Avoiding First-time Campers Mistakes
With travel abroad hugely limited this summer, families, couples and groups of friends are all looking for staycations to get their holiday fix this summer. Campsites and equipment retailers are experiencing incredibly high demand as regular campers have been joined by swathes of those pitching a tent for the first time.
If you’re considering a camping holiday this summer and are feeling inexperienced on the camping front, camping expert David Scotland shares the most common mistakes new campers make and how you can avoid making them on your trip.
David Scotland owns family-run camping equipment retailer Outdoor World Direct; established in 1999, he has been heading up the business since 2012 and has listened to many anecdotes involving disastrous camping trips! His top tips ensure you’re prepared for a great adventure.
There are so many different shapes, sizes and types of tent available it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and buy something that doesn’t suit your needs.
“For campsite and festival trips, always select a tent that is one or two berths bigger than what you need so you have ample space for people and belongings,” David says, “if you’re wild camping or doing multi-day hikes that require you to carry your equipment, you’ll want to consider the weight and opt for a lighter model.
“Campsite trips can be made much more efficient with an Air tent, which is erected by inflating instead of using poles. This means huge family tents can be pitched in just ten minutes, plus the Air ‘poles’ are robust and reliable so you don’t have to worry about the tent deflating. Air tents are also disassembled by using the same pump to deflate the tent, which can then easily be packed away.”
Checking equipment before setting off
One of the most frustrating things a camper will encounter is arriving at their campsite only to realise their tent is missing parts or a hole has appeared in their air mattress.
“I can’t stress the importance of checking your equipment a week ahead of your trip - that includes new equipment,” warns David, “although it’s rare, mistakes do happen during the manufacturing/packing process. It’s better to be aware of missing tent poles/pegs or that the groundsheet is damaged beforehand. Equipment that has been sitting in the shed for a year or more may have mould growth or experienced damage. Such problems can be rectified by repairing or ordering new equipment before you go, but once you’re at the campsite, you’re in a pinch.”
Doing a test pitch in advance
It’s not just wear and tear that can cause problems when pitching at your campsite. Ensuring you know how to pitch the equipment is just as important. David recommends trialling a complete setup, including inflating sleep systems and setting up furniture in the weeks before your trip.
“As camping equipment gets more high-tech, it’s important that you know how it works and any attachments required for a smooth setup,” he says, “for example, a manual foot pump for your airbed isn’t going to cut it for inflating your Airbeam tent and likely won’t even be compatible so you need to make sure you have the right tools for the job. It’s better you know that everything works as it should, rather than getting to the campsite and panicking.”
Travelling with spares and repair kits
Even if your kit is in pristine condition when you arrive, accidents happen. David recommends campers pack plenty of spare pegs and patch repair kits for any tears that occur during the trip.
He says: “Even the highest quality equipment can sustain damage from the environment. A tear in your tent in wet, windy weather can be miserable or even spell the end of your trip. However, a repair kit allows you to patch things up and continue. I wouldn’t go camping without one.”
He also recommends taking more pegs than you need as they can become bent and ineffective when hammered into hard ground.
Using the correct sleeping bag
Selecting a sleeping bag might seem straightforward but David Scotland explains one of the most common mistakes a beginner makes is using a sleeping bag unfit for purpose. This can result in poor sleep which hinders enjoyment of the trip.
“Sleeping bags have comfort and season ratings, while this may seem like jargon to new campers, it’s actually really important information. A one-season sleeping bag will only be suitable for warm summer nights, whereas a three-four season sleeping bag is thicker and better suited to year-round camping but could be too thick for hot summer nights. Each sleeping bag has a comfort rating or suggested usage which will include two temperatures such as -2 to 18c. That means checking that the forecasted temperatures of your trip don’t fall outside of those temperatures.”
Pre booking your campsite
A little spontaneity can feel adventurous, however campsites are currently experiencing incredibly high levels of demand for bookings. If you haven’t booked a pitch in advance, don’t expect to get one.
David Scotland also recommends checking details of your booking for finer details too.
“All campsites have their own set of amenities and rules,” says David, “some pitches have electrical hook-ups and some permit fires whereas others don’t. Checking this information informs you of what’s necessary to pack and what to leave at home.”
Checking the weather forecast
“You’d be surprised how many people go camping without checking the weather forecast for their trip just before they go. I have several customers who failed to realise a Severe Weather Warning was in place last August, with 70mph winds damaging their tent and equipment.” says David. “If heavy rain is forecast you need to make sure your tent and clothing is going to handle the conditions.”
Tents all have a waterproof rating described as ‘hydrostatic head’ which is measured in millimetres — the higher the number, the more rain it can withstand. David recommends opting for a tent with a waterproof rating of at least 3000mm for typical British weather. Better metrics will ensure the tent stays dry in heavy downpours.
David also recommends using commonsense in extreme weather, he says, “sometimes we need to admit defeat when it comes to mother nature. If gale force winds are forecast, I highly recommend reconsidering your plans as conditions can be unsafe.”
Not forgetting the ‘little things’
Sure, your tents in the boot of the car, but have you remembered to pack the mallet to hammer your pegs in the ground?
“Even experienced campers forget the less obvious items,” says David, “I recommend making a checklist so you’re not relying on memory on the day. If you do forget something like a mallet, try not to sweat it and don’t be afraid to ask fellow campers. We’re typically a friendly bunch and often more than happy to help out others and impart our wisdom on those less experienced.”
Buying kit: https://www.outdoorworlddirect.co.uk/