Camping. For some it is just a primitive affair that causes a lot of inconvenience, for others it is the ultimate form of vacation. I am of the latter kind.
Whether you go for a simple hiker’s tent, a large ‘bungalow’, a caravan or even a rented spot on a glamping site, camping remains a wonderfully active way to get away from it all and avoid the (in)conveniences of the to leave the luxurious world as we know it at home behind us to appreciate it again afterwards. Or not.
Still, camping is not something that you can do unprepared overnight. That is why these different tips for beginners are summarized in ten areas of attention, which vary from good equipment to do’s and don’ts on the spot.
In the past, I always had some very basic things in my backpack when I went camping. The most important were a sturdy spool of sisal twine, a box of matches in an airtight and watertight lockable box, a good Swiss army knife and a roll of aluminum foil.
I would leave the latter these days because of my growing respect for and concern for the environment, but it proved fantastic services. I made everything from the very pliable and with a few layers on top of each other quite strong foil. Windshields to protect my lonely butane burner from continuous blowing out, coffee filter holder, a sun visor, a barbecue bowl and even a ‘normal’ frying pan. Things that you can of course get lightweight, especially nowadays, but you have to take them with you. So to start with, some things that you should have as a good camper.
10 things you need when you go camping
How big can the open door be, I hear you think now. Yet you will feed the people who at the last minute think that they still have to bring a tent and in a blind panic start asking around with family, friends and acquaintances.
The result is that they have a tent that does not meet their basic requirements and that, when they set up that tent for the first time on site, they provide more entertainment for other campers than for their own holiday joy.
So start with the tent (the caravan and the glamping are not considered here). Borrow a tent from friends if you want to give camping a try, but set it up a few times beforehand so you know how it works.
And if you do buy a tent, determine what you want in advance (and especially buy it in the fall when the high season is over and every retailer wants to get rid of their old stock). The number of sleeping places, any storage space, living space inside, ease of transport, that sort of thing. I once went by train to the south of France with a large bungalow tent under a backpack. I suffered a back fracture…
If you go for sustainable quality, then you fall into the category of the De Waard tents, which are pricey, but a tent for life. If you are going for simple convenience, take a look at the wide range of ‘pop-up tents‘. They stand like this and now often offer a lot of space and ‘comfort’.
What else has to do with the tent
Whatever tent you choose, make sure you have a number of things with you that will increase the camping convenience and often also the lifespan of your tent. An extra bottom sail is one of them. I always had a well-fitting piece of sturdy agricultural plastic with me. Not exactly environmentally friendly either, but it was strong and could last for many years. And with an extra groundsheet, your tent stays cleaner, warmer and drier, which extends its lifespan.
Also make sure you have pegs that match the ground and a good-sized rubber mallet to save yourself a lot of aggravation. Pitching your tent in the Dutch clay is different from anchoring a temporary residence storm-proof on the rocky subsoil of the French Ardèche. And as for storms: a few extra guy ropes are never gone.
Once the temporary roof is over your head, the sleeping place is the most important. And it is precisely this that is often neglected by novice camping enthusiasts (who then quickly become enthusiasts…). A good place to sleep is of vital importance, especially if you are going to camp for more than two to three days.
So don’t skimp on an air mattress or sleeping pad. And certainly not on a sleeping bag. Test your sleeping mat or air mattress and check for which temperatures the sleeping bag you want to take with you is suitable. Waking up at night from the cold and waking up the next morning with back pain really does not promote camping pleasure. And don’t forget a nice pillow. If necessary, if your luggage space allows, bring your own trusted pillow.
Of course it is a romantic image to spend the evening sitting cross-legged in front of your tent by the atmospheric light of a brazier, but not everyone can keep up day in and day out to sit with their ass on mother earth without a helping hand .
So take a (folding) chair with you and choose the best option that combines comfortable seating and good transportability. In any case, make sure that the seat floats at least a few centimeters above the ground. In the worst case this saves moisture and cold. And you really need that support. Even if it was just to occasionally lean back and muse under the starry sky.
Because the starry sky, no matter how clear it may be, never gives enough light to pleasantly illuminate the camping nights as long as the eyes are open, a light source is nice. Candles work great, as long as they can do their job well protected from the wind, and a small campfire, provided it’s allowed on the site, of course, is the ultimate.
But a little camper cannot do without a good camping lamp and flashlight. Preferably one that offers different light modes and is economical in battery use. In that regard, PrimeOutdoor 3-in-1 Camping Lantern is an excellent choice. It unites the camping lamp and the flashlight in one and the device can also serve as a power bank and thus a phone charger.
We are talking about camping here, and not about a huge hut complete with built-in kitchen, shower and toilet. So you also need stuff to cook with, because every evening snack bar (if there is one nearby) or going out for dinner also gets boring and makes the holiday considerably more expensive.
