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HOWTO: Go Camping (according to my Twitter network)

The more time I spend in front of a computer the more I feel the need to temper it with being outside. We bought two tents last weekend – a family-sized one and another for Ben (my 3 year-old son) and I to go away together. It’s something I really want to do regularly so it’s second nature to him.

Tonight we’re going camping as a family for the first time so, naturally, I asked my Twitter network what kinds of things I needed to make sure I brought along. I received a fair few replies, all within the space of 20 minutes! Here’s some of the responses, broken down into categories:

Health & hygiene

Sleeping & relaxing

Eating & drinking

Clothing & footwear

Storage & carrying

Technology & gadgetry

Misc. hints & tips

  1. Have all camping gear put away in storage boxes for ease of loading. Helps with last-minute/seize-the-day decisions! (@ForesterJo)
  2. Save any checklist you make and add to it after every trip (@ottonomy)
  3. Runswick Bay camp site (North Yorkshire Moors) is lovely (@dughall)
  4. Spiers House in Cropton near Pickering middle forest has activities (@ForesterJo)
  5. Take wine glasses – it’s not the same out of a mug! (@alisonlones)
  6. Take cans of beer instead of bottles (@mikemcsharry)
  7. Use a hammer and 6-inch nails instead of tent pegs for hard ground (@gillferrell)
  8. Take half the clothes you think you need for yourself, but double the amount you think you need for your children (@Joga5)
  9. A large fabric softener bottle is the ultimate midnight pee solution as it’s apparently unisex! (@simfin)
  10. Take more socks than you think you’ll ever need (@billgibbon)

Is there anything you’d add to the list? What advice would you give newbie campers? :-)

Image CC BY-NC simpologist

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  1. Ear plugs (tents don’t keep the noise out) and an eye mask (it gets light at 4.45am in a tent…) – although underpants work quite well for the latter – enjoy – camped for the first time in years last week at Glastonbury and it was very enjoyable :)

  2. Take at least 3 bin bags they turn into great things to sit on if out for a ad hoc picnic + have loads of other uses i.e rain mac and hat. They also come in handy as things in the front of tents get damp at night so wrap them up.
    At the end of the weekend when you are to tired to pack don’t just put everything in the bag to come home :)

  3. I’ve done a lot of camping, though less in the last few years- what you need depends on the style of activity- certainly if you drive a vehicle to the site you can be more luxurious than if it is on your back! Also, my experience is framed by the drier climates of the American southwest, but some additions/comments on the lists above:

    * blow up beds are sure comfy but seem over the top for my tastes- I’ve gotten by for years with thermarest pads; suggest getting a patch/repair kit; I;ve had one sparked by fire flame
    * While I always take a headlamp for light, my new favorite flashlight is the Joby Gorrillatorch (http://joby.com/gorillatorch) it is bright, and can wrap on things, stick with magnets.
    * I’m not a fan of collapsible water jugs, great thought but you end up wrestling with them more than they are worth. I carry a hard shell plastic water supply. Always take extra extra water.
    * For cookstoves, I go simple with one of the small butane burners and canisters of gas. No fuss with gas, easy light.
    * I gotta have my coffee- I have a small plastic coffee press, but if packing light, I;ve gone lots of times with coffee bags (like tea bags).
    * I use dry bags (rubber bags used also for raft trips) even an extra one for tossing in camera gear and phones
    * If you are doing the car camping, some sort of folding table for setting up a cook place.
    * I’ve used the solar shower deals, they are not bad if you need hot water rinses, but usually get by with boiling water and sponge bath cleaning. It’s camping, you should be dirty!
    * I keep a plastic crate with my cooking gear, stove stuff, a bag of spices, etc. Grab from my shed and go.
    * Some folks need a camping pillow, I usually make do with rolled up clothes, you can stuff them in a tent sack
    * Dehydrated food packs are easy to prepare, but blechh they taste awful. Do some searching on camping recipes, make simplifications on home ones. With cold water dry milk is not too horrible. Couscous is one fo the most versatile grains and simple to cook. Pancakes are very doable

    Most importantly, just go out there and learn as you go!

    • Alan, that’s really helpful – thank you so much! As I mentioned in the post I really want camping to become second nature to Ben, so hints, tips and advice like yours are invaluable! :-)

  4. Umm … map & compass! (Don’t use a GPS trekking device: it takes all the fun out of it. Nothing like camping for inspiring the kids with enthusiasm for maps!). For Ben, ‘cos he’s very young, use a Google Maps satellite close-up photo of the area so he can compare ‘map’ to ‘on the ground’.

    Piriton cream and tablets, and basic first aid kit including tweezers, flamazine cream (in case of burns) and antiseptic.

    Photocopied identification guides for common trees and plants.

    Magnifying glass and specimen box for all the interesting bugs, leaves and so on that you find – some of them you don’t need to go looking for: they’ll come to you at night! :-)

    Baking potatoes, eggs and foil. Make a bonfire (ringed by stones for safety), cut a cap off the thin end of each raw potato, hollow out the bodycarefully to make space for an egg. Crack an egg carefully into each potato, replace the cap, wrap tightly in a double layer of foil, and prop upright buried in the glowing hot embers of the bonfire for 45-60 mins. They’ll be burnt, scorching hot, smokey, and totally delicious with butter at night. (Keep the flamazine handy!)