Planning your first camping trip is an exciting process! The dream of a perfect holiday under the canvas and getting back to nature is one many are coming back to, and camping is fast becoming a new family favourite ‘stagnation’ and even trip abroad.
If you’ve never been camping before, it can seem like a mammoth task to plan your first camping trip, but I have pulled together decades of experience to hopefully give you a really detailed guide!
This guide is not going to be able to cover everything, but I hope to be able to give you enough information to get excited and start planning!
Where To Go
The very first thing you need to decide is where do you want to go for your first camping trip? There are so many fantastic campsites up and down the county Road abroad), but if it’s your first trip, I’d always suggest staying closer to home, within an hour’s drive is probably best.
When deciding where to go, have a think about what kind of camping experience you want. Do you fancy a weekend by the beach or a relaxing few days in the woods? Is the sleeping location not important but you want to immerse yourself in local culture?
Deciding where you’d like to go camping is the first step to planning your first demoing trip, and, once you have picked your location, you can use websites such as Pitch-up and UK Campsite to find the right campsite for you.
Bonus tip: Some of the best sites we have ever stayed at have not been on the main booking sites. We’ve found some amazing campsites just using Google maps and searching ‘campsites’ in the general location.
Staying Within Budget
It’s really important to set a budget for your first camping trip, but to do that you’ll need to understand campsite pricing
Most campsites charge per ‘pitch’, your pitch is the piece of grass you pitch your tent on. The price of a camping pitch varies, but camping pitches average at around £15-£20 per pitch per night without electricity and £20-£30 per pitch per night for a pitch with an electric hook up.
Bear in mind that some campsites will charge per person, others will charge for the pitch and then per person on top. Many sites will charge extra for extra cars, pup tents, gazebos and even dogs, so it is worth factoring this into your requirements
By its very nature, camping is a seasonal endeavour, and although same campers are happy to camp year-round, most of us find that Halloween is usually the cut off point, with Easter being a good estimate for restarting.
Given that the seasonality of camping only leaves us with around seven months of camping time, a lot of sites will arrange their fees based on seasonality, charging more for high season and less for low season.
Every campsite is different, but an average the seasons are split up as follows:
- High season – June – August, usually including the May school holiday.
- Mid-season – April and May, September
- Low season – October to April
Many campsites will close from November to February, but some do stay open for those brave souls who don’t mind the cold!
Choosing The Right Site
Once you’ve settled on a budget, it’s important to decide what kind of site you’d like to stay on.
There are all kinds of campsites to suit every kind of camper, so it’s worth trying to decide what you want out of your trip?
If you’re taking the kids away for a week-long holiday, you may want a bigger holiday park type of site that has a pool, clubhouse, kids play area, and access to decent Wifi.
If you’re looking for somewhere to relax on your own or with a partner or friends, then maybe an adults-only small tucked away site would be more your thing?
The beauty of camping is that there is no right or wrong. If you want to stay on a back to basics site with few amenities, then fine, but there are also plenty of options for those looking for more.
Check out websites such as UK Campsites, Pitch Up, and the Camping and Caravanning Club for a great selection of varied sites.
How Will You Get There?
This may seem like a strange question, but it really is worth asking yourself, how will I get to my campsite?
It’s all to do with transport options. Due to the rural location of many sites, getting to them by public transport can be a nightmare, especially when the bus service drops you off a mile away from where your campsite actually is, it’s raining, you have no phone signal to call an Uber.
For this reason, it’s vital to figure out how to get to your campsite, even if you’re car camping.
So, how can you check your campsite location? Here are a few ways you can get a feeling for the location and ease of access:
- Give the owners a call, ask them about local transport options
- Ask the owners about access routes by food/car/whilst towing
- Have a look at the location on Google Mans Satellite view to see the quality of the roads
- If you’ll be towing (a caravan or a trailer) it may be worth getting a towing specific sat-nav, or using a route planning service designed for towing.
- Read reviews, campsite reviews can be invaluable when it comes to providing info on road quality, public transport, and access options.
Who Are You Camping With?
When planning your camping trip, it is especially important to plan for everyone who is going to be going with you. Will you be camping alone or with the kids? With a partner, or with your best friends?
Camping can be a great opportunity to get to know people, but be warned it can really test relationships!
Kids – Make sure you pick a campsite that has something for the kids. That might look different depending on your kids, they may want a play park, a pool, or just for you to bring some toys and games for them.
Friends – If you’re camping with friends try to organise who will do what, or at least agree on some expectations. That avoids the pitfalls of your early bird friend being frustrated at being the only one up and awake at 6am, or your vegetarian friend being upset because you’re cooking bacon sandwiches for breakfast. A quick chat before you go will work wonders!
A new partner – Camping can really bring you closer, but it can also scare your new partner off, so just like camping with friends, have a conversation beforehand to make sure you’re both on the same page!
Choosing Your Camping Gear
The number one question we get asked all the time is “what kit do I need for my first time camping?”. We’ve answered it briefly in another article and we have a whole section ready to roll out especially for new campers, but here is our really brief answer for first time camping year Basic kit
- Tent – always go 1- 2 ‘man’ more than you need.
