A few tips for novice campers…

This week Rowena, one of our friends on the Weekend Madness Facebook Page, posed a question that we thought we’d take the time to answer and share with everyone.

She asked: Could you write a blog guiding novice campers please? That is, people who have never camped, but thinking about it. How do we start?

We’re going to start with a disclaimer… We in no way profess to be “suiwer” or “gesoute” campers and “know-it-alls”, but in saying that we have a good few years of camping behind us and we are always keen to help/share where we can.

So here we go…

Let me share these 4 points with you. We can expand on them as we go along…

  1. The Basics
  2. Planning
  3. Preparation
  4. Weather

We have all heard the camping horror stories, which ends up with the line: We will never go camping again. This can all be avoided with…

The Basics

Remember, it’s you first camp, you don’t need the best of the best to enjoy the outdoors. As a start, we would recommend you have the following basics:

  • Tent – The fun part of camp
  • Mattress – to use in the tent or under the stars
  • Camping chairs – To put your feet up while at the fire
  • Umbrella / Gazebo – To protect you from the sun
  • Cooler box – To keep the food and drink cold
  • Torch with batteries – It’s going to get dark
  • Braai grid – Not all camps provide these
  • Food and snacks – Eat whatever you want, you’re on camp
  • Wood

Planning

Consider the following when planning your camp:

  • Distance from to campsite – For your first camp, choose something close to home. Maybe camping in a tent and sleeping on the ground is really not for you. There is nothing wrong with that. You want to be able to get home fairly quickly if you come to this realization on the first day.
  • Ablution Facilities – This is one for the ladies. It’s important that you don’t “rough it” on your first camp. Clean bathrooms will reduce the stress of camping in a big way.
  • Camp rules – Check what is allowed and not allowed. Some camps prefer no kids, animals, in-laws, etc. You can find a camp that suits all your needs.
  • Grass plots – The last thing you want is a sandy plot on your first camp. Opt for a grassy plot if there is one.
  • Checklist – This is one thing that has saved us time and time again. It makes packing easier and gives you peace of mind that all is good with your camp. We have attached our camp check list at the bottom. It is a fairly comprehensive list – be circumspect about what is really necessary for your first camp.
  • Plan your meals – Chances are, you will be living out of cooler boxes. They work great as long as you don’t open them often. Only take what you plan to eat on the weekend – that way you ensure everything stays cool and fresh.

Preparation

It’s always good to be prepared before you go camping. Here are some tips to make your camping experience the best it can be:

  • Set up your tent at home – Especially for your first camp, set up your tent at home so you know how it works. You will get familiar with the steps and it will lead to less frustration. You want your camp setup to be as speedy as possible in order to get your feet up and get into that relaxed mode as quickly as possible.
  • Check your blowup mattress –We advise that you blow these up and test them at home. There is nothing more disheartening than going to bed on your first camp and finding the mattress you are meant to sleep on has a leak; or worse, waking up on a hard floor halfway through the night. TIP: Inflate off the ground to avoid punctures
  • Freeze those ice bricks – Nothing makes your life easier on camp than ice. It keeps everything cool and fresh. Ice bricks serve the same purpose, but they save you from having to buy ice every time it melts. We supplement our ice bricks with ice and we are generally good to go all weekend.
  • Check the gas tanks – Gas serves so many purposes on camp – from providing light (Gas lamp) to a cooking top (cooker hood or skottel), gas is important for almost every camp. With the right equipment, you can use gas to light your fire as well. Make sure tanks are full. Care must be taken when using gas. Please make sure tanks are in working condition
  • Batteries – Torch batteries are important, especially when you need to get to the loo at 4am in the morning (this happens at camp)

Weather

This is an interesting one. As Cape Town is going through a bit of a drought at the moment, there is probably no better time to go camping. But the rains will come and, here are a few tips you should consider:

  • Check the weather before you go camping – It can’t always be predicted accurately, but you can be prepared. Check the weather forecast and pack accordingly. Always pack a warm top and bottom
  • Never sleep against a wet tent – This is Definitely one to remember. As soon as you touch a wet tent, water will start to seep through at that point. This is a mistake that you will only make once 😊
  • Packing a wet tent – It is inevitable that at some point you will have to pack up in the rain. When it comes to tents, the most important this is as soon as you get home, hang it out to dry. Mold forms easily and this will ruin your tent
  • Wind – Always peg your tent down; you never know when the wind might come up at night. Always be prepared.
  • Sunshine or rain – Its always handy to take an instant gazebo with you. Not all campsites have trees for shade or protection from the rain. Again, rather be prepared.

As we said above, we have attached a comprehensive checklist below. These are items that we found we needed on some camps and not others. We mark in green what we feel is essential and make sure those items are packed.

At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have and what you don’t – it’s about enjoying the outdoors, sitting around a camp fire, telling stories and most importantly, making memories.

We would love to hear your first camp stories!

Till we camp again.

Weekend Madness

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