The outdoors is hallowed ground in the 21st century. Camping has never enjoyed such virtuous appeal before - millions of us are packing our bags, rolling a map up, and heading for the wilderness with friends or family in tow, seeking the pleasures of an open sky.
This does, however, mean that a lot of first-time campers are ‘winging it’ on their journey. Rookie explorers can make a lot of mistakes, despite their sound intentions. Today, we’d like to highlight seven blunders that’ll stick a thorn in the side of your camping holiday…
1. Forgetting To Insulate The Ground In The Tent
Sleeping bags are a thing of beauty, but they aren’t the be-all, end-all package for a great night’s rest. Spring, autumn and winter turf can be incredibly cold, speckled with dew and frost from a damp climate. You’ll lose heat if the sleeping bag touches the floor directly.
Most modern, high-quality family tents have further provisions for your warmth and comfort. For example, some include a double-insulated foil mat to match the exact contours of the tent itself. This is important, because any floor surface curling out of the fabric, into the air, will catch rain that’ll pool in your sleeping area.
You can see more our review of best 4 person tent here.
2. Failing To Preserve Fresh Food
We can almost taste the smoky tang of a campsite BBQ flaring to life after a long day in the woods. However, to ensure you have a full, happy tummy, it’s vital to invest in a means of keeping food (like meat, fish, cheese and fruit) at its succulent peak.
If you don’t chill them, hotdogs and burger patties won’t survive past the very first night. That’s reason enough to take advantage of cooling boxes, which care for raw foodstuffs until they’re ready for the frying pan.
3. Settling For A Messy Campsite
An ad hoc excursion is all well and good, but we have to ensure the environment doesn’t suffer as a result… Litter is a real problem for off-grid camping grounds i.e. not managed by a campsite owner, and therefore perhaps lacking bins or depository spots.
Remember to take a decent supply of bin bags with you to clear away plastics, paper and cans. Aside from the thumbs-up to nature, it prevents scavenging animals from sniffing around your tent in the middle of the night.
4. Relying Solely On A Fire For Cooking
It’s a bright image in our minds: that of the wavering flame, kids and adults hunkered around it with a skewer of chicken to share. Yet a campfire isn’t always going to be easy-going. Blustery weather can snuff it out in a heartbeat, or make it impossible to kindle in the first instance.
Therefore, to minimise the risk of an empty belly, take another, specialised piece of cooking equipment with you. The Jetboil Minimo could be top of the pile, seeing as it sparks up at the press of a button, and has regulated temperature control. Best of all, it isn’t rendered useless by fierce wind and rain.
5. Skipping Over Proper Camping Shoes
“Pssshhh,” you may think, “there’s no reason why my air-pumped trainers aren’t good enough for a forest expedition. As long as I’ve got wellies too, anyway…”
In reality, though, trainers and wellies aren’t well-rounded for the conditions of your typical camping terrain. The ground will be uneven - sharp stones may pop up from one trail to the next, piercing the soles of your shoes, whilst climbing will tire out feet encased in knee-high rubber. A stable pair of hiking boots is far better for your endurance, comfort and manoeuvrability.
6. Getting There Too Late In The Day
Ideally, you’ll want to arrive at the site mid-afternoon, at the latest, to secure and erect your tent, along with the fire and whatever else is going to absorb your time. We advise making it there before sundown, as you’ll need natural light to get your base camp in order. Trust us, the process will be much trickier if you’re doing it by the glow of a torch!
Once everything’s been done - hopefully by 4pm or so - you’re free to relax or explore the surrounding land while there’s still a bit of light in the day.
7. Choosing A Subpar Rucksack
Who knows what you’ll need on-the-move? The best camping rucksacks are not only tough, waterproof and stain resistant; they have ample room for essentials like snacks and a change of clothes, if the weather turns when you’re far from camp.
The good news is that contemporary rucksacks cater for all of this without being a pricey investment. Try to find one with separate compartments for varying kit (e.g. dry and wet wear), alongside straps that shift the weight from shoulder to hips if there’s a fair dose of strain to bear.
For people with scant camping experience, it’s wise to stay rational, and think carefully about what’ll make your trip a sure-fire success. Hopefully we’ve encouraged you to give that inventory another once-over… Should anything be missing, tick off that next purchase, or remind yourself of the key behaviour to a wild, wonderful time!
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