Glamorous Family Camping
The summer holidays are finally here. 6 weeks of empty space looms ominously in front of every parent along with the logistical panic about how, where and with what it should be filled!
For many families, including my own, a camping trip may appear at the top of their list.
This is rather surprising for our family because I had always vowed never to camp. If my other half and children wanted to do it, that would be great but as a busy mum trying to juggle my career, family and household I would be checking into a hotel to relax.
However, with two young boys becoming ever more curious, capable and craving adventure I found myself swayed by the nostalgic notions of convening with nature, getting back to basics and properly ‘getting away from it all’.
So with the summer camping trip booked, we ventured out for a trial run during the half term holidays in the remote Welsh coastal village of Aberdaron. Fuelled by the determination to make the trip a huge success we embarked upon packing; which is what I want to focus on now in the hope that we can help other first time family campers avoid the same mistakes as us.
For us, the obvious things to pack, were clearly linked to the nostalgic element of camping – we packed every bucket and spade, tennis racket, ball (all shapes and size), Frisbee, bike, scooter, skittle set and hula hoop we could find. This was quickly followed by the realization that more practical things were required. So after a trip to a well know outdoor shop we returned home armed with camping mats, LED lanterns, a stove, a table for dining, camping chairs, bright cheery cups, plates and cutlery, flashing torches, clip on cup holders, a windbreaker, a tent and an inflatable canoe! Then it was home to do the tedious but rather necessary job of clothes packing.
As a family who love adventure we have travelled extensively with our children from summer holidays to Greece to skiing trips in the Austrian Alps. The packing criteria for both of these were very simple – clothes for hot weather or clothes for cold weather. However, for obvious reasons, packing for a holiday in the UK (particularly Wales) poses a much greater dilemma.
In the end the boys were easy to cater for – clothes went in that could be mercilessly destroyed by mud, sand, brambles, water and anything else that came their way. Shorts, trousers, t-shirts, jumpers, waterproof jackets, fleeces, sun hats, bobble hats – everything was thrown in.
The problem arose when I began packing for myself. I soon realized that as a novice camper I wasn’t hugely prepared in the wardrobe department. I needed something that could breathe in the sun, dry in the rain, cope with the grubby hands and melting ice creams of my children, and still leave me looking Glastonbury Glam rather than Worzel Gummidge.
After discarding my designer jeans and Aztec Kaftan I came across a pair of ACAI skinny outdoor trousers and threw them in along with some comfortable fashion trainers, fleece, hoodie, t-shirts, lightweight waterproof jacket and running gear. We were ready to go. I could not believe the performance of the trousers! I never thought I would be able to embark on an outdoor adventure in a trendy pair of skinny jeans! These go as close to the skinnies as it gets whilst retaining breathability, comfort and water resistance. There was no need to wash them as you can wipe clean and if they do get a little wet you can’t actually feel it thanks to the special treatment of the fabric. It dries in a couple of minutes!
The details of the trip can be saved for another time. Needless to say, as first time campers we had our highlights – visiting some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, meeting incredibly warm, friendly people, watching our children form instant friendships, drinking wine under the stars wrapped up in our sleeping bags and being cut off completely from the constant demands of our usual routine.
And our lowlights – forgetting the boy’s sleeping bags and having to make an unplanned detour to buy replacements, not thinking to pack essentials like washing up liquid and tea towels (apparently there’s no dishwashers on campsites!), having no clue when the 5 minutes on our 50p shower would run out and being caught short covered head to toe in shower gel, and relying on Google maps in a place where 4G is mystical folklore from a far away land!
However, as I am continuously telling my boys, we learn from our mistakes and our trial run has expanded our camping knowledge two fold. I have no doubt we will learn much more as we venture farther afield on longer trips, but after taking the plunge into the previously unknown world of camping I can wholeheartedly say that I’ll be back!
For now I will leave you with my 10 top tips for beginner campers:
- Purchase a camping trailer to keep all your essentials in. This makes packing and unpacking a lot less complicated
- Prepare a couple of meals before you go and pop them into a cool box to make the beginning of your holiday stress free
- Pack washing up liquid, tea towels and a washing up bowl to deal with the dirty dishes!
- Children seem to emerge from nowhere between the hours of 6-9pm so don’t stress about bedtimes, grab a glass (or box) of wine and enjoy watching them play
- Always carry more than one 50p for your shower
- If you are heading somewhere remote be prepared (and enjoy!) the fact that there is no phone signal or data roaming. Purchase an old fashioned paper map to help you get around
- Storage units are a must if you are staying for longer trips as packing and unpacking a bag everyday can become rather tedious
- Be prepared for every eventuality by taking things like extra batteries, duck tape, a first aid kit, sun cream (yes my husband got burnt on a Welsh beach in May!) a pen knife, cable ties and zip lock plastic bags.
- Less is more – pack practically. I will never go camping again without my Acai trousers. I wore them constantly and they kept me cool at the beach, warm in the evenings, I wiped off all the Bolognese sauce and ice cream that the boys could throw at me, they were super comfy whilst negotiating my way around the tent and helped me maintain a modicum of city style
- Clip on cup holders aren’t as good in reality as they look in the shop and an inflatable canoe may not always be necessary!
Sarah Booth, the happy camper