- 15 Aug 2020
- Barak Egoz
We’ve done it, we’ve finally drawn on our 25+ years of camping experience and the tips that have been shared with us over the years and we’ve put everything together in our ultimate list of camping hacks and tips to help you lavel up your camping trip.
In This Guide
- Cooking & Food Tips
- Sleeping Tips
- Pitching & Pack Down Tips
- General Camping Tips & Hacks
The Ultimate List Of Camping Tips & Hacks
Cooking & Food Tips
1. Take extra fuel for cooking
Whether you plan to cook on an open campfire or on a gas camp stove, make sure you take extra fuel. The most common type of camp stove for family campers uses butane gas canisters, so make sure you have ample – you might get through more than you think and not every campsite has a camp shop.
2. Don’t forget cooking utensils
It’s easy to forget things like wooden spoons, spatulas, scissors, bottle/can opener, serving spoon and tongs, so pack a kitchen utensils box to take with you and it can also help to plan your meals in advance (see point.7 below).
3. Take food bags, foil & plastic storage containers
If you are planning on cooking proper food from scratch, you’ll be taking fresh ingredients with you and you might not use all of them in one go. Make sure you have things like food bags and plastic storage containers so you can store open packets and half-used ingredients.
4. Invest in a decent cool box
The average cool box will keep food cool for just a few hours (8 hours if you’re lucky) so if you’re going camping for more than a day or two, you’ll want to invest in a decent passive cooler, some of which will keep ice for 5 days without the need for any power. If you are camping with an electric hookup, then an electric cool box makes a good investment, but for those camping without an EHU we recommend Coleman Xtreme Coolers.
5. Freeze food and drink before putting it in the cool box
To extend the life of your cool box, freeze as much as you can before you pack it, and if you can’t freeze an item, at least make sure it is chilled, rather than at room temperature before you place it in the cooler. Remember too that the fuller your cool box is, the more effectively it will keep the contents cool.
6. Take something to light fires with
If you are staying at a campsite that allows barbecues or campfires, make sure you take something to light the fire with, matches and a lighter are always handy to keep packed inside a camping essentials box. Find some great tips on making a fire.
7. Plan meals in advance
Don’t leave your meals to chance, especially if you are on a family camping trip. Planning meals for each day means you’ll know exactly what groceries you need to take with you and it will also dictate what cooking equipment you’ll need to take, for example a wok, drainer, fish slice etc.
8. Prep food at home before you get to the campsite
Prepping food at home makes cooking at the campsite much easier. Doing things like chopping onions and preparing vegetables is much easier at home in the comfort of your kitchen so get a head start at home, then you can store your prepped ingredients in food bags or storage boxes to make cooking at the campsite a doddle.
9. Take plenty of snacks
As well as planning your meals in advance, also make sure you take plenty of snacks, crisps, nuts, and fruit are ideal if you or the kids get an attack of the munchies and you’re camped far away from the nearest shop.
10. Use spray oil for cooking
When it comes to campsite cooking, a small bottle of spray oil is much more convenient for cooking than taking a huge bottle from home or decanting it into something smaller.
11. Take a water carrier
A collapsible water carrier that also easily dispenses water is a camping must-have. There are loads of different designs available, some that are easier to use than others! Go for a water carrier that folds flat to save on space, but remains relatively rigid in use (even when it’s not full) as this makes actually dispensing water much easier. We recommend the Outwell Collaps Water Carrier.
12. Pack a kitchen essentials box
If you’re planning on cooking whilst you are way, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the equipment and tools to allow you to do it. A stove, kettle, pans, cutlery, plates, bowls and mugs are essential, but also think about where you’re going to cook. Do you really want to be knelt on the floor outside the tent cooking a meal for 4 on a Trangia?
13. Don’t rely on just a barbecue or open fire for cooking
It’s all well and good planning to cook and dine Al fresco on a camping trip, but the reality is that weather conditions won’t always be on your side. If you’ve only got a barbecue or are relying on a campfire, if it rains your plans will be scuppered. Make sure you have an alternative method of cooking food, a simple camp stove is a great investment.
14. If you are cooking on an open fire, rig up a tarp
Cooking on an open campfire is a simple joy, but if the weather is bad you’ll need to ensure the fire is protected. Rigging a tarp a safe distance above your campfire is a great way of protecting it from inclement weather, ensuring you’ll still be able to cook even if it’s pouring with rain.
15. Collect miniature condiment sachets
I’m not suggesting you walk into your nearest fast food joint and take up a vast armful of them before striding out, but the odd salt sachet here and there won’t go amiss and they are ideal for camping if you don’t want to take actual bottles of tomato ketchup and so on. Bear in mind though that ketchup, olive oil and all sorts of things do come in handy miniature sizes, making them ideal for taking camping.
