* Prices may differ from that shown
Have just returned from 2 nights camping in Filey. My husband and 3 children very keen as we have done camping ad hoc over the years but tend to opt for abroad for our big breaks. We have also have had the odd long weekends at bed and breakfast hotels.
We decided to camp as we have been saving money to reduce our morgage term and we do have a 2 week break abroad booked for later in the year. I only had 2 days off work whereas my husband had 6 days so we opted to leave as soon as I got home Tuesday and return Thursday night in time for us both to work Friday.
The campsite cost us £16 a night but we had to pay extra 50p for showers. Like most sites it had a washer / dryer (for additional fee) a washing pots area, a place to empty camping toilets (we weren't that posh) and play areas.
What we took with us
We have a fairly standard 4 berth tent, 2 sleeping areas and a central area (ours was about £60 from ebay). Although there is 5 of us, our girls are used to sleeping together and so this is adequate. We also had 2 double blow up mattresses. We also took an ancient gas stove so we could do the whole cooked breakfast thing in the morning, as well as a whistling kettle (the whistling is very important for camping as feels very nostalgic). We also take a cool box with ice bricks. Extra blankets, pillows and the all important wind break, this allows the man to hammer it into the ground and adds an air of proper camper (not) but is necessary for sneaky toilet breaks in the middle of the night.
As I looked round I realised very quickly the amateur nature of our set up, as some peoples tents looked very sophisticated and some had separate cooking tents as well as toilet tents. I also covetted those people sat in their caravans, all warm and cosy.
How our break went
I was hoping this break would revitalise our desire to go camping and provide some cheap breaks away unfortunately it rained none stop, we were wet and cold and the rain did get in and left everything in the middle section wet too. I think it would have been great, as the Tuesday night we had a lovely stroll into Filey and had chips on a bench, it definitely provided a good opportunity to be together as a family, away from the internet and the TV, playing card games instead.
Im afraid Im scoring camping a 2, purely as I now have a huge pile of wet blankets to wash, we are all feeling cold and tired however it could have been great if the weather had been better.
I love camping I think the outdoors is great especially for children although I say I love camping I am not sure I would do it at my age now if I didn't have children.
We as in my husband and I first decided camping would be great when our youngest was 3 we ordered a tent that was on special offer through a mail order leaflet. When it arrived we knew we should practice putting it up before we went anywhere so as we couldn't practice in our garden we decided to drive up to the tops and find a nice field to pitch it. What a disaster there were so many poles we didn't know where to start (added to that we had a 3 year old trying to help). Then one of the elastics inside the pole snapped. Oh great! So what did we do ............... we gave up packed it up and sent it back as faulty.
We then heard about pop up tents, we weren't sure what they were but they seemed a really good idea so we went looking. We came across the khyam Ridgi-dome tent which was an easy to erect tent. There were no poles to thread. They were basically already attached to the tent and we would just have to click the joints together SOLD. (although the bedroom part had a couple of poles)
We paid about £300 for the tent back in 2002 (and still use it now) so they are probably a lot cheaper now. The tent came with a video showing you how you put the tent up and it looked so easy so off we went to practice and we did manage to get it up quite quickly although not how it said on the video.
So we booked a weeks camping, we got there and got the tent out to put up and when we first attempted to put it up it was inside out but we quickly realised and sorted it although I have to admit I just held it up in the middle and then my husband sorted it.
Our first camping trip was very basic we had a ground sheet and a one ringed stove but it was great out daughter loved being outside making friends and eating camping food which for us was daft food like cheese and broccoli soup with cheese and tomato raviolli mixed in. she was at an age where she would quite happily walk to the showers in her pyjamas.
We really enjoyed our first camping trip but decided a week was too long and packed up on the last night. We have been lots of times since but 5 nights is the longest we will stay now and we have been with our youngest and she also loves it.
I love the experience of camping the children playing outside although it's not much fun when it rains but when the sun is shining I love relaxing outside the tent and the children just playing. At night I love sitting outside the tent seeing the stars and chatting, sometimes we sit with blankets round us.
The downside of camping is if the site is very noisy but we always try to choose ones that don't allow big groups. The toilet and shower block also have to be clean for me I can't stand dirty showers and toilets.
We once went on the off chance to Dent in the Lake District we found a site and paid for two nights but we only ended up staying one as they just packed people in and as we got back after spending the day out' it was about 5pm and there was a big group quite close to our tent and they had already started drinking and we could tell they were going to get quite rowdy so we decided to pack up and leave.
If you decided to try camping I would say start small we now have a good table where we can cook and know not to take loads of clothes, we also have proper fold up camping pans but when we started we just brought a couple of normal pans as we couldn't afford to buy everything at once. We did have a sleeping bags but now we cant be bothered with them and just throw our quilts in the car they are more cosy. I would recommend taking a couple of fold up chairs if you have a family and plan to be in the tent or outside at all other than that you can always make do if you have the basic. We never get electric hook up as to us that isn't camping - you need to rough it a bit.
This is a new perspective on camping. These are only my views and mistakes - hopefully newbie campers can become more professional at camping by not doing what I have done..
As possibly the world's most incompetent camper, I think I am well placed to advise on camping catastrophes. Despite our ineptitude, my husband and I persisted in touring and camping in Europe for over ten years, making innumerable mistakes but rarely learning from them; hopefully, you can.
1) Top of the list of camping mistakes is to go camping in the first place.
I know this is a negative start but in the same way that some people have green fingers whilst others would manage to kill your entire plant collection within a week, some folk are just not made for camping. If you are still not put off, here are some more errors to avoid.
2) Don't go camping until you know how to put the tent up. That means practising in the garden a number of times until you can confidently do it. If you are the sort of person who instinctively reads instructions upside-down, then arriving on-site with a never been unpacked tent, will be asking for trouble.
3) Buy a variety of tent pegs and have plenty of them. As Britain is essentially a damp climate with soft, lush grass, we started off with plastic tent pegs. These proved to be totally useless in warmer, southern Europe where the ground can be like a car park made of reinforced concrete. As each peg perished, we had to make tougher and tougher decisions as to which parts of the tent would be supported.
4) Take a hammer. I don't know how we expected to get the tent pegs in, particularly in the afore-mentioned terra-firma but we didn't take one and were reduced to using a carjack. This drew some attention from other campers.
5) If touring, stop before you are tired. My husband seemed determined to break the world driving endurance record and was loathed to stop with less than ten hour's driving under his belt. This meant that by the time we decided to stop, we could still spend an extra two hours looking for a site.
6) Plan where to stay. With an attitude consistent with masochism, we both thought it would spoil the fun and remove the spontaneity by planning in advance where to stay. This strategy can lead you to some interesting places but conversely, Hobson's choice isn't always the most desirable option.
7) Book ahead or arrive early. As night owls, we were always the last to leave a site in the morning and the last to arrive in the evening. In busy summer months, there is a real chance that many sites will be full unless you arrive mid-afternoon.
8) Remember to pack the basics; write a list and check it off. When we started out, we took enough clothes for a department store but no washing up liquid, dishcloth or toilet roll. A washing up bowl is pretty useful too. A washing line is also essential, yet I think we had to buy one every time we went camping.
9) Take spare gas canisters for cooking. Naturally, we never did on the basis that you can buy them en-route. Of course, it never works out as simple as that and the shop sells every make except the one you use.
10) Here's a tip. Many campsites are dark at night so a torch is really useful. You'd think that we would have thought of that one. We did; we just didn't have any batteries that worked.
11) Having the wrong kind of sleeping bag is another error we stumbled upon. Our general strategy was to get the cheapest. This was too cold for the UK and too hot for southern Europe. It was made of a material that made you sweat and was so slippery that you spent the night trying to stay in it. Pillows? Of course not, and don't even think about a roll up mat.
12) Not having a freezer box is a mistake. Not having a cold beer, is a greater loss. Not having a tin opener that works is frustrating also but not as bad as forgetting the corkscrew.
13) Accidents will happen and I had quite a serious one in Italy. I tripped over a rope at night and badly gashed my hand. We managed to clean it up with the woeful biscuit tin of plasters that served as a first aid kit. In the morning, it had become infected and badly swollen. We spent the remainder of the holiday touring Italian hospitals. I suppose normal people would say have a good first aid kit and medical cover.
14) It's a mistake to assume that because you are on holiday that the world is populated by Disney characters. Seeking to avoid crowds, we always camped on the farthest part of a site. In hindsight, this made us vulnerable. In fact, we were victims of an attempted robbery on a small municipal site in France. All the tents on site were attacked and the entrance safety barrier was locked and unattended at night, making it impossible for anyone to escape.
15) Well at least camping's cheap or so we would kid ourselves. We're not rich and we always figured this would give us the most holiday for the least money. Somehow, I think we got that equation the wrong way round.
You'll have noticed that I've made no mention of pen knives, axes or how to light a camp fire. I hope by now you will realise that this would surely have led us into even deeper trouble and that for some people at least, the biggest mistake in camping is to consider it at all.
