Breaking Camp: A beginner’s guide

The time has come for you to head back home to the world of technology and civilization. Time to say farewell to the squirrels and other critters that have charmed you over the week or weeks you have been camping. The babbling brooks, rolling hills, and peaceful woodlands will need to wait until we can visit again.

So how do you take apart everything that you put up and stow it away neatly for next time? It’s easier to do some of it now rather than throw everything together and do it properly once you get home. Pack your backpack neatly, just as you packed it at the start of your journey. Use that checklist you made earlier to make sure you have everything you started with. Wipe down everything that is not clothing before putting it away.

Camping by the river
Camping by the river

For your tent, that small hearth brush you brought with you now is very useful. Sweep out the tent and give everything a good brush down. Use a damp cloth to get rid of the last of the mud and dust, if you have time separate out the tent and allow to dry, including the underside. Wet tents go moldy quickly and this will save you a job when you get home. It is always worth practicing folding your tent before leaving home, this way you have access to the instructions and the plethora of videos available online. All tents have small quirks and this will save you time at the end of your trip.

Shake out sleeping bags, and stuff them into their stuff sacks. Yep that’s right stuff them, it is really hard to get them rolled as tightly as they were when they left the factory and the bags they came in are called stuff sacks for a reason. You will probably want to unpack them when you get home and air them out well, this also stops the filling becoming compressed, causing them to lose some of their insulation properties.

“Leave nothing but footprints”
“Leave nothing but footprints”

It pays to spread equipment out to clean, air, and sort through after it’s been on a camping trip. In the same vein, when you get home you will want to launder all the clothes that went along on the trip, even if you didn’t wear them all. Check that the campfire is out. Pour water over the coals even if they look like they’re already out, just to make 100% sure. If you’re wild camping you should then cover up the fire, clear away any spare firewood, remember you’re aiming to “leave no trace”.

Check your cooler for anything that needs to be thrown away. Add more ice or fresh cool blocks if it’s needed for the homeward journey. When all your items are in the car, gather all trash and leave no scraps of rubbish behind. Place them in the correct receptacle. A good rule is to leave your campsite cleaner than it was when you arrived and you will always be welcome back.

Always make a last check that you have picked up everything you came with before saying a last goodbye to the campsite
Always make a last check that you have picked up everything you came with before saying a last goodbye to the campsite

Double check your checklist. Make sure your family takes a final bathroom break and wash up a little before you head off. Say goodbye to your new friends; exchange numbers and addresses if that’s what you like. Get everyone in the car, take one last walk around and check that everything you brought in is gone. It’s amazing how many tent pegs get left behind. Count your children to make sure they are all there, and finally head out. If this is a manned campground make sure you stop at the office to tell them you are on your way, so they know the site is available again.

This is an ideal opportunity to share how much fun you had: a compliment will really make their day. Now off you go, homeward bound and full of memories of your first camping holiday.

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fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival