The first-timer

The first-timer

The great outdoors are exactly that but what if you are a first-timer? There are numerous ways to enjoy our open spaces which include picnics as well as hikes.

To me the big one was my first camping trip, that was the opportunity to immerse myself in the landscape beyond civilisation. The military had exposed me to camping ( without a tent or the luxury of a shower ), so the first trip was easy. And every successive trip got easier. A youngster who lives down the road asked me to assist him in outfitting for his first trip and I offered him the use of my kit on a trial basis as it would not cost him anything and he could get the”feel “ of it.

My first piece of advice was to come up with a plan. It makes the difference between a debacle and absolute enjoyment. You will be a happy camper.

To me it’s always best to go in a group, you can share skills and equipment especially if you have forgotten something as simple as a lighter. You will even teach each other. Then do your homework, learn as much as you can about the campsite. Use Google chances are the location has a website that covers just about everything that you need to know about the venue. Distance and fuel are important as is travel time as well as the time that gates may close.

Then stay on the same page. If you are travelling from multiple locations choose a convenient meeting point like a service station or well-known landmark. Then set a timeframe for everyone to get together.

Like a good boy scout, you should always be prepared, even meet beforehand to discuss basic requirements such as water, first aid, lighting etc. Everyone should pack a decent first aid kit, the overlap in the event of an emergency could be crucial.

Then tell someone. The whole group should adopt a “buddy system” each of you needs to tell friends where you are going, when you are leaving and when you will return. You also need to share this info with your security provider.

Plan your first campsite with care, as a first-timer do not go out into the remote outdoors away from the hustle and bustle. Choose somewhere relatively close to home and near civilisation. Just makes it easier if you forget something critical or something goes wrong. Keep the more remote adventurous spots for later when you have built experience.

Look for the perfect spot and try to get there early. The most important things to me are the following;

  • Level ground 
  • Access to the ablutions
  • Shade 
  • A noise-free zone ( many campsites prohibit parties and loud music ) 
  • Trees are great as they provide shade but be aware of animals and making fires on the drip line where roots could be damaged

look to the orientation of the sun, especially for sunrise and sunsets – makes a big difference over breakfast and sundowners.

Then look for the obvious hazards, which could include;

  • Wildlife paths
  • Poisonous plants
  • Loose rocks on a nearby slope

You can’t control nature but you can be aware of potential hazards, use your judgement and stay aware.

Stay clear of waterways and river beds they are potentially hazardous in the event of flash floods, and stick to higher ground in all cases.

Then look after the environment, and use biodegradable toiletries as well as cleaning materials. Take your waste home if suitable facilities do not exist to dispose of them. Leave no trace.

Pack the essentials, sit with friends and work through a list to ensure that you have everything, your first camping trip needs to be bliss, otherwise, you will never go camping again.

The reason I lent my equipment out was to assist the youngster in assessing his requirements;

  • The size and type of tent as well as how easily it could be pitched
  • Sleeping requirements, Stretchers, mattresses, sleeping pads as well as sleeping bags. Pillows are also important but a matter of choice.
  • Lighting is critical, rechargeable lights are good for at least two days but for a longer trip, one would need to look at alternatives or even the installation of a dual battery system. Solar lights are also a good option.
  • A cooler to transport food is essential, with ice packs a small cooler can keep frozen food for at least two nights but a proper fridge would be required for longer trips. Many campsites do offer electricity, check beforehand.

Never forget toilet paper and wet wipes – you will never know when you will need them. Biodegradable is best!

And extra socks and underwear – you never know when you are going to be caught in a deluge and drenched. You need to be comfortable.

We are lucky with our weather which in most parts of South Africa is pretty predictable, if you have made a booking and paid a deposit you will have to go for it. A good weather app will help as you may need to add additional wet or cold weather gear. Lastly, manage fires, ensure that you put out all fires before leaving the campsite. A healthy dose of water does the job.

Get out there and enjoy yourself, take the family and have an amazing time. See the country!

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