping mat. They are self inflating and if they do go down you still have a layer of foam left to cushion you from the ground and the cold.
- Camping airbeds – A top piece of camping advice to get a good air-bed if you are going to use one. I’m not a great fan of cheap camping air-beds, so unless you’ve got a quality one – which can be great and generally then needs an electric pump – be warned you can end up sleeping on the tent floor on some hard pitches. If you need to use electricity to pump the bed up, check if the campsite is off-grid – our campsites are. It also pays to put an extra blanket on an airbed and not just a sheet – as the air you are sleeping on can get very cold and transfer that coldness to you!
- Lighting – Headlamps, lamps and torches and spare batteries. Sounds obvious but the number of people who rock up to our campsites with one torch and flat batteries is incredible. I’d even recommend including a wind up lantern – as they ensure the flat battery situation will not occur – and they are eco!
- Footwear – Thongs as we Aussies call them – flip flops or waterproof sandals – great for visits to the showers and loos. At night though it can get quite cold camping in the UK, even next to a fire, so some walking boots and thick socks can be very handy too.
- Clothing – important camping tip. Layers are the key to camping. In the UK it can get fairly cold very quickly, so it’s always a good idea to be able to add layers when the sun goes down. Start the morning dressed warmly, then take the layers off when the sun comes out. You can remove them and catch some vitamin D. Also pack a woollen hat for late nights around the campfire, especially if you are follicly challenged like me. Hoodies for the kids – great for wearing in a sleeping bag to keep their heads warm and even gloves if it’s cold.
- First aid kit – always a good idea to take headache/anti-inflammatory pills, plasters, antiseptic cream, eyewash etc.
What to pack for your camping trip – campsite cooking
- Cool box – get one that works. I’ve had my Aussie-made Esky since I turned 21 – so over a quarter of a century and it doubles as a seat. I say get two – one for food and one for drinks. No one wants to remove the eggs and bacon every time Dad grabs another tinnie out!
- A great set of cooking pots – you want them to be lightweight, durable and easy to clean. The higear Basecamp 6 Cookset is a great set – made of hard anodized aluminium, weighs less than 2kg, and all fold up and fits inside each other. You get a frying pan, four pots, utensils and accessories. If you bring your own pots and pans, not only will they take up half you car, but you will likely end up ruining them as they as they are not fit for campsite cooking.
- Good pocket knife or multi-tool – Pretty self-explanatory. There’s always a tin to open, something to cut or a a marshmallow stick to trim. I have a Leatherman and rate them very highly.
- Matches, lighter and candles – But make sure you don’t leave naked flames alight in your tent. For hardcore campers getting super prepared you could include lighter fluid in sealed container – can be used to get a fire going.
- Single burner camping gas cooker and little kettle – great for the early morning coffee.
|Take a look at our campsite cooking ideas|
Camping tips which make life easier
- Take lots of plastic bags – especially if it’s wet. These are useful to pack away your clothes so they stay dry, or separate the dirty ones. They are also good for rubbish collection. Lots of campsite require you to take your rubbish home and no one wants a boot full of stinky leftovers. It also pays to locate the nearest recycling and waste centre to the campsite to dump your rubbish as soon after you leave the campsite as possible.
- Wet wipes & talc – Especially for kids or if you don’t fancy the campsite showers!
- Toilet paper – This can be pre-separated into segments of the right length and popped into a plastic zip lock bag to keep dry.
- Tin foil – most important camping tip if visiting a campsite with open fires. Potatoes, sweetcorn, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes (or almost any veggie) can all be cooked on a bbq or the edge of open fire in foil.
- Plastic tubs – are also useful for leftovers. I even save the baked potatoes from the night before if uneaten and mix them with eggs and bacon in the morning for a Spanish omelette – my kids love it.
- Must take the marshmallows! – I’m biased but I only camp at places which allow open fires!
- Freeze your camping meat – I like to freeze my meat, bacon etc for day 2 & 3 – it acts like an ice block in the cool box as it defrosts, and is fresh and ready to eat a day or two after arriving.
- Wine in a box or twist top bottles – You can get some decent wine in boxes now days and using this helps the pack up with no empty bottles to carry or break. Take a corkscrew and you will always make a friend on a campsite as someone will wonder around at night looking for one guaranteed!
- Cans instead of bottles of beer or soft drinks – The empties can be crushed and put in a small (or large for some) plastic bag to be recycled.
- Big umbrella as well – like a golf one – get one of kids or a mate to hold it over you if it’s raining while you are BBQing or cooking on the campfire – never cook inside a tent due to carbon monoxide poisoning – which is a serious threat.
- Daily contacts lenses – ever tried changing hard contacts in the wilds of Sussex – I’ve had to do it for both my daughter and myself and the dailies are much easier and if you drop them you just pop another one.
- Insect repellant – In the UK I never need to use the stuff, but you never know when you will get a mosquito (mossie to an Aussie) infestation. Expect lots little biting insects at different times which hone in on some people ahead of others. It’s also been suggested that some incense to keep away the insects at night. It can pay to have a tick remover if roaming or camping through woodland areas or where deer in particular have a presence – you can buy these cheaply online.
If you are a keen camper and have anything to add – keep the conversation alive and send us your favourite piece of camping advice or camping tip.