Camping is one of the most popular hobbies across the globe. It is a form of relaxation to many city-slickers, and a bonding opportunity for many families. Not only does it provide us with a chance to break away from city life and the boring daily routines we all mindlessly follow, but it also gives us a chance to reconnect with Mother Nature, and enjoy what she has to offer. Way too much of our time is spent in front of computers and television sets.
Camping can be a fantastic adventure, however, go unprepared, and you’re in for a night of no sleep and loads of bug-scares. Before hitting the road, make sure you have prepared properly for the trip.
Being prepared starts with knowing where you’re going, what the terrain is like, what you are there to do, who you are going with and how you are getting there. Only once you know all of this, you will be able to prepare properly.
Start with the essentials: A first-aid kit should be the first thing packed into your bag: include things like painkillers, allergy medication, scissors, Band-Aids, antibacterial wash or ointment, and bandages. Remember to pack regularly used medicines, like insulin.
Cash: take your wallet for in case, but make sure you have enough cash with you – there will most likely not be card machines. Relevant documents like fishing or boat licenses, permits, etc. A multi-tool or Swiss army knife; a flashlight; a raincoat; sleeping gear, including a tent; insect repellent; extra batteries and bulbs; a map or GPS, and last but not least, toilet paper. You never know what might happen. Remember to pack extra clothes, toiletries, food, water and medicines.
Prepare for emergencies: Always tell someone not joining you on the trip where you are going, how long you will be away or when you expect to return, an address and contact number, and the names of everyone joining you for the trip. If something should happen, someone knows where to find you.
Insurance is a wonderful thing. If you are quite a few people going away together, find out who has insurance and who doesn't. If someone should get hurt during the camping trip, insurance will make a huge difference in the care they receive. Also make sure you know of any allergies anyone may have. If someone is allergic to peanuts, rather avoid a crisis by not packing any product that contains peanuts.
Be practical: only pack what is necessary. Things like rings, bracelets, and earrings are unnecessary. Electronic gadgets like laptops, PlayStations and televisions are also unnecessary.
Entertain, entertain, entertain
If this is a family trip, make sure your children have enough to keep them busy. Make the most of the site or terrain you are on: take their bikes with so they can explore; go for walks; if there is water close-by, make sure you pack their swimsuits and water toys. Pack board- and card games to keep them entertained during the rainy days.
Make use of the area around you to educate your children about nature. Ask them to gather wood for the fire; challenge them to an identify-the-plant-species game. Keep their minds stimulated. Teach them how to survive in the outdoors; teach them how to make a fire, what kinds of plants they can and cannot eat. There are loads and loads of great games that your children can play, like:
- Musical chairs: even adults can take part in this game. You will need a radio, or any source of music, to play this game. Here’s how it is played: One person will be in charge of the radio, and the rest will take part in the game. If there are 8 players, pack 7 chairs in a circle. If there are 5 players, use 4 chairs. Players form a circle around the chairs while one person operates the radio. The music is played, and all the players start moving around the chairs. As soon as the music stops, players should take a seat. The one person that does not sit is out of the game. One chair is then removed, and the game starts again. The last person sitting on the last chair, wins the game!
- Water balloon fights: if the weather is right, this is the perfect game to keep children entertained! Incorporate water balloons with a simple game like tag: when the player is hit with a balloon, they are out of the game.
- Skipping: a simple skipping game ensures for hours of fun for kids. They probably already know some skip routines, seeing that it is such a popular game in schools. To make it more fun, get the adults to join in and ask the kids to teach them how to skip or play.
- A simple cricket- or touch-rugby game can ensure for hours of fun: team the girls against the guys and let the battle of the sexes begin!
- Simple storytelling can be made into a fun game by giving every person a chance to add to the story. Here's how it's played: with players sitting relatively close to one another (so that they can hear one another), find a starting point (one of the players). This person will start the game by saying a random word; the next person will add onto what the first person said, and so forth. Every person will say every previously said word, and add a word of their own. Example: First person says "The"; the second person will say "The" and their own word, "cat": so the sentence, so far, will be “The cat”. The person that fails to repeat the previously said word in the exact sequence is out!
Read and respect campground rules
Campground rules are there for a reason – be a good camper and a kind neighbour and respect the campground rules. Respect the people around you and their privacy; don’t be too loud, don’t litter and don’t trespass. If you want to return to the camping grounds again, ensure you stick to the rules.
Mind your pets
If you are taking your dogs with you, make sure you pack enough food, blankets and toys for them. Also pack them a separate “bed” and their leash. Many people prefer not to interact with animals due to various reasons, like allergies. Keep an eye on your pets and make sure they behave and do not go sniffing in people’s belongings.
Clean up after your pets - you don’t want them to get banned from the camping grounds because of your negligence.
Keep in mind that people go camping to relax: if you decide to take your pets with you, ensure they stay away from other campers and do not annoy them. Be considerate.
Be mindful of safety
Wherever you are going, be mindful of safety. Make sure you always know where you children are and what they are doing. If you have children younger than 5 or 6 years, have an adult watch them– they can easily become lost among the many tents on the camping grounds.
It might be a good idea to give your children whistles to carry with them wherever they go. Teach them to use these whistles only in times of emergencies. If they want to explore on their own, arrange to meet with them at certain times during the day, at a specific spot. This way you will know what they are doing and more importantly, that they are fine.
Many different and dangerous kinds of animals are found on camping grounds. Bees are one of the most common potentially dangerous animals found in South Africa. Many people are allergic to bees without even being aware of it, so it is important to be prepared by carrying allergy medication or lotions with you. Prevention is better than cure, so avoid bee stings by not wearing bright or sweet-smelling fragrances and lotions. When bees are spotted, evacuate the area and get rid of anything that might draw the bees to you.
It is not too difficult: ensure you are prepared before you leave home, and your trip will be a success. Last but not least, don’t forget to relax and have fun!