Blow-up beds, the snuggliest sleeping bag you can find and a tent full of travel pillows won’t make any difference at all. Sleeping on the ground is about as comfortable as being pelted with pebbles while taking a bath. Think of the worst hotel mattress you ever had and then remember at least it wasn’t a thin sheet on a hard floor.
The whole point of camping is to go back to basics, yet on every expedition there is always one over-equipped camper who puts the rest of you to shame. While you’re struggling, caveman-like, to smash open a tin of beans between two rocks, they will be charging their iPad, cooling drinks and inflating a mattress with a portable generator while passing round bug repellent between family members. No matter how much you want to borrow their torch to go and explore at night, don’t do it. Smugness levels count for double on camping trips.
Before anybody can start up a campfire singsong, grab the guitar and smash it up for firewood. It seems a great idea when you are out in the wilderness, but don’t let the occasion get the better of you. On Monday morning you will have to face the same people who closed their eyes and sang and strummed Bob Marley covers, and you’ll be so embarrassed by the memory you’ll want to impale them on a tent hook.
When you’re eating burned, but somehow also cold burgers, a sand-encrusted banana and plain slices of bread, remember, you chose to go camping. Nobody forced you. In fact, the friends who turned down the chance to join you will at that exact same moment be tucking into a succulent sirloin steak. It is incredibly unlikely that their meal will give them a violent sickness, but if it does, they will have the privacy and comfort of a bathroom to recover in.
Just don’t. The wadis, dunes or beaches you make your camp in should be left in the same way you found them. Nobody wants to have to step over your empty drink bottles, plastic bags and noodle cartons when they’re pretending to be Indiana Jones.
Explore deep enough and you will discover that most precious of commodities: silence. It really is golden, too. Other than the donkey-like braying of your neighbour’s snoring, there is not a single sound in a remote camp spot. Apart from, of course, the blood-curdling howl that happens at 3am on every single camping trip ever taken. Nobody knows whether it is a stricken goat, stray dog or just wind whistling through the trees in the scariest way possible, but it will tear you from sleep and have you clutching an empty Pringles tube in terrified self-defence until sun rise when you stumble out of your tent having had just an hour and a half’s sleep.
You could see goats, camels, spiders, scorpions and perhaps even other campers. All are species to be regarded with maximum suspicion, respected and, above all, avoided at all costs.
He or she who controls the campfire controls the universe. It doesn’t matter how jolly you are or if you supplied all the food, did all the organising and during the working week you’re technically your co-campers’ boss. The first person, as with early man, to create and maintain fire, wins camping and is automatically the defacto alpha camp leader for the remainder of the trip. Unless they’re unable to put up their own tent, in which case they must ceremonially hand over fire tongs and relinquish status.
Only the boring get bored. People should be able to entertain themselves without resorting to TV, room service, complimentary fruit baskets, electricity or sneaking out to a club for a few hours. But if you have no imagination, really assess whether putting yourself in a situation where the genuine highlight of the weekend is finding a stick that looks a bit like another stick you saw earlier, is wise.
The Arabian sky makes it all worthwhile. Outside of the city the beautiful stars twinkle and shine as bright as any Swarovski-encrusted hotel suite.
Will Milner is a regular contributor. Believe it or not, the great outdoors is his happy place.