Camping, Bushcraft & Survival

Camping: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Heading off on a camping holiday? Not sure which equipment to buy? We've got the lowdown on everything you could possibly want to know...

Camping holidays have sky-rocketed in popularity over the last few years. No longer is it seen as a fusty pastime for old nature lovers. Adventurers of all ages are pitching tents in the UK and internationally.

It is far more than just tent poles and freeze-dried camping food. It’s about escaping the civilised world for a little while – leaving behind home comforts and phone signal to spend much needed time in the great outdoors.

Having the right equipment for a weekend in the wild is key

There are many different types – from sleeping at a festival to roughing it in the wild.

It can involve sleeping in a tent, a caravan, a motorhome, or even just a bivvy bag (or bivouac sack, a thin waterproof shell that goes over your sleeping bag). Some people even choose to stay in pods!

Whether you’re a member of the famous Camping and Caravanning Club or you’re just pitching up a tent for the first time, we’ve put together a basic guide to answer all your camp-related questions – from equipment to the best campsites for surfers in the UK and the best campsites for surfers in Europe.

Backpacking is where the equipment is much lighter and more technical

Thomas Hiram Holding is often known as the father of modern recreational camping in the UK.

He was a British travelling tailor who spent his childhood travelling across the American prairies with his parents and later embarked on a cycling tour across Ireland.

Thomas Hiram Holding’s campsite in the early days

He wrote a book about his experiences called Cycle and Camp in Connemars, which went on to inspire the formation of the the first group in 1901, which later became the Camping and Caravanning Club.

Most people will pitch a tent for the first time at a UK music festival


Music festivals have grown dramatically in the UK. Now the UK has grown an international reputation for its festival scene.

Most festival have a campsite for people to stay for a couple of days. The trick to festivals is packing light and getting there early to get a good pitch.

10 Best Cheap Tents For Festivals & Summer Camping


Backpacking is where you carry all of your gear with you – and hiking off often into the wilderness. People who hike the Pacific Crest Trail or Appalachian Trail are backpackers. Think Cheryl Strayed or Bill Bryson.

Modern technology has allowed equipment to become lighter and more compact that ever before, making backpacking a lot easier.

Wild camping is becoming increasingly popular in the UK and internationally

Wild Camping

Wild camping is technically illegal in the United Kingdom, apart from in Scotland and Dartmoor. However, plenty of people go despite these rules.

Alastair Humphries was one figure who pioneered the modern revival of sleeping wild in the UK with his book, Microadventures. Read our guide to the most remote campsites in the UK here.

Social Campsites

This involves groups of campers getting together and socialising with each other.

Two organisations in the UK are dedicated to this pastime: the Caravan Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club.

It’s a great way for people to make friends – as a family or as individuals looking for other to camp with.

Pods are increasingly replacing tents for those that prefer a glamping approach to sleeping outdoors

Winter Camping

This refers to setting up camp in the wilderness during the winter months, often in the snow and freezing conditions.

It can be a more dangerous as there is risk of frostbite or becoming snowbound. You will need high quality, seasonal gear and experience of digging snow caves/igloos is preferable. Take a look at our guide to the best winter tents and winter sleeping bags here.


Glamping came from the conglomeration of two words – ‘glamorous camping’.

It’s a modern phenomenon which sleeping outside with the luxury of home comforts, such as a bed, private washing facilities and access to electricity and WiFi.

Pods (pictured above) are a popular replacement for tents when it comes to glamping.

It stems from European and American safaris in Africa in the early 1900s where wealthy travellers brought luxuries with them to camp in the wilderness.

What Equipment Do You Need?

Having good quality equipment is crucial to an enjoyable expedition

There is nothing worse than setting up camp when you haven’t got the right equipment with you.

If you’re brand new, it’s worth getting the essential camping equipment – or borrowing from a friend if you don’t have them.

Buying a tent is the number one priority. There are a baffling number of sizes, shape and varieties on the market. Go Outdoors have a handy tent buying guide with jargon explained.

It’s helpful to have a good quality sleeping bag, sleeping mat and the all-important lantern for those late night toilet trips. Foldable camping chairs and portable stoves are also must-have camping accessories for a comfortable expedition. Read our guide to camping stoves here.

There is even specific women’s camping equipment, which is great news.

Go Outdoors also have a great packing checklist, so you can make sure you don’t leave the essentials behind.

Where Are The Best Places To Go Camping In The UK?

Cornwall, Scotland and Wales are very popular places to camp in the UK

Finding a good spot is a matter of personal taste. Do you prefer campsites with a hot shower, cafe and clean toilets? Or would you rather pitch your tent in the wilderness without another soul in sight? You can even go camping in London.

Cool Camping is a great resource for campsites in the UK. They pick out tent-orientated campsites that are particularly outstanding – for their coastal views or amazing eco initiatives.

Read our guide to the best campsites for beginners in the UK. Prefer something more off-the-beaten-track? Check out these beautiful remote campsites.

Where Should I Go To Buy Equipment?

Camp equipment is widely available in the UK

We’re lucky here in the UK to have plenty of great camp shops to choose from.

Camping and General is the largest outdoor leisure camp shop in the UK – with a huge showroom on Canvey Island, Essex. They have a great online shop too and offer equipment at amazing discount prices.

Go Outdoors (as previously mentioned) has a great range of equipment. If you’re looking for a new tent, for example, you can see them already pitched to work out which one will suit you.

Blacks, Millets and Cotswold Outdoors are all excellent chain outdoors and camp shops in the UK. They stock brands from Blue Diamond to Vango and can be found all over the UK.

Top Tips If You Are Setting Up Camp For The First Time

What should you expect from your first time?

We spoke to Go Outdoors expert Ian Mackintosh about his tips for people who have never camped before:

  • Practice pitching and packing away your new tent at home before you venture out for the first time. You’ll be able to master the art of pitching as well as checking your tent has all the poles and pegs.
  • If you have a large family, consider getting a canopy or porch which will add extra space for storage or relaxing in.
  • It’s a good idea to get a tent footprint helps protect your tent from wear and tea, as well as keeping it dry and making it much easier to pack away.
  • A mobile mains kit is essential for getting power into your tent on campsites that have electricity. They are plugged into the power post and means you can charge your phone as well as use any other electricals on site.

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