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Camping for beginners

25 April 2023

Whether you're a seasoned camper or a first-timer, there are plenty of things to consider and rules to follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable time outdoors. Don't worry; we're here to help you pack efficiently, cook delicious meals, and remember every important detail when camping in the woods.

Preparations

If you're new to camping, it's a good idea to plan your first trip during the summer when you have both light and warmth on your side, making it easier for you as a beginner. To ensure a smooth camping experience, it's best to research potential campsites in advance and make a decision before setting off. Remember that camping is not allowed everywhere, and different laws and regulations may apply in other areas and countries. Be sure to check the rules and regulations for your chosen location. If available, stick to designated campsites or pitch your tent in areas that lack vegetation or have a durable surface.

Camping close to home for your first few trips is also a good idea. If something unexpected happens, you are in a familiar area and can easily pack up and leave. Practice setting up your tent a few times before you go to ensure everything works as it should. This way, you won't struggle to set up your tent for the first time in the middle of the forest in the dark, cold, and rain.

Packing

People often talk about The Ten Essentials when camping. It’s the ten most important things you should never forget to bring while in nature. Use this list as a base when you pack for your trip.

Try to pack efficiently by putting sleeping bags, clothes, water, and other essentials at the bottom of your bag and keeping things you need easily accessible at the top. Lay out all your gear in front of you before you start to pack, and check off your packing list to ensure you remember everything.

Tent

To avoid confusion on-site, practising setting up your tent beforehand is a good idea. Take step-by-step photos of the process to have your own instruction manual when pitching your tent.

Tents can be expensive, so if it's your first time camping and you're still determining whether you'll enjoy it, consider renting a tent or borrowing one from a friend. The same goes for other large and expensive equipment.

Sleeping bags and pads

The best sleeping bag for your trip depends on the climate you'll be camping in. A thin sleeping bag is perfect for warmer temperatures, but a medium-thick one is generally the best choice. This way, you can dress warmly in a fleece and warm socks if it gets chilly and open the sleeping bag if it gets too hot.

For shorter trips, a simple sleeping pad works just fine. However, invest in something more solid for longer trips or colder climates that also insulate well. Also, bring your own pillow to ensure a good night's sleep if you have room for it in your packing.

Cooking

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To make cooking easier, plan your meals and consider what you can cook with the same ingredients to minimise packaging. Soups and stews are easy One-Pot meals that you can either cook directly or prepare at home and reheat. You can also make something at home that can be eaten cold, such as pasta salad.

You'll need a camp stove to cook, often fuled by gas, alcohol, gasoline or wood. Consider what cooking equipment you need and pack ones you can use for multiple dishes and even eat out of. You can also save space and weight by carrying a spork instead of a complete cutlery set.

If you don't have a cooler, pack items directly from the freezer that will thaw along the way. Be efficient with different types of packaging to minimise waste and avoid littering.

Water

Water is essential, and there are often natural water sources where you can fill up your bottle. Check for water resources around your camping location and bring a way to clean water so it's safe to drink. By re-supplying your water bottle from nature, you avoid carrying unnecessary weight.

Light

The night out in the wood, away from the city lights, will feel extra dark. Bring a flashlight and a headlamp to make it easier when you need to go to the bathroom at night. The campfire is also the perfect source of light in the evenings and a natural part of the camping experience.

What to wear

Generally, it is good to think "rather too hot than too cold" and dress in layers. That way, you can easily take something off if you are feeling too hot or add an extra sweater if you feel cold. No matter your plans for your trip, it's always wise to pack an extra fleece and a pair of socks. Having a windproof and waterproof jacket for unexpected weather changes is always good.

You can keep your packing light with multifunctional clothing that can work for several activities. Durable hiking pants with ventilation zippers work for both chilly nights and intense activities, and zip-off pants can double as hiking pants and shorts. It is also good to pack clothes that dry quickly. To relax and hang out by the tent, it's nice to have comfortable sweatpants and a lovely

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Hygiene

It is important to feel clean and fresh, even when camping. Soap, shampoo, and other cleaning products can contain harmful chemicals that can harm aquatic life and disrupt the ecosystem's natural balance—washing dishes or bathing in natural waterways when camping can have a negative impact on the environment and the water quality. It's important to use designated dishwashing and bathing areas or to bring biodegradable soaps and cleaning products that are safe for the environment.

You can also look in the pantry for products that can help you stay fresh in a more natural way:

Baking soda: Works as a dry shampoo if you want to put off washing your hair as long as possible but still feel fresh.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Can be used as a natural deodorant.

Olive oil: Most types of oils work perfectly well to moisturise dry skin.

Did you know that choosing the right materials for your clothing can help reduce body odour? Wool is naturally odour-resistant and antibacterial, which reduces the need for frequent washing and makes it an excellent option for multi-day hikes. Wear a wool top closest to your body, and thanks to its natural antibacterial properties, it's often enough to air it out properly before using it again.

Camping etiquette

There are some unwritten rules you need to follow when out in nature. Most of it is self-explanatory, but it bears repeating to protect nature and allow others to enjoy it too. In the outdoor community, the unwritten rules are often called The seven principles of Leave No Trace.  Learn them and always keep them in mind when exploring the outdoors.

Keep it clean and tidy around you: Having a care for plants and wildlife, as well as picking up after yourself, is essential when being outdoors. Leave all areas in the same state as when you arrived, if not better.

Don't be too loud: Excessive noise can not only disturb other campers, but it can also have a negative impact on the local wildlife. Respect your surroundings by keeping the noise level appropriate, especially in the evenings.

Start a campfire responsibly: Gathering around an outdoor fire is part of the camping experience. Before starting a campfire, make sure fires are permitted and check if there are any fire restrictions in place due to weather conditions. Feel free to read our guide on how to start a campfire before you set off.

Keep your distance: When camping, you share the outdoors with other campers and local wildlife. It's important to be mindful of your surroundings and to avoid disturbing either. That way, you can create a peaceful and enjoyable camping experience for everyone involved.

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