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The Complete Guide to Camping in the UK

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Camping is a fantastic way to spend time in the great outdoors without spending lots of money. Of course, it's an investment upfront to purchase all of your camping equipment, but once you have everything you need, camping makes for a pretty cheap staycation.

But what if you've never camped before? What if you want to take your camping adventures further afield? We cover all of this and more in our ultimate guide to camping that tells you everything you need to know to be fully prepared and enjoy yourself in the great outdoors. We'll cover:

  • The camping basics
  • Finding a campsite
  • Wild camping
  • Campfire cooking
  • Alternative ways to camp

So, let's get to it!

The camping basics

Camping is an outdoor recreational activity that gives you the chance to step away from the demands of busy everyday life and enjoy being out in nature. Of course, camping isn't for everyone but it's well worth giving anything a try once before deciding whether you like it or not. So, before you try camping for the first time, there are a few things you can do before diving in at the deep end. These include:

  • Loaning equipment from a friend or family member before investing in your own
  • Camping in the garden on a warm, dry night to see whether you enjoy it before travelling further afield
  • Purchasing your own camping equipment
  • Finding a campsite with all of the amenities you desire
  • Packing the car for your first trip (we'd recommend 1-2 nights close to home)
  • Pitching your tent for your first night of camping

This might sound like a lot to do before you've even committed to camping, but it's not for the faint of heart, especially in inclement weather. So, before you venture out with your tent, it's a good idea to make sure you know what you're doing first so you can enjoy it as much as possible.

How to put up a tent

To get your camping adventures off to a good start, the first thing you need to know is how to put your tent up. This will vary from tent to tent as they come in different shapes, sizes and structures with different instructions. So, to make things easier when you get to the campsite, we'd recommend doing the following so you can put it up with ease.

Check your kit

Before you even attempt to put your tent up, you need to make sure you have all of the equipment you need. This will typically include:

  • The outer tent
  • Bedrooms or inner tents
  • Tent poles
  • Guy ropes
  • Pegs
  • Groundsheet
  • A repair kit or patches

Everything should be in good working order with no holes in the tent or inner tents and enough pegs for the tent, guy ropes and some spare.

Practice before you go

Don't just turn up at a campsite and expect to put your new tent up on the first try. Practice in your garden on a clear, dry day first. This will help you get to know the tent, where everything goes and familiarise yourself with how to put it up.

Pitching your tent

When the big day comes around and you arrive at the campsite, you'll need to find the perfect place to pitch. Ideally, this will be on flat ground but if this is not possible, try to head to the top of a hill if you need to and it's not too steep. You might also want to consider shaded areas if it is the middle of summer and being near the toilet block.

How to put up a tent

Now the fun part! Start by taking your tent out of the bag and lay the fly sheet and assembled poles flat on the grass. Feed the poles through the corresponding holes on the tent and once the tent is upright, peg it into place along with the guy ropes for sturdiness. Fit the groundsheet and any bedrooms into place and tighten tension ropes.

For a more detailed breakdown on how to put up a tent, learn more here.

Camping hacks for beginners

If the thought of camping is a bit daunting, there are plenty of things you can do to prepare ahead of time. There's nothing worse than waking up on a flat air bed to a leak in your tent but these things can be avoidable if you're well prepared. But, by following these camping top tips, you can be well prepared for whatever comes your way.

We'll share:

  • Tent Tips
  • Sleeping Tips
  • Camp Cooking Tips
  • Clothes & Packing Tips
  • General Camping Equipment & Tips

Read all of our top camping tips here.

What to take camping

There's nothing worse than turning up at the campsite and realising you've forgotten something. Equally, you don't want your car to be bursting at the seams to the point where you realise you've packed way too much stuff. So how do you know exactly what to take camping? From the obvious essentials like the tent, sleeping equipment and cooking utensils to the more niche gadgets like a water carrier and multitool, we've got you covered when it comes to packing for your camping trip.

Learn about our top 50 things to take camping here.

