After school today my kids played their current favourite game. It’s called ‘let’s jump about on the trampoline wrapped up in sleeping bags’. Admittedly it’s not much of a game, but they’re happy, so who am I to intervene? The game started when my other half ventured into the shed (there’s just enough room to get a foot in, then you have to reach in and pull things out one by one and hope they don’t come crashing down on you – particularly the hedge trimmer) to ‘check over’ our camping gear.
Always bring a mallet - and a very patient child
This upcoming adventure has elicited various reactions from the family. While hubby has concentrated his efforts on ensuring we have fire and light, I have been obsessing about food and sleeping arrangements and the children have been collecting mountains of toys they seem to think they are bringing along (ha!). So far we have bought a roof box for the new car, since it has a smaller boot than the previous one, a food thermos and kettle (my demands), one new camping chair (I’m currently in negotiations about who will actually get to sit on it since this one has flowers on it and the others are a dull green) and a table (bought to use during meal times but already appropriated for colouring). And we haven’t even left yet…
'Actually, this chair is taken Mummy'
With all this fuss and expense, it got me wondering why exactly is it that people who normally live in a warm, insulated house with hot and cold running water and a kitchen full of food opt to spend a night, well, outside, basically. And this is what I’ve come up with:Time out
No, not that thing you order your kid to take when you are worried you might swear repeatedly in front of them – but time away – from work, daily chores, school, the TV, the smartphone (deep breaths now Vanessa, you can do it), crowded towns and cities and the mountain of plastic junk and clutter you usually find in the average family home. Without all this noise and these distractions, it’s just possible you might dig deep and talk to and entertain each other. Maybe play cards (spice up poker by playing for toilet paper), tell stories, climb trees and explore. It’s called bonding. But you are not allowed to use duct tape.
Do something different
The good thing about a tent is that it is nothing like your home (although this is also the bad thing about a tent). You do not have a kitchen, individual bedrooms, radiators and, ahem, a bathroom. This means you have to do everyday things differently. Eating, sleeping, washing, cooking – all the usual routines go out the window (yeah, there’s none of them either) which can actually be quite liberating. You might find you are more resourceful than you thought. It’s at times like this you realise that you can build a fire, remember what the different constellations are called and tie a pretty mean knot.
Flexibility & budget
Although the initial outlay for a decent tent and a few essential items might seem a bit steep, if you look after your camping gear it should last. Thereafter, camp sites themselves are pretty cheap and obviously if you compare a trip under canvas to a holiday that involves a flight abroad or a stay in a hotel, you are still going to be quids in. Likewise, camping offers the sort of flexibility you can’t find in brochures. While the better sites are often booked up at popular times (like the summer holidays), there will always be the opportunity to go camping at a moment’s notice (and if torrential rain is forecast, the ability to put the tent back in the shed for another year!).
Your car keys - you can leave at any time...
So are you tempted? If you are, you might want to take some advice on kit from a professional (in case you haven't guessed I am not a professional camper...) – and take a look at these campsites (a partnership between the Forestry Commission and the good old Camping and Caravanning Club) or try The Guardian’s recent Top Ten of sites for location ideas. Alternatively if you don’t fancy full-on camping, you could try 'glamping', where there are a few more mod cons (in this case a vintage loo, sleeping ‘quarters’, a wood-fired oven – and yes – the proverbial kitchen sink). I’m strangely drawn to this option myself!!
Let me know about your camping experiences and tips below – or if you just can’t stand the idea – tell me why! It’s not too late for me to change my mind…!!