Honestly, there is almost nothing better than crawling out of the tent in the morning, boiling the billycan (a metal bucket/cooking pot used to boil water over a camp fire) for a mornin’ cuppa (cup of tea), and reclining back in your camping chair while you ask yourself “how’s the serenity?”. Fellow happy campers call out “morning!” as they walk towards the toilet block, loo roll in hand, or down to the beach with their towel slug over their shoulder.
Some of my earliest happy memories are from camping holidays with my family in the great Australian outback. As I grew older, I camped with friends at the beach and at music festivals in Australia and New Zealand. And since moving to Europe, some of our best summer holidays have been when we camped in Spain, the UK, Croatia, and Albania.
How to camp like a pro
As a lover of camping, it doesn’t surprise me that camping is gaining popularity as a fun and budget-friendly holiday option for groups of friends, couples, and families of all sizes all over the world. And, thankfully, camping has come along way since the A-frame tents and flat-folding deck chairs of the 1980s. Example A:
Whether you’re camping in the wild, pitched at a campsite or camping at a festival be prepared with our helpful tips and hacks.
Selecting the right tent
An expensive tent with all of the newest features is not always the best tent. And, selecting the right tent for you will depend on three things:
- how many people need to sleep in it
- how you plan on transporting it, and
- how much you can afford to pay for it.
Firstly, size is very important. A tent is measured in berth and a berth (two man tent, four person tent etc) is based around how many people the tent can realistically hold without any luggage. Also, do you want a tent that you can stand in? Many tents are quite short, which means you will need to bend or crouch to get in and out.
To give you an idea, hubby and I can sleep in a three person tent comfortably with our thin sleeping mats and small day packs. However, we have recently upgraded to a four person tent with an extended porch which gives us plenty of room to relax undercover and store our gear.
Note, some camp grounds and festivals will have rules about the size of the tent you can pitch and might charge you for two sites if you have a large tent.
Secondly, consider the weight and ease of transporting the tent (and the rest of your belongings) before you buy it, especially if you expect to carry it over a long distance from your car or if you’re using public transport. Many festival campers choose smaller and cheaper tents, such as one person pop up tents, for this very reason.
A tarpaulin, poles and ropes or a free-standing gazebo are great options if you think that you and your fellow campers will require a larger undercover space. This is a great option if you are camping for more than a few days at a time, but always consider how you will transport the extra equipment.
Thirdly, you don’t always have to buy a brand new tent or equipment since there is usually plenty of second hand gear available online or in your local classifieds. You could also split the costs of a larger tent between a group of people, or borrow a tent from someone as long as you do the decent thing and clean it before you return it – we’ll come back to the tent cleaning thing.
You’ve got a tent, what else do you need?
You’ll need something to sleep on and something to sleep in.
An inflatable mattress can be comfortable for a short period of time. In my experience, they will generally deflate a little overnight and can become uncomfortable if you are sharing with another person. You also have to consider transporting a pump (electric or foot) or spending a little extra on a self-inflating mattress.
These days, there are plenty of alternatives, such as lightweight self-inflating mats that roll up into small carry bags. These mats will still be very thin (they ‘self inflate’ about 5cm), but they are comfortable to sleep on as long as you remove any rocks and twigs from under your tent before you set it up.
Tip: remove all rocks and twigs from under your tent before you set it up.
Sleeping bags have also been improved to be lightweight and small to transport. When choosing a sleeping bag, always ensure you select one that will be warm enough for cool nights in a tent.
We use two single, self-inflating roll up mats and a double sleeping bag.
And, something to sit on.
You’ll want to be comfortable while you’re relaxing at your campsite, so invest in some camping chairs that are comfortable and easy to transport.
If you really want to relax, take a picnic rug to stretch out on or a hammock to hang between a couple of trees.
Tip: small triangular camping stools are great for lightweight camping or short trips.
Camping hacks to make your camping holiday easier
Take a mallet to hammer tent pegs into the ground. Tent pegs will secure your tent to the ground and prevent it from moving or blowing away in strong wind.
Take a hand broom to clean off your tent before you pack it up. If you put your tent away when it is dirty or wet you will be unpleasantly surprised when you try to use it next time and it’s covered in mould or full of sand.
Rope, duct tape and scissors can be helpful if you need to patch a hole in your tent, put up a tarpaulin, hang something and numerous other things.
A portable camping light or torch with a hook or magnet can be really handy for finding things in your tent at night, or hanging above your head to play cards or eat in the dark. You can also get larger gas lights on retracting poles and solar powered lights to light up a larger area. With highly flammable material (your tent) nearby, candles are inadvisable. A camp fire pit can also provide light and warmth, but always check the fire restrictions in the area.
A deck of cards is essential for fun games with your fellow campers. Also take a good book, some board games, and sports equipment to pass the time and relax a little. It is likely that you will be unable to charge your mobile device on a regular basis, so why not use the time to disconnect and unwind a little?
Because you’ll be outdoors most of the time it’s important to slip, slop, slap.
That’s slip on a shirt, slop on the 30+ sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade or shelter, and slide on some sunnies.
On the other hand, you don’t want to be caught out in the rain without gumboots (wellington boots) and some rain protections, like a disposable poncho or a rain coat.
Especially if you are off to Glastonbury or similar music festival that is known for being inundated with plenty of rain and mud!
Because there’s probably no refrigeration at your campsite, an esky (also known as a cooler box or chilli bin) and beer coolers are great for keeping your drinks or food cool. And, always remember the wine opener!
Many festivals and campsites have canteens or markets where you can buy ready-to-eat or prepared food. But if you want to cook your own hot food, or you’re looking to spend a little less money, a gas bottle and cooker can be a great option.
Always check the campsite terms and conditions – some might have a ban on fires or cookers. Some campsites will also provide a cooking area with a stove top, microwave and toaster.
We used a cooker in Croatia to boil water for tea and eggs every morning for breakfast. At night, we cooked soup or noodles for dinner.
If you do have a gas cooker, are camping in a remote area or you plan on using the campsite facilities, you will need to take your own:
- food and water: take food that doesn’t need refrigeration (pasta, rice, vegetables) and enough drinking water for everyone.
- cooking equipment: a small pot or saucepan, plates, cutlery, cups, tea, etc.
- cleaning equipment: garbage bags, washing liquid, sponges and a tea towel.
Please: always take care of the environment around you. Clean up after yourself and take all of your rubbish with you.
Ear plugs and an eye mask are essential if you are planning on getting a relaxing night sleep in a campsite full of other people playing cards late at night, rummaging around in the tent early in the morning or a nearby snorer. Remember, tents are only thin material and you can hear almost everything your neighbours say and do.
Loo roll is very important if you are camping in the wild or remote area, or if you are at a festival or campsite that is very busy and might run out. Loo roll is like gold if you are at a large music festival.
A padlock can be handy to secure the zips of your tent closed if you are leaving it for a long period of time. However, it is probably best not to leave any of your personal items or valuables in your tent at all since thin material can easily be torn. Either way, check your house contents insurance, gadget insurance and travel insurance to ensure you are covered while you are camping.
Enjoy your camping holiday
Camping holidays are a great opportunity and budget-friendly way to unwind, get outdoors, explore your surroundings and disconnect from your normal life. They are also a great opportunity to reconnect with your friends and family by enjoying some relaxing days and fun activities together.
So, consider a camping trip next time you’re planning a holiday or heading to a music festival. You might love it!