Finding a campsite

There is a lot to think about when finding the perfect campsite but doing your research to find the right place can really make your trip.

How to find a campsite

Before you begin your search for a campsite, there are a few things you should consider:

How far you're willing to travel

Before you start looking for a campsite, think about how far you are willing to travel. If it's your first time and you're not sure that camping is for you, you might want to stay close to home so look for somewhere within an hour drive. For 3 days to a week after you've already established that camping is for you, you might be happy travelling 2-4 hours away if it's the right campsite. If you're planning on camping for longer than a week then a longer drive might be worth it for the right location so you may want to travel 4-8 hours away. However, the amount of time you're willing to travel will depend on each person and how much camping experience you've had.

Campsite amenities

Not every campsite has the same facilities so you need to think about what's really important to you and your group. A toilet and shower block, washing up facilities, swimming pool and play area might be non-negotiable for some people but to others, they may prefer to rough with just basic toilet facilities. So, it's important to check your chosen campsite has everything you're looking for so you're not disappointed.

Local tourist attractions and things to do

What do you want to do when you're camping? Maybe you're happy tucked away in a forest with lots of walking trails to explore. Perhaps you'd prefer to be by the coast to take part in water sports. Or, you might want to visit lots of local tourist attractions.

With this in mind, there is lots to consider when looking for a campsite. But, if you do lots of research to find somewhere that ticks all of your boxes, you're less likely to be disappointed when you arrive.

Family-friendly campsites

When travelling with children, you want to make sure there is plenty for them to do and it's safe for kids. So, finding a campsite which has everything you need to keep them entertained is essential. To make your search easier, we've narrowed down the best family friendly campsites in the UK.

Learn more about our favourite family friendly campsites here.

Campsites for touring caravans

Camping in a tent and camping in a caravan are two very different experiences so you'll likely be looking for different amenities when booking a caravan holiday. Flat piches, electric hook up, water and somewhere to empty the toilet are essential facilities you'll need in a caravan so a basic toilet block just won't cut it.

Here are our top picks for caravan sites in the UK.

Wild camping

Wild camping, also known as rough camping, is quite simply camping in the wild with no amenities apart from your tent and whatever equipment you take with you. There are no site managers, toilet blocks or shower facilities just you and the great outdoors. However, there are a few things you should know about wild camping before you venture out to try it.

All about wild camping

Wild camping isn't actually legal in most of the UK, apart from in Scotland. However, you may be able to get permission from the land owner elsewhere in the UK if you've found a spot on private land that would be ideal for your wild camping trip. It is considered a civil offence if you are caught trespassing on someone's land so it is important to gain permission first or leave the land immediately with all of your belongings if you are caught.

Learn more about wild camping here.

Top tips for wild camping

Wild camping can be a wonderful experience if you're well-prepared. But there are a few things you need to know before you pitch up wherever you want.

The laws

Get to know the laws of the land before pitching your tent. Wild camping is not legal in the UK, with the exception of Scotland, and you could be committing a civil offence if caught trespassing. So it's important to check you can legally camp before pitching your tent or seek the landowner's permission.

Where to pitch

Look for an area with a flat surface that is close to a fresh, running water source. This will provide you with drinking water and somewhere to wash your dishes. However, you should be careful not to pitch too close to a water source in case the river floods.

Taking care of the land

Wherever you camp, you should aim to leave the land exactly as it was before you arrived. That means taking all of your rubbish, packing up all of your kit and leaving no trace of your toilet habits.

Packing smart

Pack food, equipment and clothes in separate zip-lock bags. This makes everything in your kit bag much easier to find and keeps it organised too.

Packing light

Only pack the essentials. This is especially important if you're not driving to one location and staying there for a few days with extra supplies in your car. So, if you're hiking to different places each day, you want to be sure you can comfortably carry everything in your bag.

Read more of our top tips for wild camping here.

Campfire cooking

However you choose to camp, cooking a big hearty meal at the end of the day is essential for keeping your energy levels up, especially if you are hiking or doing lots of physical activity. But, you need the right camping equipment to cook up a meal easily and safely.

