8 Essential Camping Items To Take on Your Trip

It is not that easy to reduce the list to just 8 essential camping items. But raising children is expensive enough and the idea with camping is to make it a cheaper alternative than holidays in hotels and/or abroad.

So, if you are just starting out, then before you panic buy loads of equipment, do check your campsite. Campsites have come a long way in the last few years and many have lots of facilities that help drastically reduce your packing requirements. For example, there may be a picnic table right beside your pitch, showering AND bath facilities, hair dryers, cooking facilities, fire pits, washing up facilities, a food van, to mention just a few.

Another good tip is to go with another family or two. Check what they have and discuss whether you could share some equipment.

Then, tempting as it may be to buy EVERYTHING that you think you might need, rein yourself in and get only what you NEED to start with with the essential camping items. You can then build up with each trip as your experience increases.

1. Tent

Well that’s pretty obvious!

But where to start?

Finding the right family tent can feel like an overwhelming task as there is so much choice out there and it will be your biggest outlay. Just remember that the children will be just as happy in a small tent as a marquee. It’s us adults that tend to need more space, higher spec, etc. so if you start small, do not fear.

If you are new to camping, you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy one straight away. There are many campsites that provide tents for hire (often already erected) so you can assess whether you actually like camping before rushing out to buy the world. It will also help to “test-camp” a tent to find what works for you size-wise and do ask the campsite owner about taking it down/putting it up – some are much easier than others! Take advice from friends, look in shops, camping exhibitions, etc. and perhaps see if you can borrow one from friends (or go camping with them!)

For those that prefer to pump up their tent, then you can’t go far wrong with an award winning design such as those by Zempire – winner of “tent of the year” and “best luxury tent” with Camping Magazine this year.

If you would rather stick with poles, then have a look at the huge range on offer with World of Camping. This independent retailer stocks all sizes and types of tents from reputable brands such as Outdoor Revolution, Vango, Outwell, Robens and Easy Camp.

2. Bedding

A camping holiday runs a little smoother if everyone is sleeping well and comfortably! The fresh air during the day is guaranteed to help zonk everyone out at night anyway but you don’t want to wake up feeling cold and uncomfortable on a bed that deflated in the night.

So, think about whether you prefer an air mattress, campbed, sleeping mat and bring some sort of repair kit for anything that involves air. Then get a high tog sleeping bag, because even when it is hot during the day, the temperature can really drop at night when you’re in a tent. If you can fit them in, bring duvets as well – it can be nice to have some home comforts!

A great alternative that is comfortable and very easy to pack/carry is a Bundle Bed. As a revolutionary take on the old roll-out bed, a Bundle Bed is a self-inflating mattress, snuggly Jersey cotton sheets, moisture-wicking pillow and warm 15-tog duvet, all rolled together in a waterproof outer layer (perfect to save bedding from little sandy toes running around the tent!).

A Bundle Bed can be slung in the boot of a car, on a plane, or at the back of a cupboard ready for when you need it. Just unclip, unroll, unzip, and sleep! A British-designed brand, Bundle Beds set-out to bring a little simple luxury to camping, and to make visiting friends, organising kids’ sleepovers, or throwing some things in the car for an adventure, just that bit easier!

Bundle beds are offering £40 off a bed exclusively to Gone Camping Co subscribers until the end of April 2019. Sign up for our newsletter to get your discount code: http://gonecampingco.com/newsletter/

3. Somewhere to Sit

When camping, you are permitted to do that most magical of things…sit down. You can even stay sitting for a while just taking in views, reading a book or gazing into a campfire. Because you are on “camping time,” there is no need to rush around and keep to a succession of appointments. So make sure you have somewhere comfortable to park your rear.

World of Camping has a vast range of different chairs for all needs – little people, big people, upright, laid back, etc. or you could go for a touch of luxury with the moon base at Zempire.

4. Camp Kitchen

Before you buy a fully equipped camp kitchen, do check with your campsite what they will allow (i.e. re. firepits) or what they have available for you to use. Some campsites provide catering so you might not need to take anything at all!

There are many options from portable gas stoves (don’t forget the actual gas though – we’ve managed that!), disposable BBQs, portable BBQs or a fully converted trailer kitchen for those that want to go all out!

Remember the basic safety rule of NEVER taking your stove/BBQ into your tent, even after the flames have died down, because of the very real risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Instead, invest in an awning  or simply secure a tarp over the cooking area if you want to protect it from the weather.

5. Lighting

One of the things that is very easy to forget despite being an essential camping item, is a decent light.

You may want a couple in your tent that work as ceiling lights, particularly if you have young children that are wary of the dark, a portable lantern to park on your table outside at night and then to bring inside the tent later and of course, a torch for those night time loo visits.

