Whether you’re new to camping or a veteran, there’s always a new trick or advice that comes in handy. We have compiled a list of tips that range from basic to obscure to help you make the best of your next camping adventure.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes, 41 seconds.
There are some places and experiences that simply can’t be appreciated from a hotel room–you really need to get out in nature for the full effect. Whether it’s a perfectly silent sunrise or a majestical view from the top of a mountain, camping opens up a whole new world for us.
And nobody wants these moments ruined due to not being able to enjoy a cup of coffee or having your tent swept up by a gust of wind and into a tree. Anyone who has been camping knows that the list of potential mishaps is endless. And while a sense of humour is essential, it’s even better if you can at least prevent complete disaster.
Thankfully the local, and global, camping and adventure community is extremely welcoming and supportive and you will find endless advice and support wherever you go. Due to this massive amount of information, however, it can be a bit daunting if you’re planning your first camping trip or if you’re simply looking for a few tips to make your next trip more enjoyable.
We’ve collected some of the best tips and hacks out there and compiled them into different camping categories to make it a little easier to search.
First things first
Before you start preparing for your next camping trip you need to know where you’re going and what to expect as this will determine what you need to pack. So make sure you have the following information:
- Are you staying at a campsite with running water/electricity?
- Will there be ablution facilities?
- Are you camping near your vehicle or will you need to hike with your gear?
- Are you camping near water/in the bush/rocky terrain/on sand?
- Will you be within walking/driving distance of a shop or any type of assistance should you need it?
- Do you need to take all your food with you, or will there be a place to buy food and braai necessities?
The above information will make a big difference to what you need to take with you.
The tent - your outdoor palace
When someone pictures camping, they inevitably picture a tent. So this seems like a good place to start. If you’re buying a new tent, keep the following in mind:
- What type of weather will you be camping in? Extreme cold or heat? Warmer in the day and cooler in the evening? This will make a difference when it comes to the type of tent you buy.
- Important: If you are new to camping don’t buy a tent online. Go to an outdoor/camping store and get to know the different tents. Ask for advice, learn how they work. The last thing you want to do is buy a cheap tent that can’t do the job. It’s going to turn your adventure into a nightmare.
- Once you’ve bought the tent, practice setting it up at home. Even if you’ve been camping before, rather check out the new tent before you get to your location. Not only will this make the process smoother, but you’ll notice if any elements are missing (such as tent pegs) or if anything is torn.
- Make sure there’s enough space in the tent for your needs. Not all ‘four-man’ tents are made the same. Smaller children can quickly take up an astounding amount of space once you put them in a tent, so make sure you’ve got an adequate size. You’ll likely be storing some gear in the tent as well, so keep that in mind.
- Hot tip: many outdoor shops stock canvas sealant which will come in very handy should you have a mishap and develop a tear in the tent. This sealant can be used on any canvas material, so it will come in handy for other items as well such as canvas chairs, bags, gazebos etc.
- Hack: Put one or more rocks over tent pegs to avoid stubbing toes/tripping. Some people attach fluorescent tags to tent pegs so you can see them at night.
- Hot Tip: keep a plastic bin/cooler box right outside so that shoes can be taken off outside the tent and stored safely out of the elements. This will help you keep sand and dirt in the tent to a minimum. And yes, put a doormat outside your tent if you can!
Sleep in Style
If you’re a seasoned camper you’ll know the value of a good sleeping bag. It really is a game-changer.
- Similar to tents, sleeping bags are rated for different temperatures. This post will give you good advice on different ratings and what to look for when choosing the right sleeping bag.
- Pro tip: invest in a proper camping mat/mattress. Even if you’re camping in what looks like a soft grassy field, we guarantee that you’ll need one!
- Hack: Durable camping mats/mattresses can be used during the day for picnic-style seating or they can be placed on logs/rocks to make your social area more comfortable, especially with children.
Depending on the facilities, you will either need to set up your kitchen from scratch, or you will need to use the campground’s cooking area.
- Choose your menu based on the facilities available. If you have access to running water and a food prep area, you can obviously get much more creative in terms of dining. If it’s just you and a camp stove, you’ll want to keep things much simpler.
- Again: practice at home! If you’ve purchased a camp stove, figure out how it works before you’re out in the dark surrounded by mosquitoes. The same goes for those who have never made a campfire: teach yourself before you head for the great outdoors.
- Pro tip: Pack enough lighters for a small army: matches can get damp and lighters get lost/stop working if they also get wet.
- Hack: Cotton balls coated with vaseline can make excellent fire starters in a pinch.
- Keep things simple. Although there are so many camping accessories to choose from, you don’t want to be lugging around massive pans and canisters if you don’t need to.
- Choose cutlery, mugs, plates, and pans that are lightweight and easy to clean.
