Top tips for first-time campers

Children in tent at night.

Sleeping under the stars is an unforgettable experience.

For some holidaymakers, the thought of camping is a scarier prospect than a visit to the dentist, conjuring up negative, pre-conceived images. However, with good advice and preparation, camping is extremely rewarding.

There’s something special about embracing the great outdoors; being in touch with nature and enjoying the simple life. It’s a time of watching a majestic sunset, of swapping yarns under a star-cloaked sky, of falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing and waking up to birds chirping.

Sleeping under the stars is an unforgettable experience.

Camping creates a sense of achievement, too – from simply setting up a tent (well, it should be simple!) to cooking a delicious meal removed from the convenience of your kitchen.

Would-be campers, this is a call to get out of your comfort zone and experience the joys of this fun and satisfying activity.

We’ve come to the party by compiling several handy tips – some suggested by our social media followers – that we hope will inspire you to embrace the camping lifestyle.

Pen, paper and camping equipment

Making a checklist ensures packing is a much easier process.

Part one: Before you reach your campsite

Pack wisely: While it’s important to have the essentials, there’s no need to pack as if you’re going on a six-month voyage to Antarctica. Avoid stress and be sensible and efficient when packing. And make a checklist.

The same rule applies if purchasing camping gear. First-time campers can be like novice golfers, feeling the need to spend a small fortune on every single gadget available, down to the ZX4000 ultra-fast tent peg sharpener. While we hope you have repeat usage from your camping gear, it’s costly if you don’t use the equipment much. Keep it simple: buy only essentials items and build on your camping gear as you go.

An ingenious suggestion we received through the BIG4 Facebook page was for first-time campers to choose a campsite within close range of a hardware store. This way, you can easily grab a spare item or three in case you are ill-prepared.

Be prepared for rain: Conspiracy theorists will tell you Mother Nature likes to play havoc with campers – some even suggest their mere presence at a campsite could provide relief to drought-stricken areas. To ensure the scoreline is You 1, Mother Nature 0, be prepared for wet-weather camping.

Firstly, check that your tent is rainproof before departure. Pack a raincoat and boots and place a spare set of clothes in a waterproof bag for extra insurance.

Be sure to pack a tarpaulin or two; these are also useful to protect against the sun and wind. And bring along plastic bags and ziplock bags – they always seem to come in handy for storing items when it rains.

Remember that weather can be interchangeable: While the weather forecast might predict a run of warm days, it’s important to be prepared for interchangeable weather when camping. Warm clothes may be even required when camping in summer: in some places, overnight temperatures are capable of plummeting faster than a waterfall.

Year-round items worth packing when camping include earplugs and a comfortable chair.

Smiling children inside tent.

Camping can be an extremely enjoyable experience for children.

Expect all conditions: In light of extremes in the weather, be armed with back-up activities in case the elements are not working in your favour. A bored camper is not a happy camper.

Make a cooking checklist: Remember that you might not have access to all your regular cooking utensils and equipment – so make a checklist of essential items. Be practical: plastic or disposable cutlery, crockery, mugs, and cups are ideal when camping.

Invite experienced campers to join you: If you have trepidation about going alone, coax experienced campers to come along for the ride – they may be able to share valuable advice.

Consider a trial run: Particularly if camping with children. Even a simple exercise like pitching a tent in your backyard can go a long way to making it easier when it comes time for the ‘real thing’.

Children pitching tent in backyard

A trial run in the backyard is a great way to prepare yourself for camping.

Part two: When at your campsite.

Check the ground: Before you set up, check the ground under which the tent will stand and clear away any loose objects. This will ensure greater comfort.

Prepare for rain (again): If it’s raining, keep bedding and other items away from the walls of your tent to avoid rain leaking through to the inside. We won’t explain the exact science behind it, but trust us – this simple advice will save you a world of pain.

Be aware of restrictions during fire season: Conversely, be aware of fire bans and restrictions in the area you are travelling, otherwise you could be up for a hefty fine. Of greater concern, you don't want to be responsible for starting an out-of-control fire.

Socialise with fellow campers: Don’t be shy when camping – socialise with your fellow campers. It’s enjoyable and you may even pick up some handy hints along the way.

Consider an upgrade

Still not convinced? Well, there’s a suitable compromise thanks to the emergence of ‘glamping’ (glamorous camping). With this trend you can experience the joys of ‘roughing it’ without having to forsake any of your creature comforts. It’s a win-win situation!

Several BIG4 Holiday Parks offer safari-style tents that fall straight into the glamping category. This accommodation option comes complete with ready-made tents – no setting up is required – and some even include amenities such as a shower, fridge, and microwave.

Inside of safari glamping tent

Safari tents, such as this one at BIG4 Katherine Holiday Park, provide an extra level of comfort.

Your thoughts

These are our suggestions for prepping first-time campers, but we’d love your feedback. Have we missed some vital information? Can you part any wisdom to educate or inspire new campers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Isn’t it time you began creating priceless camping memories? Book your BIG4 camping holiday now.

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