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Reluctant Camper Endures Mini-Break in a Tent!

Taking 5 tent camping

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.)

camping - putting up the tent

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.

Portaloos on the opposite side of the field to the tent
setting up camp ready for a night in the tent

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’ve already decided to take the easy option and have dinner at a pub a stones throw from our campsite and it’s very rare that I say this but there’s absolutely nothing else I feel I ought to be doing at this moment in time.
When the adults eventually call for a refreshment break the boys carry on playing, only stopping when another group invites them to join in with a big rounders match instead.
After all that fresh air and exercise we’re ready for the short stroll to the pub to enjoy dinner cooked by somebody else and a couple of drinks before bed.
Despite my brother having to go home the next day, we do decide to stay the extra night. We’re very lucky with the weather and somehow seem to have chosen one of the best weekends of the year!
the quiet camping field

The Cost

At £30 per night in a way we’re surprised at how expensive it is to stay in a basic campsite, but of course August is peak time and where else could a family of five stay for £60 for two nights during the school holidays?

The Verdict?

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!

The boys just love being outside and it’s always a pleasure to see them detached from a games console which is such a temptation for them at home. With no wifi on site, I don’t use my phone here either, except for taking photos so I feel like I’ve switched off properly too. I’ll admit I can’t resist doing a doing a data download when I’m in a free wifi spot, so I don’t have to worry about having neglected any urgent emails for too long, but on the campsite, we’re all fully immersed in the moment.
From a cost perspective it’s one of the most affordable options for larger families and it seems to be relatively easy to find somewhere to pitch your tent even at short notice.

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.

And the husband? Would he consider tent camping again? Perhaps he might be swayed if we found another site with a very local family friendly pub serving a good pint of “Old Hooky” or maybe the French equivalent!

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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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Coombe Mill - Fiona 19th October 2015, 10:35 AM

    I must say camping isn’t for us and my husband would never be persuaded but it is the cheapest way to enjoy a holiday and great fun for the kids.

    • Jane Batt 19th October 2015, 11:18 AM

      I didn’t think my husband would be persuaded either but I’m pleased we managed it. Thanks for visiting!

  • Keri (Baby Globetrotters) 19th October 2015, 12:48 PM

    I tell myself I’m a camper, I used to love it, the freedom to live in the fresh air – but I’ll admit to not having even attempted it with kids yet! I’m more your 5 star resort with a pool kinda girl – but guessing once I’m paying for 5 full priced airline tickets and an extra hotel room camping going to look the sensible option. Love that you could turn the electronics off too. #MondayEscapes

    • Jane Batt 20th October 2015, 9:46 AM

      Oh yes. There’s theres a lot to be said for a 5 star resort with a pool but with three children the option become much fewer and much pricier! Thanks for commenting Keri

  • Claire at Tin Box Traveller 19th October 2015, 7:51 PM

    I love outdoorsy holidays but this is probably a bit basic for me – I like the comforts of my caravan 🙂 £30 is very expensive considering the lack of facilities but at least you got to switch off and enjoy some quality family time. I have a love-hate relationship with wifi-free zones. I do feel a lot more relaxed 🙂 #MondayEscapes

    • Jane Batt 20th October 2015, 9:49 AM

      Yes, same here re the wifi. we’re so used to it being at our fingertips, especially as bloggers and travel writers, but I think it’s a great discipline when we have an enforced break and really enjoy the moment.

  • Mama Herself 21st October 2015, 9:14 PM

    We’d just got to the point where I thought my son was old enough that camping might be a small adventure rather than an endurance, and then we started on another child…

    But she is big enough now, and I quite fancy it. I think a couple of nights in an out of the way place sounds very reasonable.

    • Jane Batt 29th October 2015, 8:53 AM

      Sounds like a good moment to give it a try. If they’re anything like mine, your children will adore the adventure of it.

  • Ting at My Travel Monkey 28th October 2015, 4:48 PM

    I am impressed! 2 hours and you managed to get the tent, mattresses and everything set up?! I have to say we’re also not a camping family… in fact I hate it and have yet to be convinced. But I can see the appeal of it for kids and I know my son will want to do it at some point! I shall be taking your tips and perhaps going to the pub both nights 🙂 Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

    • Jane Batt 29th October 2015, 8:58 AM

      I like you already – the only person to be impressed by our camping ‘skills’! You know you’re just going to have to bite the bullet for the sake of the boy at some point don’t you? Another tip – I find a chilled bottle of fizzy wine is a good reward for the lovely Mummy who gave her son such a lovely experience. Let me know how you get on

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