Been Camping Before? What You Need to Know

Why go camping?

Camping holidays in your own tent are more economic than staying in a hotel, b&b, or other type of more formal accommodation. It’s also easier to relax and be yourselves – and you can (to a point, depending on where you camp), do what you want and when you want.

Camping should be fun, it’s informal and there’s a serious possibility that you won’t have to drive the kids anywhere (much!). I once stayed the night in a b&b… the woman running it asked what time I’d like breakfast, to which I answered ‘about 7am please!’ She looked a little blank and then pronounced ‘OK, 9.30 then’.

If you’re not used to camping, a few trial test runs in the garden are a good idea. Get used to your tent, and get used to the ‘stuff’ that you need, the things that are practical and the things that make you feel comfortable when in your tent.

Once you have your ‘basic kit’ established, you’ll find that packing up the car runs much more smoothly and with your packing routine running on auto-pilot, you’ll only need to add the extras that you feel you’ll need for the specific trip, including clothes that are appropriate for the type of weather, especially if you’re taking kids and babies.

By the way – do use a check-list, as there’s nothing worse than unpacking the car and realising that you’ve forgotten the sleeping bags, duvet, waterproofs… and make sure that you take spare ropes, pegs and (if you’re in a bell tent) I’d recommend having a spare set of poles with you (at least a spare centre pole).

Even if it’s raining, camping can still be fun. Being under a canvas bell tent and hearing the pattering of the rain hitting that canvas can be soothing and allows you to ‘connect’ with the outdoors – as does lying snug under a duvet, in your tent, and listening to the dawn chorus on a Summer morning! And if you set up a largish awning or gazebo-type structure at the front of your tent, you can create a great additional eating/chill area. Sitting al fresco and chatting, enjoying a cold beer, or even reading a book and playing board games, can all be enjoyable. I know some people who like to sit around in or outside of their tent at night and entertain each other by story-telling – admittedly there are a few beers and glasses of wine involved, but the sense of camaraderie by lamp light is not to be sniffed at! Though when relaxing outside of an evening you do not want to get eaten alive by mosquitoes, so it’s a good idea to burn citronella candles or mosquito coils – these will keep midges and mosquitoes away – and personally I find the smell of them quite comforting.

In fact, camping usually means being with your family in a ‘low-tech’ environment, and this lack of TV, broadband and computers can seriously help with bonding with the kids as well as with the other half. Simply being able to ‘be’ in the open air, with no ‘rushing off to work routine’ can be hugely therapeutic. I once read that the optimum-sized community for humans to live in is one numbering no more than 50 people – so getting away from the stress of crowded towns, cities and offices, not to mention overcrowded trains and tubes cannot be a bad thing for any of us. And do bear in mind that humans originally lived outdoors alongside the elements a long time before houses and towns ever existed. In my opinion there is some sort of memory of our ‘primitive past’ that gets triggered by the whole outdoors/camping/in-touch-with-nature thing – otherwise why should we feel so much calmer just by being close to the birds, the trees and a breeze?

If you’d prefer to be outdoors but a little less hands-on, a lot of glamping sites have large ‘safari-style’ tents that you can rent for your holiday. This means that you don’t need to erect or pack up your own tent, and you can usually benefit from your own (basic) bedroom, bathroom, shower and kitchen and cooking facilities – not to mention verandah, barbecue etc.! These sites may also supply logs for wood burning stoves and additionally may sell farm produce! Way to go (!) if you prefer this style of camping holiday! Always check with individual glamping/camping sites exactly what they do supply as standard.

I’m convinced that modern living can be seriously detrimental your health and wellbeing, and that camping is a great way to de-stress and to get back in tune with both yourself and nature. Simply looking at the stars at night without the light pollution produced by towns and cities makes me realise that we are a part of one huge, unimaginably enormous Universe, and that in itself is worth the effort of camping!

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