By the time you read this, I'll be sleeping under the stars in northern Scotland, nothing but a thin piece of nylon protecting me from the barrels of rain and arctic temps I assume my "summer" holiday will deliver. I'm not a serious camper; my experience is limited to childhood outings with the Girl Guides and music festivals in the UK, but I enjoy it, and I've learned a thing or two from my forays. For the other would-be casual campers out there, here are five tips for living al fresco.
1. Size Matters
See, tents lie about how big they are. A "1-person tent" is just about large enough for one adult to lie down in, with no gear or luggage whatsoever, and have a totally uncomfortable night's sleep. For someone who wants room to breathe, you'll need to think about a 2- or 3-person. I'd say that a couple needs a 4-person tent if they want to have room to store things, change, or turn over. In fact, I recently purchased a 4-person tent for myself, and it's perfect for me and my festival gear, while giving me the option to buddy-up if necessary.
2. Pack Practical
The thing with camping is that you actually do need quite a bit of kit, when you take into account outdoor clothing, food and cooking equipment, campsite necessities, etc. But on the other hand, nobody wants to deal with lugging extraneous junk around a campsite or through the woods. Unless you'll be steps from your car, a rolling trolley (one with heavy-duty wheels!) will help with the transport.
You'll likely need more warm layers, tent pegs, sunscreen, and plastic bags (for rubbish and muddy gear) than you think. You'll want fewer clothes, toiletries, and entertainment items. (In the case of festival glamping, however, everything's a bit topsy-turvy— I'm in favor of all the fake tattoos, fringe and false eyelashes you can carry!)
Also: a portable phone charger is always a good idea. You might think you want to unplug for your time away, but it never hurts to be connected in case of emergency (or a particularly Instagram-worthy moment).
3. Make Your Campsite a Home
This may draw ridicule from more serious campers (if I didn't already lose them at the mention of false eyelashes), but I think comfort is important. You'll want a foam or air mattress for sleeping on, and those waterproof-backed picnic blankets are ideal for eating al fresco, taking on hikes, and getting cosy at site.
For group camping trips where each person/couple has their own tent, I also recommend a gazebo tent for the site. This shared space offers shelter from sun and rain, and acts like a living room where everyone can chill out together.
4. Many Hands Make Light Work
One of the reasons you may not need those books and board games is that, between the moments of blissful relaxation, camping can be quite a bit of work. From making camp to gathering firewood and cooking duties, be prepared to pitch in when needed, but also look to everyone's individual strengths. I have one festival friend who can pitch a tent in 4 minutes flat, so that's her job. As for me, I know my place: as the earliest riser among my friends, I'm on morning coffee duty.
5. Leave No Trace
Don't be that person who leaves litter all over the campsite/forest floor. Bring a large garbage bag for rubbish and one for recycling, and toss them in the designated areas when you leave site or take them home with you. Check the ground for tent pegs before you leave, as they always seem to get misplaced and can be harmful to other people/animals if stepped on.
Are you a casual camper? Or maybe an expert one? What are your top tips?