There is something so attractive about the idea of tent camping. There is pretty much nothing between you and great mother nature. Plus, you can basically rest your head wherever you land at the end of a long day. But anyone who has actually been tent camping knows that it is much more complicated than that!
There is nothing worse than arriving at your campsite and struggling to put up your new tent for the first time as the light quickly fades. You then battle for age to create a campfire because all the wood in the area is damp, all to cook an unappetizing canned meal that leaves you far from satisfied. In the morning you wake up bleary-eyed because you just couldn’t get comfortable as parts of your body dug into the hard ground all night.
Being properly prepared can make all the difference between a fun camping trip full of fond memories, or returning home with the words “never again” on our lips. In order to ensure that your next camping trip is the former rather than the latter, here is some of our advice, and our five top tips for the vest possible tent camping experience.
1. Test Drive and Prepare your Tent at Home
While advertisers may tell you that setting up your tent is as easy as one, two, three, trying to figure out how to put a tent together when you are tired hungry, and you are racing against the setting sun is stressful. If you then discover that something is missing or broken, this can be a disaster.
Avoid this outcome: practice setting up the tent at home. This lets you practice how to use a new tent or a tent that you don’t use very often, in the best possible circumstances. You can then learn all of your tent’s particular quirks, making the job much easier in the trial. This is also your opportunity to ensure that there are not parts of your tent missing, or damaged so that you aren’t confronted with an unpleasant surprise on the trail.
While your tent is set up at home, this is also your chance to apply to waterproof, so you can make sure that you stay dry and happy if unexpected rainfall crashes your camping trip. Waterproofing your tent is incredibly easy to do. You can find a waterproofing agent appropriate for the material of your tent at your local camping store. This usually comes in spray form, which you cover the tent with completely while it is set up, and then leave to dry naturally. Don’t forget to pay extra attention to the zippers, these are always a major culprit when it comes to water leakage.
2. Choose the Right Campsite and Control your Environment
While the idea behind camping is that you are free to lay your head wherever you choose, the reality is that the quality of the campsite that you choose can make a big difference to how comfortable your stay is. This is true whether you are out in nature and your unsuitable campsite is suddenly flooded, or whether you are at a commercial campsite, and you find yourself surrounded by rowdy neighbors that are killing the atmosphere.
It is a good idea to research potential campsites in advance. Luckily, there is a huge community of camping enthusiasts out there. It is not difficult to find useful information about local campsites with a quick internet search.
When it comes to commercial campsites, pick your campsite based on the kinds of amenities that they have available. Hot showers and Wi-Fi and always welcome features. Also, look for reviews of other people’s experiences. This will alert you if this is a site that welcomes parties and is frequented by more rowdy guests.
When it comes to finding a campsite “in the wild”, look for flat ground, but avoid clay soil, which drains poorly and can be prone to flooding. It is good to be near water, but you don’t want to be too close, especially to stagnant water, as this attracts insects. Also, avoid cliff ledges and other natural features that might become hazardous after dark.
But you can control your environment to…
While you are enjoying mother nature, remember that you can also take a little bit of control over your environment as well. Control pests by burning sage, and bring a mosquito net if you know you are going somewhere with lots of insects. Think about temperature control. Make a cold night warmer by learning how to prepare a campfire, and bringing additional blankets. If it’s the heat you are worried about, bring a solar power bank so that you can power a fan to keep cool. There is no harm in controlling your environment a little while getting back to nature.
3. Pack What You Need
Packing for a camping trip is a fine art. You want to pack simple so that you aren’t lugging around kilograms of gear that you simply don’t need, but you also don’t want to show up at your campsite and realize that you have left something essential at home, such as a torch or your sleeping mat.
The best thing you can do is draw up a detailed list of what you need. What exactly needs to be included on your lists depends very much on where you are thinking of going (is it cold or hot, are you likely to get wet?), what length of time you are going for, and what you plan on doing. It also depends on how you are going to get to your camping location. If you are driving, you can afford to throw a few extras in the boot. If you are walking to your site, you will want to keep your list more to the bare minimum.
