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No. 3 Camp outdoors

Children playing on the campsite on Brownsea Island, Dorset
Children playing on the campsite on Brownsea Island, Dorset | © National Trust/John Millar

Grab your torch and head for the wilderness, your favourite hill, or grassy field. Or maybe just head for your back garden. Wherever you choose to go camping, it will be a fun adventure in nature. Camping outdoors is no. 3 of the ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’.

Where will you camp?

It’s easy to assume you have to go ‘somewhere’ in order to camp but actually, you could camp in your own back garden. The best thing about camping in your garden is that you can do it as often as you wish and you can invite friends too. Also, if you get cold or hungry, or you change your mind, you can easily just head back inside to the comfort of your own bed.

If you don't have a garden or would like to camp away from home, you can find lots of camping options on our website. Just make sure you check with your responsible adult before you make any plans.

What will you camp in?

Do you want to be inside a cosy tent while you camp, like an arctic explorer? Or would you prefer to sleep out under the stars, like a cowgirl or cowboy?

The benefit of sleeping out is that you can see everything that’s going on around you. It’s something that you can only do in summer, but it’s a magical experience - feeling part of nature and gazing at the stars. There are lots of different star constellations to spot – a guide can show you what they all are. You could make a note or drawing of all the different ones you find in a special star diary.

In colder weather, a tent will keep you sheltered from the elements. However, in summer you could create a DIY tent with some very long, sturdy branches, a large sheet of canvas and some stakes.

Camping at the Low Wray Campsite, Lake District
Camping at the Low Wray Campsite, Lake District | © National Trust Images/Tiree Dawson

What will you see?

Have a peek out from your tent or your sleeping camp at dusk: what can you see? Are there any nocturnal animals around? Perhaps a fox is busy searching for its next meal? Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot a bat flitting around or a deer foraging. Maybe you’ll see moths – especially if you shine your torch, as they’re attracted to light. You might hear the whirr of their wings before you see them.

Lots of small animals like to come out at night but you don’t have to worry – just make sure your breakfast is zipped up tight or you may find it missing in the morning.

What can you hear?

As you go to sleep, make the most of this quiet moment when your eyes are closed, your body is relaxed and you can focus on what you can hear. Are there rustlings? That could be a hedgehog. Is an owl waking up and hooting a ‘good evening’? If you’re near water, you might even hear the croak of some frogs.

As the sun rises, you’ll be greeted with an entirely different set of sounds. The birds will start their cheery dawn chorus, which can begin as early as 3am in summer.

Top tips

  • Take a torch or lantern to make sure that you can see once it gets dark. It’s also handy for a fun game spotting silhouettes against the side of your tent.
  • Bring plenty of food and especially drink so that you don’t get hungry or thirsty. And ensure that it’s boxed up properly so that no little critters can find their way into your snack stash.
  • You’ll need a waterproof sheet to go underneath your bedding if you’re camping out under the stars.
  • Your body temperature lowers when you’re sleeping, so keep warm (with adequate clothes and blankets, or a sleeping bag). This is especially important in winter but even on a balmy summer evening, there can still be a nip in the air during the night.
  • Remember a pillow to keep your head comfy.
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