- Bed – either a self-inflating mattress, an airbed, or a camp bed.
- Sleeping bag – go for a 3+ season one, or take your duvet!
- A pillow – inflatable or the one from your bed will do
- Torch – get a head torch as well as a lantern
- A cooking stove – the portable gas store is probably going to be your best option for car camping
- Gas for your stove – make sure it’s the right gas!
- A lighter – standard Bic style or matches
- A cooking set -The sets for two people are really reasonably priced and versatile
- Crockery – go for plastic or plastic-type crockery lice bamboo or wheat straw
- Cutlery – don’t forget the spark!
Clothing For Your First Camping Trip
Your first time camping can be a bit daunting, and many people worry they will get cold, but by packing the right clothes and learning how to stay warm, you’ll have a much more enjoyable time.
Here is a short list of what clothes to pack for your first time camping:
- A waterproof jacket – either a simple rain mac outlet shell style, or a fully waterproof layered warm jacket
- Wellies or Crocs – for that early morning rush to the loo
- A fleecy jumper – nothing fancy, just a light fleece to keep you warm
- Warm socks – wool really is best here, but any warm socks will do as long as you keep them dry
- A hat – a warm woolly or beanie hut worn in bed can really help keep you warm
- Loose PJs or a onesie – loose cotton PJs or a onesie will help keep you warm at night
Camping Gear For Dogs
While many of you won’t be camping with dogs, I know some of you will. Camping with dogs need not be any more trouble than camping with kids, as long as you make sure their basic needs are met.
A dog’s basic needs when camping includes food, warmth, shelter from the rain and the sun, security, water, and home comforts. Home comforts can be anything that your dog likes from home, such as a favourite blanket or toy, this will make him feel a little more settled.
Here is a list of basic things to pack when camping with your dog:
- Food – try to stick to his usual food if possible
- Treats – stick to baked treats or biscuits over dried meat jerky style treats and bones
- Shelter – either a shaded bed or space in the tent
- Security – keep dogs on a lead with ID on their collar
- Water – always ensure your dog has easy access to clean water, but keep it out of your tent in case he knocks it over!
- Bowls – for his food and water
- Home comforts – a toy or blanket from home
Another thing to pack for a dog is some kind of light.
Your dog may be clever but he’s unlikely to be able to turn a torch on! Consider a light-up collar or light up harness that you can switch on in the evenings, it really does make a big difference!
On the topic of security, some dogs may be ok with a crate, others won’t be. Don’t force a dog into a crate if he’s never been in one and/or doesn’t like it, but do ensure that your dog is secure.
Use a ground spike or attach his lead to somewhere secure such as a caravan leg, fixed picnic table leg or keep him attached to you (this is the method I use, my dog is on my waist strap all the time unless he’s on a spike or my trailer hitch).
First Aid and Fire safety
Many people don’t camp with first aid kits or any kind of fire equipment, and quite frankly this is really irresponsible.
It’s not just yourself you must think of, it’s others on your site.
How would you feel if a fire broke out and no one had a bucket? Those precious minutes waiting for the emergency services to arrive could mean the difference between them losing just their tent or a major fire breaking out across the site
Now, we are not saying risk your own life in the event of a fire, equally, you shouldn’t use any medical equipment that you are not trained or 100% confident with, but having what you can available could make a huge difference in the case of an emergency.
You never know if you’re camping next to an off duty fireman or paramedic who could use that equipment to save a life.
Here are the bits you should pack for fire safety:
- Minimum 1kg powder extinguisher (preferably 2kg
- A fire blanket
- A fire bullet-this can be any bucket but a red one is better (so it can be recognised easily by anyone who needs it) and ensure that it’s kept topped up with water.
For your first aid items, the kit will vary depending on your circumstances and allergies, but we would suggest packing the following in your first aid kit
- Pain relief (ibuprofen/paracetamol)
- Various sized bandages and gauze
- Burn relief get
- Bug bite wipes 1 treatment
- Antiseptic cream 1 spray
- Latex-free gloves
- CPR mask/guard
- Saline bottles
- A space blanket
You may also wish to consider.
- Constipation relief medication
- Diarra in medication
- Rehydration powder
- Indigestion/heartburn/acid reflux medication
There are many more things that you could land probably should) put into your first aid kit, but these are just the basics and they will cover most issues you may encounter at camp without taking a full-on trauma kit!
Do remember to include (and adequately mark) your own medication if you need to take anything, and make sure your first aid kit is left in an easy to grab place in your camp and make sure that everyone in your camp knows exactly where it is!
Planning Your Food
For your first camping trip, keep your food choices simple. You’ll be spending a lot of time outside being physical, so you can afford to have a few extra snakes on hand, just remember that chocolate is likely to melt in the heat!
Food-wise, it will depend on how you’re planning to cook, but we would suggest going for a gas stove over a campfire. Campfires are great, but they can be hard to cook on and most standard camping pots and pans aren’t suitable for use over a campfire.
