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The Basics | Preparation | Checklist | Packing | Keeping Warm | Shelter Pets | Be Considerate

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Basic essentials
Whether you are a newcomer to camping or looking to upgrade or return to camping several considerations must be made in the decision of what tent and equipment to purchase. Thought must be given to how, where, when and by whom will use the tent and equipment that you are going to purchase. Experienced campers need to be aware of new developments that may influence their choice. The main innovation in design over the last couple of years is the introduction of sewn in groundsheets ( SIG's) See our "Guide to choosing the right tent" in tents such as the Outwell Hartford range.
Firstly, the tent must be of adequate specification for the intended use, have adequate sleeping space for the number of people who will be using it, should be of appropriate weight and pack size and should give storage space as required for rucksacks, boots, camp kitchen, cookers, lights, kids, pets, toys etc etc etc.!!
CHOOSING THE RIGHT TENT
Tents come in many different shapes, sizes and styles, from one person designs made to fit a rucksack, to eight berth frame tents ready to fully furnished with everything including the kitchen sink. In between there are there are numerous styles offering excellent head and elbowroom, of lightweight materials and suitable for a variety of locations. It is important to choose the correct equipment for the purpose that you intend to use it. The advantages of camping are many. The initial outlay is relatively low and the ease that a tent can be transported gives freedom. There are various types of tents available each designed with a particular purpose in mind.
Firstly, you need to establish how the tent is to be carried, e.g. in a rucksack or by car. The details printed with each tent will state its weight, a very important consideration if you have to walk any distance. These details will also state the height in the living area and the sleeping area. It may be essential that you can stand in the living area but not in the sleeping area or it may be necessary to be able to stand where-ever you are within the tent. The smaller lighter weight tents do not provide for standing height but the headroom when sitting is very variable so care must be taken to choose the right height for your comfort.
Tents vary in size considerably. Consider how many people are to sleep in the tent. Do you require one large sleeping area or do you prefer separated sleeping compartments? The tents are usually labelled two person or three person etc. This is based on average size adults. Do check the actual measurements given to establish that you have adequate length and width to accommodate the people who are to use the tent. The living areas are shown with sizes marked. Consider what equipment i.e. tables and chairs, that you will wish to have within the tent and check that the sizes marked will in fact be adequate. Below are the different styles of tents available.

