Tried and tested tips for novice family campers
Here's how you can give camping a go without spending a fortune on equipment.
My daughter has been desperate to give camping a go ever since I explained what a tent was. I hadn't camped since my schooldays, when I got in trouble for hiking up the wrong hill on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition. However, my daughter's enthusiasm made me decide to give camping a second chance.
I’m aware that lots of people spend a small fortune on camping gear, decide they loathe it after a couple of cold, sleepless nights and vow never to go again.
I decided that we’d try camping for one night, whilst spending as little as possible on equipment. I figured if we enjoyed ourselves we could then spend a little more on gear in the future.
The best thing to do is borrow a tent and equipment if you can. This wasn’t an option for us, so I had a look on ebay for a tent, but discovered that decent quality ones sell for quite a lot. If you are buying, do plenty of online research and make sure you are buying something that is easy to erect. We got a four man tent from a leading brand for £44 from Amazon. Halfords and Millets also have good deals.
I invested in a new sleeping bag for my daughter, on the basis that it’s something she’d get use out of for the next few years, whether we camp again or not. It’s already had two further outings! We have a small inflatable bed which she slept on top of.
I, on the other hand, slept on a yoga mat in an old sleeping bag. It had seen better days, which is probably what other campers said about me after a cold, uncomfortable night. I managed, but will invest in an airbed and cosy sleeping bag for next time.
You’ll need some lighting for the evening. As a one off, you can manage with an ordinary torch from home. I also bought a head torch as I found one for a few pounds in TK Maxx. It was great for reading after my daughter had gone to sleep.
I’d strongly recommend camping somewhere where you can buy a meal. We had lunch in the onsite cafe after we’d put our tent up, then managed on cold food from our coolbag. A flask of hot water will allow you to make hot drinks on an overnight stay.
Where to stay
We stayed about an hour’s drive from home. Far enough away to be exciting, but near enough to go home if the tent collapsed and we were miserable as sin. We found a lovely site on a working farm with beautiful sea and countryside views, but creature comforts such as clean loos, hot showers and a nice cafe. We were also able to take our car right onto the camping field, a huge advantage as I was on my own with my daughter. To avoid fetching and carrying equipment from a car park, check in advance with campsites to find out their arrangements for cars.
I found our campsite by choosing a location we fancied and googling for campsites nearby. Check out the YHA as you can now camp in the grounds of some Youth Hostels and use their catering and washing facilities. For inspiration have look at Cool Camping.
On our list for next time
We left it until the last minute to book, so that we could make sure we had good weather. We loved it and will definitely go for short camping trips again, so will be investing in an airbed and sleeping bag for me, a small camping stove and table and a rechargable lamp.
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