* This article has been posted on Helium using my pen name Janet Sandford*
There are true campers and there are people who are forced to camp by their friends/family members that LOVE camping. I am a person who loves camping; I miss it in the winter and can't wait to start doing it in the spring/summer/autumn.
As a kid, I always liked the wendy house thing and I think camping has a bit of this stuff going on (put your tent up, make it cosy etc).
But there is camping and camping. I like to be comfortable and my choice of tent and camping gizmos reflect this; over the years I have collected stuff and I have a battered/non battered assortment of items that make life a lot easier. Here it is; it might make your camping life more fun:
Khyam Freelander easy erect tent - up in minutes allowing you time to watch other pitchers wrestling away with threading poles. More tent info to follow.
Pump up mattress without pillow bit (pillow bit distorts neck).
Duvets and pillows. Extra blankets
Camping heater (no more miserable, rainy mornings or nights).
Camping cooker with grill and massive gas bottle
Solar camping light (no more batteries needed)
Inflatable sofa chairs (put a throw over them and you could be in your living room)
Solar shower (when it's hard to get a hot one)
Assortment of stools, armed chairs, chairs without arms (depending on the trip choose to go with tent & table)
Camping fairy lights (battery operated from Ikea)
Big cool box
Assortment of tables (shortlegged, roll-up, different heights)
Newest aquisition - an outwell windbreak (good for staking out your camping territory as some people desire to camp virtually on top of you).
etc etc - anyway, you get the picture.
Over the 20 yrs I have been camping I have ammassed 6 tents
* Cabanon frame tent- takes a long time to put up but when it's up its fantastic - like a colourful bungalow (good for long stays)
* Sunncamp Big dome vis a vis tent
* The Khyam Freelander (so lovely)
* Small 2 person tent
* Sunncamp Handy tent (good as an extra kitchen or bathroom)
* Kath Kidston flowery tent
The awful thing is...that I now have my eye on another tent (Khyam Wayfarer). I am a tent glutton.
This camping thing can be addictive!
Unfortunately, this collection of items makes the preparation time somewhat arduous so I start it a couple of days in advance otherwise I am completely knackered even before I get there.
On the major plus side, I like to have my own timetable, my own things and my own food. I can get up and walk in the country/seashore as soon as I wake up . I don't care about being damp occasionally (I have invested in a funky hat to hide the camping hair).
The amazing thing about camping - is that you can actually see how little you really need to live off. I write this being aware that my list is extensive - but even that, compared to the consumerist nightmare that is our daily life, is much smaller.
Oh my goodness why oh why was the tent ever invented. There are several things in life that I try to avoid like the plague and camping is most certainly one of them. I just don't get the whole camping thing never have and never will. I have miserable memories of my poor overly-enthusiastic father trying to gee me up and tell me that our annual trip would be a fun experience for the whole family to enjoy. Don't get me wrong we were all into walking and I must admit that I loved this part of the trip and looked forward to exploring new places and taking in some of the finest scenery that the British Isles has to offer. I have experienced some wonderful hidden gems unseen by many of the countries residents however I suppose if you want to explore unchartered territory then as my dad kept telling me the only way to see it was by camping. The joys.
In those days we had one of those hideous old canvas tents which had the ground sheet, top sheet and the so called waterproof cover over the top. The silver tent pegs too which attached to about a metre of string each to hold the whole thing up!! As sure as eggs are eggs one of the party would go outside to get something and forgetting about the ropes or the pegs would either cause them injury by scraping a leg off the peg or take a head-dive over the rope. Our tent apparently although I don't see how was a luxury version. It actually makes me smile now when I remember the thing. A four man tent well I never understood where they got that figure from unless they had employed Willie Wonkas Oompaloompas to try it out for size first. My memories are of my mum, dad, sister and I crammed into this horrendous potato sack of a thing. We did have two compartments so one for us and one for them. Thank god at twelve years old the last thing you really want to be doing is sleeping right next to your parents.
Another thing I could never understand was although we used the same tent for years there was always a problem with its assembly. Either the groundsheet was put down the wrong way or it was inside out, and why was there always a shortage of pegs. We girls would sit in the car waiting for my dad to erect this thing. Hoping and praying that this would be the year that there would be such a significant problem with it that we would be able to go back to civilisation and stay in a warm and comfy hotel room or B&B, even the car held more appeal. Anyway getting back to poor old dad the rain had started and the groundsheet was the only thing completed correctly. Mum would then tell us to go and help him. Let the fun begin, my sister and I holding this enormous piece of canvas in a force 10 gale trying to remain upright with dad frantically running round trying to bang in tent pegs. It always went up in the end.
Then the off loading from the car to the tent as a human chain began sleeping bags... stoves....... camping mats...... never quite understood why we actually bothered with these anyway. They were about as useful as a chocolate teapot and I firmly believe that a slice of bread would have done the job just as well. Food if you can call it that....rucksacks....walking boots...........waterproof clothing...........were crammed in and filled up our four man tent. The thought always crossed my mind at this point where actually where we going to fit in. We would not have the car for the next few days either so we had to get used to the idea that we would be carrying all this stuff between the four of us!!!! And the hits just keep on coming!!!
Mum always did the cooking well the pouring boiling water on some strange powdered thing in a foil packet and stirring it, handing it to us and stating with Marco Pierre Whites enthusiasm 'dinner is served' she would say. Yum yum can hardly wait. They eat this in the army and in space for survival my dad would say every year without fail. My sister and I just rolled our eyes. Followed by tea without milk and sugar and a piece of Kendal mint cake to compensate for this. At this point it is almost pitch black and realising that there was nothing else to do we decided to retire to our tent for the night at half past seven.
Sleeping in my clothes has never been something I have relished and easing myself into my sleeping bag I realised that I would have the same clothes on for at least another day too depressed me even further. I had just got myself as comfortable as you can possibly be under the circumstances when I realised that I actually needed the loo. I wriggled my way out of the bag again and struggled to find the tent zip to get myself out. I slithered on my belly elbowing my sister on my way much to her annoyance and managed to get myself out. I stood up and deciding which way I would go I had actually forgot about the tent pegs and ropes and I needless to say tripped over one. Several sweary words later I had to go back inside the tent to get a torch as I realised that I could not see my hand in front of my face never mind trying to find a suitable bush to squat behind. Peeing outdoors is for animals not humans and I could never ever get used to this.
Why is it that there is always a leak in a tent, and why is it that people who don't really snore very often wait until they have an audience before they can actually do it. The nights were oh so long, strange eerie noises heard outside, the constant howling of the wind, the rain and that irritating drip next to my ear, dad had put the small stove pan under it so actually the noise was possibly twice as loud. Combined with snoring and grunts these camping nights were among some of the longest in my life. Just as well I didn't suffer from claustrophobia in addition.
You wake up the next morning and you must have had some sleep because you feel as rough as you have ever done in your life. It is actually extremely hard to move any limbs for about the first ten minutes. Not only due to the restrictions of the sleeping bag but also because you are in so much pain from effectively sleeping on the ground all night long and are as stiff as an ironing board. It is also absolutely freezing. You feel grotty and smelly from having slept in your clothes too. As if it couldn't possibly get any worse you then notice the critters that have managed to join your party during the night. Slugs, spiders, insects god only knows how they managed to get in. Once you have managed to get outside it isn't much more pleasant, the dewy ground and the early morning mist, again having to stumble through the undergrowth trying to find somewhere to pee and washing yourself in not just cold but icy cold water. Then the realisation suddenly hits you that it is only half-past five in the morning!!!!!!!
Then after brekkie you pack up say goodbye to the car knowing that you have three more nights left like this. At this point despair sets in it may as well be the rest of your life. The thought of walking fifteen to twenty miles and then having to sleep in the tent and eat that food again and again and again. AAAAAAgggghhhhhh.
Camping it really does make you appreciate the comforts of home. As you will see I have never been a fan however what made it all worthwhile was experiencing the beautiful scenery and the sense of achievement in walking, exploring and of course the quality time spent with family. Trust me it wasn't all that bad. I still love hill-walking to this day however it is B&BS all the way now. I have very fond memories of this time and I would not have changed it for the world.
There are basically two types of camping, the 'wild' type where the camper finds his own place to set up tent, cooks his own food on a camp fire and may even wash himself using natures provided rivers or waterfalls. The other form is more user friendly and usually involves a camping site, where showers, toilets, and even restaurants or cafes are readily available to the camper. This second form of camping is usually acceptable to those who are taking their small children along with them, or for those who can't do without their creature comforts for any length of time.
For the purposes of this review I will be dealing with the 'wild' form of camping where you survive only by what is in your rucksack and whatever Mother Earth, in Her wisdom, has allowed you to benefit from.
Probably, akin to many people, my first experience of this 'wildish' camping took place when I was knee-high to Verne Troyer. I would pitch the tent up in my very own back garden, which would take only a few minutes, as it basically consisted of a piece of not-very-waterproof material which was held up by two wooden poles at the back and front, and tied down by some guy ropes, which were fastened to the ground with some wooden pegs.
