Camping in the great outdoors is a soul-nourishing experience. Sleeping by moonlight, listening to the silence and breathing in the fresh, wild air — it doesn’t get much better than that.
The right equipment and careful planning will help you and your fellow campers have a more enjoyable camping experience. Here are our top camping tips to get you started.
Before you leave
1) Test your gear.
If you’ve just bought or borrowed a tent, set it up at home to ensure you know how to put it up and how to pack it away. If it isn’t a new tent, check it’s still in top condition and that you have all the necessary poles and pegs. Take note of how the tent is packed up so that you can roll or fold it the same way when you have to get it back in the bag. If you’re taking a stove, clean and test that too. It’s better to identify missing equipment or faults at home than on your adventure.
2) Research your campsite.
Check what facilities are available. Are there showers, barbeques, shade options and access to clean and safe drinking water? This will help you decide what to pack and what to leave at home.
3) Read up on potential dangers.
Are there poisonous plants, animals or insects in the area? Pack your first-aid kit accordingly. Don’t forget to include first-aid staples so you can deal with everything from headaches to cuts and burns. These are real camping essentials - you don't want to be caught unprepared miles away from help. Remember, insects love water, so pack plenty of repellent.
4) Check the weather – and any fire bans.
It’s best to pack for changing weather conditions, so don’t forget thermals and waterproof rainwear. One of our favourite camping tips is to prepare for the worst weather conditions, but expect the best. Also, try to pack smart. One rain jacket will do the job – you don’t need three!
5) Take nylon rope and duct tape.
Nylon rope comes in handy for tent support and hanging up wet clothes, while duct tape fixes just about everything – use it to mend torn shoes and broken tent poles.
6) Purchase good-quality camping equipment.
Camping essentials that perform well in outdoor conditions and will last you for many camping adventures to come are what you're after. Cheap equipment that damages easily and doesn’t provide comfort and protection will not make for a happy camper.
7) Be prepared for the worst.
Camping essentials also include preparing for emergencies. Tell friends and family where you are going and how long you’ll be. Make sure you carry some money and a phone in case you need to make contact with someone.
8) Take good lighting.
While it may sound romantic to get about by the moon or fire light, the reality is you don’t want to be cooking, trying to find the toilet or hearing strange noises in pitch dark. The right camp lighting equipment makes a big difference. You can hang a head-lamp or torch from your tent ceiling to illuminate the whole tent (also keep one near the entrance so it's easy to find at night).
9) Remember the small things.
Matches in a waterproof container are a must and don’t forget hand sanitisers, soap and facewipes. If you’re car camping, it’s worth throwing in a mallet for banging in tent pegs and a brush and shovel for sweeping out your tent before pack-up. And, if you’re taking a bottle of wine, don’t forget the corkscrew!
Setting up camp
10) Start early.
Always pitch your tent and set up camp before night fall.
11) Choose your site carefully.
This camping tip is all about safety. Pick a spot with flat ground. Avoid camping under trees. If you are camping near trees, look around first for warning signs of rotting branches or fallen limbs. Don’t camp where there’s a possibility of branches falling on your tent.
12) Avoid waterways.
Another camping tip that may seem obvious, but nevertheless can slip from a camping novice's mind, is to make sure you’re not camping in a river path, creek bed, or trench that could fill up with water during heavy rainfall.
13) Clear the ground.
Remove all sticks and rocks from where you plan to set up your tent, and make sure there are no ant nests.
14) Get oriented.
Check which way the wind is blowing, and pitch your tent so that the door is facing away from the wind. If you are camping on a slight slope, sleep with your feet pointing downhill.
15) Prepare for rain.
Always peg your tent fly tightly to keep rain away from tent walls. Try not to touch the walls of the tent if it rains.
16) Manage your fire.
Another safety camping tip is to build all campfires well away from trees and root systems – roots can catch fire. Be aware of local fire regulations and weather conditions, use established fire rings and always keep a bucket of water handy. And remember: your fire isn’t truly out until you can sift through the ashes with your fingers. Never, ever leave your fire unattended. When you’ve finished, cover the dying embers and ashes with a deep coat of dirt or sand. You don’t want children accidentally walking over them.
17) Stay warm.
In chilly weather, fill up a water bottle with hot water and use it as a hot water bottle. You can pick up a few extra tips on how to stay warm on the article 'How to stay warm winter camping'.
18) Store food securely.
Keep food in secure containers and coolers – outside of your tent. You do not want to attract nocturnal visitors to your campsite, and definitely not inside your tent.
19) Make sure your tent is dry.
Only pack your tent away once it is completely dry, as mildew can damage it and will make it smell musty. If you can’t get it dry before you leave, pack it away wet and then unpack, dry, sweep and air it out in the sun as soon as you get home. Do the same with poles and pegs to avoid rust.
20) Leave only footprints.
Avoid the temptation to collect shells, drift wood and other potential souvenirs, and don't feed wildlife. Take all your rubbish with you. Empty soapy water far from waterways and opt for a biodegradable soap or detergent.