How to camp: what you will need

Its my first time camping… what do I need to buy?

Some people have asked what kinds of camping equipment they need to buy as our woodland retreat Space to Emerge will be their first camping trip.

We have put together this guide, and divided the items up into two categories – ‘the basics’ and ‘other useful items’. We have given a price guide for some items and a few links to give you an idea of the kind of products we have bought in the past. If you have any questions at all please do ask us as we are seasoned campers and have lots of tips.

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The basics

Sleeping bag: Sleeping bags come with a ‘season rating’. A 3-season will see you through the spring to the autumn and is the best kind to buy if you are new to camping. A 4-season, although will be warmer, will get too warm in the height of summer.

If you are worried about getting chilly, then bring a few blankets, or a duvet. Even in early spring a 3-season sleeping bag and duvet should keep even the most un-seasoned camper warm. You probably wont need a blanket beyond mid June, but it’s always good to pack one in the car just in case, especially if you are someone who feels the cold.

We recommend a sleeping bag over a duvet, as during the earlier months in spring when the temperature at night does drop, draughts can sneak in under duvets, and they can pick up moisture and get a little cold and damp. In the height of summer you can get away with just a duvet.

Pillow: No special kind – just the one you use at home.

Thermal layer to sleep on: This is really important as it acts as a warm barrier between you and the ground, which is cool and damp. The super budget option is a simple multimat for around £5, and for a few pounds more, between £10 and £25 you can get yourself a self inflatable mat. A normal airbed will also work fine and will give you ultimate comfort. If you go for the airbed option, don’t forget to bring a pump which you can connect to a car, or a foot pump to pump it up with.

Tent: The rule of thumb is go up a size for the number of people you have, so you have a little more space and room to store your things. So, if you are camping on your own a two-person tent is ideal. If there are two of you then a three or even four man tent is good. The larger your tent, the longer it will take to put up and take it down, but only marginally as most tents up to 4-man now go up in less than 15-20 minutes.

When you buy your tent as standard it will come with an inner section (the sleeping compartment bit), outer section (the waterproof bit), poles and tent pegs. All tents come with this.

The additional extras you might want to consider is whether it has a section to sit in with a table (you will need to go up to 4-man size for this most likely), and an internal groundsheet for the outer tent, and whether it has multiple separate sleeping compartments. You also want to consider how much space you want in the covered area outside your sleeping compartment, for your wet clothes and shoes, and cooking area. Some of the 2-man tents don’t have much space for this.

Here are a few typical tent styles that we have used in the past and work well…

2 man tent, 3 man tent, 4 man tent, 4 man tent with two separate sleeping compartments

Price wise, you can go high but it’s not necessary. We have never paid more than £100 for a standard everyday use tent, and on average around £60. I (Nicola) paid £30 for a 2-man tent and it lasted me years and years, so there is no need to pay a lot of money for a functional tent. Typically you should look at spending around £40 for a 2-man tent, £50-£70 for a 3-man tent and £60-£100 for a 4-man tent, although you could spend a lot more if you wanted to. If you start to pay over £100 for these smaller tents you are generally paying for the label, its weight (for if you are trekking), and its ability to withstand very very fierce storms – not the kind you will be camping in. Halfords, GOOutdoors, Decathlon and Argos are all good places to go for everyday use tents. You can buy online, or if you want to get a good idea about the tent size and layout its best to go to a specialist camping outlet where they have lots of tents pitched in their shop, so you can try them out.

Head torch, or normal torch: Head torches are useful as you will have both hands free, but if you don’t have a head torch, then any torch is fine. It’s always a good idea to have spare batteries, just in case they run out during the trip.
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Other useful items

Camping gas stove: You can buy these as singles or doubles. A single works fine for one pan meals and you can pick them up very cheep, from around £8 upwards. Its best to buy a spare gas canister for when you run out.

Camping pan set: There are some really compact sets which you can buy where about 5 items all fit in together so they can be neatly stored. Here is one as an example. You are looking for one which has a kettle and a couple of saucepans, and possibly a frying pan too.

Plastic crockery and cutlery

Wet wipes: These are really good for when you haven’t got access to a shower.

Dry shampoo: This helps lengthen the time between hair washes.

Matches

Camping lamp: You can buy either LED lamps or gas lamps. Both work well.

A wooly hat: These are really good at keeping you warm at night, as often the only part of you which is uncovered is your head, so a hat will help keep you nice and snug.

Gloves: These are good as you are outside all the time, and particularly in the evening they keep your hands warm as you sip your wine!

Camping chair: We like this style of chair as they are really comfy, compact to store and carry, and have a holder for your drink.

Picnic blanket: We like this style of picnic blanket as they have a waterproof underside so they keep you dry from the damp earth, and they fold up into a handy carry bag.

Mallet: You might want to buy a mallet to bash the tent pegs in, although normally here in the UK the ground is soft enough to simply push the tent pegs in so you probably won’t need one.

Washing up bowl. These are very handy if you are at a basic camp site, but not necessary at many camp sites as they have washing up facilities.

Washing up liquid, brush or scourer, and a tea towel. These come in very handy… and in our case are often those items we seem to forget to pack most often!

A cool box and ice packs

Plastic water carrier. These are really handy, as you can store water by your tent rather than having to go to the tap all the time. You can get hard plastic carriers or softer collapsable carriers, and its also possible to buy carriers with wheels.

Hot water bottle

Water proofs – a rain jacket and water proof trousers