The arrival of summer means festivals and family camping trips are just around the corner. Has the thought of canvas and campsites got you in a tizzy? Stress not, our camping hacks will ensure that your camping trip is easy and stress-free, meaning more time for barbecues, hikes, and festival fun!
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1. Choose your tent size wisely
Image credit: Simon Whitmore
When tent manufacturers label their tent sizes, they seem to have very tiny people in mind. Tents labelled as ‘one man’ are fine if you’re very slight and don’t mind sleeping with your arms pinned to yours sides; ‘two man’ means one; and ‘three man’ means one and their kit, or two who are happy to snuggle. Always buy at least two sizes up for a comfortable camping experience.
2. Get to the campsite as early as you can
To nab the best pitches you need to arrive early. If you do arrive late, prioritise pitching the tent and finding loos and food before darkness, tiredness and hunger set in. As Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com, says, ‘Always put your tent up before going to the pub. It’s difficult – and embarrassing – trying to do it at 10pm in your car’s headlights.’
3. Use the instructions
You might be confident assembling flatpack furniture without reading the instructions first, but tents can be tricky. Without instructions, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself wrestling with it in the rain while the kids watch (and laugh) from the car. Simon McGrath, editor of Camping & Caravanning magazine, says, ‘Pitch your tent in the garden first. You’ll feel much more confident when you get to the campsite knowing what goes where.’ If you’re reusing an old tent, it’s also a chance to check for rips, broken zips, frayed guy ropes, and missing pegs.
4. Camp on higher ground
That higher ground might look windy and exposed, making that cosy little nook at the bottom of the hill all the more appealing, but Simon has this cautionary tale: ‘I once saw a small tent pitched in a sheltered dip in a field. The next morning revealed that a little overnight rain combined with the early dew had transformed it into a small pond. Thankfully, the tent didn’t float away, but the occupant and his kit were cold and soggy.’
5. Pack earplugs
Image credit: Simon Bevan
You might think escaping to the countryside means total peace and quiet, but nature can be pretty noisy! As can other campers… All seasoned campers have their noise niggles. Dan Yates’s? ‘Yurts with Velcro doors that wake everyone up when ripped open.’ Simon McGrath’s? ‘The dawn chorus can be amazingly loud, but just go with it: get up when the birds wake you and go for a stroll – the countryside looks quite different at that time of day.’
Read more: Top tips for getting a good night’s sleep
6. Remember a torch
Going for night-time toilet trips is treacherous without a light. Simon McGrath warns, ‘It can be pretty dark in the middle of the countryside away from the neon glare of towns, so keep a torch or lantern within reach or you’ll end up stumbling around trying to find one.’ And don’t forget the spare batteries, either!
7. Stay warm at night
Make sure you have a good quality sleeping bag, plus a roll mat to insulate you from the cold ground. Wear plenty of layers and keep your socks on! Never try to warm up your tent with a barbecue or stove, as even a cooling barbecue gives off poisonous carbon monoxide, which can kill.
8. Keep your tent clean
‘When you get home tired and dirty, it’s all too easy to stick your tent straight back in the cupboard until next time,’ says David Jones from Cool Camping. ‘Do that with a wet or dirty tent and you’re asking for trouble: next time you get it out, it’ll stink to high heaven! If it’s been a really long time, it might have even gone mouldy – which can damage the fabric.’
Image credit: Carolyn Barber
9. Stick to the shade
On your summer holiday you’ll naturally be hoping to catch some rays, but if you pitch your tent in full sun it will feel like sleeping in an oven. If you can’t find a shady spot, Dan Yates suggests packing a battery-powered fan or pitching another tent or groundsheet over your tent to provide shade. ‘And be careful of innocent objects that can start a fire if left in sunlight,’ says Dan. ‘Bottles of water can concentrate the sun’s rays like a magnifying glass and ignite a groundsheet.’
10. Store food correctly
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It’s best to avoid keeping food in your tent at all as it can encourage insects to come creeping in. In some countries this can pose more of a danger than others, with poisonous animals or even Canadian grizzlies to worry about. Lock food away in a car if possible, or seal it tightly in Tupperware or a cool box.
If you can’t get enough of our advice, read our Top tips for comfortable camping.
Have a great trip!