Love the great outdoors? It’s where my heart belongs, having spent a lot of my childhood in the outdoors environment and on many family camping expeditions.
As kids growing up in the UK we went camping a lot. It was something everyone did in the 80’s, or so it seemed to me back then. Camping in Derbyshire, Wales, the West Country… those were our annual expeditions with an old Fiat and a huge canvas frame tent. I look back on those summers very fondly (probably with my rose-tinted spectacles on) and still to this day love falling asleep under canvas. I vividly recollect being curled in my sleeping bag listening the clink of glasses and comforting murmur of conversation as our parents took the opportunity to have a glass or two after we’d gone to bed. Then waking next morning to the whistling kettle alarm and the smell of the camping Gaz. It was cosy but also quite an adventure. Sometimes in the summer my brother and I would set up a small tent in the garden, fill it with comic books, cats and dogs and live there until the weather turned.
I first took my own family camping when our eldest was just 1, and it was kind of out of necessity… we couldn’t afford a holiday yet we really needed a break; things were tight financially and we were tired and stressed. So we borrowed a little tent and bravely set off to a campsite about 10 miles down the road. It was quite successful; our boy slept (a bit) and we relived past camping expeditions over a bottle of wine. Most importantly we relaxed and switched off in that way being outdoors encourages you to, and so decided there and then that this was the future of family holidays. Not long afterwards we purchased a small family tent and so passed the camping baton on to the next generation.
That was eight years ago. I now consider us to be seasoned campers; I have since upgraded to a beautiful 5m canvas Bell Tent which I love, and proudly decorate with bunting and fairy lights on each trip. We’ve camped in the UK many times and last year for the first time in France, which was a revelation of delightful warmth! The thing I love most about camping is how much the kids love it. They can run wild and there are always plenty of potential playmates to be found. Language is no barrier to them. They get to stay up late and toast marshmallows around a campfire… what could be better? They go to bed exhausted from all the fresh air and outdoors-ness. And as parents we all get to feel good about that, as well as relax with a glass by a campfire and count the stars. If it’s not raining.
If you are on a bit of a budget or just fancy getting outdoors and touching base with nature with your family then camping is the way to go. You need an ounce of grit to deal with rainy days, overtired kids and basic living conditions, but camping these days can be very comfortable if comfort is what you like. It’s (relatively) cheap, and there are now a swathe of excellent ‘cool’ campsites throughout the UK and Europe, and indeed around the whole world, which offer space to camp where you like, light a campfire and where late night noise is discouraged. Where the only entertainment is a stream and a rope swing and kids are forced to put down their electronics and return to their natural (albeit slightly savage) state. That’s the kind of camping I applaud and love, although of course there are also many lovely places with pools and bars and entertainment that are also pretty cool if that’s more your vibe. Plus if you don’t fancy all the hassle, there are plenty of sites with their own pre-erected yurts and bell tents, decked out with varying degrees of luxury where you can enjoy the outdoors in comfort.
Some of my friends have said to me “I want to give it a try but I wouldn’t know where to start… what should I take?” So if that’s you, I’ve created a Family Camping Guide… with tips and advice on what to take and a packing list of essential and non essential items, depending on the type of trip you are taking. I also highly recommend you purchase a Cool Camping guide or check out their website to ignite your inspiration and get you planning that trip.
If you have any recommendations of great campsites that fit with our vibe here, please don’t forget to tell us about them in the comments. Happy camping!