6. Suitable Clothing and Footwear

You will inevitably pack more than you need clothes-wise so try to think about the activities you will be doing and pack accordingly.  Are you planning to go to the beach? Go on bike rides? Walking/hiking? Or just staying around your campsite? You are, generally, unlikely to get out of jeans/shorts so leave the posh clothes at home.  Even if it is blazing hot sunshine when you set off, always pack a decent coat as the temperature drops at night and who knows what could happen with our temperamental weather!

With that in mind, pack extra nightclothes – onesies, woolly PJs, thick socks just to make extra sure of being warm enough at night.  Being too warm is easy to sort out, being too cold less so!

You end up wearing less than you think footwear-wise as well, and shoes can take up a lot of room so it’s worth giving this some thought. You definitely need some sort of outdoor trainer or boot to protect against wet grass outside of your tent. It’s worth having some sort of indoor shoe/slippers as well to keep the inside of your tent clean and dry.

Crocs are beloved by kids, especially, and they often don’t wear anything else throughout the holiday! They are wipe-clean, practical for the beach, pool, inside and out and particularly light weight when it comes to packing. FootArt is one of the largest specialist croc retailers in the UK and are well worth a look.

7. Transport

Now, packing for camping is a bit of an art form.

We started off with one child and managed to pack it all into a bog-standard car. After child no.2, we progressed to a Landrover. Now our tent has “grown” as have our accessories and its time to look at further options. A degree in engineering seems a little excessive so we’re looking at roof boxes and trailers instead.

Venter trailers are great for camping as they are lightweight, not so big that they’re difficult to manoeuvre and you won’t need a trailer licence to tow them.

8. Wine

Most essential camping item. Some might argue that this should have been number 1.

 

The list could go on. 

Sign up for our newsletter to get a comprehensive camping checklist to help get you organised: Sign up

10 Reasons To Take Your Family Camping This Year

Family camp at Petruth Paddocks

Those that have taken their family camping before could no doubt think of at least 100 reasons to go again but others might not be so sure of the benefits: Is it worth ditching your usual home comforts? Won’t it be dirty? What if the weather’s rubbish? Won’t the kids be bored?

The thing is, family camping has come on a long way in the last few years. All of the above concerns are now easily dealt with at camp and glampsites that have excellent facilities ranging from washing, kitchen, entertainment, organised activities – really you can find whatever you want. But what is it about outdoors living that is so beneficial compared to just going to a hotel?

1. Fun

When you’re on the conveyor belt of life, you can forget what having fun as a family is all about. Well, camping provides the perfect chance to offload the weight of responsibility and get silly. From singing tunefully (or tunelessly, who cares?) round the fire to riding your 5 year old’s bike (and getting chased by him) or shamelessly beating young children at Uno, there are endless options. Campers are notoriously friendly people and kids will make friends as will you. Who knows when an impromptu game of rounders or football might break out? Or when the kites will come out?  You will find that the further into your holiday you get, the more you relax and regress until everyone appears to have the mental age of 9.

Campsite with lots of fun facilities: Stowford Farm Meadows, North Devon

2. Freedom

Freedom when camping comes in many guises:

For children, it is the freedom from the usual constraints of four walls – they can roam, run about, be by themselves or make ten new friends, discover wildlife, sing, dance, ride their bikes, basically whatever they want!

Freedom from routine. When on “camping time” you just do what you want when you want. There is no alarm to obey, no work to get to so just do whatever you feel like on that day. If you want to stay at camp, do it. If you want a day out, go. If you’re hungry, eat. Just don’t look at your watch, you don’t need that.

Freedom from electronic devices. These things are a blessing and a curse. I don’t doubt their usefulness in terms of researching, developing skills, etc. But is it just me that feels that whilst they are great for keeping connected generally, they also “disconnect” you from loved ones? Give a 3-year-old an iPad and you’ve lost them to Peppa Pig; give a 10-year-old an XBox and you’ve lost them to Fortnite; give a teenager a phone and you’ve just plain lost them. The good news is that camping allows you to find them again. You can have actual conversations with your teenager, play real games with your 10-year-old and make up stories with your 3-year-old. Your children are free to be children and you can make some wonderful memories as a family.

Campsite that values freedom: Petruth Paddocks, Somerset

3. Food and drink

Now, when taking your family camping it really doesn’t matter if you aspire to a gourmet banquet or a couple of sausages in a bap. I have a friend with a full-on converted trailer/kitchen who cooks up gigantic pots of loveliness for 20 guests and another who only takes pot noodles. It really is up to you. As far as the kids go, every meal is a picnic so you’re winning from the get-go. There’s just something so lovely about eating your meals outside. And the smells that come from a barbecue – bacon sizzling anyone? A lovely treat late at night is hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows around the fire. My main aim with this is to lull the kids into sleepiness so we can chuck them into bed and crack open the wine…works a treat!

