When it comes to different types of camping and choosing the right tent, it’s rarely a case of one size fits all. It’s good to know what outdoor scenario you are looking for, as you can then look at the camping tips and tricks that are best suited to your chosen style of tent life.
To start you off, here’s a rundown of helpful tips and camping hacks.
Top ten camping tips for those first few trips
- Keep equipment basic when first starting out. It may seem strange to be seen as one of essentials for first camping, but slowly build up your camping gear repertoire. There’s no need to spend hundreds of pounds on camping essentials before you’re really familiar with it all. That said, it’s also good to not go completely the other way, as that with a downpour could spell a nightmare first trip.
- You’ll need a bigger tent than you think. The rule of thumb when picking a tent is to take the amount of sleepers and times it by 1.5 or two. If you’re a two person setup, look for a four person tent. It’s also worth finding a tent that allows you to stand inside, for comfort's sake.
- Wrap up warm for bedtime. Regardless of the season, it gets cold at night in the UK. Packing clothes and an extra blanket to sleep in isn't just a good idea, it should be one of your camping essentials.
- Leave the devices at home. It’s good to have a phone for emergencies, and can be useful using the GPS. But to get the very best out from your trip, especially if it's a first time family camping experience, leave the tablets and portable game consoles at home.
- Plan for every kind of weather. Although you’ll have your tent, most of your time camping will be spent outdoors. No matter how sunny it is, if the conditions were to suddenly change, being caught outside without protection is not only unpleasant, it can be dangerous. So, make sure you have clothing that is waterproof and windproof at all times when camping.
- Plan ahead. One of the simpler camping hacks you can do is organising itineraries before you leave for the campsite. Whether it’s going for a long walk and having the route planned out, to putting together a day of activities, being ready for the day as soon as you wake up is the way forward.
- Research your campsite. Much like planning out activities, it’s wise to research the area you’re staying in and it’s rules. Whether you’re at a campsite, a festival, glamping or wild camping, knowing as much about the place as possible will help you avoid any mishaps and give you the best trip possible.
- Be ready. Without sounding doomy, things do go wrong when camping. Whether it’s the impact of weather or human error, tent’s get ripped, rucksacks fall apart, water bottles leak and people sometimes get hurt. By making duct tape, cable ties, extra batteries, a pen knife and first aid kit part of your camping essentials, you’ll be able to handle whatever situation is thrown at you.
- Be wary about campfire restrictions. While sitting round a campfire is seen as a treasured camping tradition, it often has the potential to cause long lasting damage to the campsite and surrounding wildlife. Make sure you check campfire restrictions before you start prepping your dinners.
- Leave no trace. This is the ultimate camping ethic. While some of these are part of these ten camping tips, the main focus is to treat your campsite with care, wherever that might be, and to take everything with you once you leave.
Features to consider when choosing a camping tent
- Durability: this relates to the tent’s toughness, including how sturdy the poles are, the zip movement, how waterproof it is and whether or not its seams are strong enough to withstand heavy weather.
- Berth: refers to the number of people that can comfortably sleep in a tent. However, this often does not take into consideration space for rucksacks, so it’s good to go bigger.
- Fabric: nylon is the usual go to material that tents are made of, as it is both lightweight and incredibly strong, with coated nylon working well for a waterproof outside, and mesh nylon for the ventilated inner walls. Polyester is also sometimes used as it is even more durable and resistant to rain.There is also the option for the study canvas tents, but they are much heavier. If a tent claims to have ‘ripstop’ fabric, that means it is resistant to rips and tears.
- Framework: this is the shape of your tent, and you want your tent poles to be as sturdy but also as flexible as possible.
- Rainfly: the waterproof material that extends over the tent, protecting you from both rain and harmful rays of sunlight. The best rainfly sheets will reach the ground.
- Guylines: these connect the rainfly to both the poles and tent and mean the tent will remain sturdy in strong winds.
- Tent poles: usually part of a tent set, these should be made from a lightweight aluminum or fiberglass. Many newer poles are linked together with elastic shock cord, which makes them easier to set up. There are also versions which come colour coded, making them ideal for camping for beginners. There are also the inflatable type.
- Vestibule: serves as a front porch covering or as an entryway to your tent.
- Ventilation: Usually in the form of air vents that are vital in stopping condensation from running down the walls, and mesh panels that will increase breathability of your tent.