Of course, in those days only the rich could afford a tent with a sewn in ground sheet, so off I would trot into the house and grab the blankets and pillows from my bed and run back to my tent, strategically placing the blankets around the floor of the tent, secretly admiring how clever I was at making my very own ground sheet, (oh boy, how wrong was I going to be proved!).
With the sun beating down, radio playing my favourite tunes, and mother safely visible to me, ironing away in the kitchen, waving and smiling to me, this camping lark seemed as easy as shelling peas.
As the sun dropped down behind the horizon, I thought it prudent at this moment to switch on my plastic Batman torch to cut through the darkness that seemed to be creeping on me ever so slowly, trying to engulf me like some black horrid monster that I had read about not so long ago in one of my comics. A glance at my Mickey Mouse watch revealed that Mickey's arm was pointing to the number ten, so I guessed it was somewhere around the ten o'clock mark. A broad grin stretched across my face as I realised it was an hour past my usual bed time, and here I was, still up, and wide awake, alone in this wild jungle of mine.
Half an hour later, tucked up safely under my blankets, I soon began to realise the seriousness of my situation. Mum was no longer within safety distance, smiling and waving, and Dad would be in work by now. Who was going to protect me if one of those awful monsters were to creep to the front of my tent, slowly opening it to reveal its hideous monstrous face and those razor sharp, foot long claws that would slice.................... ?
I shone my Batman torch around the tent, assuring myself that no evil monster was lurking in the corners ready to pounce. The shadows made by the torch, however, cast large frightening exaggerated shapes on the tents surface and I was almost sure that it was the shadow of some dreadful creature that was intent (no pun intended here honestly) on wreaking his revenge on me for being so silly as to think that I could actually dare to survive in this dark and foreboding jungle without mam and dad here to protect me.
Things took a turn for the worse when the radio, which earlier was blurting out my favourite songs, wafting pleasantly and melodically through the bright Summer sunshine, now seemed to take on a life of its own. It started hissing and making weird noises, constantly fading in and out of reception, whistling and choking as it struggled to find its wavelength.
To me, these bizarre radio noises was the monster snarling and roaring right outside my tent, ready to rip through it with those two feet long claws ( they've grown a foot longer because I an getting more petrified as time goes by).
Of course, the 11o'clock news has just started, and the radio suddenly allows for perfect and clear reception at this point, which is enough for me to overhear the rather sombre newscaster pointing out that a woman has been found brutally murdered in a woodland in Scotland
Convincing myself (and not really knowing any better) that Wales (where I live) is only around the corner from Scotland, and that this terrible monster had done its evil deed there, and was now going to do the same to me (I was going to be the report on the 12o'clock news) I grabbed my torch and ran for dear life, swathing through this terrible jungle, hopefully being able to make it to the front door before this inhuman blood-thirsty monster had a chance to catch up with me.......
As I banged with the force of a tornado on the front door, the creature was getting closer and closer, I know he was because I could here him rustling in the bushes, getting ever closer....
Mum opened the door slightly and I rushed in, ducking my head under her arms, even before she had a chance to swing the door open properly. Panting and unable to control my breathing, I told her of my brush with this monster and of the terrible incidents that had happened during my camping expedition.
Mum, naturally, reassured me that everything was going to be fine, and that there was no such things as these dreadful creatures and that it was all probably due to the wind and my vivid imagination.
Sitting in front of the fire, with house lights shining brightly, and a cup of squash and my favourite biscuits in my hand, and mum smoothing my brow, I was satisfactorily convinced that mother was absolutely right....Until the next time...........
How things have changed since those youthful, innocent days!
Today's camping equipment is vastly superior to anything that has ever been seen before. The tents themselves, for example, have evolved out of all recognition since those days of thin sheeting held up by primitive wooden poles.
The modern tent has carbon fibre rods, (which are very strong and lightweight), breathing holes, sewn in ground sheets, and come in a variety of shapes, colours and designs ranging from Dome and Tunnel tents, right up to the more modern Geodesic tents which utilises a clever pole placement to increase the tent's rigidity and stability.
When deciding on a camping expedition it is advisable to choose the right type of tent before you begin.
Ideal for sheltered camp-sites, a family tent is bought with lots of space as the key criteria. They may have 2 or more separate sleeping compartments with integral ground sheets for home from home comfort. Camping out of the car means weight and pack size is not the main criteria.
Trekking tents allow you to venture away from the sheltered camp site and out into the wilderness. The dimensions of the tent decrease in favour of reduced weight and pack size. Designs are based on a tunnel or geodesic shape, allowing a balance of weight, rigidity and wind resistance.
If you want to camp in remote locations or in winter a more resilient tent is required. Mountain tents are designed for rougher weather and extended trips. The design will have a lower profile in the wind, often making use of geodesic designs for stability, rigidity and ease of pitching.
Having chosen the desired tent then the next step is to pack your rucksack with the essentials needed for camping, balancing what you actually need against the weight of the final, laden rucksack.
On one of my typical camping expeditions I normally take the following essential items:
1)..... Powerful flash light (with extra batteries)
2)..... Wooden matches and a lighter (dip the matches in candle wax to make waterproof)
3)..... Some basic tools (screwdriver, hammer and camp knife)
4)..... First Aid Kit
5)..... Sewing kit
6)..... Duct tape
7)..... Toilet paper
8)..... Bar of soap
10)... Swiss Army Knife/ Multi-purpose tool
11)... 1 cup, plate, spoon, knife and fork
12)... Lightweight saucepan, frying pan and kettle
13)... Camping stove (with enough fuel to last)
14)... Water carrier (at least 5 gallons)
15)... Fire lighters
16)... Roll of black bags (for rubbish)
18)... Waterproof clothing
19)... Can opener
Having made sure these essentials are safely packed away in the rucksack, the next thing to turn to is the gear that you will need.
These should include the following items:
1)..... Tent (ensure all stakes, ropes and poles are accounted for)
2)..... Sleeping bag (and liner)
3)..... Camping lantern
4)..... A pillow (inflatable)
Once these items have been added, the rucksack will be quite heavy, so now is the time to think about the food that you are going to take. Obviously things such as packet soups, biscuits or crisps are preferable, as they do not weigh as much as tinned items. But place whatever food you prefer, always bearing in mind the final weight of the ruck sack, as you have the responsibility of carrying it around with you.
What's left now is your choice of clothing. It obviously depends on the weather but always make sure you have waterproof clothing quickly at hand, as unfortunately, the great British weather can never be totally relied upon, and can turn wet and nasty in the twinkling of an eye.
Good strong hiking boots make sense, with a few pairs of socks thrown in because there is nothing worse than walking around with your feet squelching in a pair of rain-soaked socks.
A lightweight, water proof and wind proof jacket or coat is advisable, and maybe a multi-pocket vest of some kind can be very useful, allowing you to keep all those small little essentials close at hand, such as a compass or pocket knife.
Finally I personally have a small tobacco tin which is sealed around the edges with insulating tape. In here I keep some very small items that may come in handy. I keep such things as sticking plasters, pain killers, some thin cord, buttons, sewing needle and thread, a small whistle and compass, extra matches dipped in wax, a razor blade. sterilizing tablets and even a condom ( no, not for that, surprisingly it can hold a fair amount of water), and various other small but useful little items.
Having packed all that you need it's now time to set out on your camping trip. Suitably attired and equipped, with ruck sack on back, it's finally time to venture forth to the place you have decided to camp, be it ever so rough and grim, soon to have its attractions and becoming the very centre of civilisation for you!
First thing on reaching your destination is of course to prepare the ground for your tent, removing any cow turds, sharp pieces of stone or rock and the odd bits of twigs and wood that are strewn around. It is best to find a nice flat and even piece of ground to pitch your tent, although this is not absolutely necessary, it does make for a more peaceful nights sleep.
Make sure the tent is pitched with its back to the wind if possible, and is firmly and securely fastened to the ground, as rain and high winds during the night can loosen the pegs and guy lines.
With the tent pitched securely, and your ruck sack unloaded, it is best at this point to roll out your sleeping bag and any other sleeping items you have, and then fasten the tent up securely, which will stop the midges and creepy crawlies from entering the tent which, believe me, you will be so glad you did during your night's stay in your tent!
Next on my agenda is to light the camp fire, whether it is warm or not, because I find that this is the main comfort of any good camp site. The camp fire is as well for good spirits and cheerfulness as it is for warmth and dryness.
Having gathered my kindling, and bits of sheep's wool and whatever other combustibles I can manage to forage, it is then time to put match to paper for that all consuming uplift of spirits that is fire.
Unfortunately, this most simple of procedures can be one of the hardest of tasks known to man. Match after match may be struck without any success, until you have as many spent matches lying around that could build a decent sized scale model of Canterbury Cathedral. Someone once said "How is it that one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a camp fire? How right they were!
