Start Camping - Beginner Camping Essentials Guide

New Zealand's natural beauty is indescribable without you going out there to immerse yourself into the vast volcanic terrain, rich soil and beautiful greens.

New Zealand's natural beauty is indescribable without you going out there to immerse yourself into the vast volcanic terrain, rich soil and beautiful greens. Blessed with our beautiful scenic nature, it is surprising to know that not everyone is enjoying themselves out there as much as they would like. Many reasons hold us back as to why we are even reading this article in our home, public transport, or somewhere within town instead of being out there right now. Busy lives, work, unpreparedness, not knowing where to start, not having the right companions, tiredness, procrastination are not all but just some of the modern plague that sees so many of us missing out the adventure out there. 

The team from Novapro Sports Camping Store would love to be writing articles with tips on how to juggle these little difficulties to allow us bring ourselves out there over the next few weeks! Please do contribute and comment and add in tips for us as we go along! If you've got a tip you can post in the comment and we can add these into our blog posts too! For this first article do let us cover and give some tips on Camping Essentials to our readers who are almost quite - new beginners to camping. This should apply to our regular campers too! 

This article focuses on some essentials for beginners. If you want more detailed reading on camping essentials, do check out our article on: Camping Gear for a Good Hike

Once again, there is just too much to cover! We hope we dont disappoint you if your article did not cover your questions! Do post them in the comments below to help us improve!

1. Camp Sites - how do they work?

There are just too many ways to camp! Different types of camping suits different camper preferences, and also the different stages of your life. Families may find motorhomes camping more enjoyable, yet tramping still works with older kids! Young singles or couples may prefer to find challenges in doing overnight thru-hiking tramps with just a backpack, leaving everything behind for a good detox. 

Freedom Camping - I'm sorry, what's this?

Freedom camping in New Zealand is amazing!!! For tourists, some may not even have heard of this term.

To make sure we are all on the same page, the definition of freedom camping from the government's website: states that:

"Freedom camping is when you camp on public land that isn’t a recognised camping ground or holiday park."

To save you the effort from navigating away...screenshot attached


Screenshot from: New Zealand Government

But guess what. there's more rules to it! We strongly recommend that you really pop over to the website for a quick read! 

It is also mentioned that you can freedom camp on DOC (Department of Conservation) and local council land with some exceptions. These places are places that has a special value, such as a Māori burial site (urupā), protected plant or animal sites. 

Each local council have their own by laws so that's something to check out when camping within council grounds. Best way is to approach the council office of the area.

But lets aim for something more challenging and leave civilisation behind - the team at our Camping Store want to focus on DOC lands (national parks) where all the hidden treasures are - just tramping away with our superb ultralight gear - backpacking freely away! 

Oh and back to types of campsites, let us cover some common ones that apply to ultralight backpacking:

  • Campsite Camping: This is the most popular choice amongst campers and for good reason too. This type of camping requires the camper to pay a campsite fee to pitch his/her tent at a campsite for a certain period of time. The fees can range from somewhere around $15-$20 NZD per night depending on the facilities provided at the campsite and some charge more based on the number of people camping. The great thing about campsite camping is that usually these campsites contain a variety of different people or groups such as families, friends or couples giving you the opportunity to experience camping at its best.

    Some campsites even have segmentation rules such as families only, allowing families to have peace of mind when it comes to the safety of their kids. Another great benefit of these campsites is that some of them come with essential features such as showers, toilets, and washrooms. If you want to enjoy nature without having to sacrifice the comfort of showering or toilet facilities, this is for you. Just be sure to check the campsite’s website if they have shower & toilet facilities, as not all campsites have these. A few even have playgrounds to keep the kids busy while you enjoy the peaceful nature.

    If you are a beginner, this is our
    recommendation to you because it is relatively easy and allows you to make mistakes such as forgetting to bring along some of your camping essentials. These campsites generally may a general store & a little cafe nearby so it's very helpful, you can even have a cup of coffee in the morning from the cafe, if you don't want to bother with bringing your own coffee & boiling water. Just keep in mind that these general stores & cafes normally close around 4pm or 5pm (refer to the specific campsite's general store or cafe opening hours) so don't count on having your dinner there! Just don’t forget to read the rules of the campsite you are planning to pitch your tent on as some even have defined rules in regards to the size of the tent.

  • Festival Camping: Festival camping has become a norm in Australia with all the music festivals that occur throughout the year. However, if you are new to it, festivals alone can be quite an overwhelming experience for you. One of the big draws of festivals other than the festivities, of course, is going camping with your close friends, family or significant other. For a lot of people, the socialising and camping experience itself is the most exciting part.

