What to take camping: our essential guide

Written by Grant Ellis on 26th May 2021

With months of lockdown behind us, this year’s camping season looks set to be an extra special one. After all, if you’re looking for Covid-safe self-sufficiency, gorgeous surroundings and a hint of adventure, a camping staycation fits the bill perfectly.     

So what do I need for my camping trip? Are there any special rules for this year that I need to know about? Whether this is your first holiday under canvas or you’re a seasoned camper who’s a little rusty on the prep front, here’s our camping essentials guide for 2021.

What to take camping: Our camping essentials

From USB-compatible kettles to teppanyaki grills, frequent campers tend to have their own favourite items of equipment. For tips on tried-and-tested pieces of kit, be sure to check out our expert gadget recommendations.  

But what about the camping essentials? We know that for some of you, this is your first-ever holiday in a tent. Also, all campers need to bear in mind that some sites could be operating with limited facilities available, even as we go well into the summer. We’ve factored this in with our recommendations for this year…


It takes time, practice and often more than one person to pitch a traditional pole tent. So, especially if you’re a camping novice, we would recommend giving serious thought to an inflatable tent. Even for large, family models, these tents take no longer than a few minutes to set up, and one person can do it on their own. 

For experienced campers who have had bad experiences with inflatables in the past, it’s worth taking a fresh look at the market. The latest models from the likes of Outwell, Kampa and Vango are a lot more robust than you might have been led to believe! 


Good news: a night in a tent definitely does not have to mean sacrificing a good night’s sleep. 

Get the foundations right with a compact, self-inflating mattress from the likes of Berghaus or Eurohike. For your actual sleeping bag, pay attention to the season rating. Unless it’s a winter trip, most people find that a ‘Two Season’ or ‘Three Season’ bag is ideal for UK summer camping. 


Campsites are now allowed to open up their facilities, including hygiene blocks. However, the guidance site owners are implementing are steps towards enhanced cleaning and increased distance between users. This could mean less capacity and a longer wait. In fact, especially at smaller, basic sites, some facilities might remain completely closed for the time being. 

Trying to be as self-sufficient as possible makes sense. For a loo, the Thetford Porta Potti range is popular with campers, with Camco and Dometic also offering convenient, hygienic models. Prices start at around £50-£60. You’ll also need a toilet tent, which you can generally pick up for around £20. 

For a warm (as opposed to ‘piping hot’) shower, solar-powered portable shower kits can be obtained for around £50. 

Don’t forget to bring a couple of buckets or jerry cans, too. 

Camping post lockdown 

Campsites and other types of holiday accommodation are now open throughout the UK. However, some rules still apply, especially for camping trips involving two or more households. Here’s a general UK overview, although you should check the specific rules in place just before you travel: 


Six people from multiple households or any number from two households can stay together. It is advised not to travel into or out of designated Covid hotspots. 


At present, you can only share holiday accommodation with people in your household or extended household. 


Most of Scotland is in Covid protection level two, which means campsites are open, and six people from up to three households can share self-catering accommodation (including tents). Check which Covid protection level applies to your destination before travelling. 

Northern Ireland 

All holiday accommodation can now open, and up to six people from two households can stay together overnight (children aged 12 and under are not counted in the six).  

Bookings and Wild Camping

Staycations are going to be very popular this year, but sites will still need to increase the spacing between pitches to be in line with social distancing guidelines. With this in mind, try and book your camping trip well in advance to avoid disappointment. 

So if the campsite you wanted is full, what’s to stop you from pitching up pretty much anywhere? Wild camping – i.e. camping without the permission of the landowner – is technically illegal in most of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, it is generally allowed, but you’ll need to check for any rules in place in specific areas. If you are looking for a wilder, basic form of camping, it’s worth checking out nearlywildcamping.org, a network of secluded locations willing to host campers. 

Camping insurance 

As our guide, 6 reasons why you need insurance for camping highlights, a good insurance policy is just what you need for peace of mind and to keep you, your family and your gear protected. 

This year especially, most of us are in the mood for multiple camping adventures. But did you know that you can get an all-year specialist camping cover for as little as £16? Take a closer look at Shield Camping Insurance to find out more and make sure you secure the essential protection before your trip.

Ready for your next camping trip? Make sure you have your camping essentials ready, your camping insurance secured and a thorough understanding of what camping post lockdown looks like.

Contact our Shield Total Insurance expert helpline today at 0800 393 966 for all your questions and queries, or connect with us online to find out more about camping insurance quotes.

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