If there’s one tip the Camping and Caravanning Club gives to new tent campers more than any other, it’s “try pitching your tent before you go on holiday”.
Apart from the fact that it’s less embarrassing to struggle with the fabric in the privacy of your own garden, it’s a recipe for a bad start to the holiday to find there’s a vital part missing on the first day of your ‘relaxing’ break. It’s much better to try everything out before you travel far.
The best way to learn to pitch your tent is by watching someone else do it. Ask if the person who sells you the tent can show you, or check out the manufacturer’s website to see whether there’s a pitching video to watch.
If you can’t see someone pitch your unit, please read the instructions. This is not a sign of weakness! Sometimes the translations can be entertaining, but the instructions might just stop you ripping a hole in your new tent before you get a chance to stay in it.
Once on site you may be shown to a pitch, but if there’s a choice it’s worth taking a little care to find the perfect spot, especially if you’ll be stopping for a while.
1. Near the loos or far away?
Do you want to be near the amenity block or other facilities? It could be convenient for night-time trips to the loo and speedy washing up, but can also lead to more people walking around your pitch.
2. Play areas are great fun
If your children are small you may want to be close to the children’s play area so you can keep an eye on them from your tent. However, remember that other youngsters may still be playing enthusiastically when your little ones should be asleep. Or when you should be…
3. Find shelter
Hedges and other units can form great windbreaks on an exposed site.
4. Beware of trees
It can look appealing to pitch in the shade of a tree, but the grass is often poor because it’s protected from the rain, trees can drip sap and birds have a habit of roosting and leaving little presents on your lovely unit beneath. Rain will also drip from trees long after a storm has passed. It can even be dangerous to pitch under a tree if there’s a thunderstorm.
5. Choose flat ground
…if at all possible. Otherwise, position your tent so your head will be higher than your feet for the most comfortable night’s sleep.
6. Check surrounding water
Rainwater has to go somewhere, so try to make sure it won’t travel through your tent on its way. Likewise, avoid hollows and marshy ground.
Setting up camp
Once you’ve chosen your pitch, check it’s free from anything that could damage your groundsheet or unit, including pegs left by a previous occupant.
Strong winds are an enemy of tent campers. Try to pitch with the door facing away from the wind, especially in a tunnel tent, which can make an excellent kite given half a chance.
If you have to pitch on a slope, aim to keep the door of your tent downhill to prevent rain coming in.
In a tent with a sewn-in groundsheet, you can generally peg out the corners of the groundsheet first, making sure it is not too tight. The rest of the pegs can be put in after the tent is standing.
Take care when inserting the poles. If they don’t slide in easily, check whether they’re caught in the fabric before forcing the issue. On many tents, pole threading is often a two-person job. If you’re using modular poles, which are held together by elastic, you will need to push them through rather than pulling them, to keep the joints tightly together.
Pegs should be driven into the ground diagonally at an angle of 45 degrees (see pic left), with the point towards the tent. Unless you are using screw-in pegs, it’s worth having a mallet to drive them in well.
Guylines should normally follow the line of the seams of the tent for greatest stability (see pic right). Position the adjusting sliders so there’s room for adjustment during your stay and check them regularly to make sure they’re not loosening or getting too tight.
If you are pitched on a slope you may also want to consider the way to position your bedding. Would you prefer to lie along the slope or with your feet lower than your head?
Now that you've mastered all the basics of tents, why not visit our UK campsites pages for the best campsites on offer - the ideal opportunity for you to demonstrate your expertise with your family.
And finally, moving onto taking care of your tent
Club Care Insurance
Tent insurance is an essential part of any camping trip. The last thing you want is your holiday ruined by a broken or damaged tent.