Right, four boxes of matches later and the fire is now blazing away, hopefully. The warmth of the conflagration should now be gently massaging my soul, warming my thoughts, allowing me to think that all the preparation and effort was obviously worth while, and a self-congratulatory smile may even appear on my smoke-filled face.
As the embers begin to die down it can then be poked with a wooden stick to allow those soul-warming flames once again to rise from the ashes like some wonderful Phoenix. After all, there is no greater joy than poking a wood fire is there?
As darkness falls around me and the embers finally die down, consuming their final gulp of oxygen as if in their last gasp of life, it is time to retire to the safety of my tent.
Be prepared here for the onset of some rain, as it always seems to rain on tents when you just don't want it to. It may seem as though the rainstorms have travelled thousands of miles, against very strong prevailing winds, just for the simple pleasure of raining on a single tent stuck out in the back of beyond in some small field.
I safely manoeuvre myself into my tent and then into my sleeping bag, albeit, soaking wet, smoky and sticky, with leaves and blades of grass clinging to my wet feet and socks like some green and gruesome leeches.
(It is a bad idea to have your girlfriend with you because, should you argue over the mess inside the tent then it is difficult to walk out and slam the flap behind you! How are you going to express your anger in this situation? Zip up the flap quickly and noisily?)
Anyway, I am now safely tucked up in my sleeping bag, as snug as a bug in a rug, having discarded all those wet clothes. The burning skin where I sat way too near to the fire, begins to ease. The smoke that has been irritating my eyes and that I have been breathing in. causing me to cough uncontrollably, has slowly dissipated, allowing me to drift dreamily into a state of semi-consciousness. The regular taps of the rain on the tent send me further into an inevitable state that is called sleep, as the pitter patter of the rain sings its Earthly lullaby.
As I am just about to fall fast asleep, the radio which I have brought along with me for comfort and company, falls in and out of reception, hissing and whistling like a mass of snakes in severe pain, and then, mystically, gains full reception, coinciding with the sombre newscaster who has news of a gruesome murder that has taken place somewhere in the Country.
Snapping out of my almost unconscious state, I hastily reach for my torch. It is a high powered lithium torch, made from space age metals and alloys...but...in the darkness it seems to be made of plastic..and...is that a picture of Batman I can see on it?
Shapes and shadows on the side of my tent form themselves into slow-walking zombies and ghouls as I hurriedly unzip the flap of my tent, ready to run the short distance to my front door and the safety of my mothers arms, only to be confronted with a wall of thick darkness and a large, vast empty expanse that, during the day seemed to be a field, but now, at this ungodly hour, has been formed into some sort of cemetery for the living dead.
And then it begins..........
When I was younger I used to absolutely love camping even if it was just in the back garden (so if it was too cold we could just run into the house) I remember always going on camping trips and i'm sure that there's many I was too young at the time to remember.
I will admit that many times we did go camping but most of these were never at a camp site but pitched up in a field somewhere. To be honest there is always a small spot somewhere if you are happy to look for it.
When I was younger we also had a family holiday with Eurocamp. The first week was in one their tents which was kind of strange arriving at at tent that was already set up for you, this also had beds and a cooker and fridge in it. It was a very fun week but just not the same as a proper camping trip.
My favourite thing about camping is setting the tent up, you always have a laugh when you're doing this, and more times than not it does start raining when you're in the middle of pitching the tent.
Once you have finally got the tent up and happy enough that it won't collapse through the night then you have the joy of arguing over who sleeps where.
Nowadays though I do have to admit I haven't been camping for a couple of years. I have two tents, one is a large tent for longer trips away, when we take the car with us. The other is a small 2 person tent for when we decided to jump on the motorbike and go for an overnight trip anywhere.
I love spending time in the tent, there is something relaxing about lying in the tent listening to whats going on around you. Also gives you time to spend without any distractions like t.v. I love to have a weekend with me and my partner so we really do have time as just the two of us and nothing or no-one else.
I am a big camping fan. Unfortunately my Husband hates it, so we don't get to go camping much. My husband has two children from a previous marriage aged 9 and 12, and I thought that it would make a great cheap holiday for them. We bought all the gear and made off to a local campsite, just to try it out before we took off for a week away. Well, the kids absolutely loved it!! It was so relaxing, the weather was great, and the tent was no trouble to put up. I think secretly that my husband actually enjoyed it too. It was a good trial run for our weeks holiday in a tent, because you don't realise how much stuff you need. Silly little things like a tin openner and a washing up bowl and tea towel etc etc etc. Our week away finally came, and the camp site was great. We went to Devon, it was lovely. Sadly though the weather was awful, and we had to put the tent up in the rain. My husband was not impressed as you can imagine. It then went on to rain constantly for the next 4 days, and the tent was leaking. Everything was wet through. It was really miserable, and it made me realise that with great British holidays you are so tied by the weather. In the sunshine its the best holiday ever, but in the rain and cold it is damn right awful!!
I am a typical girly girl and camping had never really appealed to me, however when my fella asked me if I fancied going camping and would I be up for it, for some reason I said yes and that was it I had committed myself to something that I never thought I would do.
We had no camping gear whatsoever, so when he started looking on the internet for camping gear, I knew our adventure was just about to begin. We had seen a camping set consisting of a 4 person tent, 2 double airbed matresses, 4 sleeping bags and two lights all for £80 in Halfords, which I thought was a great deal, however looking for items on ebay, we found the same package and we managed to get this for £35. When it arrived it was actually Halfords branded so it seems to me that someone managed to get their hands on some seconds and flog them on the internet, great idea to make a bit of cash if you get the right bulk purchase.
With the camping gear one the way we planned to go last weekend, just for the night and to take my dog with us. We found a luxury Caravan/Camping site as he felt that I shouldn't slum it first time around and I should be treated to a little bit of luxury so I was quite happy with that and the camp site was only 15 minutes away from home so we could see how well the dog would behave.
This is basically a beginners guide to camping and give you a few tips if you have never been like I hadn't and makes you think that these sort of trips need a lot more preparation than if you were going around the world. Something that I was not prepared for really at all.
One major thing that you need to remember when camping is clothing to keep warm. Its September and not too cold just yet, but as dark starts to fall, it does go a little bit nippy and gets colder as the night goes on. Being a typical girly girl I made the biggets mistakle of all I think and forgot my trainers so spent the whole day in heels, day and night in a field with my heels sinking into the grass. That will be the first thing that I pack on me next adventure and there certainly will be a next. I must have thought that I needed some form of femininity on my trip but thats something that you should forget about when camping.
You can take plenty of clothes, but to be honest you can never take too much as you never know how cold it is going to get. I took plenty of warm clothing but wish I had taken more and I forgot socks as well so lucky my fella was prepared and on hand to lend me a pair of socks to keep my little piggies warm.
Lighting is important, make sure you have plenty of batteries, our batteries started to die and it was very hard to see nearly in pitch black where you were and where things were in the tent.
Food that needs to be taken is very basic and we had a small camping stove to use in which we boiled water on for brews and were able to cook a fry up in the morning although it did take 2 hours to cook. If you are looking to camp regular you can buy decent camping stoves with a grill and two rings for around £50, which I think we sill be investing in.
Make sure you sleeping bags are sufficient, we had a double airbed matress on the ground which kept you warm to a certain extent, however the sleeping nags that came in our kit were pretty thin and not substantial to keep you completely warm, it was lucky that we had one decent one, but double sleeping bags are available and quality ones too at a reasonable price.
My first camping trip wasn't brillliant because we were not prepared however I did enjoy it and you learn from experience and I think it is something that we will be doing on a regular basis when the weather starts to get better. You can only learn from experience.
Now, whilst I am a lady who adores wallowing in luxury and being pampered, I also enjoy getting down and dirty too! I grew up revelling in family camping holidays, until I reached my late teens and did the typical volte-face and swore never to spend another night under canvas. In recent years my nights away have been 4 star hedonism, until that is, my lovely fella suggested going camping. Initial reaction? Ew! Bugs and midnight trips to distant loo clutching bog roll and a torch
no thanks! After thinking about it and making a few comfort demands (lilo and pillows to start with) we bought a tent and a few essentials and took a trip down memory lane
Our first night away saw us in Rendlesham, in deepest Suffolk, on one of the sunniest days of last summer. I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience; tents are now designed be remotely easy to erect, the site was clean, the toilets were spotless and joy of joys, fully stocked with plenty of loo paper! Sleeping under canvas (or nylon as it is nowadays) is a treat not to be missed and ensures a great night of sleep, if not the night of camping if you are scared of owls and strange rustling noises, then definitely the night you get home!
With the glorious weather we have been blessed with this year we have been away already at Easter, again to Rendlesham, but this time with friends who own a caravan complete with awning. I have to say if you have a small tent and know friends like this that you get along with, do go with them as it is great to decamp under the awning when the evening chills instead of shivering around a dying barbecue or cramping up into a tiny tent. A grand time was had by all and in the morning the male contingent left at the crack of dawn to go fishing while us girls curled up in the caravan beds with cups of tea to put the world to rights (okay, we gossiped)
While campsite prices vary, on the whole it is a cheap break, often as little as a fiver a night. We paid £12.50 for our pitch for a Saturday night, yet our caravanning friends are in Lincolnshire this week on a site with all mod cons, pool etc for £55.00 for the whole week. I have yet to find a site without at least a relatively decent loo, although guys seem to find any foliage in the vicinity perfectly acceptable. Many sites have clubhouses, shops and pools. Most sites have electricity points for caravans and larger tents. Perhaps, like allotments, more parts of my childhood are becoming trendy?
