Are you a first-time camper looking to pitch a tent off the beaten track this coming summer? Or are you looking for some simple tips to help you set up the perfect campsite? Well, behold our list of camping tips for beginners – it’ll have you looking as experienced as an eagle scout in no time.
There’s not much that feels better than getting attuned to nature. In the great outdoors, the sun is your alarm clock, the bushland is your wide, widescreen TV, the river your shower and your kitchen is a pile of rocks and a fire.
Now, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran,here are some tips to help you on your way, even if you’re a camping king or queen – it doesn’t mean your campsite can’t be fine tuned and improved.
What’s the best spot for your campsite?
If you’re heading to a camping ground, then it’s best to avoid a spot too near the campground entrance or car parks, unless you want to be woken up each morning by the sound of a VW Kombi backfiring as it leaves the site. Try to find a spot near toilets (but not too near), so you have access to water.
If you’re heading out bush, find a site on flat, high ground with afternoon shade. If you arrive in the morning, you may be able to find a spot with dappled shade so your tent doesn’t heat up too quickly in the early hours. The afternoon shade will also keep you cool during the hotter part of the day.
The flat, high ground will mean you get some nice breezes and good drainage, but look for a ground cover with grass, pine needles or leaves – that way you have some softer ground on which to walk around that is nicer than plain old dirt. Don’t go too high, in case of lightning.
It’s always good to choose an established campsite – that way you’re using someone else’s camping savvy and you’re reducing your impact on the environment.
Once you’ve found your flat ground, check for dead, dangling branches overhead. These are known around the traps as ‘widow-makers’ and you don’t want them falling on your head during a stiff breeze.
Check the direction of the wind
Pick up some grass and throw it into the air so you can see which way the wind is blowing. Then you can set up your campfire downwind. This mean you won’t get smoke in your tent and, most importantly, you won’t burn down your home-away-from-home. It’s a smart move to ensure that it’s the back of your tent that cops the strongest winds.
Drive in your pegs at a 45°-angle
It just makes them easier to pull out. Use flat rocks or a hammer to get into harder ground. When it comes time for pulling them up, you can knock them from side to side to loosen.
Lay down a ground tarp
Always place a tarp under your tent to protect your floor from seepage and to provide extra thickness so you don’t put holes in your tent floor. Make sure that no part of the tarp is exposed, as it will suck dew or rainwater underneath and soak through your floor.
Try to keep your tent ropes as vertical as possible
That’s basically so you don’t trip over them. You can also tie on strips of fabric to make them easier to see at night.
Make sure you bring hand sanitiser
“What a wimpy thing to bring to a campsite!” I hear you say, but there’s not much worse than getting a stomach bug or flu whilst you’re supposed to be on holiday. And when you’re looking for leaves to clean up your ‘business’ you’ll be thanking me for this one. Trust me.
Instant bush dunny
Bring along a small hand shovel, a plastic bag (garbage bags are best) packed with toilet paper and hand sanitiser, and maybe some moist towelettes. Dig a hole around 50–70 paces from your campsite (preferably downwind) and leave the garbage bag sealed and tied to a tree next to the hole. Et voila – instant bush dunny.
Buy a role of under-mattress foam
Slide it under your air bed or mattress to keep the cold ground from stealing your body heat at night – unless of course you’re camping in a warm part of the country and you want to stay cool. It’s also good to protect your air mattress and it stop sticks and stones from sticking into you.
Dispose of your rubbish every day
It’s just smart camping. It keeps critters away, stops the place from smelling and it’s better for the environment. You can bring your own small plastic bin, or lock it in sealed bags in your car if you don’t have a bin handy. If neither of those options appeal to you, then double or triple bag it and hang it up a tree until you can get to a bin.
Building your campfire
It’s always best to build a fire in an established fire ring, but if you can’t find one, then simply pick a spot without overhanging branches, then clear away the top soil and build an enclosed ring out of rocks.
Then pile dry, dead sticks no wider than a pencil (even smaller) if you want it to light quickly. Your pile should resemble a house of sorts. Place bundles of dry grass, or cotton balls, shredded newspaper and dry leaves inside your stick house. Next, build it up with sticks and small branches no wider than your thumb. Light and blow on the flames to help the fire burn the bigger branches. Only once you have a strong flame, add larger branches and charcoal-producing logs.
How to keep the bugs away
Unfortunately, bugs are a part of your camping experience, so embrace it, because they’re there to stay. The only way to keep them away is to have a campsite with a steady breeze, but you can try the old citronella candles or burners. There are also some handy sonic insect repellents that sometimes work but, if I’m being honest, I’ve not had much success with them.
Handy chill zone
If you’re lucky to be near a river or stream, then use it to keep your perishable food chilled. Place your food in a mesh laundry bag and secure it to a tree or rock on the river bank. You can even stash a slab in the water to keep those beers cold. They may not be as cold as straight out of the fridge, but it will sure make you look like a pro camper!
Do you have any tips for first-time campers? Are there any other suggestions you can make to help our members?