For something to be judged a success it needs to be measured against something; so what makes a camping trip successful? Maybe being able to cope with severe weather and continuing your trip regardless? Maybe being able to navigate a particularly challenging trail on the route to your campsite?
Maybe being able to rely on your bushcraft skills rather than modern equipment? Maybe being able to cook fantastic meals on the trail or find a particularly rare plant, bird or animal that lives in the area where you are camping? However, you measure the success of your camping trips follows these five simple tips for guaranteed camping success.
Proper Preparation and Planning Prevents Pathetic Performance
Don’t step onto the trail expecting your trip to go perfectly if you haven’t put in some time to plan and prepare. Careful thought and planning need to go into selecting your route, the equipment you carry, your physical fitness for the expedition and many other factors. Perhaps you want to climb up to a high altitude campsite; have you got the necessary level of fitness?
Maybe you have traveled to the Cairngorms in Scotland and are hoping to see a herd of reindeer; have you researched where to find them and brought your binoculars and camera?
Or maybe you need to pay for your camp site or cross a river on a ferry that charges a toll; have you brought enough money in the correct currency?
These things sound simple but can be easily overlooked and forgotten, the best way to make sure you don’t miss anything out as you prepare for a camping trip is to have a checklist.
It might sound a bit over the top but pilots work with checklists so why not campers too? An example of a checklist for a few days camping might look something like this:
- Fly sheet
- Ground sheet
- 16 tent pegs
- Guy lines
- Repair tape
3. Waterproof trousers and jacket
4. Spare clothes
- Hat and gloves (yes even in Summer)
- Warm over layer (a lightweight down jacket or similar, I carry one that packs up no larger than your average can of coke which I use all the time even in the Summer)
- Spare socks and underwear
- Spare trousers
- Spare t-shirt/shirt
5. First aid kit (minimum contents)
- Plasters (band-aids)
- Antiseptic wipes
- Latex gloves
- Pain killers
- Triangular bandage
- Absorbent wound dressings (various sizes)
- Blister treatment
- Compression bandage
6. Sleeping Bag
7. Carry Mat (therma-rest, foam pad or equivalent)
8. Camp stove (unless you are planning to cook on a campfire)
- Enough fuel to last your entire trip
9. Mess kit
- Cooking pot
10. Lighter or matches
11. Pocket knife
12. Tin opener (if you are carrying tinned food, consider carefully the weight of tinned food before you pack too much though.)
13. Head torch (a head torch is a must for pitching a tent after dark and keeping your hands free to perform tasks at night)
14. Food (enough for two hot meals each day plus snacks for lunch and hot drinks)
15. Emergency equipment
- Mobile phone with full charge and spare battery
- Spare batteries for torch
- Space blanket or survival bag
- Lightweight tarp
17. Map and compass
18. Water bottle
19. Water purification tablets
20. Personal hygiene items
- Toothbrush and past
- Wet wipes
- Microfiber towel
There may be some circumstances where you will need to carry additional equipment for a specific environment, such as camping in the cold or snow, but these are the basics and will be sufficient in a temperate climate.
Don’t Pack too Heavy
While you may wish to add some small items to this kit list or even omit some there shouldn’t be a need to pack much more. Carrying more than you need is a sure way to make your camping trip a miserable experience.
If you have a long hike to your camping spot you will even notice that wearing a pair of heavy leather boots tires you out much more than lightweight fabric boots so imagine what carrying a cook pot, frying pan, knife, fork, spoon, chopping board, kitchen knife, plate and bowl would feel like.
Conversely going overboard with your weight saving can get a little silly, I know of people who have cut their toothbrush in half and drilled holes in the handle of their spoon to try to save a little weight.
Sometimes you will need to carry a slightly heavier bag, in Winter for example you will need a warmer sleeping bag and heavier clothing but if you can save weight you should, it will save you a lot of sore shoulders, tired legs and discomfort.
Become a Master of Camp Craft
Practice and experience make a huge difference to the success of your camping trip, make sure that when you unpack your tent at the campsite it’s not the first time you have ever had it out of the bag.
In heavy rain, you can’t afford to take an hour to work out which pole goes where you need to get that tent up within a few minutes and with a bit of practice there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to get a two-man tent up within ten minutes.
This is the kind of practice you need to be getting. The same goes for your stove and cooking arrangements, make sure you know how to attach the fuel and how to put it out properly whether or not you can store it with the fuel canister detached.
Learn how to cook in one pot so you can save weight when you are hiking and so you can save on washing up afterwards.
Make do by eating out of the cooking pot and just using a spoon, if you’re going the whole hog and cooking yourself a steak on a campfire cut it with your pocket knife don’t carry a steak knife with you on your trip.
Understand how to make your camping place comfortable, understand how to use your equipment to insulate yourself from the ground and stay warm, that’s what your carry mat is for.
Develop a routine for pitching and striking camp, this will be an individual thing but for me if I’m relying on a camp fire rather than a stove and it’s dry I will light my fire first so I can put some water on to boil while I set up my tent or bivi,
if it’s wet I’ll always set up my shelter first and will often carry a lightweight tarp so I can make myself a dry place for cooking( (it’s also useful as an emergency stretcher if I have to carry a member of my party who is injured).
Likewise, when you strike camp have a routine, these routines should be automatic and practiced so that you can keep you and all your kit dry in bad weather and be able to get into the shelter as quickly as possible should you need to in an emergency.
Have a Goal
The greatest thing about camping is getting to spend time out of doors amongst nature so make the most of it.
Plant your trip so that you can see something interesting, that might be a particular peak you want to climb on route to your campsite or a particular view that you want, of a waterfall, a canyon or river.
Maybe you want to watch the sun rise, or set, pitch your camp so that will be possible. Maybe you want to see a particular species of bird or animal or get to a particular
Enjoy don’t Endure
While many people do choose to head into the outdoors in search of physical challenges and to perform feats of endurance generally a casual camping trip should not be a feat of endurance, any fool can be uncomfortable as the saying goes and making sure you are comfortable will make your camping trip not only successful but hopefully something you want to do again.
To many trips which are uncomfortable and leave you exhausted and blistered will put you off camping so plan something that doesn’t require you to walk too far than you are able, or carry more than you can handle or endure weather conditions and terrain that you are not prepared for.
A fun enjoyable camping trip is a success, an exhausting demoralizing camping trip is not.
In conclusion make your camping trip a success by becoming a master of the camp craft, use your knowledge to lighten your load, the more you know the less you carry is a catchphrase of Ray Mears and Mors Kochanski, two of the most respected bushcraft and survival experts in the world.
Not carrying more than you need to and being able to perform simple camp chores quickly and efficiently makes a huge difference to how much enjoyment you get from your camping.
Being able to achieve something on your trips will give you a sense of success and achievement as well as bragging rights so you can boast to your friends and family about the places you’ve been and the things you’ve seen, but the main thing; get out there and go camping.