By Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com
On a scale of one (can’t survive a night away from home without a hotel’s pillow menu) to 10 (surviving alone on a desert island), it’s important to know what kind of outdoor holiday experience will work for you. There’s a big difference between a willingness to spend the night in a sleeping bag under canvas and needing a wooden four-poster in a heated yurt.
While a hotel may offer guests the choice of a sea or garden view, overnighting in a tent means the choice of where to stay is entirely your own. You select the type of tent you buy (or rent), where you want to visit and then – crucially – where on the site you pitch for the night.
When buying a tent, it’s worth noting that a one-person tent might be a tight fit unless you’re of slight build. Likewise, for a couple happy to cuddle up, a three-person tent is probably just enough when you store extra kit inside. Always “go large” if you can, there’s no harm in having a little space under the canvas. Have a go at putting up and taking down your new tent before you travel too. It’s easier to get to grips with the instructions the first time in the privacy of your back garden or even local park than when you arrive at your holiday spot at sunset.
Choose a shaded spot to keep cool in high summer, or at least somewhere that doesn’t get the bright light of sunrise. Pitch on higher ground and, if you prefer peace and quiet, slightly away from any communal facilities. If there’s a breeze, select a spot that enjoys some shelter from a wall, some shrubs or another tent.
Food and drink
Book a site close to a pub that serves good grub, select somewhere with on-site facilities or plan to cook al fresco. Check your site allows you to cook on a barbecue or camp fire – some provide outdoor grills or a fire pit, while others may not permit open fires. Take your own cooking tools, crockery and cutlery if required.
Make sure you take some non-perishable food that doesn’t need heating up, just in case you can’t use the campfire.
Keep everything in well sealed containers, ideally in a secure place outside the tent such as your car; not only does this keep your ingredients fresh, it will reduce the appealing smells attracting wildlife.
Don’t assume the same laws and etiquette apply to outdoor holidays overseas as in the UK: in North America, for example, there are strict laws in place about food storage on campsites. Check before you go, just so you’re in tune with the locals.
In Sweden, to keep the water clean, you may be asked to shower naked and wash your swimwear in front of a pool attendant before taking a dip in a natural hot spring. Knowing this ahead of time will spare the Brits some blushes.
UK drivers overseas are expected to comply with all local laws (don’t drive barefoot in Spain; carry a breathalyser in France; use headlights in daylight in Denmark) and the UK government advice is to get clued up with the AA or RAC prior to travel if driving to an international campsite this summer.
Don’t get lost
It’s a bit like the baggage carousel at the airport where all cases can look the same: your beautiful new tent might blend in with all the others making it hard to find home, especially after dark. Bring a tent marker such as a flag, windsock, bunting or battery-operated fairy lights to distinguish your tent – and write a name or phrase on the door flap in permanent marker. And remember to bring a pocket torch. There are few things worse than stumbling around a campsite in the dark looking for your tent.
Keep things dry
Take only essential items and keep electricals to a minimum. Use resealable waterproof bags to store your phone, GPS and valuables so they stay dry and take a supply of plastic bags to keep worn or wet clothes and boots separate from clean and dry ones.
If it rains, don’t panic
The Great British summer can surprise any holiday maker but should the forecast predict wet rather than wonderful, don’t be put off. Check your site has a drying room so you can still enjoy the great outdoors when the weather isn’t fine. Some larger sites even have a laundrette.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Some wilderness or more rural locations may lack full recycling and refuse facilities so adopt a “leave nothing behind” policy wherever you go.
Minimise what you take with you and bring as much home as you can to dispose of correctly. Keeping your environmental footprint to a minimal is imperative and by travelling with reusable crockery, cutlery, water bottles, water bottles and equipment, we can help ensure even more people can enjoy the great outdoors, here and overseas.