- Waterproof-ness: your tent should be able to withstand rain if it is both made a well-coated, resistant fabric and is assembled taught and correctly.
- Insect protection: to keep unwanted insects away, look for a tent that features a no-see-um netting.
- Footprint: this is a protective undersheet that lies beneath your tent, working as a barrier to moisture and protects your tent from abrasion and punctures. It’s important that your footprint matches your tent’s floor dimensions.
- Interior pockets and hooks: think of these as your tent’s cupboards. The better selection of pockets your tent has, the easier it is to organize belongings and keep your tent tidy. In this same vein, having a tent with a hook makes it easier to hang a torch.
- Warranty: an expertly made tent should come with a warranty. Check this upon purchase and make sure you keep hold of the paperwork for a later date.
A beginner's guide to different types of tents
The dome tent
Popular with weekend campers and those who enjoy low-level hikes, these take their shape with two poles that cross each other and bend down to reach opposite corners.The rounded edges of the Dome shed water and rain.
- Decent Headroom
- Easy to pitch
- Catches wind
- Not all have vestibules.
- Limited for size.
As you can guess from the name, this type of tent has more than one room or compartment. Separated by a divider, and room number can range from two up to five. Pitching these tents can be a much longer job and needs at least two people.
- Multiple rooms
- Lengthy setup period
- Unstable in heavy winds
Geodesic & semi-geodesic tents
Popular amongst backpackers, the Geodesic style of tent features poles that cross to create a stable, free standing shape, meaning it can stand strong in very high winds. The semi-geodesic is not too different, just with fewer poles meaning it doesn't cope as well in strong conditions.
- Self supporting
- Very stable
- Adequate headspace
- Large when packed
- Difficult set up
- Limited size selection
The pop-up tent
Ideal for a quick setup as these require very little skill and organisation to erect. Designed with a coiled frame sewn into the fabric, which when released spring to form a full shaped tent. They are also easy to put away, if the instructions are properly followed.
- Quick and easy set up
- No poles to worry about
- Economical packing size
- Not good in strong winds
- Not as stable
- Not useful for extended camping
Using a series of inflatable beams instead of poles, inflatable tents are becoming increasingly popular around campsites in the UK. They’re a great alternative to traditional family sized tents, due to how easy they are to set up.
- 1 person set up
- Easy to inflate
- Holds up well in bad weather
- Heavier to carry
- Smaller than most multi room tents
- Needs an air pump
Teepee / bell tent
The iconically styled, single pole design creates a deceptively large amount of space and is a great alternative to other spacious tents. Due to the lack of inner layers, this style is better suited for the late spring and summer months.
- 1 Pole
- High ceilings
- Quick to pitch
- High pitching point
- Often no floor mat
Very common with families, this style of tent works really well if you are looking to accommodate a number of people and a tent that is quick to pitch. Similar to a dome tent, the poles arch around to create a circular framework, although a tunnel tent does need to be pegged down to keep its shape.
- Balanced pole weight
- Must be pitched perfectly
- Not good in strong winds
- Can sag in the middle.
A-frame or wedged tent
The traditional style of tent, designed with a pole at each end and commonly crossed to create a stable structure.
- Easy setup
- Very stable
- Various sizes
- Not much headroom
- Bulky when packed
A - Z of camping styles
As a beginner, it’s wise to kick off your camping experience at a campsite. However, once you’ve mastered the essentials of first time camping, there’s a whole world of possibilities for different types of camping styles for people with different needs and tastes.
The traditional campsite
Perfect for camping for beginners and families, staying at a campsite usually means you have pre-booked a space to pitch your tent or motorhome and will be surrounded by other holidaymakers.
You’re often able to park up right next to your pitching space, and will usually have access to amenities such as toilets, showers, electricity charging points and sometimes even convenience stores.
What’s the ideal tent?
It does of course depend on the size of the camping spot you have, but in reality, because of the easy nature of campsite living, any tent will be fine. However, depending on the size of your travelling party, it may be best to start off with either a dome or tunnel tent.
Camping tips and rules
- Be noise conscious. Campsites are busy places, but if you do your best to keep the noise down early in the morning and late at night, your relationships with those around you will be greatly improved.
