Let's go camping
Camping is one of those things, like foreign holidays, skiing, kayaking and hiking, that some parents might find a bit daunting to try with young kids. To be honest, doing any of these things with kids takes a lot more effort than going without – but the rewards can be great.
We’ve gone camping with the boys since they were little. I think they were both around eight or nine months the first time they slept in a tent. Camping with littlies has its challenges, and we’ve learnt from mistakes made over the years – no one said it was easy. However, if you’ve got outdoor-loving kids like mine, then it’s definitely worth putting the extra effort in. (Disclaimer: we’re talking about camping on actual campsites here. Though we’ve done a little bit of wild camping in the past, we’ve not done that with our kids)
Why camp? For us it’s all about ‘living outside’ and for me it’s also the chance to enjoy amazing views and special places in the golden light and peace and quiet of the early morning and early evening. One of my favourite spots was actually a relatively crowded campsite on the edge of the Dune du Pilat in France. The kids woke up early on our first morning, so instead of trying to keep them quiet in the tent we got up and out and onto the dune and were treated with spectacular views.
We’ve recently returned from a hugely successful weekend camping with 5 other families. Good weather might have had something to do with the smiles on everyone’s faces all weekend! Other factors were at play too, which leads me to write my list of camping top tips! This isn’t an exhaustive list, just a few things that we feel makes a camping trip extra special.
1. Fire pit! No camping trip is truly complete without a great fire to toast marshmallows on. We are always especially happy when the fire pit comes with a grill which we can also use for cooking on.
2. Preparation and packing. When you’re living out of a tent it’s really important that everything can be packed away neatly, but also accessed easily. You don’t want to be scrabbling around for raincoats when that unexpected shower pours down or taking everything out of the kitchen equipment box to find that elusive lighter.
3. Washing line. Now our tent brilliantly comes with a built-in washing line inside the central ‘living’ space, but, and especially if we are camping for longer than a weekend, I take a washing line with me to attach to trees for towels, swimming costumes and the inevitable wet clothes.
4. Rugs. I take at least three picnic rugs with us to use in the campsite. One goes inside the main living area of the tent. During the day the other two sit in front of the tent and form a barrier between the outside and the inside. Wet, muddy shoes, sand, grass and pine needles can all get deposited on the rugs rather than getting taken inside. It’s a small thing, but it makes me happy.
5. Sleeping equipment. Take the time to think carefully about what’s best for you and your family. When our boys were babies they slept in a travel cot and moved onto one of those ready beds (kids airbed), but now they share a double air bed in their sleeping bags. Everyone we know does things slightly differently. I think the key is to try to be as comfortable as possible – and as warm / cool as you need to be depending on the weather.
6. Easy food. Yes- we all love a barbecue and cooking on a campfire but consider taking some ‘easy’ food along with you too to stave off those hunger pangs quickly. A top tip I picked up from a friend was to bring some homemade Bolognese sauce (frozen) and some fresh pasta. On night two, fully defrosted and then cooked on the stove, it made a really quick and easy meal. And unless you are going really wild with your camping there’s usually no need to panic buy before you go! Many campsites have their own shops or are not more than a 15 to 30 minute drive away from somewhere that will sell the basics. (And the best thing about camping with friends is that there’s almost always someone who’s remembered the thing you haven’t!)
7. Mucky knees…and the rest! When choosing your site, and how long you’re camping for, it’s worth considering how important it is to you to have proper toilets and a decent shower block, or if you’re happy with a long drop loo and wet wipes for a weekend. For just two nights, and with older kids, we’re generally happy with the latter.
8. Ditch the electronics? Last year, at the request of a friend, we didn’t bring the screens camping with us, and I made a promise to the kids to only use my phone for taking photos. It was brilliantly refreshing to be off line for three days and the kids barely noticed that they didn’t have their tablets. We do often allow them tablets when we’re camping. They’re allowed to use them if they wake up early, but not for the rest of the day or evening (and to be honest, luckily, they don’t really ask for them).
9. Entertainment. Living outside in glorious countryside, you don’t really have to think about entertainment. Kids will normally find a way to keep busy, but it’s useful having some games or activities up your sleeve if they find themselves lacking in inspiration (as simple as collecting pine cones or making a home for fairies for example). Some of our favourite campsites have other activities available too such as a tree swing, a shallow stream to play in, or great tracks for cycling around.
What about you? What are your camping top tips? Do you agree with our list?
About the Author
About Me & Mine
I am a writer, editor, wife and mum to two very lively boys aged seven and five - and not forgetting Oakley, our bouncy black lab. Most days with my boys are an adventure of sorts, but at weekends we love to get out and about in our local countryside of the spectacular North Wessex Downs AONB either on wheels or on foot.
Favourite place in the world:
The mountains! I was lucky enough to have grandparents living in Salzburg, Austria when I grew up and have always had a love for the mountains. In summer I love the walks and the views, and in winter the smell of snow and skiing.
Favourite things to do outdoors:
There is a favourite spot in the next village along from us - some woods which are full of possibilities. There are streams to splash through, mud to get stuck in, 'dinosaur' ferns to hide amongst and fallen trees to bug-hunt in. Every time we go up there as a family we have a magical time. It helps that there's a cafe and pub where we park the car so we can finish the walk with a hot chocolate!