Picture this: A late sunset. The chirping of birds. The smell of a barbeque. Legs sore from a day spent walking. Perfect.
As summer approaches and the weather warms, nothing beats finally getting out into the Great Outdoors and soaking up all that the British countryside has to offer. And what better way than a classic camping trip?
Whether you’re a total tent novice or a pitching pro, our handy guide will give you the low-down on all your camping essentials. Once you’ve finished reading, remember to download our printable checklist: keeping everything you need for camping right there at your fingertips!
What kind of tent do I need?
Choosing the right tent is key to a great camping trip – but where to start? From lightweight one-mans for the solo adventurer to towering eight-person domes, there are so many tents available that the decision can seem overwhelming.
Here are some questions to consider before making that all-important choice:
- How many people will be sleeping inside it?
- Do you want to sleep together or in separate compartments?
- Will you be carrying the tent in a car or hiking with it on your back?
- Do you need extra room for pets, or to stand up inside?
- What time of year are you planning your trip?
Unless you’re happy to get pretty up close and personal with your fellow campers, then a good rule of thumb is to choose a tent big enough for one more person than you’re planning on fitting inside – especially for restless sleepers!
A standard 2-3 season tent should see you through the milder months of March-November in the UK, but winter camping calls for something more heavy duty.
If you’re still feeling unsure, why not take a trip to your local outdoors shop? Their staff will be happy to get you kitted out with your perfect match!
Top Tip: Always practice putting a new tent up at home before you show it off in the Great Outdoors. Your ideal tent should be easy to put up and take down in all weathers, and it’s better to find out beforehand if it’s not!
And if staying in a tent sounds just a bit too . . . adventurous, don’t worry!
There are plenty of other options which will give you the same great camping experience. Lots of campsites offer cute wooden camping pods or cosy yurts and bell-tents, which will allow you to get you close to nature and keep your creature comforts. Glamping, anyone?
What are my camping essentials?
So, your tent is sorted – what next? Here are some other things you need to take camping, for a trip you’re sure to remember:
After your tent, a sleeping bag is your biggest camping necessity. And just like tents, there’s a whole world of sleeping bags to choose from!
A 2-3 season bag should keep you toasty throughout most British seasons, and choosing a mummy hood is a great way to stay snuggly even on those cold mornings.
If you’re used to sleeping in a bed, trying to get some shuteye on the lumpy ground can be a challenge. Fortunately, that’s where sleeping mats come in!
From your basic foam roll mats which are a great budget buy, to inflatable air mattresses which will keep even the fussiest sleeper happy, there are plenty of options to pick from. Just remember to pack a pump and a puncture kit!
If you’re planning a more advanced multi-day hike, then self-inflating mats which pack up small are a good option to keep your rucksack light and manageable.
Whether you’re planning a midnight stroll or trying to find the loo at one in the morning, a headtorch is an absolute camping essential. Be sure to bring spare batteries!
Picnic Rug or Camping Chairs
Even the most active campers need some chill-out time and sitting on your raincoat gets old pretty quickly! Foldable camping chairs provide a comfy alternative, or a good old fashioned picnic blanket is an affordable option which is easily packed away – great for taking on day trips!
Camping food doesn’t need to be fancy – anything warm and simple tastes great after a day spent outside! A small gas camping stove and a pan or two should cover most easy meals and can double up as a kettle when you fancy a brew. Remember to bring along enough plastic bowls and cutlery for everyone, and of course a water bottle each: hydration is key!
We recommend sticking to simple but delicious one-pot foods such as pasta, beans or rice, and bringing plenty of cereal for breakfast. Portable barbeques are another great way to cook outdoors, and for making your food smell as good as it tastes! And of course, don’t forget the snacks!
Most campsites should have a washing up area, but you will need to bring a sponge, some washing up liquid, and a plastic bowl yourself. Why not use a washing up trip as a chance to refill your water bottles?