WHAT YOUR TENT IS MADE OF
Tents are made from a variety of different materials. The majority has a breathable inner sleeping section and a separate waterproof flysheet. This two-walled construction provides insulation and prevents the build up of condensation inside the tent.
Cotton is a natural fabric. It can be coated with PVC for the roof and the strip around the bottom, known as the skirt. Condensation can leave clothing and bedding feeling damp and wet. The use of cotton allows the tent fabric to breathe and so produce less condensation.
However cotton is heavier and bulkier when packed and so is generally used for frame tents where the weight is less important. Smaller, lightweight tents may use cotton as the inner sleeping compartment fabric. The disadvantage of cotton in tent manufacture is that it will rot if not maintained properly. However if proper care is taken they will last years. Nylon and polyester are used for the majority of dome, vis-à-vis and ridge tents. These fabrics are generally coated with one or more polyurethane coatings to provide waterproofing. This type of fabric has the advantage in that it dries quickly, is light in weight and will pack down to a small size. It also needs minimum maintenance. Nylon and polyester can become brittle and deteriorate over long time exposure to bright sunlight.
A FINAL WORD
Camping is fun and if you choose the right tent, for the type of use you require and the right size to accommodate you and all you wish to take with you, you will enjoy many happy holidays in it. Most tent manufacturers will publish details on the construction of their tents and this guide will help you to decide which design is best suited to your needs. Remember to make sure you also have adequate pegs, a peg remover and a mallet! This will ensure a trouble free pitching of your chosen tent and all you have to do then is, relax and enjoy yourself.
USING YOUR NEW TENT
Before using your new purchase...
Very occasionally, new tents are delivered with parts such as guy lines, runners, pegs or even a pole missing. There could even be a manufacturing fault such as a tear or incorrect stitching lines. For this reason, we recommend that before taking your new tent anywhere, particularly abroad, you take the whole item out of its package and erect it at home (preferably inside). By doing this you will immediately be able to see if there is indeed anything missing or incorrect with the tent. This should be done allowing plenty of time to obtain replacement parts, as necessary. It will also give you a chance to practise erecting your tent quickly and easily before embarking on your holiday.
Pitching and using your tent...
Double skin tents can be pitched in one of two ways, either the fly-sheet or outer tent first or the inner tent first.
The great advantage of pitching the flysheet or outer first is that it is the waterproof part of the tent that is erected first so that the inner can be pitched without the worry of it getting wet. Having erected and secured the outer tent, the inner part is then attached which can require a little crawling around inside.
The alternative system requires the inner tent to be erected first. These type of tents are quick and easy to put up and as the flysheet is thrown over the already erected inner it requires no crawling around inside. One disadvantage is though that the inner has no protection during pitching and may be soaked before the flysheet is added, if you had to pitch in bad weather.
There are a few tents that can be stored and pitched with the inner attached to the outer tent. This makes them very quick to pitch and keeps the inner tent dry during wet weather pitching. However if the outer tent is damp it is advisable to separate the inner from the outer before packing and to let both parts dry before storing.
When choosing a place to pitch your tent, a flat, dry sheltered spot is the best. Clear the site of sharp stones or debris. If possible tent should be pitched facing away from the wind. If camping in windy weather, try not to pitch down wind of trees. You will find that the noise of the wind through the branches or even twigs blown from the tree could make for a very disturbed night.
When pitching a tent where the flysheet pitches first, make sure that all the poles are threaded through the correct sleeves before you attempt to secure the poles in the eyelets or ring and pins of the flysheet. This is especially important if the tent is a large one. Most of the large dome tents require two people for ease of erection. For some it is useful to have an extra person, possibly a child, to go under the flysheet, to take the weight of the fabric and it then becomes an easy job to make the fabric taut and so to connect the pole ends to the eyelets or ring and pins of the flysheet.
Dome tents are self-supporting and so can be moved to the most favourable position before pegging out. Always ensure that you have an adequate amount of pegs and secure the tent with guy lines, especially if the weather conditions are adverse. When striking camp you may find that the outer is damp through condensation or rain. If possible separate the inner and the outer and spread them to dry in a suitable place while you continue with other tasks. The inner should be dry on all areas except perhaps the groundsheet base and should be packed carefully to ensure that it does not come into contact with a damp or dirty flysheet or dirty pegs. If you are packing in a rucksack make sure you pack the items in the order that you can quickly retrieve them to pitch the next time, without having to unpack your whole bag. If you must pack the tent when wet or damp then at the earliest opportunity spread out both the inner and outer to dry thoroughly before repacking or storing. At the end of your holiday, make sure that your tent is clean and dry. Use only recommended tent cleaners. Always store in dry conditions and your tent will be ready for your next camping trip.
Sleeping Bags
Having chosen the tent that fulfils all your requirements attention then must be given to the type of bedding suitable for your needs. There are many sleeping bags available. Choosing the right one for the use you intend it for is important. Nothing can spoil a holiday as much as nights spent shivering in an unsuitable sleeping bag. At night the temperature drops, as does our heat output. Air is the best insulator and so what is needed is a method of cocooning us in trapped warm air around our body. This cocoon should keep the air still and prevent loss of heat but should be breathable to allow body moisture to escape into the outside air. Factors to take into account when choosing your sleeping bag include warmth ratings, materials used, design shape and size, weight, pack size and cost.
Warmth ratings
Sleeping bags are rated for different seasons and temperatures. Most manufacturers will list the season rating along with a minimum temperature and a comfort temperature rating that the bag will be suitable for.

This is a general guide and note must be taken of the temperature ratings given to each sleeping bags. Seasonal conditions can vary greatly e.g. frosts occurring in May or September. Also note that all these ratings are for valley use and that temperatures will usually be colder high in the hills and so a warmer sleeping bag may be required. The amount of insulation required can vary greatly from one person to another, with one person comfortable in a one-season sleeping bag for two season temperatures or another needing a three season bag to be warm in the summer. What you sleep on or in matter greatly too. Ratings assume use of a mat and tent. If you choose to sleep on the ground under the stars you will not feel so warm. See our "Basic essentials guide to Sleeping mats"
As sleeping bags work by trapping warm air, is best to get into your bag while you are feeling warm and giving off heat. Opening the bag from the foot end can cool hot feet. Mummy style bags can be zipped together to make a double size and will be marked left or right zip to ensure that they match together.

Sleeping Mats
Having chosen the sleeping bag that will give you a warm nights sleep it is important to give some thought to what you will sleep on. When you lie down your weight compresses the fill of your sleeping bag dramatically reducing the insulation. Down compresses the most with fibre fill bags compressing the least. All bags will let the cold through and so some form of insulation is needed underneath.

Camping Stoves
There is a vast range of lightweight, portable stoves available. Thought must be given to the amount and the type of cooking that you will use your stove for. Think also if you need to be able to carry the stove in a backpack or what space you will have in the car boot.
Stoves can vary from a two-burner stove and grill, complete with side wind protectors and a lid, like the campingaz camping chef to a single ring compact burner, like the Campingaz Bleuet micro stove. The next question you must answer is "what type of fuel will you be using?" and this will be dependant on the type of camping you will be doing. Fuels vary in how hot they burn, how well they work in the cold, how easy they are to light, how safe they are to use and how much they cost. Availability varies too so the places you plan to visit may determine the fuel you wish to use.

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