- Pro tip: Choose bright colours when buying for your camp kitchen. If you drop a lid or spoon on the ground, it will be easier to find.
- Hack: get everyone a sturdy mug in their own colour/with their names written on them. This could save a lot of confusion.
- If you have the option to fit a portable fridge in your vehicle, we’re all for it. Just remember that most of these fridges can’t be run just on the vehicle battery if the engine isn’t running. You will need an additional power source at the campsite if you want to run the fridge the whole time.
- If possible, take a camping table. You’ll be very thankful to have a flat surface to work on.
- Hack: if your vehicle has sturdy rubber mats, these come in very handy to create flat surfaces around camp. Just keep in mind that they can melt if placed near the fire.
- Pro Tip: take more cloth /paper towels than you think you’ll need. Greasy plates that get dropped in the dirt (or wet cloths that get dropped in the dirt) can quickly become a vicious circle. Be prepared.
- Pro tip: Clearly mark everything! If you have coffee/rice/oats/washing liquid in unmarked containers it’s going to lead to frustration. Make sure all containers are clearly marked.
- Hack: If you take along some clothes pegs you can use them to hang up washing cloths on tent lines if needed.
No matter where or how ‘rough’ your camping trip is, you will always need the following:
- Torches for getting around camp
- Standing lights that can be placed around the campsite/inside the tent
- Headlamps for when you have misplaced all of the above-mentioned light sources and are now crawling around looking for them. Or if you want to be able to read comfortably.
- Batteries for all of the lights/torches. If you opt for solar, make sure they work properly and that you’ll have enough time to charge them during the day.
- Decent camp chairs will make a big difference in how much you enjoy your trip! If you have space, always take camp chairs.
- Wet wipes: every experienced camper will tell you that these are essential. They are used for everything from cleaning yourself to wiping mud off dropped cutlery. Go the extra mile and get biodegradable ones.
- Eco-friendly plastic bags: you will need plastic bags for everything from trash to wrapping leftovers or even wet/dirty clothing. To avoid accidentally leaving behind any plastic, make sure you pack eco-friendly bags. There are many options to choose from.
- A rubbish plan: whether it’s in the car, at the campsite or along the trail, you need a plan for your trash. Make use of eco-friendly plastic bags but remember: just because the bags are eco-friendly doesn’t mean all the wrappers or other trash is as well. That’s why you need to plan ahead and ensure you know when and where you’ll be able to dispose of any trash.
- Power Banks - if you need to keep phones charged. Throw in a few additional cables as well, just in case.
- A long piece of rope - you will always need it for something, most likely as a makeshift washing line.
- Bug spray/nets - there are hundreds of products to choose from, many of them also eco-friendly. Make sure you pack more than enough so that you can spray yourself, your tent, your shoes, and your car especially if you’re in a malaria zone.
First Aid Kit
Even if you’re just going on a short trip/hike a first aid kit is a must. There are many kits available online and most are well equipped. Make sure you know if anyone has any specific allergies (such as bees) and ensure your medical kit has everything you’ll need in an emergency.
If you’re camping or hiking far from where emergency services can reach you, make sure you have a robust first aid kit that can keep serious injuries or allergy attacks stable until help arrives.
A big part of the camping and adventure lifestyle is your choice of vehicle and its accessories. But don’t worry if you don’t have the ‘right’ vehicle! There are plenty of campgrounds and camping options that don’t require off-road capability. Just make sure to check ahead.
If you do have an offroad vehicle there are some amazing accessories to consider. For the purpose of this example, we’ve used the legendary Suzuki Jimny and listed some of the accessories that will come in handy if you’re planning some serious camping trips:
- Multi Roof Rack - very handy if you need to fix equipment to the roof.
- Rear Ladder - if you’re storing stuff on the roof, the ladder comes in handy.
- Hack: vehicle bars and ladders also come in handy to hang towels and clothing while camping
- Roof Load Bars/Roof basket/Roof surfboard carrier/Roof bicycle carrier - it all depends on the type of trip you’re going on.
- Attachable tent - need we say more!? Speak to your Suzuki dealer about their amazing attachable tent option.
- Cargo trays - there are various shapes and sizes available. Go take a look on the website.
- Hack: Some cargo trays can be removed and used around the campsite for various purposes.
- Cargo partition - if you’re stacking your Jimny like a game of Tetris, a partition net will help keep everything in place.
We could add another fifty pages of camping tips and hacks! There are always cool new products on the market and handy hacks going around that are new and inventive.
Take your time with research beforehand. You want to know as much as possible about where you’re camping, the route, the weather, and any planned activities. This will help you narrow down what equipment you’ll need as well as which tips and hacks are likely to be most useful. Happy camping!
Download our holiday road trip checklist to make sure you have everything you need before you hit the road.