Fancy a night sleeping under the stars but not sure how to start? Here’s my camping beginner’s guide to what to pack, where to pitch your tent and how to try wild camping.
Camping Beginner’s guide
Keen to go camping? Don’t worry too much about kit lists and packing emergency rations, just dust down an old tent, load friends and some duvets into the car and make for the hills. Starting is simple – pick a campsite and put your tent up. Well done, you’re camping!
My advice to creature comfort lovers? Head out for one night in warm weather, and take the car so that you can bail if you need to. I’m willing to bet you’ll have the best time ever.
Some of the most beautiful places in Britain to sleep under canvas.
Three Cliffs Bay, Gower
Super posh facilities and glorious views of Three Cliffs Bay from the towering heights of this popular campsite, which I love to stay in when exploring the Gower. The beach is a 15 minute scramble down the hill.
Troytown Farm, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly
The prettiest campsite on the Scillies, and that’s saying something. Stay on sleepy St Agnes whilst you island-hop and explore the flower farms, deserted beaches and little hamlets of this tiny sub-tropical bit of land.
Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye
Waking up to the spectacular Cuillin mountains will make you itch to lace up your hiking boots, but stop and have a refreshing dip on the beach before you head for the hills.
Owen Tyddyn, Cadair Idris
Check out the insane view (top picture) from this lovely little site, more a farmer’s field than a proper campsite. It’ll cost you under a fiver for a peaceful stay in this lush grassy field, which ends at the foot of the glorious peaks of Cadair Idris – an incredible place to wake up to.
Little Meadow, Ilfracombe
Panoramic views over the steep cliffs and indigo water of Hangman’s Bay in Ilfracombe. Lie in the meadow and watch the sun set over the water: bliss.
Useful websites, recipes and more.
The bible of special places to set up your tent, only the crème de la crème of campsites get recommended by Cool Camping, who judge them on the proper important stuff, like whether there’s somewhere to plug in your fairy lights.
Use their camping resources list to find ace local farmers happy to let you bed down for the night in their fields across Britain’s national parks.
Sister website to the brilliant book of the same name, which is a fabulous resource of the loveliest and littlest campsites around. Each one is under an acre in size, to ensure your holiday is more green spaces, less Glastonbury.
The one-stop spot for information on wild camping. As well as covering legal issues, there’s a list of hidden wild beauty spots and semi-wild sites that are far from the madding tents.
My favourite campfire recipes
Make bread-on-a-stick, camping stew, cheat’s chocolate cake and more.
The do’s and don’t of pitching up in the wilderness.
The romantic notion of sleeping in a lone little canvas tent under the stars doesn’t just have to be a fantasy. Whilst wild camping isn’t strictly legal in England and Wales, Scotland is much more chilled out about stuff like that. Freedom to camp is included in their access legislation, so you can pitch up by a loch and sleep on a springy bed of heather hassle-free. It’s possible to camp wild in some national parks in England, too – on Dartmoor you’re totally free to nod off out on the moor with only friendly ponies for company as long as you follow certain rules. In other wild spots, use common sense – if you don’t pitch your tent on farmland without permission or near roads or protected areas, no-one is likely to mind (or even find out), but check the legal stuff first by reading v-g.me.uk/WildCamp, so that you’re well-versed in your rights.
Pick up the camping gear you need at Outdoor Camping Direct, and check out my ultimate camping packing list for more.
Tents: If you’re taking a car to a campsite pick a roomy one. If you’re wild camping, pack a teeny two-man.
Ground sheets: Keep everything watertight.
Bedding: If it’s a warm weekend you might get away with duvets and pillows, but sleeping bags are the easiest and most portable bedding to take along.
Roll mat: Essential for a good night’s kip.
Headtorch or lantern: You don’t want to trip over guy ropes in the dark!
Warm clothes: Pile on jumpers and huddle round the campfire in the evenings.
Wellies: For puddle-finding and river-fording.
Snacks and water: High-energy treats like flapjacks will perk up less-than-happy campers.
Gas stove and fuel: Or disposable BBQs. What campsites allow does vary – if you’d like your own campfire this list has fire-friendly sites.
Camping kettle: The fastest way to boil water on the fire for tea.
Pans: With frequent washing you can get away with two.
Cutlery: Plastic forks and knives are easily washed, but don’t forget a few quality cooking knives.
Tin cups and plates: Easily bashed about and cleaned afterwards.
Kitchen roll: Doubles up as napkins and face-wipes.
Washing up bowl and liquid: Keep everything ship-shape.