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Pro tips you need from the start

Pro tips you need from the start
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It’s probably a foregone conclusion that camping has been gaining popularity since the pandemic. With trees as your neighbours and the wide, open spaces of the great outdoors to explore, it’s perfect for a socially distanced holiday. While lockdowns might be preventing many of us from travelling right now, camping will be the perfect option for a much-needed holiday when restrictions ease.

“It’s a ‘biological truism’ that outdoor environments are safer than those indoors,” says Dan Yates, founder and managing director of the camping-reservations site Pitchup. And the outdoors industry is going even further to meet requirements to keep people safe, he notes. For example, some campgrounds are adding precautions like contactless check-in and only allowing socially distanced sports, such as solo tennis. Many have also relaxed their cancellation policies to allow free changes.

With this in mind, we’ve rounded up tips from industry experts for first-time campers on which all-too-common mistakes they need to avoid, so the only thing you’ll have to worry about when you hit the campground is whether you have enough marshmallows to toast!

Using your gear for the first time on your first night of camping

Using your gear for the first time on your first night of camping
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Brush up on your outdoor skills before you head out. Acquaint yourself with your camping gear, and try setting up your new tent in your backyard. One time, recounts Yates, it took so long to get to his camping site that it was pitch black when he arrived. “Putting up a six-man tent straight out of the package in the light of the headlights, while all the other campers were getting angry watching, isn’t an experience I’d want to repeat,” he says.

Not knowing how to light a campfire safely

Not knowing how to light a campfire safely
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It’s not enough to have the right wood, says Yates. If you’re staying at a campground, set up your fire in properly designated areas. Watch out for plastics or bottle caps that will give off a bad smell or unpleasant smoke. And most importantly, make sure the fire is completely extinguished and dispose of ashes safely, and never leave it unattended.

Learn more about how to cook over a campfire.

 

Forgetting essential supplies

Forgetting essential supplies
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A tent and sleeping bags aren’t the only things you need for a comfortable night in the bush. One thing you might not realise you need? A sturdy tarp, says Walker. Tarps are a great multifunctional tool to have in your camping arsenal; they can be used to cover leaky tents in the rain, waterproof your firewood, or even create an awning for shade. Also make sure you have water bottles, cutlery, hand sanitiser, dish detergent, insect repellent and suntan lotion; plus, take an emergency cash supply if you’ll be in a remote spot.

Here are the top 10 worst camping mistakes and how to avoid them.

Heading out without a plan

Heading out without a plan
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For first-time campers especially, now is not the time to head out without knowing where you want to stay since campgrounds and caravan parks are experiencing record numbers of visitors while also reducing capacity for social distancing. Make a reservation for a campsite in advance. And remember that camping doesn’t have to mean trekking cross-country to a remote area, says Caleb Hartung, CEO of Campspot. There are likely many wonderful campgrounds and caravan parks within a short driving distance from where you live. When you’re getting started with camping, avoid very remote areas, and perhaps even consider a cabin with a working bathroom if you’re not sure about more rustic adventures yet.

Not preparing to unplug

Not preparing to unplug
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Just because you’ve gone into the woods, don’t expect your whole crew to suddenly start singing around the (now expertly prepared) campfire. You need to pack some unplugged entertainment, too, says Walker. Bring a deck of cards for a game night, some headlamps for reading, or, yes, a guitar for songs if you’re so inclined.

These great ghost stories could also come in handy!

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Ignoring food-safety rules

Ignoring food-safety rules
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Whether you’re staying in a tent, caravan or cabin, don’t leave garbage or food scraps outside at night, since it can attract animals, says Hartung. You should also avoid packaged foods that tend to melt (ie, muesli bars covered in chocolate), and bring an eski to keep your food both refrigerated and out of sight (and scent) from animals. Camp stores usually sell ice, he says; in fact, it’s the number-one-sold item besides firewood. Overall, follow this rule: Don’t leave a trace; take out what you bring in.

Follopw these 5 food safety tips for proper food handling.

Going too gourmet

Going too gourmet
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Keep meals and meal preparation simple, says Walker. When it comes to cooking outdoors, nothing beats the flavour of food cooked over a fire, but don’t try to be an instant open-fire gourmet or you might be disappointed with the outcome. Opt for food like potatoes or corn that can be wrapped in foil and cooked in the coals. If you don’t eat them all, they can be used for a fry-up at breakfast.

Pro tip: Leave the bulky condiment jars at home, and clean out your condiment-packet drawer instead. If you’re out of pre-packaged supplies, make your own at home and then put everything in plastic baggies or small snack containers.

Here are 10 hilarious stories about travelling with kids.

Not knowing camping etiquette

Not knowing camping etiquette
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Good manners have always been important on the campground, and that’s truer than ever in this era of social distancing, says Yates. Tread carefully, following any on-site rules and respecting others’ space. It’s not just about social distancing, though. What might seem perfectly acceptable and reasonable to you (midnight campfire songs, the dog “just being lively” with his adorable exuberant barking, your little darlings running about first thing in the morning) may have the person next to you muttering in righteous fury, he adds, so be respectful to your neighbours.

Here are 13 of your most pressing questions on modern etiquette.

Not having a medical kit

Not having a medical kit
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If you’re in the woods, you need to be somewhat self-sufficient, and that includes bringing a first aid kit. No need to buy one, though, says Walker – you can create your own fully stocked medical kit for a weekend away. Fill a sealable freezer bag with adhesive bandages, tweezers, a needle for splinters (add a spool of thread for emergency sewing), some cortisone cream, alcohol wipes, antihistamine, ibuprofen and a travel-sized bottle of aloe vera to help soothe bites, scrapes and minor burns.

And avoid these 12 common first aid mistakes everyone makes.

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