- Be space conscious. One of the fastest ways to lose friends on a campsite is by invading others' space.This involves keeping your distance when setting up your tents, not overextending your guy ropes into other allotted spaces and avoiding walking through other peoples’ tent areas.
- Keep the amenities tidy. While campsites do have the perk of toilets, showers and electrical charging points, they will be communal, so make sure you keep them as clean as possible and don’t take up too much time using them when overs may be waiting.
- Don’t let the dogs out. Many campsites allow animals. Although they can be an excellent addition to your trip, it’s important they’re kept under control at all times, and that you of course clean up after them.
- Take care with car parking. Often part of campsites’ deal is that they allow you to park your car right next to your camping spot. While it’s handy, be aware of those around you, and check that your car isn't inconveniencing anyone else.
On the face of it, festival camping is essentially the tent or tents you and your travelling party sleep in when you go to a festival. You will usually be camping alongside hundreds if not thousands of other festival goers and while every festival is different, most do not have pre-booked spaces, and it's a case of first come first served.
What’s the ideal tent for festivals?
Due to the amount of time you will likely spend in your tent, plus the race to get a good camping spot, a pop up tent has everything you need for camping at a festival.
Festival camping tips and rules
- Although you may not be going out into the wild, it’s good to have all the usual camping essentials.
- Don’t be too precious about your tent. Getting to the festival site early and getting set up is key, not having the most idyllic camping experience. There’s also a chance your tent may get damaged through festival wear and tear.
- While your tent needn’t be the most advanced, it does need to be memorable. There’s every possibility that there will be other festival-goers with exactly the same tent, so a great camping hack is to give your area something disguisable. Examples of this include pitching a flag, covering your tent in aluminum foil, or with brightly coloured guy ropes.
- Don’t bring food that can spoil easily.
- Avoid camping in a few areas if you can. These include pathways, toilets and uneven ground.
- Take a separate pop-up tent for extra storage and muddy and wet clothing. It’s also worth bringing a padlock to keep your tent secure and fend off any potential thieves. Finally, festival campsites can get noisy, so it's worth bringing earplugs.
- The most important one of them all? Our favourite, leave no trace.
Seen as the most natural form of camping, this style involves heading out into nature and setting up your tent in a secluded area. It’s a back to basics style, as realistically you can only camp with what you can carry on your back and by hand. Although Scotland is the only place in the UK where wild camping is legal, it is still possible to camp in certain areas such as Dartmoor where it is possible to stay with permission of the landowner.
What’s the ideal tent for wild camping?
Due to its ability to withstand rain and strong winds, it’s important to have a smaller tent, made from robust fabric and with alloy posts. A Geoside is the recommended tent for those going out in nature.
Wild camping tips and rules
- Only camp where you have permission to. As previously stated, it’s commonplace in wild camping to speak to the landowner before you pitch your tent.
- Keep it secluded, but stay safe. For many, the best way to wild camp is to be totally away from society. However, it’s important to make sure that someone back home knows where you are, and that you have a fully charged form of contact.
- Make sure you’ve got clean water. Keeping hydrating is essential, but carrying round full bottles of water can be heavy work. You may well encounter a tap on your travels, but in reality the best way to source water will be from rivers that you encounter. Before drinking any river water, it's essential that you check upstream for any animal carcasses or waste, and make sure your water bottle you’re using has a tried and tested filter, you'e added water purification tablets or you’ve boiled the water (both is best).
This is a fairly new luxury version of camping, where ‘glampers’ can book into pre-pitched, pre-erected tents, often either yurts or teepees, plus toilets, showers and electrical charging points. It’s the perfect form of camping for those that don’t want the stress of setting up a tent or getting dirty for a few days.
What’s the ideal tent for glamping?
Although sometimes you have other types of tents pre-erected, the most common type of glamping tents are teepees or bell tents.
Glamping tips and rules
- It’s a high-end version of campsite living. Although there are many aesthetic differences, many of the same camping tips and rules apply.
- Take your bedding up a level. As you’re sleeping pre-built accommodation , feel free to bring home sleeping comforts, whether that be sheets, duvet, or your favourite pillow. Your tent won’t flood, so make the most of it.
- Bring a bit of mood lighting to your setup. Most glamping sites have lighting set up, so you won’t need to worry about getting around by torchlight when it gets dark. You could however bring lanterns or candles for those outdoor nighttime activities to create some insta-worthy ambiance.