My husband is an eagle scout, which for those who don’t have anything to do with scouts, is the highest rank in the boy scouting program. In layman’s terms, it means he’s put up a lot of tents and done a wide variety of outdoorsy things, knows how to tie knots and all sorts of things that I don’t have a clue about. In real terms this means he gets to put up the tent!
We used to go camping a lot when we were younger. A two man tent with both of us and the dog squished in, bunging it down wherever we could, but I’d started to think that my camping days were over. After all, I far prefer a 5 star resort with a Jacuzzi than a hard floor in the forest, but there is a certain charm to camping. There’s no doubt in my mind it’s the best way to get in touch with nature and see the stars and it’s also affordable and accessible. I’m not convinced about the floor part (which is why I’m getting an air bed…) and I’ll be talking later on about how you can still add some luxury touches to camping which make it comfortable as well.
The thing that made me decide to give in to my husbands hints about night’s under the open sky is our son. Everything is a new experience seen through him now, and although when he’s older I think I’ll be quite happy to let the boys head off for an adventure together, right now I want to experience everything I can with him. Short breaks are great for little ones as you don’t have to pack six suitcases for an overnight break (only two!) and don’t disrupt the routine as much as longer ones. Camping is also dirt cheap once you’ve bought your essentials and most campsites are very flexible with location and dates.
So let’s talk about those camping essentials.
The Essentials of Family Camping
Find a Family Friendly Camping Location
If you’ve got little ones you don’t want to bung your tent up just anywhere – especially if you’re going to get told to move on at 11pm in the night when everyone is settled. You want to choose a location that has a modern toilet block with showers, washing up facilities and if you’ve got very little ones, fridges to store your milk and food in. A lot of camping blocks now offer a massive range of facilities that you didn’t get ten or twenty years ago and websites like Pitch Up offer easy searching by location and facility.
At the moment, going somewhere with WiFi signal is also essential for me, as I need to keep in touch with family – even though some may prefer camping to get away from all that. I also favour camp sites that have play facilities for children and a grocery shop and cafe are ideal. As our son gets older, I suspect our choices will become more wild and back to nature, but with a 15 month old we definitely want to start out easy.
Some campsites are adult only, whilst others are families only, or there may be different fields for each group. You don’t want to accidentally end up at a booze-up (even though that does have its charm!)
A Family Friendly Camping Tent
It’s a no-brainer really, you need a tent. I personally would recommend Outwell tents as I’ve had a very positive experience with mine. Their well priced and available in a wide range of sizes
This is our Outwell Earth 4, a great tent for a starter family. It has one bedroom which is generous in size and sleeps 4 (or in our case, sleeps a double airbed and a travel cot!), with a large second room space which for us, is where the dog will be sleeping, but also can be used for storage. If you’ve got kids you’ll definitely be carrying around some gear, so having something with a bit of space is a massive bonus. The Outwell Earth 4 takes us about 20 minutes to erect and is so simple, even the baby could do it. In fact, here he is – directing us!
In my childhood we’d spend hours finding pole A and fixing it to pole B and then having the whole family stand in different corners whilst someone crept inside and tried to thread the poles through. Now everything is pre-snapped together, flexible poles and instructions so simple there isn’t even any text, just a couple of photos that tell you exactly what to do. The Outwell Earth 3 has a side door for easy access and amazing views, transparent windows that you can cover for privacy but which allow extra light in, as well as handy things like side pockets for electronics and your bits and pieces. Needless to say, I’m really impressed with it!
Make sure you do a dry run first – pitch your tent in the garden and test it out. Even camping in the garden can be a fantastic experience.
Camping doesn’t have to mean roughing it. You can go basic if you want, but I’m not that brave. Modern family camping means blow-up airbeds, comfortable sleeping bags, electric hook up points (make sure you bring a lead) and pillows from home. It means camping chairs to sit on and a folding table, cooking on a gas stove and a fire pit for a genuinely fun BBQ (and marshmallows of course). Gone are the days of trying to read a book by dim torchlight (unless you want to!) and fumbling for the batteries at 2am in the morning, take your phone and your iPad, a rechargeable LED night light and plenty of toys.
Make sure you pack appropriately for the weather though, as the most uncomfortable thing is being too hot, too cold, too wet or all three in one weekend. Night time temperatures can be deceptively chilly in a tent and you’ll need plenty of changes of clothes.
Why You Should go Camping with your Family
At the end of the day, camping isn’t usually a luxury experience but it teaches children about the world and nature and it’s a fun, flexible and budget friendly way to travel. Once the initial outlay of a tent and gear has been paid, camping can be had from £10 a night. You might get wet and muddy and your back might complain but it’s an adventure. It’s an experience that will create memories, and watching a child learn about the world around them is humbling. This summer is going to be so much fun!
Note my Outwell tent was provided by Simply Hike.