16. Invest in a decent sleeping bag
Camping at night is often much colder than you think it’s going to be, so make sure you invest in a decent sleeping bag that’s up to the job. If you’re camping in summer, nights can still be chilly, so we recommend a decent 3 season sleeping bag.
17. Take extra blankets
Being cold when camping is no fun, especially at night in bed, so make sure you take some extra blankets along to keep you warm at night. See our cold weather camping tips.
18. Take a hot water bottle
If you are camping in early spring, late autumn or winter, a hot water bottle bottle is a great way to keep warm in bed. Even the best quality sleeping bag will benefit from the extra heat generated by a hot water bottle, helping you sleep like a baby instead of shivering all night!
19. Don’t sleep directly on the floor
A lot of cold comes through from the ground, so if you sleep directly on the floor, you’ll be much colder than if you sleep on an insulating surface. A nice thick SIM (5cm or more) which includes foam padding will provide great insulation, as will a camp bed that keeps you off the cold floor or failing that use an inexpensive insulated foam pad.
20. Take a lantern rather than relying on a hand held torch
Whilst torches have their place, if you want to read in bed for example, a lantern will provide a more practical light source that you won’t have to hold to direct light where you want it. Alternatively a head torch allows for night time reading and is a great all-round solution.
21. Pack a torch for night time loo visits
A hand held or head torch is a must for middle-of-the-night visits to the toilet as are shoes that can easily be slipped on and off (that still doesn’t make Crocs acceptable though…!)
22. Consider investing in a camp loo
If you visit the loo several times during the night or have small kids that do, investing in a camp loo can help ensure you don’t spend your nights bleary eyed, trudging back and forth from the toilet block. We recommend the Thetford Porta Potti 165 Qube. If you’ve got a large multi-room family tent, then you can pop the camp loo discretely in it’s own compartment, alternatively invest in a simple popup toilet tent to place beside your tent to save to having to traipse too far at night. Always make sure you dispose of waste at the campsites designated chemical disposal site.
23. Put an extra blanket under your air bed
Outside of the summer months air beds, especially the fancy looking double height ones can be cold to sleep on as essentially you’re sleeping on a huge block of cold air. Pop a blanket or even a picnic rug under your air bed to give you some much needed insulation. Check out our Complete Guide To Camping Beds & Sleeping In Comfort Under Canvas.
24. Use battery or solar powered fairy lights for gentle diffused light inside the tent
Fairy lights used inside the tent produce a lovely gentle glow and not only do they look pretty, but they are lovely to read by and are much more soothing than camping lanterns that tend to provide quite harsh directional light that isn’t conducive to catching those all important Z’s.
Pitching & Packing Down Your Tent
25. Check for your mallet, pegs & poles before you leave
Before you set off for your camping trip make sure that you’ve checked that the poles and tent pegs are inside your tent bag rather than just assuming they are! Also make sure you’ve got at least 1 mallet and a tent peg puller packed too.
26. Make sure you know how to pitch your tent before you get to the campsite
On a relaxed sunny afternoon pitching a new tent isn’t such a headache, but imagine getting stuck in traffic, arriving late and then the heavens opening…. frantically pitching your tent in bad weather with diminishing daylight is a drag, but even more so if you’re attempting to pitch a brand new tent for the first time. Have a test run in the back garden, watch a YouTube video or at least read the instructions on how to put up your new tent before you arrive on site.
27. Think about where you pitch your tent
Some campsites have set pitches so you won’t get much choice in the matter, but the best kind of campsites allow you to choose where you want to camp. It goes without saying that a flat pitch is best, but also be mindful of your proximity to things like the toilets, roads and play areas (you’ll find these areas are busier, noisier and less private) and note the position of trees, walls and fences.
28. Consider comfort inside your tent
Extras like folding camp chairs, tent carpets or even just a picnic rug on the floor will all add up to make the camping experience more comfortable so consider adding some comfy extras to your packing list.
29. Give the kids jobs to do
Whilst you are busy pitching and setting up, children can sometimes prove to be a bit of a distraction. Give them jobs to do so they aren’t under your feet and they feel like they are helping. Delegate easy jobs like blowing up air beds and setting up simple camp furniture to the kids so they feel involved and are kept busy.
30. Clear the ground before you start to pitch
Before you start to lay out your tent on your chosen pitch check it for things like pebbles and large twigs. Things like this can damage your groundsheet and will feel uncomfortable underfoot once the tent is up and in use.
31. Create some privacy using windbreaks
Creating shade is big and clever so If your tent doesn’t have a built-in canopy, you could pitch a separate awning or tent extension, but for more privacy consider using windbreaks – just make sure they don’t encroach onto adjoining pitches and are allowed in the campsite rules.
32. Ditch your standard tent pegs
Most tents come with pathetically woeful tent pegs that bend easily. Invest in a set of heavy-duty tent pegs and not only will you have a backup set of pegs, but you’ll also have strong pegs that will keep your tent securely pitched and will be easy to hammer into hard or rocky ground.
