What is a website designer doing offering camping tips? I like to think that with over 40 years of camping experience as a child, a teenager, and now a mum, both here and abroad that I have gathered a few tips along the way. With so many people about to embark on perhaps their first-ever camping holiday, I thought I might share what I know.
What are the 10 essential items to take camping this summer? As we find our lives and travel plans still affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, many people are looking to change their holiday plans to stay closer to home. In May, 2020 it was reported by the BBC that “Google search interest for campsites is at its highest since September, and retailer Go Outdoors said online camping sales were up 460% last week on a year ago.”
My camping experience.
So what nuggets of information can I possibly share that will help make your camping trip more comfortable? This picture was probably taken in the mid 1970’s. I am the small, bouffant-haired toddler who seems to be about to lick that knife! I share this because I would like to think that after over 40 years of experience camping, I can be declared a seasoned camper.
My parents first took me camping in a heavy blue canvas tent that my dad had borrowed. They actually dismantled my cot, brought it with them and reassembled it in that field in Langton Matravers, Dorset. I would still highly recommend this area for a British camping holiday, but these days, thank heavens, you can bring a much more portable sleeping option for your baby.
I am very grateful to my parents for their adventurous nature, taking three small children camping, not only in the UK, but to France, Germany, Austria and Luxembourg. It ignited my love of travel and foreign languages.
Camping is absolutely my favourite time with my family. I can see that to some, the idea of having to traipse to the shower block and sleep under canvas, is not their idea of fun. In my opinion, it’s all about how comfortable you make it for yourself. I do not camp without an electric hook-up point, I like to check that the washing facilities are clean and modern. Beyond that, its all down to bringing the correct equipment. So I have had a ponder and compiled my list of absolute necessities.
Let’s be honest, you aren’t going to need your change of clothes each night for a meal at the captain’s table or to go to the hotel dining room. You might well decide to eat out, so something smarter is needed for that, but most of the time, practical is better. It doesn’t mean you have to dress like you’re off on an expedition though. I pack everything from jeans to shorts to dresses.
My absolute must-have suggestions are :
Trainers or practical sandals for all that great outdoor walking you are going to do.
Flip-flops and dare I suggest Crocs for the trip to the shower block. There is nothing worse than wrestling your still damp feet into socks whilst standing on one leg in a damp shower cubicle. Stick your flip-flops or crocs on and get in, get out!
Slippers or big socks for inside the tent. You don’t want to be dragging all that grass in and out. Have these ready by the door.
Regardless of the time of year – a hoodie or big sweatshirt. There is nothing nicer than sitting outside your tent in the early morning with your coffee, in your big hoodie, watching the world wake up. We often sit out late at night too, once the children have gone to bed and in summer, even in the south of France, it can get a bit cooler. Layers are key.
A bad night’s sleep is guaranteed to ruin any holiday. Once you get this correct, I guarantee, the fresh air and slower pace of a camping holiday will mean you have the best sleep of your life.
Over the years, we have moved from a two-man tent, to a camper van and now a trailer tent. Every time we have made sure the sleeping arrangements were perfect.
The old days of the canvas, metal-framed beds are long gone. Our trailer tent offers us the relative luxury of a bed off the ground and a proper mattress. If I was buying an airbed today, I would opt for the self-inflating, deep mattresses, such as the one in the picture. This one can be bought at Go Outdoors. No more crawling around the floor in the dark and the built-in pump saves all that exhausting leg work.
4. Cosy bedding
Whether it be a decent quality sleeping bag, a spare duvet or extra pillows make sure you make your bed cosy. Take a couple of extra fleece blankets and if you can find one, even a hot water bottle. You will all be glad you did.
Comfort is key to a decent camping holiday. Practical solutions to keeping your new home tidy, means you are more comfortable all around.
5. Brush, maybe handheld hoover, bowl and bucket.
Walking around in an environment full of bits of grass becomes a bit depressing, especially if that makes its way into your bed! Get some little doormats to catch most of the grass and mud, then invest in a little hoover or brush to get rid of anything that still makes the way in. A bowl or bucket will take your dishes to be washed, be useful for cleaning up and can even become a baby bath!
6. Decent table and chairs and all electric gadgets.
No-one wants to be grovelling around on the ground to eat their meal. If you have the room, get a decent-sized foldaway table and some sturdy, comfortable chairs. It will make all the difference. Consider how low down you will be at the table when choosing your camping chair. Otherwise, you will be just a pair of eyes peering above the edge.
We choose to have a pitch with an electric hook-up. This means we take a toaster, kettle, lamps, hairdryer, straighteners, the children’s gadgets, a heater and a fan. Most importantly, we take an electric cool box to keep the milk, meat and of course alcohol cool. With all these things we are extremely comfortable.
7. General box of bits!
- tin opener
- bottle opener
- decent cutlery
- plastic plates, bowls, cups, glasses ( I like real ones) and pans.
- tin foil
- antibacterial wipes
- bin liners
- first aid kit
- Calpol / medicines
- fly swat
- citronella candles
- antiseptic cream
- antihistamines ( if you need them)
- tea towel ( I always forget)
- children’s games, toys, colouring
- Bikes and scooters
8. Food essentials
Tins ( soup, beans, veggies, fruit, random tin of stew or chilli, when you can’t be bothered)
Dried goods – ( pasta, rice, cereal)
Those rather expensive, but handy for holidays multi-packs of cereal. It means a box isn’t left open and the children think it’s amazing as I am too mean to buy them otherwise
In terms of a cooker, we used to have a full Camping Gaz cooker, but now have two small Camp Bistro stoves which are powered by gas canisters. They are so portable and for the small amount of cooking we do ( we tend to barbecue a lot), they are perfectly adequate.
Depending on where you are camping, you might want bottled water, but we have always found the water fine.
Again, this is all about being comfortable. When we were children, my parents used a little Camping Gaz lamp. I remember my dad fiddling around with the mantle and my mum scared we were going to burn in our beds! If you ensure you use a pitch with an electric hook-up, you can have a fantastic array of lighting options. You will want main lighting for the living areas, torches and little night lights, especially if you have children.
You can also festoon your tent with beautiful battery-powered or solar-powered fairy lights. this also serves as a guide home when you have to make the nighttime trip to the loo!
10. Bathroom arrangements!
Last, but definitely not the least important! Personally, even when we had a camper with a shower and loo, we have found it easier to use the on-site facilities. For this reason, we choose very wisely where we go. A decent shower block is clean, well equipped and regularly maintained. I really prefer to use on-site facilities to trying to shower in a tiny space and having to empty a portaloo! However, there are a variety of options, even a pop-up shower tent and a little shower if you’re off the beaten track.
One more, but the most important! Go with the flow!
One of the reasons we love camping so much is that every ounce of daily routine and structure goes out the window and we get up each day to a leisurely breakfast and plan our day according to the weather and what is nearby. With small children, you of course need to factor in mealtimes and naps, but generally, even when ours were tiny, the rules were bent slightly and we went with the flow. When we live such busy lives, I find it great to step outside the normal routine for a while and relax into whatever the day may bring.
I hope these ideas are helpful. Let me know if any you feel I may have missed. I am certain there might be more I haven’t worked out yet!
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