To get the most from camping you will need first an open mind, a sense of humour and patience. Without these three you might as well stay home or book in to the nearest luxury hotel. It also helps if you dont mind getting a bit grubby, as that is all part of the fun of camping and you can wash properly again once you get home; actually this is a good reason for doing weekend trips rather than week long ones, although most places have shower blocks I never feel as clean after using them as I do after showering at home! The first time you go will be a learning experience; in fact the first trip away each year is a learning experience, often consisting of the who forgot to pack the tin-opener/plug for the lilo/milk tiffs
For complete newbies I would suggest a trip to your local camping shop or Millets to have a chat and see if you can pick up a cheap starter pack deal. One word of caution, do NOT try this at Halfords while their deals are seductively cheap they are not worth the money; we got a tent, lilo, 2 sleeping bags and a lamp for around sixty quid last year... the zips broke on the first night, the lilo still deflates and the sleeping bags were too small and tight for adults! Goes to show; yer gets what yer pays for in this life! But at least the bag it all came in still going strong and we have gradually replaced the rest. Incidentally the tent is being recycled into making wings to enlarge the windproof area of our fishing umbrella, so its got some plus points
With your pile of kit and a location in mind, start making a list of everything you think you will need in a notebook and take the notebook with you because without doubt there will be something you have forgotten when you arrive onsite. Luckily camping is a fairly friendly pastime and if you omit a mallet to whack your pegs most people dont mind lending you theirs, if you forget your pegs, campsite shops often carry these but at a price, so it really does pay to get organised. I would suggest getting a good-sized box or bag to keep all your gear in. this has worked extremely well for us as it means all the bits and bobs are in one place, and so less likely to get mislaid or forgotten. In the top of our box we have a list of the essentials so that we can easily see at a glance that everything is there. We try to go through all our kit a day or so after we return and clean and repack everything so that when we next want to go off at a moments notice all we need to do is grab the box and run away into the sunset
Camping suits all budgets and most lifestyles; from the Winnebago luxury home-from-home campervans to the small one-man tent and bed roll. We go for roughing it with a touch of comfort in a 3-man tent we can sort of stand up in, good airbed, double sleeping bag and real pillows. Other than your tent, bedding, cooking equipment and food there are few things I recommend you pack:
# A torch, because no matter how well lit a site is there is always a dark spot when you make that final trip before bed
# Loo roll (just in case the site runs out)
# A foot pump for your lilo in case the car battery one conks out you really dont want to blow up a double lilo like I did our first time last year!
# Bottled water youd be surprised how thirty camping is, especially when getting your site set up
# A handful of used carrier bags great for all kinds of stuff, from dirty washing or crockery to rubbish. And if you are combining fishing and camping youll need a way to keep your catch clean on the way home
# Extra tent pegs, do buy a few extra, as you will be bound to bend or lose a few each trip. If you have a tent that uses rubber bands and pegs get some extra bands as these often break or ping away into the undergrowth
No doubt Ive forgotten some things there, which is why that notebook I mentioned earlier is so useful. Each trip we add another idea or two and sometimes take out something we thought might be useful but have never used
If you have children a campsite is a marvellous experience for them. Our caravanning friends have one 8 year old and a 17 year old and both enjoyed the weekend equally. The 17 year old put our tent up and generally made himself very helpful (interesting how good teenagers are to their parents friends while they wont lift a finger to help poor old mum and dad!) round the place, apart from falling over one of our guy ropes and snapping it! As for the 8 year old, well, we hardly saw him as he was off round the site playing with other kids he met there, just as my sister and I did all those years ago a campsite is a great place for kids to make new friends and it gets them off your hands for a few hours
I personally find camping very romantic a quiet evening with a barbecue, some wine, the moon and stars and the prospect of snuggling up all night with the excuse that I need to be cuddled to keep warm!
A good website is http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/ that has details of most sites around the UK. It lists site detail and has reviews from people who have stayed at the site
If your a person who appreciates the outdoors then camping is definetly for you. i am a student and cannot afford fancy hotels and the like but around 4 times a year myself and my partner and a group of friends travel to either scotland or the lakedistrict or wherever takes our fancy and pitch tent for a week. we usualy manage to pile into two cars and this saves a lot on travelling expenses and once we are there we generaly go for walks to see the local sites or just relex at the campsite. there are many campsites dotted allover the UK and the majority are reasonably priced and provide washroon and bathroom facilities. there are also family only sites which do not allow groups of people to camp, just families, which can be ideal for those who prefer a quieter holiday.
my advice would be to take lots of extra blankets, as it is suprising how cold it can get on a night, take more than you think you will need. and also take a groundsheet or something elce to lie on.
the first time you go camping you are bound to forget something, i find it usefull to make a lift a week or so beforehand and then add to it if i think of anyhting elce i will need. also in the summer it is usefull to take fly deterant candles which stick in the ground near your tend and keep the midgies at bay, our first camping trip we were eaten alive!
most camp sites have facilities for you to re-freeze ice blocks from your cool box which is ideal to keep fresh meat for the bbq in fit state. tinned foods are also an essential......just dont forget the tin opener!!!
Ok some people will either love it and some will absolutely hate it and opt for the local Hotel, either way it is not to everyones liking.
We decided as a family after many different types of holidays such as , Self Catering, Holidays Abroad, Holidays in Caravans, Lodges that we would try Camping.
After searching on the internet for different places, we came across a place called Waldegraves Holiday Park, Colchester Essex. It is located on Mersea Island, as it says it is a little Island with an East side and West side. To access the island you have to cross the Strood Channel via 'The Causeway' which is a type of Bridge. Interestingly if the sea rises to the extent that the Causeway is covered by water, you are unable to get back to the mainland as this is the only access to the island.
We decided to visit the West, (although there was no logic in this decision just a toss of a coin). We wanted to stay quite close to home and this was only a few miles away from where we live.
Mersea Island is near to the town called Colchester, Essex the oldest recorded Roman Town in the country with museums, a Norman Castle and a very large shopping centre, all very nearby. Mersea Island is well known for being unspoilt and peaceful also it is famous for its oysters and boating/yachting facilities.
You can either Tour or hire a Holiday Home here. We found all the amenities such as toilets and showers clean and well maintained. The touring area was peaceful and very picturesque., with little in the way of traffic.
Paths were very large and all around the site, with extremely large grass areas.
A Visiting entertainer
Different childrens activities throughout the summer season.
The Wheat sheaf (BAR) is the centre of Waldegraves' Entertainment programme. It is open at lunchtime for a drink at the bar and a quiet game of pool, or join in the evening entertainment.
There is an entertainment programme throughout the year, part of which is a weekly talent competition. All winners compete at the end of season to find Waldegraves' very own top talent for the year.
Alongside the Wheatsheaf is the youngsters room complete with karaoke machine, stage, disco, table tennis and a pool table. This also contains a small Amusement Arcade. Unlike most places we have visited this was a very small Arcade and this enabled the children to use and enjoy the other activities. I preferred this to the large and very dominating Arcades I found at many other establishments like this.
Has both an 18 hole pitch & putt golf course and a new 10 bay undercover driving range, which is floodlit for those who need their golfing fix. The course offers challenges to both experts and beginners alike. Also there is a selection of golf accessories, plus club hire
Beach and Water sports
Boat access to the sea is made easy by Waldegraves' own hard slipway, which is suitable for hand or vehicle assisted boat launching. Water, for most craft, is deep enough approximately ± 3 hours either side of high water and is suitable for sailing dinghies, jet skis, speedboats and windsurfers. Buoyed zones ensure that speedboats and jet skis do not stray into bathing areas.
For safety, it is recommend that all children are supervised by an adult when playing or swimming in the sea.
Specially designed for rowing boats, inflatable boats and model boats, the Boating Lake is surrounded by trees and mown, grassy banks. Children and families can have hours of fun just messing about in the and water boats.
A heated open-air pool is great for all ages. Divided into a toddler and a parent and a main pool, even the younger swimmers can enjoy the water. Surrounding the pool is a large, protected sunbathing deck.
Qualified lifeguards are on poolside duty at all times whilst the pool is in use.
There is an all weather, multi purpose playing surface which can be used to practice basketball, netball and football skills. This is very spacious.
It has basketball nets and a marked basketball court, the area can be used for fun, practice or organised matches. Alongside the all weather area is a large, grassed area which is perfect for organised games or a fun kick-about.
There are 4 well stocked lakes offering any angler a fine facility. The lakes are stocked full of Carp, Bream, Tench, Roach, Rudd, Perch and Gudgeon.