33. Don’t leave your tent pegs sticking out too high from the ground
If you leave your tent pegs sticking up, people are bound to trip over them. Probably you, several times, so hammer them down into the ground, but not so far down that you’ll struggle to get the out again!
34. Zip closed doors before you put your tent up
If you leave the doors of your tent unzipped, chances are when you pitch it will be pulled so taut that zipping the doors up will be difficult, causing tension that could damage the zips. Always zip up your doors before you put the tent up to get the perfect pitch.
35. Unzip windows and doors to put your tent away
Zipping up windows and doors before you take your tent down makes it much more likely you’ll get air trapped inside the tent. With nowhere for the air to go when you roll the tent up, at worst you risk damaging your tent, at best, you’ll struggle to pack the tent away again as it will be puffed up with air, so before you pack down, make sure you open up windows and doors.
36. Don’t push in tent pegs using your feet
The easiest way to bend tent pegs is by attempting to push them in with your foot. If the ground is super soft, you might get away with it, but in normal conditions, you’re more likely to bend the pegs rendering them unusable, so always use a mallet.
37. Take a pair of in-tent shoes with you
In case of wet weather, make sure you take either a second pair of soft shoes or even slippers to keep your feet warm inside your tent. UGG boots are horribly unfashionable, but are ideal for inside the tent!
General Camping Tips & Hacks
38. Choose your campsite wisely
Campsites all have their own distinct personalities – some are vast and sprawling with things like discos, children’s play areas, cafes, shops and even swimming pools. Others have a much wilder and a more back-to-basics vibe, so be mindful of the kind of camping experience you want and make sure you choose your campsite accordingly. See our tips on choosing a campsite.
39. Keep a camping essentials box always packed
Put together your own camping essentials box and include things like duck tape, a multi-tool, first aid kit, torch, matches and so on. That way, you’ll know you’ve always got those random things that you always seem to need at some point on a camping trip.
40. Create a camping boredom buster box for kids
If your kids are challenged in the imagination department and your cries of “just go and PLAY!” are met with blank faces, then putting together a boredom buster / bad weather box is a good idea. Pack it full of books, games, exploring and craft items that they can get stuck into. A box like this is also perfect for bad weather to stop the kids moping around inside the tent.
41. Use plant clips to secure bunting and fairy lights to your tent
Whilst cable ties will do the job of securing bunting and fairy lights around your tent, they are single-use plastic and you risk nicking your tent when you snip them off. Round garden plant clips however can be used time and time again and are ideal for securing things like fairy lights to your tent or awning.
42. Use Jumbo recycled storage bags for packing
To make packing a doddle, use jumbo recycled storage bags. The bags are large enough to fit several sleeping bags and pillows inside, and transporting in bags like this means if you are setting up or taking down in the rain, your camping gear won’t get wet.
43. Leave no trace
Once you’ve packed up the tent and the car is full to bursting ready for your return journey home, do a walk around of your pitch. Look for rubbish you might have missed and things like random tent pegs and make sure you leave nothing behind.
44. Mark your guy ropes with solar powered stake lights
Take a few solar powered stake lights with you (readily available in summer for about £1 each) and use them to mark out prominent guy ropes to avoid them becoming a trip hazard, especially on a busy campsite.
45. Take floor cushions
Floor cushions or even just a selection of regular cushions are ideal for creating a comfy chill out area inside your tent.
46. Don’t choose a small tent
That tiny single skin popup tent for twenty quid at the supermarket might seem like a great idea at the time, but on a camping trip of anything more than a night or two, or for family campers in particular, you’ll find a tent that provides you with space makes for a much more practical and enjoyable camping trip, so don’t fall into the trap of choosing a tiny tent. If it says its a 5 person tent, remember that generally means 5 skeletons on narrow SIMs (Self-inflating mats) and doesn’t allow for luggage or camp furniture, so choose a tent that’s bigger rather than smaller.
47. Plan for bad weather
Even if you are camping in the summer in the UK it can still mean chilly nights and sadly, lots of rain. Being stuck inside a tiny tent on a wet day can be soul-destroying, so make sure your tent is large enough to include a living area that you can hang out in if the weather is wet, and also make sure you have wet weather clothing and plenty of things to keep you occupied if you’re stuck inside the tent.
48. Glamp up your tent
Some people like a back to basics camping experience, others like to camp in comfort and in style. If that sounds like you, there are some simple steps you can take to make your camping trip feel more like glamping (glam camping). Investing in extras like fairy lights, throws, bunting and cushions can transform the camping experience.