And cooking outside or in the tent can be really fun. Here, too, the following applies in advance: how much kitchen space do you have in the tent and what requirements do you place on comfort. I’ve done it for years with a single burner camping gas burner, one frying pan and one saucepan. The macaroni recipe that once originated at a campsite with these primitive ingredients is still a favorite with the children.
Of course, a more luxurious two-burner gas stove that also stands firmly on legs so that it has a good working height is more comfortable, but the primitive fumbling is part of the camping romance. If you cook on gas, don’t forget the gas bottle and realize that not every campsite has electricity available if you have an electric stove with you. Moreover, a place with electricity is usually much more expensive (and if you don’t have a PrimeOutdoor Camping Lantern you can also charge that mobile phone in the generally accessible washing facility).
And a barbecue? Oh well, a hole in the ground with a small fire and a grate above it works too. Check whether you are allowed to make an open fire at the place where you camp; an angry campsite manager can spoil a lot of camping fun. If you want it just a little more practical but still as compact, you can also take an Ecogrill with you.
… and the cutlery
In the time when I had not yet made a standard list with all camping supplies (make such a list well in advance so that you have enough time to collect your own camping equipment) I regularly found out somewhere in a remote place that I had forgotten cutlery to bring along. Now I always had my pocket knife, but if you go camping with several people, sufficient eating utensils are indispensable.
Just like enough plates and cups (one per person is enough, for those few weeks of the year, coffee and wine are best in the same cup) and of course the pans you think you need. Think minimally; the less luggage, the better. And as far as the kitchen department is concerned, don’t forget the least fun: the dishes. A small bottle of washing up liquid, a sponge and a tea towel is very useful. You can usually find a sink to do the dishes in.
Eating and cooling
I’ve never been a fan of taking a lot of food with me. I’d much rather go out on the spot to see what’s out there. But that is different for everyone. In any case, I provide some coffee or tea, soft drinks, beer and wine for the first need and possibly some food for the first day.
A pack of pasta and a homemade sauce in a pot already works wonders. And if you can’t live without chocolate sprinkles and peanut butter, they will also have to find a place in your luggage, especially when you go abroad.
While you can really camp without a ‘fridge’ (a hole in the ground in a shady spot or a defined reservoir in a picturesque stream running by can be very helpful), a cool box is a luxury that you should definitely allow yourself if you have the space have.
Cooling elements can be frozen again on most campsites (unless you camp wild…), but the best thing is a fridge that works on the battery of a car. But again, with a little good will you can really do without refrigeration for the time being.
If you are someone who likes to take half his or her wardrobe with him under the motto ‘you never know’, camping may not be the best thing to do. In a tent, as far as clothing is concerned, ‘less is more’. After all, you have to lose it all in that limited space. And you can bet that it will soon get back in all those clothes.
Therefore, if necessary, make sure you have a garbage bag that you can tie tightly in which you can store your clothing ‘free of moisture’. Even if you only go ‘fair weather camping’. Because even in warm regions it can be humid and cool in the evenings.
So keep it comfortable and really bring that one set of clothes that can keep you nice and warm when needed. In addition, that pair of extra (hiking) shoes in addition to those summer sandals is no superfluous luxury. And if you happen to go camping in the Belgian Ardennes, don’t forget your wellies.
Travel and entertainment
Unless you make a holiday adventure from the spec without knowing what the end point is: be prepared. Not only with regard to setting up the tent and the list of things you should take with you, but also with regard to the place itself.
Know where you are going, what kind of surface you are dealing with, what facilities there are at the campsite, whether the place is suitable for children and so on. And ‘know where you’re going’ also applies to the journey itself. Whether you travel by bicycle, public transport or car, make sure you have prepared the route and that you have your travel documents and holiday budget in order.
Also plan your trip so that you do not arrive at the campsite in the dark. Setting up a tent in the dark may be fun for a challenging game show, but very frustrating for the start of a vacation. Also a repair kit for a leaking air mattress and a foot pump in the luggage are things that can prevent a lot of annoyance.
And if you still have some space, take that small jerry can with you so you don’t have to fetch water for every cup of coffee or tea. For the rainy days, especially if you don’t want to stare at your mobile in a world of your own, some games, but at least some dice and a deck of playing cards are handy and small additions to the luggage.
Finally: you are the key
Wherever you go, you always take yourself with you. So you have the greatest influence on a successful or unsuccessful camping adventure. The most important thing is: rain or shine, keep it fun and relaxed.
My first time camping, with my parents at the time, was actually a disaster. The weather was very bad – such a completely rained-out Easter weekend – the borrowed tent turned out to be leaking and to make matters worse my brother and I, after almost all clothing had already rained wet, fell into the local camping lake because we were at the top of the wide slide we were frolicking and we came home soaking wet.
My parents’ indestructible good mood and the challenge of coming up with a good solution for every setback, planted a camping seed that never left. The whole primitive is no longer necessary for me, but there is – no matter what time of the year it is – no other form of holiday accommodation that brings you closer to nature, to pure life and to yourself than camping. So give it a shot and enjoy…
Do you often go camping or do you want to do it for the first time? Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.