I love to camp with friends and cousins. I’d say that 75-80 percent of the campers we’ve encountered over the years have been good people who understand the need to be considerate while sleeping with fellow travellers in the great outdoors. But it only takes one dud to ruin your camping experience.
After a recent – particularly eventful – family camping expedition to the Mountain Zebra National Park in the Karoo section of the Eastern Cape, I was once again struck by nature’s ability to cut you down to size and challenge your boundaries, when you actually submit yourself to its influence. While these kinds of holidays are very seldom exactly comfortable, they most often end up being strangely revitalizing.
So, whereas some would say camping is best avoided at all costs, I’d say, a camping trip every once in a while is essential to a healthy sense of self. And just to help you along I’ve put together a list of my top 10 camping tips. Just take note, I consider myself quite a novice camper, so if you’re way beyond this, please add your suggestions to the comment section below!
Arrive after dark or in the heat of the day
What’s it like to be near someone who decides to check in late at night? Setting up camp in the dark is hard, and it can be dangerous, too. Even in the best-groomed campsites, there are often sticks, rocks, holes, or lumps of dirt, which can become tripping hazards when you run into them full-tilt carrying a tent pole.
Sure, you have headlights and flashlights, which can help, but nothing tops arriving early in the day so you can assess your surroundings. In addition, arriving in the light means that you can find things like the all-important toilet. If something happens and you can’t avoid a night-time arrival, do your best to get as much light in the area as possible.
Park facing your camping area and turn on your headlights. Tie flashlights to trees. Set a lantern up in the middle of your living area. Then, before you set up your tent, take your time clearing the area of debris and scouting out anything that might hurt you.
Drink too much after a certain point at night
There is nothing worse than having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night while camping. Never intoxicate on drugs or alcohol when camping. You lose your ability to think straight and sensibly and you could probably harm yourself or others. A drunk camper will not hesitate to scamper into the campfire or jump into a pool of muddy water.
Crawling out of your warm sleeping bag, fumbling around for a torch, braving the cold.. and all those dreadful night sounds. So, best thing to do – force yourself to make a bathroom trip at a more comfortable time of the night and don’t go drinking too much after. For every one person who becomes quiet and introspective when intoxicated, there are a dozen who get loud and obnoxious.
Annoying Your Campsite Neighbours
Even when camping alone, you will most likely find other campers near your spot whether in free campsites or private ones. Do not go around annoying your campsite neighbours just like you would not want them to. By annoying I mean shouting at the top of your voice in the night, snooping into their tents, playing loud music, or even burning smelly things such as plastic in your campfire.
Even if you planned to have a birthday party or whatever celebration by your campfire, please do not be loud. Remember your neighbour might have just been camping to enjoy the silence and peace away from the noise in their estate, job, or even relationship.
Don’t Leave your food outside in the Open
Do not make the mistake of leaving your food outside or in an unattended tent. Critters love human food, and they will get into anything you leave out. Even small animals, like chipmunks and squirrels, can make a huge mess, and the food isn’t very good for them, either. In some areas, you risk a run-in with something less desirable, like a bear or a skunk.
And don’t store food in your tent, either, because you certainly don’t want animals in there! Usually, it is fine to put dry food in your car and to close and latch your cooler. In some areas, where bears are known to roam, you will need to make your food even more secure. Find out ahead of time what is required and make sure you have the supplies and know-how to do that.
Don’t forget your warm clothes
Well, you do not want to experience the cold nights, yet you only brought along your favourite sweatshirts and tank tops. Do not forget to carry a few warm clothes such as flannels or even sweaters, just in case you need them.
Carrying Gear, you do not know how to use
If you carry equipment that you know not how to use, you will have it rough. So, you just bought a new camping tent and you want to come flexes your muscles in the campsite? No…. Do not try that, it will frustrate you.
Rather than doing that, just try pitching and setting the tent at home in your backyardbefore you go to the actual campground. If you have never used that new fishing gear, or kayak, do not bring them to the campsite, they might become recipes of causing injuries to you or accidents to others.
Forgetting essential toiletries
While most campsites provide tissue papers and other amenities such as water, I have learned to carry my own toiletries over the years. You will note that even the tissue papers in camping sites run out fast, since, hey, free things are good to everyone. Ensure you have enough tissue paper to last the number of days if you are camping alone.
You never know when a campground bathroom will run out of TP in the middle of the night, or when you’ll be out by the lake or on a hike and find yourself in need. In these cases, it’s so much less awkward to have the supplies you need. Sure, you have to trek it along in the first place, but it will save you a headache in the end. For parents camping with babies, the worst mistake you will make is forgetting the diapers or the potty for your kid. Finally, do not also forget wet wipes, they will come in handy to ensuring you remain hygienic, especially if there is no much water.