Over the last few years I’ve done my fair share of camping and I like to think I’ve become quite good at it, if I don’t say so myself. From roughing it on last-minute trips and pitching a tent on deserted West Coast sand dunes to perfectly executed camping trips to the Cederberg, I’ve learnt a few lessons along the way.
When it comes to camping, less is more. You want to be able to arrive, unpack and light your braai with a cold beer in hand within a few minutes. Leave the ‘glamping’ to the people who have the time to stress over draining their car battery with their newly acquired air conditioning unit. Here’s my list of ten basic essentials for your next camping trip.
It probably goes without saying but we all know that a box of matches is one of the easiest things to forget when you’re packing for a camping trip. Arriving at the camp ground, choosing your site and lighting the fire as the sun dips below the horizon is without a doubt one of the greatest things about camping. A source of warmth, a hot meal and plenty of conversation, a roaring fire is the heartbeat of your campsite, so don’t forget this essential on your next adventure.
Highlighting the importance of point number one, a camping chair is the second most important thing to remember. Camping chairs are quite personal so whether you’re happy with the 80s-inspired, fold-out canvas variety or you’re into the more high-tech chairs with all sorts of fancy features like cup-holders, fold-out side tables and foot rests, be sure you pack something comfy to sit on while you relax next to your campfire.
It may not be the most fashionable piece of camping gear but anyone who knows anything about camping will know what an investment a good headlamp can be. Superior to the hand-held flashlight in so many ways, a headlamp leaves your hands free to flip a chop on the braai, walk to the ablutions block without stepping on snakes and scorpions and you can even hang it in your tent for a little reading before bed!
Tip: Store your headlamp in a protective case. These gadgets have a habit of switching themselves on in your bag. And if you haven’t used your headlamp in a while, bring a pack of batteries along – just in case!
A sharp knife is one of the handiest things to take camping with you but a Swiss Army Knife with all its added tools is even handier. With tweezers for getting those annoying splinters out of your fingers, a knife to cut your meat, a can opener for your tin of beans, a bottle opener and corkscrew for your beverage of choice and an array of other handy gizmos, this is an absolute must for any avid camper.
Nothing beats the feeling of sun-kissed skin and the warm glow of a summer tan. But completely frying yourself is just stupid, and painful. Many campers enjoy activities like hiking and fishing while on a camping trip and burning yourself to a crisp is best avoided to ensure maximum enjoyment while in the great outdoors. Arm yourself with a strong SPF and reapply regularly!
We all love being one with nature and getting a little dirty from time to time, but every now and then it’s nice to have clean hands. Waterless hand sanitizers are cheap and widely available at most stores so keep a bottle of this handy! Wet wipes are also a great and have many added uses.
Besides its obvious uses you’d be surprised how useful an extra roll or two of TP is when camping. Even if the campsite you’re staying in has well-stocked ablution blocks, it’s always good to keep a roll close by. From mopping up spills and drying utensils (if you forgot your dishcloth) to doubling up as a serviette at braai time, it’ll always come in handy.
I’ve seen people forget their fully stocked cooler boxes on weekend getaways resulting in a lot of food envy. Don’t forget to store your perishables in a cold container and bring plenty of water along to avoid dehydration. It’s also worth bringing a bag of corn chips. If not for eating, they make amazing firelighters in case that fire wood you picked up on your way out of town is a little bit damp and doesn’t burn too well.
Tip: Doritos makes particularly good firelighters.
Nothing sucks the fun out of a camping trip like getting sick. Be sure to take some basic medical supplies along with you on your trip to treats wounds, hangovers and sunburn. It’s also a good idea to throw some insect repellent into your kit – some campers seem to forget that nature is full of bugs and other creatures you don’t encounter much in the city. And by insect repellent I don’t mean a can of Doom. Remember that insects are vital to the ecosystem and, at the end of the day, you’re a visitor in their home.
Whether you like the blow-up variety or just a good old-fashioned camping mattress, be sure to bring one. Mother Nature is hard and the feeling of your hips and shoulders digging into the cold, hard ground will teach you very quickly that this is one essential you do NOT want to forget!
What essentials do you make sure you remember to pack when you go camping?
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