    Camping in festivals can be quite a chore if you are not sure about what to do or have never done it before. Unlike campsite camping, camps in festivals are not segregated to separate families from singles. This means that everyone is stuck together in one place so it is wise to arrive early to find yourself the best camping spot possible. Furthermore, some festival camping sites can be quite far inland where there is a lot of space to camp and conduct the festivities, this means that you might need to park quite far away from the camping site.

    Depending on the size of your festive group, it could be a good idea to get a bigger camping tent with a living area and split the cost, with this method you may get a tent of a better quality while paying less for it. However, it is important that you do check the rules to see what size tents are allowed or the kind of gear you are allowed to bring with you, failure to follow the rules will most likely result in your gear being confiscated.

    A Beginners Guide to Camping - Wild Camping

    Outdoor Photography by Wild Camping Club
    • Wild Camping / Free Camping

      The idea behind wild camping is pretty simple, you only take what you can carry comfortably and pitch your tent away from sanctioned camping sites. People also refer to this as
      free camping as you basically have to pay nothing in order to pitch your tent compared to campsite camping where you pay a certain amount of money to pitch your tent for a certain period of time. The best places to go wild camping at are ones with little to no lighting such as the beach.

      It’s better to look for signs that state
      *No camping* as it usually means that the area is less populated and you are far less likely to be caught. It's a recommendation from us that if you are going to go wild camping then you should do it right, meaning you should leave the place as you found it, no trash or mess should be left behind. Waking up early and leaving fast is another tip from our side to stay out of trouble.



      A Beginners Guide to Camping - Glamping
      Photography by TheTrendSpotter
      • Glamping: If you are someone who likes the great outdoors but doesn’t like the prospect of forfeiting the comforts of a home to go sightseeing then glamping is perfect for you. Most people consider glamping to be a mashup of the world glamorous and camping while some refer to it as glorious camping.

        There are a lot of divisive opinions when it comes to glamping. Many hardcore campers don’t consider *
        glampers* a part of the camping category. However, we are of the opinion that glamping is for those who don’t like to rough it out in the great outdoors and like a bit of luxury in their trips. Glamping usually consists of pre-pitched tents that people can rent which mean that they don’t need to bring their own equipment. For glampers, the cost for comfort is reasonable in their point of view.


      2. Buying a tent


        We won’t go into much detail in this section because we have already discussed this extensively in Choosing the right hiking tent. We highly recommend you to read through the blog post as it offers a deep and detailed insight into the various factors that you need to consider before you get your camping/hiking tent.  Have a look at some of our best selling tents:


        A Beginners Guide to Camping - Best Selling Tents


        3. The Other Essentials: Camping and Hiking Equipment


          Camping is not all about buying a tent and pitching it at a campsite, there are other things you need to make the experience enjoyable for yourself:

          • Sleeping Bags / Sleeping Mats: Similar to tents, sleeping bags and mats come in different sizes, weights, and handle different temperatures. So, you’ll need to do a bit of research depending on where you are going to find out which sleeping bag or mat works the best for you. Most sleeping bags will cost you around NZ$40- with the higher end ones being of better quality and are able to handle higher temperatures. Sleeping mats, on the other hand, will cost you around NZ$70-120  with the more expensive ones being larger in size allowing you to accommodate more people on one mat.

            A Beginners Guide to Camping - Sleeping Bag vs. Sleeping Mat


            To ensure you are getting the right sleeping bag for the best price possible, check out our collection here. For sleeping mats head down here.


            • Backpacks: Now when it comes to the difference between camping and hiking, the gear that makes the biggest difference is the backpack. If you are going to go camping, you arguably don’t need a backpack at all but in the case of hiking, you definitely need one. When buying a backpack, there are three main distinctions in terms of size that you need to look out for to pick the right bag for you: daypacks, overnight and long haul. Out of the three, you pick one that best meets your needs:



              A Beginners Guide to Camping: Different Backpacks


                • Daypacks are usually used when you are only hiking for one day without camping overnight.
                • Overnight backpacks are used where you are hiking overnight or for 2-3 nights.
                • Long haul backpacks are used when you are planning on hiking or travelling for a long period of time like when you go backpacking through a country with the intent of seeing its sights.
                Hiking backpacks can cost you around $30-300 AUD depending on the quality, weight, and volume of the backpack so pick wisely based on your needs. Head here to check out some of our nifty backpacks.

                • Lights: You may be thinking “duh!?” However, you’ll be surprised at the number of people who forget that it gets dark at night and you’ll need a light to see the area around you. You can choose between a headlamp or a lantern to fulfill your lighting needs and either of them will cost you around $10-30 AUD


                A Beginners Guide to Camping - Lights


                However, we wouldn’t recommend you to get a lantern if you plan on going hiking as it can be quite bulky and add to the weight. Head here if you want to check out some camping lights.

                • Boots/Shoes: Now this may not be a necessity as it entirely depends on the type of trip you are taking. Hiking Boots are generally considered a necessity when you are hiking rather than camping. Most of the times your sneakers will do just fine but if you are planning to go across rough terrain, dedicated hiking boots are a more suitable option considering that they offer better stability, padding, and support to better grip on slippery slopes thanks to the deeper grooves on soles. Your selection can be broken down into four categories depending on what you want to do:


                A Beginners Guide to Camping - Shoes


                  • Boots are clunkier but far sturdier which makes them ideal for people who want more grip.
                  • Trail runners are light in comparison and don’t have the same level of grip as a result. They are best if you are planning to jump around a lot.
                  • Hiking shoes are considered a compromise between the above-mentioned shoes and are both lightweight and have a good grip. However, they don’t last very long.
                  • Approach shoes are great when you are planning to go climbing and are considered to be somewhere between boots and runners.


                Read more here about the pros and cons of each one of them.

                • Paper Maps: It doesn’t matter if you are going camping or hiking, you are heading into the wild and there is a good chance that there might not be cell phone service. Get a paper map and learn how to read it and not rely on your GPS.

                    • First Aid Kit: You are heading into the wild, probably for the first time, there are a thousand number of things that could go wrong so it’s better to be safe than sorry and carry a first-aid kit with you. Things you should consider to include are bandages, bug sprays, aspirins etc.

                      • Toiletries: A lot of people seem to forget that there are no bathrooms or toilets in the wild. Even though a lot of campsites now have their own showers and toilet, you still need to get your own toiletries. People who are planning to go on long treks need to be especially careful about this. If you are unsure of what toiletries you may need, head over to our Travel Toiletries & Towels page to have a look around and see what you might need.

                      That should be all in terms of camping/hiking equipment. If you feel like that is all too much to remember then you should check out our ‘Ultimate Camping Checklistto ensure that you have got all the things that you need.


                      4. The Other Essentials: Cooking Equipment


                        A big part of camping is sitting around a campfire with your loved ones munching on food and talking about the things in life. These are some essentials that should not be forgotten if you want the complete camping experience:

                        • Stove, Fuel, and Firestarter: Now now, I said sitting and eating around a campfire not cooking on it. While some people do cook on a campfire, most of you’ll prefer having your own cooking equipment and stove. A gas burner with a gas cylinder will probably suit you just fine and keep the weight to a minimum while a gas stove lighter will work best to start the fire. This could cost you around $40-120 AUD depending on what items you decide to use. 
                          If you are unsure of what to get check out our camping cookware collection to help you choose.

                        • Pots and Pans: If you are camping then you can just use the utensils that you use at home as they are easy to store in a car. However, if you are planning to go on some long treks, you’ll need other cookware which is more efficient and lighter in comparison.
                          Check out our camping cookware collection to help you choose.

                          Again, if you feel like you can’t remember all of these things, just make use of our Ultimate Camping Checklistand you won’t have to forget a single thing. On the other hand, if you are looking for some easy to make and delicious recipes, check out articles on ‘Breakfast Ready in 15 Minutesand ‘Snack Attack


                          5. Practice Camping


                          For first-timers, camping can be very intimidating. A fun way to get accustomed to camping is by holding a mock camping session in your backyard or any other area near your house that permits camping. It’ll help you judge all the things that you’ll need while camping and ensure that you don’t forget anything.


                          6. Doing the Deed!


                          When you are ready and have reached the camping site. You’ll need to ensure that you pitch your tent in an area where the ground is even and clear of any debris that could cause damage to your tent. A good tip to note is that putting the back of your tent towards the wind will give it more stability.  Make sure you peg it into the ground around 45 degrees. More than 45 degrees will result in the peg not buried deep enough and any lesser can result in the rope slipping off the top.


                          7. Ending Thoughts


                          Camping for beginners can be an exciting and memorable experience if you do it right. Make sure to read through thoroughly and we can guarantee that your first camping trip will be a blast! Share some of your first time camping stories with us in the comments section below or subscribe to our newsletters for amazing new camping products and discounts.



                          Novapro Sports is an online platform that caters towards camping & hiking outdoor enthusiasts, offering quality camping & hiking gears at low prices without the unnecessarily high markups, and providing information & tips on outdoor activities & adventures.