An expedition into the Great Outdoors is the stuff of legendary weekends, but it’s fair to say that you might be dealt some character-building experiences. So how can you make your stay stress-proof? If in doubt, ask a pro; so we did.
Here are some top hints and tips from seasoned camper, James Warner Smith — author and editor of the UK’s best selling camping guidebooks, and contributor to Cool Camping.
“Always practice putting a tent up in the garden before the first time you take it camping and, believe it or not, do try reading the instructions rather than relying on trusty intuition. In blustery weather, pitch your tent with its smallest end pointing into the wind, streamlining it against the conditions, and use guy ropes where possible. Insert pegs so they point outwards from the tent at roughly 45 degrees and keep the tent ventilated to avoid condensation building up inside. If all else fails and you’re still struggling, maybe glamping is the one for you.”
“One of the first rules of Scouts is that in wet weather you keep your top half dry and forget about the legs. A mac over shorts and wellies is a good combo: long trousers stay wet all day, but skin dries in no time. It’s always nice to make your tent cosy, but it’s essential when the weather’s grim. An extra blanket under sleeping bags will keep you warmer than one on top, as cold comes up through the ground, and have a no-shoes rule in the tent. The last thing you want is to curl up in a sleeping bag coated in mud. Most importantly, of course, don’t let rain spoil your fun; relish the anarchy of wet weather and just enjoy its mud-sliding opportunities.”
“Nothing beats preparing your own foraged feast on the flames, but campfire cooking creates its own unique challenges. If you’re looking for speed, stoves – though not as picture-perfect – will get you cooking quicker. But whatever you’re cooking on, make sure the pots, pans and cooking implements you use are stable — once you’re rolling it’s very difficult to adjust. Tin foil is also a lifesaver — most things you’d usually cook in the oven can be parcelled up and stuck in the embers, gradually baking in the usual way. Most of all, be patient. Flames burn, singe, blacken and cook the outside of your food. White, smoke-free embers are far better.”
“There’s nothing worse than packing the car like a game of luggage Tetris, only to return with most things completely unused. Before you leave, check what’s provided onsite, so you don’t bring unnecessary items, and enjoy eating local food rather than travelling with a truckload of cheddar, Marmite and Yorkshire Tea. Certainly, you can, if you’re very well organised, equip children with a torch and a backpack full of favourite toys, but they’ll likely lose the lot when they get out of the car and, on a campsite, it’s mud, water and animals that keep them busy anyway. Keep it simple and practical — that way you’ll get a little extra legroom in the car!”