New nomads: tips from seasoned campers for camping newbies
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New nomads: tips from seasoned campers for camping newbies

Gerd Blank
Gerd Blank
Hamburg, on 29.04.2021
Translation: Octavia Hurst
If you’re planning a camping trip nowadays, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort. Continue reading to find out what should be part of your basic equipment.

You’re into camper vans, caravans or tents? You’re not alone! Camping is becoming increasingly popular. But this trend isn’t that new. Our grandparents already set out on country trips with tents in hand or drove their trailer to campsites in sunny Italy. And technically little has changed since then. However, equipment has become more modern. I’vecompiled a few useful things that guarantee happy camping.

40 years of camping experience

I’ve been a camper for more than 40 years. It’s no longer just a way to travel to me but a lifestyle. When I travel, I don’t have to think about what I need, my RV’s already packed and ready to go. But I know starting out can be hard. I often meet inexperienced campers who are on the road for the first time with a tent or camper van. Their cars are often packed with supposedly important things, but they lack essential accessories. Of course, everyone must gain their own experiences and build their camping dream – because that’s the allure too: everything goes. But no matter how you travel, who you’re exploring the great outdoors with, or where your trip takes you, there are a few practical items that should be on every packing list.

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Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about helpful gadgets and a some tricks to make your upcoming camping trip even better. There’ll be an article on cooking, comfort and, of course, digital devices for mobile office and entertainment. Let the journey begin – I’ve put together the most useful basic equipment.

The right tent: the fabric dreams are made of

Let’s start with the tent. After all, it’s the first accommodation for most campers. There are different types of tents, but mainly igloo or dome tents have become popular, as they’re easy to set up. Hikers tend to go for trekking and tunnel tents or even just a tarp because they’re lightweight, compact and easy to carry. Families, on the other hand, choose larger tents with multiple sleeping chambers and perhaps even a common area for tables and chairs. If you like a bit of luxury, check out a pagoda tent and celebrate glamping. All versions have a thin and waterproof fabric cover that serves as the only shield from the outside. And depending on the quality, it can withstand quite a bit. You may have come across the term water column, but many of us will struggle to explain what it means. In camping, it’s an important indicator of the conditions under which the tent will still remain dry inside. To measure the water column, the outside material is exposed to water under increasing pressure in a lab test. As soon as three drops have seeped through the material, the test is over. The water column is calculated with complicated variables consisting of the time that passed until the drops permeate and the pressure applied. The rule of thumb to go by is: the higher the value, the denser the material. A water column of 5.000 mm is considered a good value for the tent floor, and 3.000 mm for the outer layer. However, a high-water column only gives sufficient protection if the material has been well sewn or glued and rain can’t drip through the seams.

Sleeping bag: cuddles under the starry sky

It’s not easy to find a one-size-fits-all perfect sleeping bag. Some are only suitable for summer, others keep you warm in the Arctic Circle, but are out of place in Italy. Sleeping bags are usually divided into four categories. Winter sleeping bags are suitable for temperatures down to −18 degrees Celsius. Summer sleeping bags are ideal above 10 degrees Celsius. Then there are 3-season sleeping bags that cover as many different uses as possible or expedition sleeping bags for extreme conditions. Another indicator is standard temperature values, which are determined in research laboratories. They calculate values for standard people. But even these are only indications, because the personal perception of cold doesn’t necessarily correspond to any norm. What’s much more important to look out for when you’re buying a tent are the material and shape and whether the filling is made of synthetic fibres or down, if it’s a tight fitted mummy sleeping bag or a spacious rectangular sleeping bag.

Camping mats and air mattresses: so you don’t have to hit the hay

Even when camping, you want to sleep as comfortably as possible. Instead of a bed, a camping mat or an air mattress serves as a place to sleep. Here too, there are significant differences in size, weight and comfort. For some campers, a roll-up mat that’s barely thicker than a yoga mat will do. But this isn’t really comfortable, besides the cold of the ground is hardly kept away. You’re better off with a camping mat, which are filled with air in addition to the soft material. Of course, you can also use a classic air mattress – if you have the space. After all, a lot of material must be processed for the air mattress to provide the same comfort as a good camping mat. The middle ground is a flat air mattress with a small packing size. Due to a special fabric and their cleverly arranged air chambers, they provide great comfort. By the way, campers with back problems often benefit from sleeping on a high-quality air mattress. This is because no pressure points build up on the body and muscles can relax. Yet another reason for your next camping trip!

Cable reels: the power house

There are many advantages to staying at a campsite. One of them is that electricity is available almost everywhere – for example, to charge your cell phone, power your cooler, run your kettle, or fire up a fan heater on chilly days. However, if you want to use the on-site electricity, you need more than a home extension cord; a special power cable or a cable reel with a CEE connection is required. This is a three-pin protective plug, usually in a blue cover. According to the DIN standard, the cross-section should be at least 2.5 mm2, and the cable can’t be longer than 25 metres. Cable reels are particularly practical because the cable can be rolled up again after use to save space, and the drum often has several outlets for different devices. During use, the cable should be completely unwound, even if the power box is very close. The reason? If several consumers with high usage are connected, the cable can heat up strongly. If the cable is coiled, the effect is multiplied and creates a fire hazard. Even if you like a hot camping trip – you certainly don’t want to start a fire.

So you won’t be left hungry while camping, I’ll tell you what you need for cooking and which gadgets are helpful in the next episode of «New nomads».

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Gerd Blank
Gerd Blank

Autor, Hamburg

Meine ersten Campingerfahrungen machte ich vor mehr als 40 Jahren mit einem Zelt. Inzwischen lebe und arbeite ich als Journalist in einem VW LT 28 Karmann aus dem Jahr 1990. Seit drei Jahren spreche ich im Podcast “Campermen” mit teils prominenten Gästen über Vanlife, tolle Plätze und praktische Camping-Ausrüstung. Mein Buch «Die Camping Bibel» ist seit Mai 2021 im Handel erhältlich. Mehr über mich: []( "Gerd Blank")

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