Experienced campers will have a good idea of what they actually need. Newby campers might want to tend on the side of caution, and bring something if you think you need it. But be honest with yourself about what is a necessity, and what is pure luxury.
While the list of things that you need when camping is long, we think that there are three essentials that are often overlooked.
- Backpacking chairs. After you are tired from a long day on your feet? You will feel that much worse after sitting on the hard, wet ground. A lightweight camping chair can make a huge difference. You will be more comfortable, and feel better for further adventures the following day.
- Sleeping Pad. While this may seem like a little luxury you don’t really need, it isn’t. It can be pretty much impossible to sleep on hard, lumpy ground. Sleeping in the ground is also the fastest way to lose body heat. You will feel the cold no matter how warm and good quality your sleeping bag. If you want to be fresh in the morning, this is essential.
- It might be fine to go for a week without washing your hair. But there are some hygiene essentials that should not be overlooked. There are few things worse than when your teeth feel slightly furry and need a brush. Then there is the moment when your body odor is so bad that you yourself start to notice it. Toothpaste, brush, and deodorant are all essentials, as is an appropriate amount of biodegradable toilet paper.
Finally, don’t be tempted to go cheap when it comes to your tent camping essentials. That discount sleeping mat might seem like a bargain while you are in the store. But when you are unable to sleep because of the lumpy earth beneath you, you will regret not having spent a bit more on something quality.
4. Plan Your Meals and Don’t Forget Water
We never feel our best when we are hungry, or even when we just need some more liquids. While out camping there is no popping into the kitchen or down to the shop for a quick snack or a glass of water. Whatever you plan on eating, you will need to take with you. Make sure that you plan your meals in advance.
To keep fueled throughout the day, bring something that is easy to carry, but contains enough calories to give you the energy you need. This includes things such as trail mix, cereal bars, and energy bars, and jerky. But plan to eat one proper meal each day, as eating isn’t all about calories.
Think about simple but satisfying and nutritious dishes that are easy to prepare over a campfire. Generally, this means things that don’t require a lot of different ingredients. Another option is to pre-prepare meals and then simply reheat them over the fire. Pack everything in a lightweight cooler that you can take turns carrying.
Also, don’t forget water and a personal water filter. Dehydration is as bad as hunger and can leave us feeling weak and moody. It can be difficult to find clean drinking water while out and about. For this reason, you should always try and bring enough to satisfy everyone. If you are having an active day, you should bring between one and two liters per person. Of course, accidents happen, and water can be lost. It is also essential to bring a portable water filter so that you can drink water from natural sources if needed.
If coffee is something that forms an important part of your diet, don’t plan to deprive yourself. The withdrawal will just leave you irritable and tired. You should be able to have your coffee your way while out camping. The coffee addicts among us have produced no shortage of lightweight coffee-making paraphernalia.
5. Plan Activities
You might think that a good company and the joys of nature are all you need to pass an entertaining time while camping. But remember that there is also a lot of downtime after dark and while actually in your tent. Plus, if you don’t plan your trip well, you may find yourself missing out on potential fun activities.
First and foremost, you should always plan your camping trip near the activities that you want to do. Research interesting hiking trails or good swimming holes beforehand. It can also be worth bringing accessories to add some fun to those activities, such as a paddleboard, a ball, or a frisbee.
Then there is a matter of what you will do while at the campsite. This could be at night. But you could also find yourself stuck in your tent all day if the rain decides to join you. Have reading material with you for solo time. Bring card games and other distractions to keep the group happy and distracted if they find themselves stuck at basecamp.
Get Out There
Tent camping is one of the best ways to get away from all the distractions and stress of our busy lives. It is a great way to get back to nature and find the space to recharge our batteries. But what sounds like a fun and relaxing adventure can quickly become its own sort of stressful nightmare if you aren’t properly prepared.
To ensure that your tent camping experience is as positive as possible, take the time to prepare properly. Make a list of everything you need. Invest in quality gear. Test things out before you go so that you don’t encounter any surprises. Do all this, and you are likely to return home from your next camping experience recharged rather than burned out.