Taking 5 – Camping in a Tent
To say the husband is not a fan of tents is something of an understatement and to be fair, he does have a point, doesn’t he? Basically you leave your lovely comfortable home with all its mod cons to sleep under a sheet of canvas (or whatever the modern equivalent is) in a field with no security and no inside toilet. You endure lying on an uncomfortable hard floor which, against all the odds, manages to be cold even in the middle of August. After a largely sleepless night you get woken up at whatever unearthly time the sun chooses to shine into your tired and quite possibly grumpy little face.
He Said Yes!
My friends will be gobsmacked that I’ve managed to persuade the husband into our first actual family camping trip – and none of that lovely Eurocamp luxury. We’re going to have to put up the tent ourselves and everything! I’ve agreed that if it’s too unbearable we’ll come home after one night but I’m optimistic that after all the effort involved in getting this organised, he’ll be swayed to stay for the full two nights. Our three sons are ridiculously excited about staying in a tent.
Booking & Sourcing the Essentials
It’s been such an unpredictable summer weather-wise, we decide to delay booking until a few days before we go. Our camping buddy and instigator of this trip is my brother; a seasoned camper who explains that the premium sites are booked up at this late stage but he manages to book a basic campsite for us in the New Forest via Pitch Up.
Having borrowed a six berth tent, three blow up beds, a table and a camping stove from my family, we’re all set. Because the weather has been so bad and the ground is wet, we don’t have a trial run of putting the tent up, deciding instead to wing it on the day. It can’t be that hard, right?
The Packing Saga
Now it’s time to pack.The husband absolute detests anything to do with packing for family holidays, and organising all the paraphernalia necessary for a few nights sleeping in a tent is right at the top of that list of horrors. For this very rare occasion in a tent, I pack what I consider to be the basics for five people for two nights yet the car is virtually at full capacity. I do manage to achieve driver rear visibility so I see that as a significant victory. (Yes I know blow up beds aren’t strictly an essential but remember I’m aiming to get two nights away instead of one and figure that a comfy bed and the fact that there’s a country pub within easy walking distance of the campsite might work in my favour.)
Pitching the Tent
After a couple of hours in the car with very well behaved children (I admit that may be because they’re armed with every device we can lay our hands on) we arrive at the campsite. Only opening for one month a year, the pop-up campsite is basic with porta-loos, a shower block and a reception area which sells a few essentials and sweets and has a freezer for icepacks. We opt for the distant ‘quiet field’ because the boys point out that this huge flat area will be perfect for playing sport. The only facilities here are two porta-loos and a standpipe. With only a handful of other campers nearby, we choose a flat area and begin setting up camp.
After about two hours we’re relieved to have our tent erected, airbeds blown up and table and chairs in place (I know, I know – we are such novices!). Fortunately the spectacle is over by the time my brother arrives and we watch in awe from the comfort of our newly established dining area as he unpacks and erects his tent singlehanded in about 20 minutes – or was it less?
Enjoying the Great Outdoors
With the sun shining down upon us, we sit back and enjoy our little set up. Our tents are perfectly adequate for a couple of nights but don’t afford the luxury of the huge living space of those frame tents we camped in as children and in many ways I think this very lack of comfort can be a huge benefit. We’re not going to choose to sit inside the porch area unless it’s raining so not only are the children constantly outside playing, but we adults join in too. Having been playing with a club this season, the boys are quite competent and well versed in the rules of cricket so we all enjoy a leisurely game.
We particularly enjoy the lack of facilities in our huge field and just a handful of other campers as company. I can’t remember the last time I haven’t showered for two days on the trot but I find it’s quite liberating!
Yes there’s a lot of packing, unpacking and travel for just a two night break. If we camp again I’ll consider going to France and enjoying a longer holiday like we did when we were children.
What Have The Tent Camping Novices Learnt?
Pack a fun activity which everyone can join in with.
The cricket set was the best non-essential I packed and gave us and the boys hours and hours of fun.
Write an electronic packing list.
Like my husband, I’m not a fan of packing either so I always use my packing lists to simplify it. I don’t want to keep reinventing the wheel every time we go away so I have various versions stored on the notes app on the iPhone/ipad. The children at 11, 9 and 6 are quite familiar with this system so as soon as I mention that we need to get ready the six year old asks me where the iPad is!
Keep it simple.
We opted for a local pub meal the first night and bowls of soup with bread the second. This meant we only had to pack the bare minimum cooking equipment.
What tips would you more seasoned campers add to our tent camping list?
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