Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Truth About Camping

It is our first camping anniversary.  A year in which our family has gone from borrowed tent to ownership, and from zero accessories to a camping box that contains a collapsible colander, a magical cookery set that fits into something the size of a saucepan and no less than 6 torches.  We are converted, and fully committed.

And whilst I may be a convert, I'm certainly not evangelical - you won't (yet) catch me signing up for two weeks in the wild or even a weekend on a site that has a compost toilet and no showers.  Having recently read a blog that made me vomit in my mouth a little bit thanks to its earnestness ("you really must buy merino under layers for your children"), I thought I'd bust some myths and reveal the truth (ok my truth) when it comes to camping.

Camping is cheap.

This is a LIE.  Unless you're camping in your back garden and subsisting on tap water, foraged

A money pit with a view...
blackberries and stolen apples, camping will cost you money.  When you first buy a tent you think "ooh, isn't this the life, we'll invest £400 now and reap the rewards for the next 10 years".  Then you realise that pitch fees can range between £15 and £50 per night.  And that you have to buy good sleeping bags.  And a cooker.  And implements that are easily transportable.  And chairs.  And these things occasionally break or fail which will cause you to spend more money.  Watch your cheap weekend spiral into profligate spending as you realise that a. your mattress has a hole in it or b. your food has gone off thanks to an un-forecasted spell of sunshine and a lack of ice packs on your part. 

Camping is easy.

The 'lap of crap'
This is also a lie.  You try packing a car in the vain attempt to prove that you can fit all of the stuff in that you've had to buy without caving in to buying a trailer or a roof box that fits surprisingly little in it, despite the fact that it is the length of your car.  We haven't bought a trailer yet, but given the last time we camped I had a 'lap of crap' - that is, a bag full of stuff that didn't fit anywhere else - it's on the cards.

Then try to put up a tent.  Together.  My husband's tactic was to first put the tent up with one of his friends, which meant that when we went camping as a family I had no idea what was required.  The same went for when we had to take the damn thing down and pack it back into its slightly-too-small bag.  It was one of the least laid back holidays we have ever had.  On the plus side, it has probably worked wonders for our marriage as several trips later we are expert in the art of tongue biting and compromise.

Camping is great for kids.

Now *that's* a family walk
This is true.  Our children have cycled through forests, swung on rope swings over streams, had amazing adventures and made new friends*.  It's the main reason that I enjoy, and recommend,

*Under no circumstances say to your children "Why don't you go off and make some new friends?"  It's like one of your friends pointing out a group of mums on the playground and saying the same thing to you.  These things just need to be left to happen.

Camping is about getting back to nature.

Oh - deer!
Yes and no.  One the one hand, we have woken to deer looking at us in the adjacent field (and been woken up by them eating outside our tent at 3am which is slightly less idyllic), enjoyed proper fresh air for days on end and had our routine dictated by the weather - not our watches.  We have felt the sun on our backs and walked in grass that glitters with the morning dew.  We have observed starry skies and been soaked to the skin as Mother Nature unleashes buckets of water on every man, woman and child.  I am certainly more relaxed for spending time outside of our normal four walls.

On the other hand, the sites we have selected always have 'facilities' which have ranged from club houses, pubs and play parks, to swimming pools and shower blocks that come with hairdryers. We have also had day trips to water parks and been out for a curry during one of our recent breaks. Hardly Bear Grylls (but then even he has been known to stay in a hotel...)

Camping is healthy.

Given the diet of the average camper seems to consist largely of barbecued meat and alcohol, I'm putting this down as a LIE.  No nuts and berries here my friends.

Camping is fun.

The sound of a tent being unzipped at midnight.
Photo (c)
Aside from the fact that your children will argue no matter where you take them on holiday (or how you holiday), that you will always forget something crucial (but never the beer), that other families never seem to be having the sense of humour failure that yours is (until you hear another dad shout "we ARE NOT having another day like yesterday!), and that any sound in the middle of the night is equivalent to the Vulcan Bomber flying overhead, this is absolutely TRUE.  We'll be going again soon.

Like this?  You might like my book - Reasons to be Cheerful, Part One - find it on Amazon here:


  1. A friend of mine has bought a "trailer tent", which has the benefit of being a more solid tent with mattresses and everything, and has additional storage to take Stuff. Cheaper and smaller than a caravan (when it comes to stowage etc), though not exactly *cheap*...

    1. I have seen such things (although never inside - only ever being towed along!). Whatever we do it's going to involve more cash over many, many years...I fear we are on a slippery slope!

  2. You really made me laugh. I remember pitching the tent in front of more experienced campers for the first time, trying to look cool. Then living off canned food until we'd developed some camping culinary skills. I wouldn't trade it for anything else. The funny things that happen make great stories when you get home.