I’m sat here writing this on the eve of our very first family camping trip. We’re planning to go away in Spring Bank week (end of May) but in an attempt to be really organised when I joined the Camping and Caravanning Club (which lots of seasoned camping friends recommended we do) I also found out where our nearest site was and booked us in for one night. And that night is tomorrow! Argh!!!!!
The logic was that I wanted a practice run before our first proper camping holiday. It’ll be the first time the kids have ever camped, and the first time we’ve used our new tent, so we figured that if we do a night somewhere near home we can work out how everything works, make sure the kids are happy and that we’ve got all the kit we really need. And also so that if it all goes horribly, horribly wrong we can head home at 2am and it’s not ruined a holiday. Then Mr C pointed out that despite it being late April the weather forecast for tomorrow night is currently snow. I mean, what the…
Since buying a tent we’ve been working our way though loads of reviews and recommendations to work out what we actually need to take with us to go camping. There are a few bits I need to pick up this afternoon, but we could just about manage without them if necessary.
So, what have we bought? Well, here’s a quick run down of all the things that we think we need and where we found them.
Let’s start with sleeping as that’s going to be the main thing that we plan do in our tent.
Mr C and I still have sleeping bags that we had when we last camped (so yes, rather old, but still perfectly serviceable) but we have splashed out on decent ones for the kids as we figure that the last thing we want is for them to be cold overnight. We happened across a sale in our local branch of Millets (who are basically the same as Blacks these days) and came across these Eurohike Down 500 mummy sleeping bags. We considered getting smaller kids sleeping bags, but realistically the kids will grow and I’m a firm believer in buying things that will last so hopefully we’ll get many years camping out of these. Especially when you consider that the kids are likely to need them for various Guide and Scout things over the years too. With a sale and a nicely negotiated YHA discount too I think these ended up being under £50 each which I was quite pleased with as we consider them one of the most important bits of kit.
In terms of what we sleep on, we’ve opted for airbeds. I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but we’ve brought two Eurohike Flocked double ones (again a sale bargain) and the plan is that Mr C and I will have one and the kids the other. Another top tip from a friend was to put picnic blankets with waterproof backs under them to help stop cold coming up from the ground.
I’ve also been sale shopping in the local branch of Mountain Warehouse to get the kids (and myself) fully kitted out with thermals. I’ve also replaced my very old hot water bottle (which really was starting to perish) with a new one to hopefully help make it at least warm to get into my sleeping bag! I’m also hoping that all the blankets that I’ve been knitting and crocheting will be put to good use.
When we’re not asleep we figured that we needed somewhere to sit and eat – and also to sit and do things like play scrabble in an evening, or for the kids to do a spot of colouring. Mr C went round loads of places on the look for a good sturdy table. He really liked the Easy Camp Dijon furniture set and we figured that we’d just not bother with the small stools and the four of us could use the benches. Off we popped to PJ Outdoors to buy it only to find that it had been so popular that it was out of stock. As luck would have it though they did still have a display model that they were selling, but they’d lost the two small stools so they said we could have it at a good knocked down rate. We didn’t have the heart to tell them that we weren’t planning to use the stools anyway. Bargain-tastic!
We decided to go for a proper chair each as well and Mr C and I both liked the Coleman Kickback chair and went for one of those each. Despite being low down, the back of the chair is quite deceptive and actually supports your back higher than you’d expect, making it incredibly comfortable. A camping friend also recommended that we make sure we buy chairs that have sides to stop getting a cold evening draft whilst sat outside. A top tip.
The kids seemed less worried about comfort as us – then again it’s rare my two actually sit still for long – and I think they were both won over by the Kampa Mini Tub chair by the bright orange colour rather than anything else. But hopefully by having identical ones it will stop some arguments. Possibly.
For cooking a friend recommended that rather than buy a double burner instead go for two single ones as that often works out cheaper and means that if you’re just going away for a night or two you can take just one of them instead. We followed her advice and in the Millets sale picked up a couple of Camping Camp Bistro Stoves for just £9 each after discounts. That’s an absolute bargain – and two of them cost less than the double stoves that we’re seeing everywhere. The one drawback that we have seen with this option is that side by side they take up more room than a double stove, so they won’t always fit in the windbreak sections that you see on camp kitchens. But we figure that’s not the end of the world.
Talking of camp kitchens, this is one bit where we’ve come unstuck. After lots and lots of research we went for the Royal Easy Up Kitchen Stand as it seemed to meet our combined requirements of somewhere to cook and somewhere to store stuff. Reviews across the internet were really good, especially with people saying how sturdy it was. Ours arrived and we popped it up only to find that it wobbled like nothing I’ve ever seen before. No matter what I did I couldn’t stop it being unstable and looking at it in detail we figured that there must have been a manufacturing problem so that the two sides were slightly mis-aligned making it the way it was. No problem we thought, we’ll just send it back and get a new one. Which we did. Only to find that the replacement had exactly the same problem!
It’s so frustrating as we bought these via Amazon and we’re struggling to work out out to get one that we can be sure about with ought just constantly sending back each one we receive until they go onto a new batch. I’m looking out to see if I can find one in stock somewhere so I can try it out in a shop first. I think this first camping trip will see us just cooking on a table though to make things easy. We’re planning on just taking a plastic washing up bowl to cover off the cleaning up afterwards.
In addition to all this I’ve also been pulling out plastic crockery, bought a set of pans to use on the camp stoves (including the necessary kettle for morning tea) and made sure we all have waterproofs that fit. Mr C was in charge of working out how we fit everything into the car and luckily he managed to get his head around the complex subject of roof boxes and a crafty eBay search came up with someone just a couple of streets away selling just what we needed secondhand. Another bargain.
One area that we haven’t yet mastered is lighting. Mr C has made sure we’ve all got Petzl head torches and I’m also busy recharging batteries for all our torches. We’ve picked up a simple hanging lamp in Mountain Warehouse, but I’m off to the local Go Outdoors this afternoon to collect a Campingaz Lumogaz Plus PZ Camping Lantern which we hope will meet our main lighting needs. But this first trip will probably be what informs us best about what we need for next time.
Keeping food cool is also one omission so far, but advice from friends is that for first short trips a standard hard cool box is probably best with ice packs, or even ice bags from supermarkets, in the bottom. Again that’s on the list of things to collect this afternoon.
So I guess the main question remaining is what have we forgotten? But by the time you read this we’ll probably have worked out the answer for ourselves after our first night. Let’s just hope it isn’t something really important!
Disclaimer: Everything mentioned in this blog post are things that we’ve bought for ourselves with our own hard earned cash. The post contains some affiliate links to try to help fund future camping purchases and trips.