Top Tip: If gas-stove cooking just isn’t your thing, scout out any local restaurants and pubs for a slap-up meal you won’t have to make yourself.
Washing and Toiletries
After a long day outside, you’ll want nothing more than a nice hot shower. Thankfully, most modern campsites provide such luxuries.
Make sure to bring shower gel, shampoo and any other toiletries with you. And of course, a towel!
Camping is a great opportunity for a digital detox, but it’s still good to keep your phone with you in case of emergencies. Bringing a power bank should keep your phone and any other USB electronics full of charge.
A gripping book, a pack of cards or an easy boardgame are essentials for whiling away late summer evenings outside the tent.
First Aid Kit
Always be prepared. Plasters, tweezers, wipes and a strong antiseptic cream are essentials for any camping trip.
Where should I camp?
- Mountains, beaches, lakes and forests – the UK countryside really has it all, and plenty of beautiful nature spots boast excellent campsites. If you’re struggling to choose the perfect site, ask yourself what you want from your camping holiday:
- Somewhere you can relax?
- Somewhere you can do a mix of outdoor activities?
- Somewhere with a lake or a beach?
- Somewhere you can go cycling?
Checking out the UK’s stunning range of National Parks is a great place to start!
What should I wear?
When holidaying in the UK, it’s essential to be prepared for all weathers. Even sunny days can turn cloudy at the drop of a hat, and campers should prepare to get muddy – it’s all part of the fun! The right clothes will keep you comfy and dry, so remember to pack these camping necessities:
- A pair of sturdy hiking shoes or boots for walking
- Hiking socks to keep the blisters at bay
- Comfy slip-ons for chilling out at camp
- A waterproof jacket
- A cosy fleece for chilly evenings
- Sun-cream and bug-spray for exposed skin
Wild Camping Essentials
If you’re a more experienced camper, you might want to try your hand at wild camping! This can be a fun, freeing and adventurous way to experience the Great Outdoors, but here are some things to bear in mind before you sling on a pack and head off into the wilderness:
- Wild Camping without the landowner’s permission isn’t legal in most parts of the England and Wales – so it’s usually best to stick to official campsites.
- Wild Camping is legal in Scotland, so long as you pitch up more than 100m from a road. Enjoy the stunning National Parks this country has to offer, from the rugged Highland beauty of the Cairngorms, to the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs.
- Leave no trace. This is rule number one when it comes to wild camping: enjoy what nature has to offer, then leave it unspoiled for everyone else. Remember to bring a bin bag and take all rubbish away with you.
- Pack light! Chances are, you’ll be carrying everything – tent and sleeping bag included – on your back. Test out your pack before you go and make sure you can carry it comfortably for several hours. You’ll thank us later!
- Easy eating. A delicious barbeque or homemade chilli might be good options when you have the convenience of a campsite, but putting a full meal together in the wild is a different story. Cold or pre-made meals like soup are a fuss-free alternative. And don’t forget to bring plenty of snacks! You’ll need the energy.
- Gear up right. Sensible walking shoes and good waterproofs are even more important when there’s no solid shelter or showers in sight. Make sure you’re prepared for all weathers: this is the UK after all!
- Navigation is key. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of an Ordnance Survey Map or a GPS tracker when it comes to picking out a route. And remember: always let someone know where you are going!
Camping is a fun and budget-friendly way to spend a family holiday. Here are some tips for making sure it all goes smoothly!
Double-check the weather before you set off – camping with kids isn’t much fun in a thunderstorm
Make sure your tent is big enough for the whole family to hang out in comfortably if it does rain
Bring more clothes than you think you’ll need – and expect little explorers to come back muddy! Wellies are an essential.
A packet of baby wipes will be your hero when it comes to wiping sticky fingers
Bring plenty of entertainment – a couple of boardgames and a ball to kick about will be perfect
Toasting marshmallows and telling stories around a campfire always goes down a treat.
Camping Essentials Checklist
Download our camping checklist to make sure you have everything you need before you go!