How to cook while camping

Cooking with camping is actually much easier than you think if you have the right equipment. So, what equipment do you need to cook up a good meal while camping? Assuming you don't have an electric hookup or access to any electricity, there are a few ways you can cook with ease while camping. It is important to note that it is always safer to cook outside your tent to avoid a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. This is especially true if you are using a BBQ which should never be brought inside your tent under any circumstances.

Gas cooker

From compact portable stoves to large family cookers, gas camping stoves are a great way to cook when you're outdoors. They usually run off a gas canister or small gas cartridge that are fairly inexpensive and easy to replace. Gas cookers are ideal if you are camping in one place and don't have to transport it in a rucksack.

Trangia

A trangia is a lightweight, portable camping stove that is usually made up of a spirit or gas burner, a saucepan, a frying pan and handle and a windshield. They are designed to be packed up into the large saucepan with a strap to fix everything in place so they are easy to store and carry.

BBQ

If you're eating outside, there's nothing quite like enjoying a BBQ - especially if the sun is shining! You might purchase a small portable gas or coal BBQ or opt for a disposable BBQ if you're just using it as a one-off. However, it's important to remember that you don't take it into your tent because the carbon monoxide fumes can be toxic.

Campfire

There's no better way to cook in nature than cooking on a campfire. However, you should check that the campsite you are staying on allows this first before you set up. You'll need to choose a safe spot, far enough away from tents, create a firepit or ring lined with stones or bricks to keep the fire contained to one area and make sure no twigs or branches are overhanging that could catch fire.

What to cook while camping

The Ultimate Camping Cookbook

Cooking while camping can be great fun. Whether you want to tackle some home comforts or try something new, we teamed up with three camping bloggers to come up with 21 delicious camping recipes for you to try on your next trip. You can even download and save the ebook so it's handy when you come to cook.

Read our ultimate camping cookbook now.

Alternative ways to camp

Camping can be so much more than just putting a tent up. Some people like to camp in their car while others prefer a motorhome or touring caravan. There's no right or wrong way to enjoy camping and the best way to get the most of your trip is to camp in a way that you feel most comfortable. So, whether you're roughing it or camping in style, there are lots of ways to enjoy your camping trip.

Camping in your car

Rather than investing in a tent, use what you've already got available and set up camp in your car. However, there are a few rules you should follow to make sure you're camping legally and safely.

  • Park safely and don't violate any parking restrictions
  • Make sure you're not over the drink driving limit or under the influence of drugs
  • Follow the same rules as wild camping
  • If in doubt, stay on a campsite

Learn more about camping in your car here.

Winter camping

Winter camping is not for the fainthearted but it can be a magical experience if you're brave enough to try it. It's certainly not something you should jump into if you've never camped before and it's important to make sure you have the right equipment to get you through the trip comfortably and safely. You'll need to:

  • Prepare for the weather
  • Find somewhere to stay
  • Pack a four-season tent and winter sleeping bag
  • Take extra lights, blankets, clothes and heaters
  • Pack enough food and drink to stay warm and nourished

That's not an extensive list and there are plenty of other things you need to do and pack to prepare for a winter camping trip.

Learn more about winter camping here.

Campervan camping

Some people prefer a slightly more luxurious style of camping and that's absolutely fine. So, whether you've bought a campervan or hired one for the first time, there are still plenty of things you need to remember and pack to make your trip as enjoyable as possible. Some of our top tips include:

  • Utilise your space
  • Stick to functionality
  • Embrace nature
  • Power your trip
  • Fuel your appetite
  • Get the best rest

Learn more about campervan essentials here.



As we've established, there are lots of things you need to pack for a camping trip and it might not all be able to fit in your car. If that's the case, you may need a trailer to make extra space for all of your camping equipment. Or, if you like to camp with a touring caravan, you'll need a way to tow it. Find a towbar here and create more space for your next camping trip.

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