Cambodia boasts hundreds of five-star hotels, but for outdoorsy types, spending the night under canvas – with thousands of stars for company – is far more appealing. However, for camping novices, knowing where to start can be a little daunting. Read our travel journalist Taing Rinith’s guide to help you get the most out of a camping holiday.
Looking for the right tent
If you are going on a camping trip in a tropical country like Cambodia, it’s essential to pack a suitable tent for the hot and humid climate. Get it wrong and you can have a terrible experience, waking up soaked in sweat and worse, losing what should have been a good night’s sleep in nature.
We recommend the lightweight Mountainsmith Morrison two-person tent. With ventilation windows and vents, it also has a comfortable and spacious interior and is capable of coping with a range of weather conditions. For an even better experience, you should consider the top-quality, but more expensive, Marmot Tungsten three-person tent, which has taped seams and is fully waterproof.
Available through Amazon or at local camping shops such as Decathlon Cambodia (AEON Mall Sen Sok) and Cambodian Camping (Street 202z).
What to pack
Keeping it light is the key here. After all, you don’t want to be using all of your energy up lugging lots of kit instead of taking in the beauty of nature surrounding you. Think like a minimalist and bring only the items you really need. Pack these five things and you will be all set: a sleeping bag, a picnic mat, a multi-tool, a lantern and a utensil set.
For the extras you might want to take, make a list of what you will need to enjoy outdoor activities. When you face two options or more, select the one that is lighter, smaller or multi-purpose. A smartphone can replace numerous tools and devices: an MP3 player, a camera with a bunch of accessories, a flashlight, a video game console and so on. However, you don’t have to be too strict with yourself! Carrying a guitar may not feel heavy if you happen to be a wandering musician who just loves to strum around a campfire.
Food on the move
The dream camping meal is meat grilled over a fire. But in reality, can you imagine sitting next to the fire for hours during the hot sun? It’s pretty uncomfortable. Also, for safety and welfare reasons, you should stick to something quick and easy and limit your camping barbecue to nighttime or when the temperature drops a little.
Food can be spoilt easily in hot weather, so pack them in air tight, waterproof bags or containers and keep them in an insulated cooler. In addition, make sure to cook food at the proper temperature (for example, beef and chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Farhenheit).
We recommend long-sleeve shirts and full-length pants, which are perfect for both camping and hiking. They can help protect you from mosquitoes and other bugs and light cotton versions are breathable and will keep you cool. Jeans and tight clothes are to be avoided because the former could weigh you down when wet and do not dry easily while the latter could restrict your movement.
Wear appropriate and comfortable shoes because even something as minor as a blister can easily become infected and turn into a septic wound. It is always a good idea to bring an extra pair. Oh, and don’t forget to look into your shoes before putting them on – a cheeky critter might have moved in!
You have to pay extra attention to your wellbeing when you are camping in a tropical region. Mosquitoes, ticks and other insects can cause certain diseases. To help fight the bite, apply insect repellent containing DEET to exposed skin. Be sure to follow directions on the package. Check for ticks daily and remove them promptly. In addition, drink at least 2 litres of water per day while camping and top that up is you are having a few beers around the campfire.
Fuel-burning equipment such as gas stoves, heaters, lanterns, and charcoal grills
can cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide to build up. So avoid using them inside a tent, campervan or other enclosed shelters to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Know your limits and take steps to avoid injury during activities. You must never hike or swim alone either.
Get set, go!
Now you’ve got the basics covered, it’s time for the fun bit – deciding where to go. Here are some of our recommendations:
-Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island)
A small patch of land in the sea off the coast of Kep town and accessible only by boat through choppy but refreshing waters, Koh Tonsay is a perfect getaway from the stresses of city life. The only sign of life of the island are the local fishermen and some families who run the bungalow and rustic eateries on the island. This is a place where you reconnect with nature while being able to enjoy fresh seafood for lunch, dinner and even breakfast if the mood takes you.
-Virachey National Park in Ratanakiri province
This a great place to experience getting back to nature and having a technology detox at the same time. Mobile phone signals are practically non-existent. An official National Park trekking provider can organise kayaking, a stay at an indigenous homestay, camping in the forest and community-based-eco-tourism amongst other activities.
-Bokor Hill Station in Kampot
This signature landmark is famous for so many things, from the clouds swirling around the mountain that offer a cool climate no matter what the season is, to Than Sour Bokor Resort’s luxurious hotel and the breathtaking views which can be enjoyed from the mountain top. The resort also offers a camping site with tents for rental, which come in quite handy if you do not have time to buy your own (or lug one with you).
-Phnom Kulen National Park in Siem Reap
This is the most well-known and most popular camping site in Cambodia. The campsite is well designed for travellers who are passionate about trekking and camping and wish to explore the jungle of the holy Phnom Kulen and Beng Mealea temple complex.
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