Life's a pitch - our essential guide for novice campers

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Dave Jenkins

We reckon that you’re never more than 30 miles away from a campsite in Britain. In fact, founder of camping portal and former entrepreneur Dan Yates thinks it may be even less than that. “I think you’re never really more than 10 miles from a campsite,” he says. “There's even a site just six miles from central London at Crystal Palace.”

Try it yourself; there’s a postcode-based finder on his site, as well as many others. Most of us could be pitching up a tent and enjoying a beer in the great outdoors within an hour or two of leaving work this Friday.

Okay, so the weather isn’t too reliable. but with our well-prepped itinerary and a dash of the good old British spirit, a little drizzle won’t faze you as you enjoy your new temporary al fresco neighbourhood… and all that comes with it.

What if it’s not for me?

Camping is definitely a pastime which polarises opinion. To some, the idea of having nothing but a flimsy bit of material between them and the elements is hell. But it really doesn’t have to be. An inflatable bed and an extra blanket, for example, will stand you in good stead for a comfortable night’s sleep. Pack a few of the luxuries listed below and you’ll realise you don’t have to be Rambo to enjoy a night or three under the stars.

For an effortless taster, go camping with friends who’ve been going for years. One in every hundred British adults is a member of the Camping & Caravanning Club so chances are you already know a few seasoned pros. They’ll have all the sundries needed to make your trip less ‘Bear Grylls’ and more ‘bare skills’.

Okay, I’m sold

Great. Here’s the best bit - camping can be pretty cheap! £250 will buy everything you possibly need for two people to start: A tent, sleeping bags, waterproofs, a rucksack, a mattress, a basic double stove, torches, spare batteries, spare gas, seats, cutlery, crockery, pans, a mallet and spare pegs. For an extra £50 you could throw in a table, larger chairs or a bigger/better tent, each item adding more comfort and luxury to your trip than the last.

Average campsite fees cost £10 per person. Sites in top notch locations with good washing facilities are a little more, while a basic field in a beautiful area can be as low as £3! The approximate cost for a week’s holiday for two is about £390 plus petrol, food and beer money. This includes the initial investment in your kit. Slash that price by half the next time you camp.

You said it would benefit my health…

And how! Firstly there’re your obvious benefits: fresh air, hearty camping tucker and vigorous walks in the surrounding area. But a recent study by the Camping & Caravanning Club and Liverpool John Moore’s University suggests the benefits of camping, caravanning, motorhomes and trailer tents are a lot deeper. Camping, it reckons, makes for “family cohesion, satisfaction, togetherness and fulfillment. Rest, relaxation and restoration and improved social interaction.” You can’t say fairer than that.

This Real Richness study claims that 76 per cent of campers are satisfied with their quality of life compared to 56 per cent of non-campers. 93 per cent of children say their parents are less stressed when camping. It makes sense. No pressing engagements, no TV, no internet and usually no phone calls - the best campsites tend to be blessed with patchy reception.

Camping gives you time to read, play games and enjoy each other’s company in a safe environment of like-minded souls. Cooking meals and cleaning up becomes a group activity and you’re actually happy to start up a conversation with your neighbour. Above all, they’re incredibly safe for children and can be remarkably secure considering your belongings are kept safe by a mere zip.

Is camping the answer to all of my problems?

Easy tiger. It’s not the answer to everything, but as working hours and commitments become more complicated, the spontaneous action of throwing your tent and kit in a car and arriving at a stunning, spacious area of natural beauty just hours away from your house is definitely an experience everyone should try this summer. Follow our simple guides below to ensure you’ll come back wanting to do it again…

Be prepared!

- Consider the size of tent you’re buying. If you’re going by car and weight doesn’t matter then a larger tent that you can stand up in will make all the difference.

- Keep all your camping kit in a large plastic tub so you always know where it is.

- Make sure it’s always home to a lighter, batteries, a small first aid kit and spare gas.

- Keep it stocked with the basic essentials all year round: tea bags, instant coffee, hot chocolate, sugar, olive oil and washing up liquid never go off!

- Old cutlery, wooden spoons and kitchen tools get a second life in your camping set up and save you money buying camping kit.

- Board games, puzzles, books, balls, Frisbees and small radio are all essential packing items.

- Campsites are usually safe but always lock your valuables in your car.

- If space is no issue then pack as much bedding as possible. Pack enough and your night’s sleep will be cosier than at home.

Basic camping checklist

Tent Sleeping bags Sleeping mats/inflatable mattress Small cooker & spare gas Lantern torch Batteries Mallet Water carrier Pans Cutlery Crockery Rucksack

Advanced: from luxury to absurd!

Table Charcoal oven Collapsible kitchen sink (yes, seriously) Washing line Shoe rack Hot water system (anything is possible if your campsite has electrical hook-up points) Washing machine