It's the height of summer, festivals are kicking off all over the country and you want in on the summertime action. But, everyone has had at least one nightmare camping experience! So, it's best to be prepared before you head off into the great wide yonder.
Camping used to be all about soggy tents, frightening toilet facilities and flasks of tepid tea but not anymore - camping is cool...but that's only half the story - you need to get organised if you want have fun. Here is our quick start guide to the essentials - because an irrational fear of mud and rain isn't the only thing you will need to take with you!
1. The Tent
This will become your makeshift home so choose wisely. Halfords stock tents from as little as €17.00 if you want to keep things strictly utilitarian. Remember if it rains for three days you'll be stuck inside and glued together so choose a tent with a bit of "legroom" - the least you'll need is a tent with somewhere to put your boots when it's muddy. If you're doing it properly and don't want to live in a sea of smelly socks think about some light storage boxes - at a pinch you could get away with a backpack, but unpacking and repacking gets old fast.
In the good old days sleeping bags were either too hot or too cold & hideous to look at. You can pick up a bag for as little as around €15 these days but if ugly functional polyester isn't your thing then the Glam Camping Company offer cool bags in groovy fabrics as well as rugs, chandeliers, & lanterns - kit yourself out like a Moroccan spice vendor and feel the karma. IF you don't want to go the boho route then re-chargeable or solar LED lighting and a GOOD torch is essential - and - take candles just in case it all goes pear-shaped. If you really value your sleep then an inflating mattress or a folding bed is probably the best option. If you opt for an inflatable air bed take a puncture repair kit with you. Don't forget pillows and a folding table and chairs because the ground gets hard very fast.
Smoke signals are a thing of the past so keeping your mobile and tablet running is essential. Powertraveller have a range of solar chargers to keep all your devices topped up - as long as the sun shines. If you are really serious about catching all those rays then then Goal Zero offer a range of portable solar power solutions and speaker kits.
4. Food and Water
Being cold and wet is no fun if you're hungry too so it's essential to make sure you've got something to eat and somewhere to store it. Always carry a good measure of dried foods and separate them from your fresh supplies. The more water you can carry the better but bear in mind water is heavy - some people say wine is a lighter option. Keeping food and drink cool is difficult - you will need a coolbox. Go Outdoors offer a range of coolboxes such as the Quest 33 Litre Wheeled Coolbox which you can charge from the mains or your car's cigarette lighter. Don't forget to buy the cooling packs!
Nothing tastes quite like a burnt, grassy steak so organising your cooking properly is essential. Kampa's "Commander Field Kitchen" sounds as though you need battle scars to use it but it is in fact an essential foldout "kitchen" with enough space to cook up a three course smorgasbord of outdoor culinary genius. They also offer practical tableware and a range of cooking stoves if you aren't cooking over a fire. Treat your gas cartridges with respect - always change them outside your tent and don't sleep with them inside either.
Essentials: Water carrier, fire lighters/newspapers, Aluminum foil, paper towels, toilet Roll, rubbish bags, dish soap, cooking oil oven glove utensils & cutlery can, bottle opener, cutting board, ziplock bags, dish towels, plastic bucket.
Depending on how much roughing it you're going to let yourself in for you know that one pair of jeans and a t-shirt will not cut it. When the going gets tough the minimum requirements are a decent all weather jacket, pair of spare shoes, and a hat to block out the sun - prepare for the worst. Basic "tools" are essential so pack a simple first aid kit and a basic toolkit - scissors, knife, bungi cords, rope etc. If you don't like insects then bug-repellant is de rigeur and unless you don't plan on washing, towels are a must.
If this all sounds a little too much like preparing for the apocalypse then you need a hotel or a B&B.
Let us know about your camping experiences in the comments below.