Camping. Even the word fills me with dread, bringing back memories of stumbling around a dark campsite in the middle of the night, desperately hunting for the toilet block. I’ve only been camping once since I had my daughter and it was a disastrous experience!
When I was seven, my parents took my sister and I on a four week camping trip to visit my Austrian relatives. We transported our tent through Belgium, Germany and Austria, eating whipped cream with every meal and creating wonderful memories. It was hard work for my parents, who had to erect the tent every other day and drive hundreds of miles in a car that was leaking oil. But for my sister and I, the trip meant four weeks of blissful adventure.
Looking back on our Austrian holiday has got me thinking. Maybe it’s time to try camping again. Just for a weekend. It has taken me seven years to recover from my last experience of camping with a child in tow. Last time, my daughter was two. Full of enthusiasm, we bought a huge tent and all the equipment a young family could possibly need. At one in the morning, we found ourselves sitting in our freezing tent trying to persuade my little one that it wasn’t a giant sized playhouse. In the end, we abandoned the campsite and took her home to bed! The next day, it took two hours to take down the huge tent. Never again, I remember thinking.
Fancy going camping with your family? My advice is to think carefully about what kind of camping you hope to do before you buy the tent! Are you planning the odd weekend adventure or do you plan to spend a week at just one campsite? Pop along to your nearest Go Outdoors store (other camping shops are available) and have a look around. Go inside the tents and investigate the different designs. You may think your family of four will be fine with a four man tent, but it’s always worth allowing a little extra room in case it rains. And it will rain.
Make sure that the tent you choose has a separate inner and outer, otherwise you’ll spend the trip reminding the kids not to touch the sides. You also need to check whether the tent is well ventilated (especially important if you are camping somewhere hot or wet!)
If you do go for a big tent, detachable compartments are handy, as they allow you to use the space flexibly. Think about the design of your tent. Are you happy sleeping in adjacent bedrooms or would you prefer your little angels to sleep opposite you? Do you want a large living area, so you can sit around a table and eat?
Equipment you will definitely need includes warm sleeping bags, torches and a reliable lamp. Camping mats or airbeds make the experience more comfortable and if you plan on cooking, a portable gas stove is a must.
Buying a tent is an investment which could last years and there is something special about waking up to the smell of grass and frying bacon. My Austrian camping adventure is now a cherished childhood memory. But now that I’m a mum, I guess it’s my turn to put up the tent.
Do you like camping? I’d love to hear about your experiences, good and bad!