They are fully managed, a permanent fishing warden ensures that the fish and their environment are always maintained. Rods tackle and bait can all be bought or hired from the onsite Shop.
The Wheatgrain Shop bakes its own, fresh bread, every morning, this is usually very early. They also stock local produce together with a large range of food, childrens toys and souvenir gifts.
Also there is a brand new leisure accessories shop with new golf, camping and fishing stock.
Also various touring caravans for sale.
Places to visit.
There are many places to visit around the area. Including Colchester Zoo, Nature Reserves, east Mersea has a vineyard. Although to be honest we stayed on the site most of the time enjoying the activities and beach.
Well there is a Restaurant on site, although there are numerous places to go just off of site too. The restaurant does a large menu although it can be expensive if you were to eat there for each meal.
On a Sunday they have a large Boot Sale, which we went too and it was great, children loved it. (Weather Permitting.)
I would recommended this Site for anyone who was going camping for the 1st time or there 100th time. It is great for getting away from the hustle and bustle of life. Some older children may find it a little boring as it is defiantly more for the outdoor type of people. No sign of playstation, TVs or excessive Fruit Machines.
We had a 3 bedroom tent, and opted for an electrical point. We took lots of toys for the children to play with including many colouring books and puzzle books. We also took a travel Kettle, radio, torches, extra batteries, and some plates, cups and cutlery (these were all plastic.)
The best thing we took was the Torches each of the children had one and it eased them at night, also we heard them playing games with them too.
On a few occasions we bought a food and ate it back at the tent which was very nice, I found as well as my children that we spent more time as a family on this holiday than many of the others.
There is already some excellent general-camping advice reviews here, so I decided to prepare one which concentrates on camping/backpacking with a preschooler. I have to say that they are based on a drier climate than the UK provides. I would think that most suggestions would be valid for more northern areas in the summer as well, but you would obviously need to worry much more about `wet` and much less about `hot`.
WHAT WE DID
The first was Italy in June 2004, when we wanted cheap holidays and we also wanted to see how the camping thing would work with a small child. Italy with its warm, human-friendly weather and known child-friendly culture seemed ideal for this experiment. I won`t keep you waiting in suspense, it DID work out and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Encouraged by the experience we took the tent to Greece in 2005. Our daughter was 3 in Italy and 4 in Greece.
In both cases we flew and we didn`t rent a car. As we moved around rather than stayed put, everything, and that included our daughter Katie, had to be transportable on our backs.
Bearing this in mind we decided that all the gear had to (at least initially) fit in one rucksack and that had to be carrieable by either of us. The weight as well as volume was thus of prime consideration. Be aware though that I AM a big woman and however unfit I was at the beginning of both holidays I have a pretty good ability to lug stuff around.
The person NOT carrying the rucksack was supposed to deal with the little one - hold her hand or carry her in the carrier, as well as carry the smaller day-pack with accessible essentials (water, extra clothes, food, maps, books etc.). Katie had a little rucksack of her own with books, pens, colouring books and her cuddly rabbit. This was of course often donated to me or DH to bear but she DID carry it for at least half of the time she walked. Towards the end of both holidays we had an extra bag full of extra stuff acquired on the way (toys, mats, food etc).
Considering the weight requirement we decided to buy quite a few things from new. Bearing in mind the money requirements and worry about possible theft we decided to buy as cheap stuff as possible. Eventually we ended up with:
(1) A tent, of course. This gave us most aggravation as our old tent was both too heavy and too small. Really lightweight good quality ones were very expensive and still small, being fundamentally mountaineering tents - too good for us. Eventually we bought a 3 person dome tent from Aldi. It was spacious, had useful front-porch storage area and was easy and fast to put up. At 4.7 kg it was also one of the lightest of cheap and moderately priced three-person tents. At 25 GBP it was the cheapest. It is, it has to be said, very very flimsy and I didn`t see much life in the fibreglass poles (in fact one snapped when packing for the last time on the eve of our departure from Greece) but at the price it was almost disposable. Its water resistance was low (lower than Millet`s cheapest `Eurohike` range made `for British summer`) so I had grave doubts about how it would stand to rain. We didn`t have any rain in Italy but in Greece we had four days with rain when camping in the mountain foothills near Sparti. The longest was about 4 hours and quite heavy. The tent took it well enough, with only minimal leaks but we were not in it so it was easy to avoid touching the inner tent just by piling the stuff in the middle. Obviously anybody planning to camp in the UK or other northern countries would need to pay much more attention to this aspect, even maybe sacrifice space or weight for bit better rain resistance.
(2) We bough a 90 litre rucksack from Argos and although obviously worse quality and less resistant than our old 75 litre Blacks` one, it proved up to the job and comfortable enough to carry. At 25 GBP a worthy addition to our possessions.
(3) In Italy we had two self-inflating sleeping mats and one karimat but no sleeping bags to sleep in. Although the air-mats added extra 3 kg to the load, it was definitely worth it as the difference in comfort was massive especially as we slept without the padding provided by sleeping bags. In Greece we had sleeping bags but only karimats to sleep on - it was less comfortable but still OK and basically the earlier you go the more you would need a sleeping bag and thus if weight is an issue the more likely you will be to end up on a karimat only. We had two karimats spread across and a straw mat for our feet and that was perfectly enough. Straw mats are generally very useful if you have no chairs as you can sit on them outside as well as use them on the beach if you ever go, but of course there is no need to take them from the UK as they are very cheap and available everywhere for prices as low as 60 eurocents (1.50 was about average).
(4) I would recommend taking sleeping bags unless you are going in the highest summer season, as the mornings around 5-6 can be quite chilly even in June.
(5) A child carrier (read: a framed rucksack you stick you wee one in, sadly not: a native porter up to the task) was essential when our daughter was 3 in Italy and still pretty useful when she was 4 in Greece. We had one I had bought in a charity shop for a fiver having had arrived from Poland already rid of my pushchair. We didn`t do any off-road hiking to speak of, but it was still extremely useful. A three year old CAN walk quite far, a four year old even further but it still won`t be much above 2 miles and of course there is a difference between how far they could and actually would walk. We also did quite a bit of walking, what with campsites being located away from towns and our penchant for mad exploration, and Katie often slept in the carrier. I only wish I had a better one as with this one it was more of a strain on the lower back to carry a 15 kg child than to carry the 30 kg+ rucksack. I almost bought a high-quality one in Poland from makers of mountaineering equipment for about 80 pounds before we left and I did regret not having done this while in Italy.
(6) We brought very little clothes and of course we still brought too much. My recommended minimal list for would be:
- one pair of good, trekking-type sandals that you have already broken into.
- two pairs of socks (one for off-road spikes, one for sleeping in).
- shorts and long trousers, possibly two pairs of the latter, in a colour that is a reasonable compromise between not showing dirt and reflecting sun (khaki, grey and light purple worked well for us).
- one long sleeved shirt, 2 t-shirts. I actually wore pretty much the same t-shirt every day, washing it in the evening before and putting on damp even if it didn`t dry. The other one is for sleeping in and emergency tomato-sauce spillages. The long-sleeved one is to protect you from burn on long walks, mosquitoes, and can provide rarely needed but sometimes useful cover from night chills. For a small child I would take 4 t-shirts/vests, all of them as light as possible but not too susceptible to these tomato stains. An orange tie-dye is an idea I would seriously consider next time. Do NOT take black or navy tops unless you are prepared to use them in the evening only. A dark vest under a white top-shirt is a possible exception.
- a sun-hat, wide brimmed enough to cover face, floppy enough not to look disastrous when squashed.
-sunglasses were essential for me, while both Katie and DH did perfectly well without. This is personal and you will know.
- a swimsuit - everybody seemed to be wearing bikinis, even the fattest so if you don`t like to stand out get one as well. I was happy enough in my one-piece but we didn`t spend much time on the beach. Pre-pubescent girls see to wear only bikini-bottoms. I have not seen a single one in a one-piece.
- waterproof - ideally thin, light and breathable.
- a thin fleece or something like that for the rare chilly afternoon/night, especially for the little one
- skirts/dresses you take depend entirely on how much you wear them. I never do, so it wasn`t an issue, I took one pretty dress for my daughter but again, you might find that sun dresses is what you wear most of the time instead of shorts/t-shirts.
- a towel - we had two (a medium and a small one), and I had to wash it about every two days, but ideally it would be new of these thin but absorbent cotton ones you get in cheaper hotels. I almost nicked one once.
(7) We had a small one-burner camping gas stove which run on standard canisters (about 1 euro and widely available). This proved enough as did two rectangular mess-tin type dishes for cooking and 3 plastic plates for eating off, with plastic forks, spoons and one pen-knife.
(8) Alarm clock
(9) Anything I took and didn`t need to?
