We get a lot of queries from new campers who are anxious about their first camping trip. As regular campers, we sometimes forget that there are some things we do automatically, that many people wouldn’t think of if they haven’t done it before. With this in mind, we would like to present 13 Camping Tips for New Campers.
Tip #1: Selecting your campsite
Having arrived at your venue, you need to check where you want to sleep. This decision needs to take into account your own comfort, as well as that of your tent. One of the most important issues is the quality of the ground where you will be pitching your tent. Any rough or stony ground can damage the groundsheet of your tent, by pushing rocks through it. Also, we tend to think that grass is soft, so we don’t pay too much attention to it; however, lumps or tufts of grass are very uncomfortable to spend the night on, so avoid these as well.
Tip #2: Make sure you aren’t interfering with nature
In this case we’re talking specifically about animals. Following on from Tip #1, locating your campsite within the local ecosystem is very important. This doesn’t matter too much when you’re in a designated- or urban campsite, but if you’re in the wild you should make sure you aren’t in an area regularly used by large animals. An open area may seem flat and inviting, but animals like hippos and elephants may be using paths exactly where you’re camped, which won’t end well!
Tip #3: Setting up your tent
We won’t go into the specific instructions of pitching your tent, because each tent is different. However, an important thing to remember for all tents is to not step on the tent when it’s still on the ground. This causes a possibility of pushing stones or other things through the walls or roof of the tent, damaging it permanently. This is especially likely if you are wearing shoes when setting up.
Tip #4: Fires and tents
If you will be making fires, make sure the tent is suitably far away from your fire area, and upwind of the fire. A smokey tent is not pleasant to sleep in, and a tent on fire is even less comfortable.
Tip # 5: What if the ground isn’t level?
Not all campsites are created equal, you may find that you have to pitch your tent on sloping ground once in a while. This isn’t a problem (unless it’s on a cliff!) but in this case you should remember your sleeping position. Make sure that your head is on the uphill (higher than your feet). If you sleep on the downhill, the chances are that you’ll wake up with a headache due to increased blood pressure in your head while you slept.
Tip #6: The ground is harder than it looks
It’s tempting to just sleep directly on the ground, to experience “real” camping. If you’re at a school camp-out, you may be sleeping on the school field, which looks like it has nice, soft grass. Don’t be fooled, the ground is harder than it looks. A stretcher or a mattress is strongly recommended.
Tip #7: Stretchers in winter
Stretchers partly got their name from the fact that they’re made using stretched canvas. This means that you have a very thin, un-insulated layer keeping you above the ground. If you’re using a stretcher in winter, you will have cold air underneath you, which can mean that you will have a cold night. For this reason, we recommend using a mattress in addition to the stretcher (for some thermal insulation) or using a mattress directly on the ground, so you don’t have the layer of cold air under you.
Tip #8: Keep your tent door closed when you aren’t using it
This doesn’t necessarily mean the full door, but at least the fly screen. Mosquitoes are attracted to the smells that humans produce, and we all smell a bit when we’ve been camping. Snakes will also look for places to hide, either when the sun gets too hot or when the evening is too cold. Keeping the fly mesh closed at all times will make sure you don’t have any mosquitoes or other creatures partying in your tent when you’re not there.
Tip#9: Make sure things aren’t touching the tent
To save space, we sometimes pack all our gear right up against the inside of the tent wall. While this may work in fair weather, it creates problems in rainy weather. The tent material relies on a specific surface tension (as well as its waterproof layer) to keep the water on the outside of the tent. When bedding, bags, people’s bodies, etc. rub the inside of the canvas when it’s wet, this allows the water to pass through the canvas, creating a leak.
Tip #10: Get some air through the tent
Whenever possible, including when you’re sleeping, try leave a small gap in the windows. Contrary to popular belief, a fully-closed tent does not hold the heat much better than a slightly-open tent, unless there is a cold wind. Your windows should only be closed in the case of rain. The reasons for the window gap are as follows:
- The simple act of breathing uses up the oxygen in a fully-closed tent, which can be a real danger when the tent is fully-occupied.
- In cold weather, people’s breath condenses on the inside of the tent, and then drips down. This can cause the incorrect perception that there is a leak in the tent.
- As mentioned in Tip #8, we all smell a bit after a few days of camping; air the tent out so you don’t have to be smelling each other!
Tip #11: Pack toilet paper
Yes, they said they have bathrooms at the campsite, but who knows how often they check them? A toilet paper roll is invaluable, whether you’re going “glamping” or if you’re off into the middle of the bush. In Scouts, this commodity is referred to as “white gold.”
Tip #12: Take along a trash bag
Not all campsites have places to dispose of your rubbish. Take along a bag so that you can take your rubbish away with you, and leave the wilderness as you found it.
Tip #13: When you’re leaving
When you’re leaving the campsite, do a “chicken run.” This is the act of lining up your campers across the campsite, and then walking slowly across it, looking for litter, tent pegs, lost property, etc. This activity got it’s name from the way people bob up and down, picking up stuff from the floor, much as chickens peck at the ground when looking for food.
Think we missed something? Leave us a comment or send us a mail, and we may add it to the list!