Over the course of my life so far, my camping experiences have fallen into three definitive categories:
a) Camping as a child; our summer holiday every year throughout my childhood on the coast of Kent, occasionally further afield. Chips with curry sauce in the tent, escaping the rain and discovering the tent was pitched on an ants nest. Making friends with other kids on the camp site and generally being blissfully unaware that holidays consisted of anything more than this happy existence.
b) Camping at festivals, mid twenties, pre kids; Hand me down tents, muddling through pitching up and waking up hungover in tents hotter than the sun. A slightly less idyllic camping scenario but an experience none the less.
c) Camping as a parent; Although to be fair, our camping experiences to date have been under the wing of my expert camper Dad, but we’re learning from the best and our annual family camping trip is definitely one of our summer highlights. Quality time as a family, filled with fun and laughter away from all the distractions of technology and work.
So as a seasoned (ish) camper, there are loads of reasons why a camping trip makes the perfect family getaway. Not least because it’s all about being at one with nature, but camping is also a really cost effective holiday, once you have stocked up on the essentials. If you are totally clueless at where to start you could read up on Halfords camping guide and get your head around all you need to know plus get some inspiration for stuff to do while you’re there.
If you can get over the idea of a shower and toilet block (it’s all part of the fun!) there is so much joy to be had in the experience of bedding down for the night listening to the sound of nature all around you (or is that snoring?). To sit around a campfire looking up at the stars whilst chatting and laughing into the night, and watching the kids run around in the last glimmers of daylight. It is one of the simplest joys and something you’d never experience in the plushest of hotels.
What to take
If there was one item I’d recommend taking camping, it would have to be…. my Dad. I mean seriously he has all the gear whilst we have no idea! But seriously, whether you are really going for it or roughing it, here are a few essentials you might want to consider squeezing in the last corners of the car boot.
A tent – because everything else really has to fall into place around this right?!
Beds – blow up, camp style or foam matting; you don’t want to be on the floor.
Sleeping bags or duvets and pillows if you can fit them for home from home comfort!
Onesie, extra blanket and hot water bottle – it can get REALLY cold and damp after sundown even in the summer here in blighty!
Lamps / torches – You might* need to trek across a field to get to the loo in the middle of the night (*you totally will)
Mosquito repellent spray / candles – Those midges will eat you alive if you aren’t prepared for them
Food, drink, nibbles – You will so need all the nibbles and a few drinkies to get the party started, also to avoid sever camping neighbour envy.
A windbreak – this offers privacy, contains the kids and stops any breeze blowing out your candles / gas stove!
Cooking equipment – There’s no point having all the bacon and eggs but no pan or cooking equipment to prep the brekkie on! Don’t forget a kettle, mugs, plates, bowls and cutlery too!
A place for your bum – You will definitely want a camping chair per person to recline into as the evening rolls by – and add to that a table to eat and drink from. More of a nice to have than a beginners essential, but if you’re planning to camp again it’s definitely something worth investing in.
Kid gear – It’s well worth putting a bit of thought into a few bits to keep the kids entertained…bubbles, a ball, a kite, colouring books, a few toys, a book or two. Plus their favourite cups for nighttime. You won’t ever regret it.
Where to camp
I’m a firm believer that it’s all about the camping experience as opposed to the destination, so for us, the beauty of it is not having to drive to far, and heading to destinations within a one hour radius. With a shed load of campsites squirrelled away around the British countryside that makes it easy peasy. Chuck in a campsite a stone’s throw from our glorious British coastline and Bob’s your Uncle…you are onto a winner.
Final advice for first time campers
The most practical advice I can give any new campers is to plan for any weather eventuality – here in the UK things can change rapidly and if you’re prepared, the rain won’t ruin your fun, it will add to it! Other than that, it’s all about embracing the moment, look for the magic, and absorb every one of the memories you create as a family.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post