A Beginners Guide to Camping

Family camping in tent

Here’s what you need to know before you hit the field.

Thinking about dipping your toe into the world of camping? With this handy guide you’ll be able to dive straight in and camp like a pro in no time.

Find a campsite
The first thing you need to consider is where you want to go. Are you looking for a laidback holiday or an action-packed weekend away? Do you want a beach nearby or lots of things to do locally? Take into account who is camping with you. Are you going as a family or adults only? Do you have young kids or teenagers? Are you taking a dog?

Different campsites offer different experiences. Some are geared towards families with entertainment and play areas, others are quieter and more rustic, and some don’t allow pets. Decide what’s important to you and check what’s on offer before you book.

Get advice
Talk to camping enthusiasts and find out what has and hasn’t worked for them. If you don’t know anyone personally, have a chat with your local camping retailer or an online community. You could even join the Camping and Caravanning Club.

Make a checklist
There’s nothing worse than getting to the campsite and realising you’ve forgotten something vital. Campsite shops aren’t always well stocked so it’s best to be prepared. A checklist of things to take is the camper’s friend. It’s also rather satisfying ticking the items off as you as load them into the car!


Going somewhere

Tents, sleeping bags, mats, furniture and accessories.

All our best gear for family camping. 


The goal is to only take what you need as you’ve got to fit it all in a small space. Here are the basics for every camping adventure. 

1. A tent

The most important thing on your checklist! The right tent can make all the difference to your trip. If you haven’t got a tent, here are some pointers to get you started.

• Set yourself an approximate budget:
If this is your first foray into camping, spend wisely. You can always upgrade once you’ve the caught the bug

• Look for easy pitching tents:
Air tents are the easiest as they do most the hard work for you, but poled tents are cheaper and can be simple to pitch. Watch the ‘how to pitch guides’ before you buy to get an idea of what you’ll need to do

• Consider how much time you’ll be in the tent:
If you just want a base, go for a smaller option. If you want to hang around the campsite with the family, you’ll be more comfortable in a larger tent with full standing height ceilings 

• Do you need a porch or canopy?
Porches are ideal for storing wet kit, wellies, prams or bikes. Canopies let you extend your tent and give you a shaded outdoor area for al fresco dining

• Trial pitch before you go:
Put the tent up in the garden before your holiday so you’re familiar with how everything works when you reach the campsite 

TIP: Pack your tent in the car last as it’s the first thing you will need when you get to the campsite

2. Sleeping bags and beds

Nights can feel chilly on the campsite, even in summer. Sleeping bags are essential. Check how many seasons the sleeping bag is designed for to ensure you’re warm enough. Junior sleeping bags will keep the kids more comfortable and prevent cold pockets in the bag. Bring something to sleep on – flocks and airbeds are more comfy for longer trips, mats might be sufficient for a weekend break. Add some blankets – these can be used on top of your bed for extra insulation or over your sleeping bag for extra warmth.

Find out which sleeping bag is right for you here.

3. Camping furniture

You could just sit on the floor for the entire of your break. But would you want to? Folding chairs and tables will make your trip much more comfortable and won’t take up too much space in the car. Reclining chairs are a great choice as you can use them for mealtimes and relaxing. 

Tables will be used for food prep and dining so make sure you get one that’s large enough for everyone. Or try a picnic table with in-built chairs and set it up outside the tent. It will get used for drawing, playing games, relaxing and dining. 

4. Cooking equipment

Cooking round the campfire is a huge part of the camping experience. A stove or grill is a must-have, along with a kettle, pots and pans. Plan meals ahead so you can limit how many pans you need to bring. Add a cool box to keep food fresh – you can usually refreeze ice packs at the campsite shop. You’ll also need plates, bowls, cups, cutlery and a washing up bowl and dishcloth.

TIP: Prepare and freeze the first night’s meal before you leave. Pop it in your cool box during the journey where it will double as an ice pack. It will have defrosted by the time you reach the campsite, ready to cook. 

5. Essential accessories

The little things that make a big difference:

• A torch - essential for night time toilet trips and walking back from the pub in the dark

• A lantern – set this up inside the tent. Most lanterns have dimmer switches so you can also use          them as nightlights

• Water container – enjoy fresh water on tap, night and day

• Adapters and rollers – to get hooked up to the electrics


• Peg hammer – the easier way to bang pegs into the ground

• Spare kit – extra tent pegs and guy ropes are always useful

• Bottle openers/tin openers/batteries – easy to forget but very handy to have

• Something to mark your tent - to help you and your kids find the tent on a busy campsite

Now you’ve got all your basics sorted, it’s time to get out there and have fun. Happy camping!

First Time Family Camping

Read all about the Gray Family's first time family camping.