CAMPING | Ten Top Tips For First Time Campers

After more years of camping than I care to admit to, I’ve camped in all weathers, in every style of tent, all over the UK and Europe, so I thought I’d share my top 10 tips for new campers. Alternatively, check out our ultimate list of 63 camping tips and hacks.

camping set ups
Our first family camping set up cost under £150 for everything you can see here

1. Don’t spend a fortune on a fancy set up

If you’ve never camped before and aren’t too sure if it’s for you, you don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds on fancy gear. That said, please don’t make the number 1 newbie camper mistake of buying a single skin tent.

We’ve all seen them those bargain popup tents available in places like Asda advertised as the ideal festival tent. Take it from us, a budget single skin tent is a total waste of money. You and your gear will get wet. Instead, why not ask a friend if you can borrow a tent, or even try a night under canvas first by booking a glamping break?

If you don’t have friends who camp, then why not hit eBay for a second hand bargain, try Freecycle, your local Facebook selling groups or try places like Mountain Warehouse who do a really good value range of tents.

camping tips
We believe that bigger is better when it comes to family camping!

2. Make sure you buy a bigger tent than you think you’ll need

That 4 man dome tent might sound perfect, but once you factor in camp beds or air mattresses, you’re unlikely to actually fit 4 people and all their gear inside! It’s always worth choosing a tent that will give you more space, especially if you are car camping and don’t need to worry about weight or carrying your tent. Living and sleeping on top of each other is a sure way of making you feel cranky, so always opt for a tent that’s bigger than strictly necessary.

We also highly recommend buying a head-height tent (like the great value Decathlon Arpenaz 4+1 family tent), which means you’ll be able to stand up in it, and makes for a much easier life.

Finally, remember that you are unlikely to reach full occupancy in any tent unless you are using small/narrow self inflating mats and sleeping squished up together on the floor.

camping warm
Me shivering in a tent with hot water bottle and wooly hat whilst camping on a cold night in late Autumn

3. Night time in the UK is colder than you think

Even in June and July, the night time temperature outdoors in the UK is generally pretty cold, and spending a night shivering in a tent is no fun at all. Always pack extra blankets and use layers to help keep you warm at night.

Find lots of tips on how to keep warm when camping.

camping tips for first time campers
Solar chargers are ideal for camping

4. Ditch the electrical devices

Camping with an electric hook up (EHU) is expensive, and it also means your pitch choice and campsite options will be limited.

Simply solar chargers are inexpensive and more than capable of powering any essentials like your smartphone, or you could splash out on something a bit more capable like the HUBi solar hub.

On a side note, If you are considering taking devices like hair straighteners camping with you – no one cares how straight your hair looks, leave them at home!

So why not view camping as an excuse to switch off? Leave the tablet at home and take the opportunity ts reap the benefits of a have a digital detox.

Even on a good day, weather can change fast so take warm layers just in case!

5. Plan for wind, rain, gale-force winds and more!

Let’s not beat around the bush. The weather in the UK sucks. I’m writing this in the middle of July, it’s windy, cold, wet and I’m still wearing my winter boots and even a thick pair tights.

OK so, sometimes we do get lucky and the sun shines and the rain stops falling for a few seconds, but even if the forecast looks good, always take extra layers and waterproofs just in case.

Camping at Cae Du
Most of my camping gear has been purchased out of season

6. Buy camping gear and tents more cheaply out of season

Thanks to demand rocketing, tents are always more expensive around the start of the camping season. So whilst June might seem like a good time to buy a new tent or camping gear, prices are generally much higher at this time of year.

I always buy camping gear in winter or early spring. Most stockists will also have a summer sale at the end of the season too, usually around the end of August, which is another great time to pick up a good deal.

Check out Suse’s top 10 comfy camping buys.

camp chair
Some supermarket camping bargains I’ve picked up

7. Buy the previous years’ model of tent

Tents, like all consumer goods change frequently. Manufacturers release new models and add new features to their best selling tent models, so a current model of a tent is always going to command a premium.

Look for a previous years’ model as you’ll often find them heavily discounted as retailers prefer to push new premium stock instead.

Read our guide is a bell tent right for me?

Vango AirBeam Tent
Seen a  tent model you like? Buy it out of season or wait until next year

8. Plan activities and days out in advance

It’s a fact that kids can get bored, especially if you are planning a digital detox, so you’ll need to make sure you have plenty of ideas for how you and the family can spend your time whilst camping.

Depending on your kids, some will happily go off and play and amuse themselves for hours on end. If your kids are lacking in the imagination department, do some planning and take a variety of boredom busters with you.

A football, kite, paints and craft items, cards, binoculars, board games, scavenger hunts and nature books are all great ways of fending off boredom when camping, without needing to rely on technology.

Park Foot campsite
Campsites all have their own unique personality, some are great….some aren’t!

9. Choose your campsite wisely

The campsite you choose will have a big impact on how much you enjoy your first camping trip. Work out how far you want to travel, whether you want countryside or coast, and if you want heaps of facilities (in which case the site is likely to be noisy and busy), or whether you want something more laid back with a wild camping feel (in which case you’ll normally compromise on facilities).

We’ve stayed at some fantastic campsites over the years that we keep returning to; and we’ve also stayed at some we’d rather wipe from our memory!

See more tips on choosing the perfect campsite.

Camping tips
Kick back relax and enjoy the camping experience!

10. Be prepared!

Take a box of essentials. Things like duck tape, cable ties, extra batteries, a pen knife, first aid kit and so on are all incredibly useful to have. Camping can be an unpredictable experience, which is one of the reasons it can be so much fun, but it pays to be prepared.

Whether the gale-force wind makes pitching your tent more akin to a Krypton Factor challenge or you’re trying to pack down in torrential rain….just get on with it. Resilience and a can-do spirit is something that (I think) marks hardcore campers aside from muggles, so whatever happens, just roll with it and don’t let one little mishap spoil your entire trip.

Share your camping tips with us

What tips would you share with a first time camper? Let us know in the comments below!

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Shell Robshaw-Bryan
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