- the minimum of make-up I took was never used
- big bottle of high-factor sun-screen. Let me explain before you start to get indignant. I took it as I was worried that it would be hard to find high-factor, cheap stuff there. However, the sun-screen multiplies the time you can spend in the sun. OK. So if I normally can withstand the sun for 15 minutes without burning, wearing factor 20 means that I can spend 5 hours in the sun! The thing was, I never did. The only parts of my body that would ever get exposed for that long were my forearms, face and feet but these were already bit tanned and factor 10 consistently applied would have been enough (and I am very white!). Of course, if you plan to spend hours on the beach in the sun without clothing you need the stuff. Otherwise 10 will do with perhaps a stick of factor 20/30 for nose or the exposed bit of shoulders.
-Post-sun lotion. Each of us used it once and as such was not worth lugging the 300 ml thing with us.
(1) The season does not start till end of June. Consequently, the prices before that will be lower, but some facilities will not be fully operational.
(2) Camping seems to be a family pursuit and is conducted mostly with caravans and motor-homes. Tents seem rare. We never had come across this typical Polish sight of a campsite filled with tents full of 16 to 25 year olds. Perhaps it changes in season. Perhaps we did not get to right campsites. But the consequence of the above we had to put up with is that…
(3) … prices seem steep. Some sites charge per pitch, some per person, some both. We didn`t come across anything below 10 euro per night in Italy and 15 euro per night in Greece, and that is in what was essentially the low season. If you can get to them, it is probably a very good idea to try the Italian agrotoursimos (farm holidays). These seem often to be quite posh affairs but sometimes they do allow camping, even if not advertising it in their official materials or listings. We used one and although there was an implicit obligation to eat (we did and it was very lovely and very expensive by our standards), this can be resisted and the whole experience can be cheap and very pleasurable. It also is a good idea to do some phoning around before (we didn`t) and get the idea of prices: in Greece once we were quoted a much lower (wrong) price and we were actually charged that!
(4) The facilities at the campsites are generally excellent: hot showers, nicely tiled bathroom areas, special washing up/laundry sinks, washing machines (extra charge) swimming pools, play areas for children little as well as shops and restaurants were all there.
As it`s well known both Greece and Italy are indeed child-friendly places. Children are admitted pretty much everywhere and run around freely but DO seem bit better behaved than UK kids. Come to think of it, I cannot think of kids in any country I visited that do NOT seem better behaved then UK kids. No exaggeration there, though, the Italian and Greek little ones and the bit bigger ones did their share of making noise and doing all the childreny things, but there was never malice associated with it.
The biggest difference in comparison with UK was the reception a very small child got: in the UK it is generally only other parents and older people that react positively to children. In Italy you will get a mixed group of youths obviously travelling to have some fun on the beach and they will try to engage your wee one with chat, smiles and jokes. This also - sometimes at least - happens in Poland and is, in my opinion, the result of less separation between different age groups and `life-stage niches` in these countries.
In Greece people are also extremely child friendly and, what will might be almost unbearable for a British father (and probably many mothers too) they will touch your child all the time - and all people: teenage girls, 20-something youths and middle aged mothers, old ladies and aged men, train conductors and bread sellers, people you meet at the bus stops and in cafes, they will all pat arms, pinch cheeks, stroke hair, tickle tummies and so on. I am Polish so I wasn`t that bothered (though in Poland men don`t do it, or do it much less) but it was very hard for my husband!
Being equipped with a pretty and sociable preschooler is then a contact- advantage, as we were virtually all the time greeted with countless exclamations of `bella` or `kala` and expressions of interest as well as tolerance towards crying, running round the restaurant table at a speed, and twenty trips across the dining hall to have look at the fish in the aquarium on the other side while forming a major stumbling hazard for the staff.
Getting half-portions was easy in Italy but not so much in Greece, I also managed to wangle a discount for a triple room out of two hotels on the ground that the `bimba` didn`t really need a separate bed (she happily used one when provided though).
Our daughter is now over 4 years old, well travelled and very adaptable. She never had problems with new places and as long as familiar or likeable people were present she always seemed to positively relish new experiences. This is important as I know of children similar in age who would pay with stomach upsets and sleepless nights for a visit to grandparents in the same town. She is also healthy, quite tough and a good eater. With this in mind, please let me thoroughly and wholeheartedly recommend camping with a preschooler in the Med.
Living in a tent was easier for Katie than us (she is, after all, smaller) and although she missed her toys and her bed, she caused no problems whatsoever. She slept well - I am sure that sleeping with both parents virtually in the same bed helped! She didn`t seem to have problems with heat at night, although she often slept around midday which she never does here. The daytime heat was what was probably hardest for her to cope with and thus I was very glad we didn`t go in high season. However, if you don`t go to too many adult attractions (I mean ruins and long walks here....) it would be easier even on hotter days.
I made sure that she wore hat and I covered her with sunscreen to start with so she tanned nicely and without problems. She ate lots and lost of ice-cream (very good food for children and even all this sugar is OK as long as the child is on the go…), supplemented by piles of fruit, tomatoes and occasional plate of pasta or piece of grilled veal or beef. The only thing I was very careful about was to make sure that she was well watered and never ever refused or delayed her drink.
We brought several small-sized books which we read more at first and less later (but how many times can one endure `Mr Funny` or the story of Moomin-Mama`s lost handbag?) We also brought a set of felt-top pens and a few pencils with some colouring books and this was brilliant for the entertainment she needed during rare quiet times in the tent or travelling by train or in the airport.
She had one transitional object (read: cuddly toy) and she cuddled it, threw at walls, fed, and sang to - in other words it performed its usual functions.
In Italy we bought bucket-and-spade set and she had a chance to use it 3 times on the beach, we also bought lavishly illustrated `Pinokio` book in Italian and she spend quite a long time poring over it as well as using it as bartering tool with Italian children.
Generally, neither of the holidays was child-centred in any way. It is something you can still afford to do at this age when the child simply enjoys being with you and as long as you don`t do anything INCREDIBLY boring like staring at one picture for 30 minutes everything should be OK. We did, of course, provide some concessions like seeking out that sandy beach once in a while or visiting every play-park she noticed. She had a chance to play with Italian, Greek and foreign tourist children several times and generally that was successful, with gazing, smiling, touching, sharing toys and food making up for deficits in communication. She definitely missed the company of other children provided normally by the nursery she attends and enjoyed the encounters very much.
My tips could be summarised as follows:
(1) Keep the child close and engaged in what you are doing. She might not know about `Baroque` but will be interested in the mythical animals on the church`s façade. He might not appreciate the breathtaking view but will notice sheep, lemon trees and poppies.
(2) Be ready and ideally equipped to carry your child, especially when it`s very hot and/or you are walking far. If you want her to go along happily with what you are doing provide something in return. This something is your presence, your back to lean on, your hair to pull and at least some attention.
(3) Allow, encourage and gently guide contact with other children when possible. Provide sweets and fruit to share, remind him of the local word for `thank you` and watch from a distance.
(4) Make sure the physical needs are met: drink especially but also food, shade and toilet.
You might be rewarded with something like our daughter saying, on the last night in Athens hotel, saying: `I don`t want to go home, I want to stay here and see more old things and stones` (and no, I am not making it up!).
Of course there is a limit, and that limit is usually age. I can clearly remember my sister, aged 10 or 11, furiously kicking a millennia-old wall in Mycenae and muttering to herself `Walls and stones and holes! I can dig such a hole with stones myself! Just staring at these stones and holes! It`s boring!`. She was 11 though and you cannot put an 11-year old in a backpack for a sleepy when they get too hot and tired!
Peoples opinions on camping fall into two very distinct categories those who love it and those who cant think of anything worse than sleeping outdoors, having to walk through a field to go to the loo and as for showering, well! I am afraid, in my insanity I fall very firmly into the first category.
There are also two very distinct forms of camping rough camping and camping for softies. I prefer the latter but have indulged in both so I will start this review with .
What is it?
Rough camping is basically backpacking, you very carefully pack a large backpack with every thing that you will need, this includes the absolute basics only tent (small and light) sleeping back (very compact) emergency rations (seem to recall this always included a mars bar!) basic small, light (barely sufficient for a cup of tea) cooking equipment, food and clean knickers. I seem to remember for our Duke of Edinburgh camp we had to take a trowel to bury our waste as well. (this is why I no longer rough camp)
The advantages of this basic living though are simply that you can camp far from the Madding crowd, waking up to the fresh smell of early morning (or last nights unburied waste) and be completely at one with nature.
You must always get the landowners permission before you camp you can not just pitch up in any old field, and I must admit the thought of waking up high in the hills of the lake district is very appealing but these days (as I get more unfit and have small children to consider) camping for softies is more the answer not least as nowadays it is considerably safer.
CAMPING FOR SOFTIES
This is me I love soft camping, you pack up the car with endless supply of kit, hubby looks at the pile in the middle of the living room and swears a bit muttering under his breath how on earth am I supposed to get all this in the car to which I politely point out that the pile doesnt include the tent or the pile of food in the kitchen! And guess what more muttering.
