Prepare like a pro: tips for outdoor vacations from an experienced camper

Some things can make or break a camping holiday – Damien Gabet shares his basic checklist

The family camping holidays of my youth. What a strange mix of loving and horrible memories. Everything was broken for a start. The folding chairs. The butter knife. My ghost. And we always – always – forgot to pack something. In a year it was my little brother’s clothes. Next it was the dog. Since then I’ve wild camped in blustery Scotland, been to many muddy music festivals and even tried glamping. Camping is the best thing, but a lifetime of camping has taught me a few things – often the hard way. Here’s my advice on how to make sure your trip goes smoothly.

Happy Camper: Damien Gabet has spent years perfecting the art of outdoor vacationing

Set up the tent before you leave

You show up and get the tent out. There’s still that hole in there. There aren’t enough pens. You didn’t get the rubber mallet back from Uncle Steve. Do you see where I’m going here? If you’re sleeping in a tent, it’s important that you set it up before you go to check for moths, mildew, or meddling children that haven’t lightened your canvas. While you’re at it, inflate the inflatable bed. Sounds faff, but it’s better than waking up at 4am to the cold, hard earth. trust me.

Bring suitable pillows

Sounds obvious, but I bet a lot of you have those awful travel pillows. “There’s not enough room for regular pillows!” you say. “Find a seat, dammit!” I say back. A good night’s sleep makes each day so much more fulfilling. Even if the weather doesn’t play along, it will put a smile on your face. Don’t forget those earplugs either. It’s best to assume anyone is a snorer! And did I mention an eye mask?

Choosing the right location

In the 1990s, long before broadband, we had to look at friends’ dingy camping brochures for inspiration from the places. Even then it was a punt. I distinctly remember turning up in a field in Somerset where children were burning tires and two men were dueling with snooker cues! Nowadays you have people like that Camping and caravanning club ‘s website to guide you to an attractive, well-serviced site in a great location. Each page has lots of pictures and reviews which are really helpful.

Explore the area before you set off

A favorite camping destination of mine is the Gower Coast in Wales. Part of its charm is how underdeveloped it is. Campsites don’t always have shops. You have to travel really far for fish and chips. Once you have decided on a good location, it is worth researching the area. Where to eat and drink. Where to buy supplies. What should I do. The super-prepared might even want to know where the nearest hospital is. Google is your friend. is your family.

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Take a decent first aid kit with you

Not one of those cheap ones from Amazon. When the time comes to use it, you or whoever you care for needs a quality kit to keep their injuries clean and dry. I remember having to tape a sock to my arm when I scraped it on a fence (what I did on a fence is to remain private for now). These days I always carry a St. John Ambulance British Standard first aid kit. It has almost everything you need. And, well, it just looks good in the corner of your tent!

Titanium pegs

“The ground’s frozen solid – we can’t get the pegs in!” I’ll never forget trying to set up a tent for my bronze Duke of Edinburgh badge in the Brecon Beacons. pins bend as easily as plasticine; Rain hammers it down. Granted, titanium pegs are a bit of a luxury – they’re around £3-4 each – but it’ll be the last set you ever buy. They’re super strong and won’t buckle if someone hits them with a hammer. Extremely lightweight too, which is always a bonus.

Stay dry – at all costs

It’s the difference between a perfectly enjoyable country getaway and a few days of unbridled misery. Bring it waterproof, of course everything and lots of clean, dry socks—wet feet are those worst – but also consider taking a multipurpose tarp to go over your tent. Or as a reception room to take off your muddy boots. I remember seeing a real pro hanging his wet clothes on a portable clothesline. I think he heard me mutter, “Why didn’t I think of that!” while unbuttoning my pants.

More top tips from regular campers

We asked members of the camping and caravanning club to share their expert advice…

“Buy a really good sleeping bag because it can get freezing cold at night in any weather! Was there…” Chris R

“Prepare a meal for your first night.” Michelle C

“I had a ‘box that has everything’ – things I needed like spare batteries, a small mirror, mosquito coils, mosquito repellent and nets (necessary for any forest site), hand wash liquid, disinfectant, some pegs, paracord, first travel first aid kit, Matches, “ladies’ essentials” … and all other little things. Now I have a trailer filled with it, but I miss my trips under the tarpaulin!” Kathryn P

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Campers are usually a very friendly, helpful bunch. We all started out the same way (unaware).” Oliver D

“Layers and good impregnations. If you are warm and dry, you can cope with anything!” Nancy J

“Have a tool kit ready with a flashlight, spare batteries, tent repair kit, hammer, peg puller, carabiners, clothespins, gaffer tape, LX tape, Swiss Army knife, sewing kit, and paracord.” jenny w

Pack like a pro with exclusive discounts on clothing and equipment for club members including 15% off Cotswold Outdoor, Blacks and Snow + Rock, 10% off Halfords and Tentspares and 10% off Ordnance Survey paper maps and 20% off Welcome Break to assist you in your journey to your destination. become a member to Check out the full list of offers.

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Fry Electronics Team

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