If you think we’re about to tell you just how luxurious family camping is, how you’ll be waking up and sharing a skinny latte with Kate Moss and chattering over croissants with Ewan McGregor, then I’m afraid you’ve opened the wrong e-mail.
For all the current faddish focus on ‘glamping’, the reality is that most campsites are never quite going to compete with five star hotels when it comes to cosseted luxury, but that’s not really the point.
Family camping is affordable, flexible and, most importantly, it’s an adventure - you can’t beat waking up to the sound of bird song and towering views of mountains or lapping waves.
And if you haven’t been camping for a while, the good news is that campsites these days are massively better in general than they used to be - that means clean, modern washing facilities, hot showers and maybe an on-site restaurant and shop.
For the pick of Britain’s sites, check out the Cool Camping series published by Punk Publishing which lists some of Britain’s bestcamping venues.
Choosing A Tent
It sounds obvious, but choosing the right tent goes a long way towards a happy holiday and there are plenty to choose from in a massive variety of sizes and designs.
Start with the basics: make sure there are enough sleeping spaces for your whole party -it’s better to have too much room than not enough - and enough separate compartments to give some privacy. Remember, you can always buy a small tent to give teenagers a bit of independence and make it more of an adventure.
A communal living space is a great idea too, particularly if you have the odd wet day. Kit it out with a table and folding chairs and a lantern and you can invite Kate Moss over if her yurt springs a leak. A tent high enough to stand up in is always nice...
Good family tents these days will include integral groundsheets for convenience and be reasonably robust when properly set up. They’re big old units though, so make sure it will fit in your car.
Brands to look at include Outwell, Gelert, Vango, Coleman, Lichfield and plenty more. It’s a great idea to buy from a store where you can see the tents put up or visit a tent show for a poke around.
Try to put your tent up before your trip, so you don’t have to pitch it first time after a tiring journey and follow instructions about maintenance -you may need to seal seams before use.
A mallet for driving in pegs will save a lot of swearing and while we’re on the subject, make sure you have enough pegs included for all guying points.
Some sort of air mattress and a warmish, synthetic-filled sleeping bag are your best bet for sleeping happy. Pillows from home add comfort, but you’ll find sleeping bags easier and more convenient than sheets and duvets.
If you sleep cool, a hot water bottle and a spare blanket or two are morale boosters and if you cop a cold snap, our tip is to wear an additional fleece beanie or woolly hat.
Keep The Kids Happy
Kids love the adventure of camping, but a few basic steps can help keep them happy:
Do some research into the area before you go, so you know what activities are available and think about wet day contingencies.
Kids can feel the cold, so make sure they have enough warm and weatherproof clothing to cope.
Bring along some games to keep things ticking over in the evenings and don’t forget to pack balls, bats and other recreational stuff.
Give each of them their own torch - hands-free head torches are ideal - so they can read, go to the toilets at night and generally feel independent.
Make sure they know what to do if they get lost and lay down some rules about how far they can go from the tent without permission. Within eyesight is a good start. Whistles make good emergency signals.
Keep The Grown-Ups Happy...
Don’t forget that you’re on holiday too and a bit of pre-planning can make all the difference. We’d recommend thinking through and maybe even pre-cooking some of your meals. For some extra inspiration, checkout Moveable Feasts published by Cicerone Press, which has some fantastic camping-friendly recipes.
Take some good wine and or beer, fresh coffee to start the day with a turbo-boost and other luxuries. Insect-repellant candles are a nice touch in the evening as are lanterns - gas or electric. If you do use candles, keep them away from the insides of the tent.
And last but not least, remember camping’s an adventure and an escape. Take the time to look around and enjoy the scenery and you’ll wonder why you ever stayed in a hotel at all. Maybe...