Popping your camping cherry? Don’t turn up with a cheap tent and no food and expect to love it. Yes, sleeping au naturel is awesome but you still need some basic essentials. Follow our checklist for first-time campers.

Image by Alex Spurway (@spurwaya)

Something to Sleep in

When it comes to al fresco accommodation, there’s a neighbourhood of different options. How do you know what’s best for you r? It all depends on your ‘who, what, when’ (number of people, type of outing and the time of year it’s happening). If you’re driving to a campsite you can afford to go bigger. But, if you’re hiking in opt for a lightweight version (this Black Wolf tent weighs less than two bags of sugar!) I personally love a swag – and no it doesn’t feel like you’re sleeping in a coffin. They are heavier than most tents and if it rains there’s no room for your backpack inside but it’s certainly the easiest to set up. Don’t be tempted to go to a discount shop and buy a single-shell beach tent. She will not be alright!

Water – and a lot of it

Even if a campsite advertises that it has drinking water always still BYO! There is nothing as disastrous as arriving at a camp, turning on the tap and finding nothing but a trickle (or even worse, brown sludge). It might seem excessive but even for an overnight trip, it’s safest to carry a 3-litre hydration bladder and also bring one or two bottles. Also, get in the habit of travelling with water purifying tablets in your first aid kit. You don’t want to run out of H2O just in time for your morning coffee.

A Camp Kitchen

Okay, the word ‘kitchen’ is an overstatement. But, you will need some way of preparing something edible. If there’s no fire ban in the area, all you’ll need is a pan set (this one comes with a handy storage bag) and some skills at starting a campfire. If the bushfire arrow is on red, bring a stove which lets you boil, fry and sauté. Or pack light with a Jet Boil which, as the name suggests, boils a litre of water in a couple of minutes. Dinner; instant noodles, Breakfast; porridge. Lunch; dehydrated chicken curry. You have to try it at least once!

A Headlamp

A lot of first time campers don’t think a headlamp is necessary – until they try to cook, go to the toilet, play cards or take out their contact lenses in the dark whilst holding a torch. Oh yes, that’s why a headlamp is so good. You’ll see BlackDiamond on the foreheads of many experienced campers – 160 lumens is good enough but, if you can afford to upgrade, 250 lumens is even better. Also look for a type that comes with a Red LED function – it’s better for night vision and will stop you blinding your camping buddy.

A First Aid Kit

Adhesive bandages, sterile gauze iodine wipes, an emergency blanket, waterproof matches and safety pins. Even for one night away you should always pack for basic emergencies. For first timers it can be easier to buy a ready-made kit that comes with the basic essentials. Then over time you can then add to it depending on the type of situations you find yourself in. Beating about the bush? Add snake bandages and salt for leeches. In the outback? Carry electrolytes for dehydration. A Leatherman multitool will also get you out of countless scrapes (Dear Santa…)

The One Percenters

My friend, who was a paratrooper in the Australian army, always talks about the importance of packing ‘one percenters’ – personal items that aren’t really necessary but increase your comfort or enjoyment levels. It could be an inflatable pillow, portable speaker or a sleeping mat (opt for a 3/4 version – your legs can handle being on the ground). It could be biodegradable baby wipes, eco-shower gel or thermal socks to sleep in. You might find that after a few camping trips you toughen up and don’t need these precious items – or you could find that you appreciate them even more.

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