49. Take something to charge your essential devices
Sure most people camp to get away from it all, but having a charged mobile phone is actually pretty useful. From navigation to an emergency method of contact, if you are camping it makes sense to make sure your phone is charged and operational. If you use your phone as a music player and camera, then you’ll eat through battery life so make sure you have a power bank or solar charging device with you to keep your essentials topped up. We recommend the HUBi 10k.
50. Read up on the campsite rules
We’ve previously mentioned that choosing the right kind of campsite is crucial, but once you’ve chosen a campsite and before you arrive, make sure you are aware of the campsite’s individual rules. These can range from absolutely no noise after 9pm(!) to no music, dogs or campfires, so make sure you are aware of the rules and that you stick to them.
51. Be mindful and respectful of other campers
Listening to a football game on the radio or playing music might be your idea of relaxation, but if you are at a campsite rather than wild camping, you’ll need to be mindful and respectful of other campers. Don’t ruin their experience through selfishness!
52. Take bin bags
No matter where you are camped, it goes without saying that you should leave your pitch free of rubbish. Make sure you pack bin bags for rubbish and make an effort to separate your rubbish to allow for recycling.
53. Save space by using collapsible camping gear
If you’re short on space using collapsible camping gear can be a real help. You can get everything from kettles and washing up bowls to storage baskets and cups that fold flat, helping you to save space during transit. Check out the brilliant Outwell Collaps range.
54. Take cleaning wipes for spills and grubby surfaces
From anti-bacterial wipes to washing up liquid, don’t forget that you’ll need to wipe and clean things whilst you are camping! Spills will happen and table surfaces and such like will get grubby, so make sure you have some anti-bacterial or cleaning wipes and kitchen roll with you.
55. Take a popup laundry bin
A popup laundry basket is ideal on family camping trips, pop a bin bag inside and hey presto, you’ve got a handy bin.
56. Pack extra layers
Regardless of the time of year, dressing in layers is a good idea when it comes to spending time outdoors. Make sure you’ve got plenty of warm layers, waterproofs and so on. For kids, pack a few more extra changes of clothes than you think they’ll need as they will invariably get wet/dirty/fall out of a tree and rip everything they’re wearing. For waterproofs, both The People’s Poncho and November Rain do great funky ponchos.
57. Take an old rug or front door mat for your tent
Pop a front door mat or an old rug inside the door of your tent. In wet weather the ground sheet can very quickly get wet and muddy and having a door mat acts like a bit of a barrier helping to keep the inside of your tent dry and clean.
58. Pack walking books, wildlife books and a paper map of the area
We’ve become so used to WiFi and 4g that it can come as a shock when you arrive at a campsite that is remote enough to have no phone signal or internet connection. Before you leave make sure you have at the very least printed off the names and addresses of local places to visit or explore, even better, don’t forget to take your walking books, nature and wildlife guides and an OS map of the region – that way even if there is no connection, you’ll still have plenty of things to do including ready made walking routes to follow.
59. Take fire safety seriously
Let’s face it, when camping in the UK most people end up cooking under an awning, and whilst awnings provide much higher levels of ventilation than inside a tent (NEVER cook inside your tent!) it’s still worth ensuring you take some precautions. A carbon monoxide alarm, fire blanket and extinguisher don’t take up much space, but will help make campsite cooking that bit safer.
60. Pay attention to how you pack your car
When you pack the car, make sure the things you will need first when you arrive on site are easily accessible. So things like your tent, pegs mallets etc. should either be packed last so they are easier to get to, or packed in a way that means you won’t have to unpack the entire car before you can get to them – especially handy if you end up having to set up camp in the rain.
61. Burn incense to banish musty smells
With your tent and camping gear often kept in a garage or shed, when you get them out they can be a bit pongy. Burning a stick or two of incense is a great way to clear out any lingering musty odours and it leaves a much less artificial scent than using a spray air freshener.
62. Use a footprint groundsheet for wet weather camping
When camping in wet weather mud is a given. With the bottom of your tent coming into direct contact with the muddy ground, packing away at the end of your trip can be a grim affair, especially if you have a sewn-in gorundsheet like most modern tents do! Folding metres of muddy tent in on itself will inevitably lead to you getting the flysheet muddy too, so one way to avoid this is to use a second footprint groundsheet.
On pack down, you can fold your tent away as normal and pack the muddy footprint groundsheet away separately.
63. Pack everything in bags and/or boxes
It’s tempting to chuck last minute items into the car for a camping trip, but loose random items can be a real faff when it comes to unpacking. If the weather is bad especially, traipsing to and from the car carrying individual items means they are more likely to get damp and soggy, so resist the urge to just fling last minute items into the boot.
Large ‘bags for life’ (the extra large TK Maxx bags are perfect!) or plastic storage boxes with lids are ideal and mean you’ll be able to move things much more quickly. Pack a couple of extra bags too, as the process of packing down is rarely are ordered and regimented as set up, so when you inexplicably run out of space packing to come home, you’ll have extra bags to pack into should you need to