Your food choices will depend on you and your family’s preferences and whether or not you’ll be able to keep your cool box cold, but here are a few inspirations to get you going:
- Full English-eggs, bacon, sausages, beans, etc
- Beans and sausages (tin)
- Breakfast Burritos (Our personal favourite) porridge
- Pancakes/Drop scones
- Breakfast scramble
- Omelette in a bag (this is borderline genius)
- Noodles trice (instant meals)
- Grilled sandwiches
- Pub lunch (no cooking or washing up required!)
- Chilli with nachos
- Rice and Beans
- Tinned Joy
- Cheesy pasta (mac and cheese)
- Fried fish
- corned Beet hash
The idea of camping food is that it needs to be quite forgiving, and preferably cook quickly with minimal Cleaning up required.
What Is Tinned Joy?
Tinned Joy was the satirical name we gave to pre-cooked tinned food. We usually have a dinner of tinned joy and rice on at least the first night because it’s so easy to prepare.
Tinned Joy comes in many different forms, all supermarkets have a tinned food section and all of them are variable in taste and quality. Most taste fine.
You probably wouldn’t want to spend your whole camping trip eating tinned joy and rice, but it’s a really quick meal for those times you just need to eat!
A few examples of tinned joy you’ll find at most shops and supermarkets include:
- Chilli (usually a safe bet)
- Chicken in white sauce (usually good, can be salty)
- Bolognaise (with spaghetti is best, one-pot meal!)
- Chicken Casserole
- Beef casserole
- Sweet and sour chicken
- Irish stew (usually pretty good)
Of course, there are lots of other options as well as tinned fruit and veg that are a great option for camping.
Tinned boiled potatoes and tinned peas with tinned chicken in white sauce followed by tinned fruit cocktail with condensed milk, now that’s what we call dinner!
Last-Minute Things (Before You Hit The Road!)
So, you’ve decided where you’re going, you’ve booked your site, you’ve bought your tent and you’ve planned your food. The last thing you need to think about is the journey.
For your first trip, we’d suggest staying close to hand, up to about an hour away, but feel free to go further afield if you’re feeling brave!
If you’re going further afield, you’ll need to consider the journey and your packing.
Travelling By Car
Most of the time in the UK, you’ll never be too far from a petrol station, but as you get into the wilder parts of the Scottish Highlands or the mountains of Wales, it really is worth checking where your petrol stations are or filling up sooner rather than waiting.
If you journey is going to be a long one, make sure everyone in the car is comfortable. Add in a few blankets, a good few driving games, and don’t forget the snacks!
If you’re going camping with your dog, do make sure you stop regularly somewhere safe (right out of the way in motorway services car parks) to let them go for a pee!
Packing The Car
Sometimes it can be hard to wonder how you’ll get everything in, and sometimes it’s impossible. Space will be dependent on who is going with you and how much gear you’ll take.
Try as hard as you can to balance the weight of your car and put heavier items towards the back bumper.
Many people like to add a roof box to their car, or we prefer to tow a small trailer if we’re taking a lot of gear,
Roof boxes need to be packed with lighter items, bedding and clothes are generally the recommended gear to go on your roof.
Trailers are much more versatile but you’ll need to be aware of the towing laws and ensure that you are fully compliant.
UK Towing Laws Explained
Towing laws in the UK can be very confusing, but in general, here is the info you need to know:
- Your trailer must have lights-red lights, brake lights and yellow indicator lights
- Your trailer must have a number plate that matches the vehicle that is towing it (this can be a DIY job, as long as it’s visible).
- Your trailer’s maximum towable weight must not exceed the weight your car can legally tow (every car is different, check your owner’s manual).
For those who passed their driving test after 1997, your car and trailer must not exceed a maximum weight of 3500kg.
This is the bit that is confusing, so I’ll explain as best I can.
Trailers (and caravans) have an MTPLM value (Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass). The MT PLM is the maximum weight that that particular trailer can be packed with. The MTPLM is NOT how much the trailer its self actually weighs (most trailers are fairly light) but how much it CAN weigh -this information is key!
The total weight of your car added to your trailer’s MTPLM must not be more than 3500kg.
- Your car weighs 2000kg, your trailer’s MTPLM is 2500kg, this would be illegal.
- Your car weighs 2000kg, your trailer’s MTPLM is 1000kg, this is legal.
The MTPLM value is not dependent on what you are carrying but what you could carry.
If you had a 2000kg Car and you wanted to transport 100kg of balloons, you would need to find a trailer with an MTPLM of up to 1500kg. If you found a trailer with an MTPLM of say 3000 kg but still only transported your 100kg Of balloons, you would still be classed as illegally towing and face a potential fire and points on your license.
When packing a trailer, try to keep your heaviest items towards the tow bar and evenly distributed from left to right.
Ready To Go!
So now you’re ready to go on your first camping trip, you have successfully gone through planning your first camping trip and you’re all ready to set off.
The only thing left to do is have a good time!