Travel News

Camping hacks from experienced campers

Top tips to ensure your camping trip runs smoothly.

New Zealand is a camping nation, with thousands of families making the pilgrimage every summer to their favourite holiday spot. Many have whittled the camping experience down to a fine art, with long-established traditions and routines that have served them well year after year.

The key to a successful camping trip is organisation, learning from past mistakes and using common sense.

With this in mind we’ve consulted the most experienced campers we know to compile their best tips, tricks and hacks for you.

Here’s everything you need to know to ensure your next camping trip is a huge success.

Getting organised

Being organised is key and you can spot the campers who are because there are no arguments when the tent goes up, they never seem to be looking for something they cannot find and they never ask to borrow your brush and shovel. Here is how you can achieve this too:

Write a comprehensive list of everything you need that you can tick off as you pack – save it on the family laptop.

Store your main equipment all together in one dry, ventilated place. This includes the tent, air beds/stretchers/swabs, cutlery and plates/cups, cooking gear, lamps, torches, the air bed pump, the brush and shovel, the mallet.

Pack ‘like with like’ so that you can easily find things. Keep cutlery in a lidded plastic container; flexi buckets are fantastic for keeping together pots and pans, towels and tea towels, togs and beach towels, kids toys, cups and plates. They can also be used as laundry baskets and for dirty dishes.

While on holiday, take note of anything that gets broken or lost then replace it as soon as you get home.

Getting the tent up

A couple of weeks before your trip, put your tent up in an open space like your local school or reserve so you can check for tears and make sure nothing is missing, like poles and pegs. This also gives you the opportunity to refresh your memory on how it goes up.

Invest in plenty of extra-strong tent pegs and use a mallet rather than a hammer to drive the pegs into the ground. “The pegs that come with the tent and a hammer don’t cut it!” says one camper.

Lay newspaper on the ground under the tent. “You lose a lot of warmth (even in hot summer times) through the ground so this helps to insulate the tent,” adds another.

Take masking tape in case of a tear or quick fix on a tent pole.

No matter how hot and tired you are on arrival, it’s better to put your tent up straight away than later when it’s getting dark.

To avoid arguments while you’re putting up the tent: “Let one person take charge and attack it as a team,” says another camper. “Talk to the kids before you start about exactly what you expect them to help with, whether it’s handing out tent pegs, helping to spread the tent out on the ground or putting together poles.”

We’d add, remember patience is a virtue.

Sleep factor

Test your sleeping surface BEFORE you go camping – there is nothing worse than realising on your first night that you actually HATE sleeping on a stretcher – which happened to me last summer.

Many campers swear by air beds but they can puncture easily; it might pay to take a spare. For couples, two singles can be better than a double so that the lighter of the two doesn’t get bounced off every time the other changes sleeping position. Don’t forget the air bed pump.

Many adults don’t sleep well on stretchers although they seem fine for kids.

Some get a great night’s kip on a roll-out swab/mattress or yoga mat.

These are the items campers tell us they most often forget – we’re listing them so you won’t

  • Dishwashing liquid

  • Fish slice

  • Can opener

  • Lighter for gas barbecue

  • Hammer/mallet for the tent pegs

  • Large rubbish bags to put clothing/bedding in if water gets inside the tent

  • Toothbrush

  • Hat for mum

  • Brush and shovel to sweep the sand out of your tent

  • Clothes pegs for hanging washing / wet swimwear and towels (and rope to make a clothesline)

  • Extra tea towels and towels. You will need more than you think.

Throw some shade on it

A portable gazebo is a must for gathering under in the heat.

Take sun umbrellas and/or shade tents.

Pitching your tent under a tree can help keep the tent shaded as well as provide shelter from the weather.

Hooded towels are great for helping keep the sun off the kids at the beach, and rash shirts and hats are a must.

Keeping the kids entertained

As much as we’d like our kids to be as easily entertained as we were “in our day” – playing with sticks and climbing trees and the likes, they may not warm to this type of play straight away.

Says one camper, “We used to take a big box of Lego and put it on a sheet and that kept them busy while we put the tent up. Don’t forget board games for rainy days either.”

We would add to that a pack of cards, books, a cricket set, frisbees, a kite, a swingball set and favourite toys. Leave the screens at home.

Dealing with the weather

Take loads – and we mean loads – of SPF50 sunblock. The cream varieties can be easier to use than the spray versions because you can see how much is going on. If you do have aerosol sunscreen spray generously, advises the NZ Cancer Society. “The longer you spray the better the level of protection,” says Fiona Mawley, GM of Daffodil Enterprises, who produce and market Cancer Society’s sunblocks.

It can be chilly first thing in the morning – pack winter pyjamas and merino clothing. Warm socks and woolly hats too.

Take plastic rubbish bags to put clothing, bedding and towels in, just in case it rains and water gets inside the tent.

Cotton is the worst thing you can wear in wet weather: “If you want to stay warm when it gets wet, remove cotton wherever possible,” advises one camper.

Polar fleece clothing is great for cooler temperatures and dries quickly if it gets wet.

Make sure you have plenty of spare clothes and good ground cover, there’s nothing worse than being wet.

Housekeeping, safety and food hygeine

“We always have a sturdy bathmat outside the tent. Amazing how this reduces the amount of sand and grass inside the tent.”

“Don’t be afraid to bring meat. Prepare early – wrap it in wet newspaper and freeze. Repeat in layers.”

“If you’re unsure about the water, boil for three minutes before drinking.”

“When sleeping in a tent, make sure it has good air flow to stop condensation. I have woken up once covered in condensation as I slept next to the wall.”

“If you are going camping in a very remote area bring a PLB or personal location beacon. You can also hire these.”

“Always take a good first aid kit including Pamol as the kids always seem to come down with something when you don’t have Pamol at hand.”

“Take wet wipes for quick cleans.”

“Hand sanitizer is a must.”

“We use zip-up food cabinets for food AND as clothing drawers. It keeps the clothes off the ground and the air circulating through them. It’s also easier to find things.”

With special thanks to our camping buddies who helped us compile this story – Nic, Kat, Kit, Janine, Carol, Vidette, John, Jai, Leah, Samuel

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