So for soft camping, what equipment will you need
Tent fairly obvious, I can recommend the Khyam ridgi-dome (see review) as it is very quick and easy to put up so we are arrival at site to beer out in 16 minutes, and of course the size is up to you but if you drive to site and unpack at site you dont have to worry about carrying it up hill and down dale, so go for big and comfortable.
Sleeping bags, we have 3 season bags which are suppose to be adequate for spring summer and autumn. I honestly wouldnt want to use them on their own in early spring or late autumn, maybe Im just a wimp.
Air beds, or camping beds you can get some that pack down really small these days which are great, and of course with the most important item of all:
Electric hook up you can have the air beds up in no time, you can also use electric kettles, steamers and charge your mobile phone, and of course in spring and autumn a nice camping heater keeps the chill off. This is the one item I would not be without.
Everything else you add to this list is luxury helping to make your experience more enjoyable, but things like camping chairs and table, and of course a cool box with a bottle of wine in it, and naturally clothes toiletries and earl grey tea bags.
So how to chose a site!
The thing with softy camping is there are many sites to chose from I use the Alan Rogers camping guide, he also does books covering France and another for Europe (cos apparently France isnt in Europe!) but I have never yet been disappointed with the description of a site from here. You need to know what you want from a site, are you looking for evening entertainment, plenty to do for the kids (my idea of hell) this is always mentioned in the particulars. Personally I tend to avoid sites like this as the bars tend to be tacky and not my sort of thing, I prefer a country quiet site with a good pub near by.
I also tend to avoid sites where you have to buy tokens or pay for the showers as you can guarantee the thing will run out just as you have your hair all lathered up.
All sites these days have shower and toilet blocks with washing up facilities some have laundries, most have childrens play area, although again I tend to avoid the ones that have amusement arcades.
Things to avoid
You dont want to camp anywhere that is too exposed, last year we camped on the banks of Loch Leven and got very little sleep as any wind was really bad, also being so close to water, and in Scotland meant we couldnt relax outside because of the horrendous midge problem. So look for descriptions of a sheltered site and whilst camping next to water can be idyllic I tend to avoid it now as it can be exposed and attract more insects.
Dont pitch your tent under a tree (youll be toast if its hit in a storm) or facing up a hill (we did this in Italy and one big rainstorm made for one very wet tent)
The joy of camping.
So why go to all this trouble, why not book into a hotel and be waited on simple, you get back to nature and its cheap this years holiday was a week camping in the lake district and cost us £100, incidently if you are travelling to that area I can recommend the brotherswater site, next to the brotherswater inn (which does a fantasic lamb shank) So sitting outside, the kids can run around to their hearts desire and you can see them, and they feel free. You sit down enjoying a nice bottle or two, relaxing, and it is your space.
Naturally in England the weather is not always friendly but, you can have a cheap weekend away and lessen the odds against this.
Then of course there is the back to nature idea, last year we had a badger in our tent - arrrrggghh, frightened it off easily enough though and to be fair you don't tend to get too many wild animals roming around the sites but if you're sensible about disposing of food and things you'll be fine.
This is one of those things that you may be nervous about to start with, but we have never had any problems Eurocamp, do an independent service so they will book your ferry and your pitch which is great value we did 2 weeks in Italy for less than £500 (excluding petrol) using a company like this means you can use their pre-erected tents for overnight stops en route, to save you unpacking the car.
Of course the biggest advantage of camping abroad is you have a higher probability of good weather.
Im off to plan next years now, abroad I think, I need some sun so if you decide to take up camping, hope you have fun.
Thank you for reading.
Im sure that most of us have been camping at sometime in our lives, whether it be in the garden in the height of summer when we were just youngsters or out in the middle of nowhere with just your thermos flask for company. My experiences of camping have always been relatively positive and I loved to camp in the garden when I was a kid. I was forced into liking camping, as that was what we did for 51/2 weeks every summer. My mum and dad started taking my sister and myself camping when I was just a toddler and Cate was a bit older (as she still is I might add). I believe that we started off in a blue frame tent, progressing into a larger brown frame tent with 2 inner tents and a wardrobe section, next came a caravan (children inside) followed by a caravan that was an adult domain only. A series of tents followed including a brown 2-man tent and again the same old blue frame tent! I would consider myself a connoisseur of camping and hope to get across to you what you should expect, what you should take and why you should really try camping again!
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO?
By deciding where you want to go camping you answer a lot of the what should I take? questions. If you are planning to trek up a few mountains and pitch a tent whilst out in the cold I would suggest that you take some better advice than mine! If you want to be reasonably sensible in your camping expeditions you will probably have decided that you would like to go to the major beauty spots of your home country, or one near to you that has a better climate.
I like the south of France during late spring and summer for my own camping holidays and will hopefully be off there again in July. If you have decided to venture to the continent you should know that there are some fairly important things you should have in your vehicle for overseas motoring such as headlight converters, spare bulbs, a warning triangle and first aid kit. Also I find its quite helpful if you take some clothes, basic cooking equipment, barbeque and tent.
WHAT TYPE OF CAMPING DO YOU WANT TO DO?
This is where you can make your camping holiday as individual as you like. You can choose to stay at as many campsites as you want and often can just arrive on the day and ask if there is a spare overnight pitch for you to use. If you like the area you could of course ask to stay a bit longer. Depending on how organised or neurotic you are you may have pre-booked your campsite. The Internet has made it really easy to check out the major campsites around Europe and most will allow some sort of booking by fax or email.
If you are not brave enough to take your own camping gear and want to experience camping without having to pitch a tent or blow up some air beds you could arrange to go camping through a tour operator such as Eurocamp (other camping companies are available). These companies often have tour reps on site ready to help you out with any problem you may have. From what I have seen the tents are well put up and good quality. The tour rep people clean each tent before the next arrival so I think you would be pretty well cared for. What this type of camping does not allow you to do however is spend 3 hours arguing with your other half about which pole goes where, who forgot to pack the pegs and why did we ever choose to come sodding camping in the first place (cue one persons retreat to the car to wait until tent is fully erected and tempers are less frayed).
The type of camping we go for, and what I think is the most relaxing is to pick a campsite, pitch your tent (3/4 of an hour no arguments) and stay there for 2 weeks at least. Its best if you have a largish tent too so that when it rains you can sit inside.
WHAT TENT SHOULD I GET?
Well this all depends on the type of camping you intend to do. If you were doing the trek up mountain thing I would suggest a dinky little one that you could carry. For a 2 week camping holiday where you are going to be staying in one place I would suggest the largest you can afford and the biggest you can fit in your car (an important thought to have whilst at the tent shop). There are all sorts of shapes of tent, some traditional ones that look as though they should contain a jamboree of scouts or whatever they are called, others look futuristic and space like with pods attached to the sides which act as sleeping compartments.
The one common denominator is that they will all have some poles and pegs included, hopefully they will all be waterproof as well.
Our tent is a tunnel shape and has a grand total of 14 poles (12 of which slot together into 4 lots of 3 poles). It has 2 inner tents (one for sleeping one for using as a wardrobe and dressing in) along with a large internal space which is big enough to sit at a table and eat in). The first time we put the tent up it took about 90 minutes. Id say that we have now halved that time at least, and are a lot more efficient.
Whatever you decide to take to live and sleep in make sure that you have somewhere to take refuge from the rain and harsh sunlight from. Also, unless you have a roof box or trailer you should have enough space to store all you stuff in.
WHAT SHOULD YOU TAKE WITH YOU?
Alongside the things mentioned earlier I have found useful:
A camping stove and gas; camping table; the most comfortable chairs you can fit in the car; air bed (with fitted sheet, thanks mum); duvet or sleeping bags; clothes and towels; washing up bowl; camping kettle and thermos flask; cool box (with attachment for car power outlet if possible); washing line & pegs; cutlery & plates; monopoly; continuo and tea bags and marmite (if leaving the country).
Im sure you could add or take from this list depending on what you wanted whilst away but I would consider all these things a must have for our camping holidays.
WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT?
Other than to have a great time you should expect a few of the following to happen to you. Firstly you will be woken up by the weather, by rain and thunder at night or the blinding sun first thing in the morning. Secondly you will drop sausages on the floor while cooking them on the bbq and eat them anyway. You will make a cup of tea and then wonder whether to have one lump of milk or two. You will here other people when asleep (farting, snoring, copulating etc.) and have to be pleasant in the morning as they see you stagger form your tent rubbing the sleep from your eyes probably wondering to themselves what you have been up to all night!
Most of all you will wonder why you ever thought camping was not a great holiday option!
I would recommend a few things to increase your enjoyment of camping. Know what is in the surrounding area to do on rainy days as it can get a bit stuffy in a damp tent. Take lots of things to do in the evenings, as you have no electricity or TV (although posh caravanners may let you watch theirs).
Dont be too fussy about the food you are eating, if you are camping in really hot whether things will go off a bit quicker, give it a sniff and if youre not too repulsed throw it in a pan and cook thoroughly. Sit out at night and watch the stars. Talk to your companion and drink plenty of red wine.
Above all enjoy yourself!
Good Night Campers!!!