Campsite with Farm shop and café: Haw Wood Farm, Suffolk

4. Weather

When the sun is shining, there is nothing better than camping! We had a glorious summer last year and wow, did we love our trips! The children had a feral old time, we did everything outside and everyone was happy.

Then the rain came.

Did it ruin it? Did it heck! There’s something about the rain falling on your tent whilst you’re safe and snug inside it that’s quite therapeutic. You just need to make sure you have some indoor entertainment such as books, playing cards, games, drawing and colouring pencils and away you go. Or you might have made sure you found a holiday park with lots of indoor facilities for when the weather turns. You could also take the opportunity to go on a day out somewhere or just embrace it – get your waterproofs on and get out there!

Campsite will all-weather facilities: Woolacombe Sands Holiday Park, Devon

5. Nature

For most people, the driving force behind wanting to camp out is to be closer to nature and the great outdoors. From drinking in amazing views to breathing in the fresh, clean air, there’s something about it that relaxes, replenishes and re-energises. Little pleasures such as walking through wet grass in bare feet, listening to birdsong, spotting a hare running for cover help to de-clutter crowded minds. Your children appreciate the freedom to roam and will no doubt find that most magical of things – the stick – and think of all sorts of uses for it: a sword, a fishing rod, a magic wand, beating their younger sibling…hmph! But they might also be entranced by a dragonfly, spot the trail of a deer or any number of creatures, particularly if you take them with you for an early morning dog walk.

Campsite for beautiful nature: Fontmills Farm, East Sussex

6. Campfire

A personal highlight is listening to and getting ‘lost’ in a good crackling fire. There’s a certain cosiness that comes with everyone sitting around a fire watching the sun go down. It encourages actual conversations where you remember that your partner is more than the person you order about and get cross with at home when you’re trying to keep to your manic schedule. It is a place to reminisce, to tell jokes and stories, to bond with friends and family and to make plans for your next adventure.

Campsite that hires firepits: Whitlingham Broad Campsite, Norfolk

7. Family Time

With no work, school, clubs, appointments to get to, you will spend precious time together with your family. This might initially instil pure fear into you. However, do not panic! You will warm up to the idea as you gradually chill out over your holiday. You will not have to be a walking entertainment factory – the kids will doubtless run around happily and find their own fun. In fact, you will develop a self-satisfied glow as you watch them having a fabulous time, getting filthy (this is something you will just have to go with if you’re not used to it!) and racing back to you when they’re starving.

As with any holiday, it gives you a chance for days out together whether simply going to a beach, a bike ride, pony trekking or meandering around. At night, you can then snuggle up around the fire, discussing your wonderful day and remembering what a lovely bunch your family is when you aren’t nagging them to find their homework, their tie, or for the tenth time get dressed NOW!

Family friendly campsite: Red Shoot Camping Park, Hampshire

8. Exploring

We are very lucky to live in this beautiful country and you don’t have to drive far to explore a little piece of somewhere different. Whether you are looking for sea air, mountains, hills, valleys, vast fields, woodland, there is a campsite that will match it. Discovering new places is fun and refreshing and the change of scenery does us the world of good. When camping, you are always close to walks and bike rides for exploring the local area, making the most of the scenery. But you might also choose to jump in your car and go and find a castle, steam train, theme park or other such adventures.

You might choose to stay at your campsite and explore that thoroughly when walking your four-legged friend or letting the children guide you. They will be keen to investigate the stream, climb the trees, make a den and generally do their best to increase the burden on your washing machine…but heck! You don’t need to worry about that until you get back so just let them be feral and be glad that their immune systems are having such a boost as they wipe their muddy hands across their mouth!

Campsite that is a great base for exploring: Deeside, Aberdeen

9. Peace and quiet

The peace and quiet that comes from outdoor living is totally different to that from behind double glazing. There is a serenity that allows you to relax right down – your mind empties of the usual worries and you can take the time to really appreciate your surroundings. From the beautiful scenery to the fresh, crisp air; it allows busy minds to just let go and rest. You become aware of unfamiliar sounds and start to look forward to them: owls hooting, birdsong, the breeze through the trees, the crackle of the fire, the satisfying sound of the zip. Even the sound of rain on the tent gives a certain smugness when you are cosy in your sleeping bag (and helps to lull you to sleep as well.)

Peaceful camp site: Herding Hill Farm, Northumberland

10. Simplicity

Outdoor living brings a certain amount of simplicity back to daily life. You ditch all the conveniences, routines, jobs and rushing around and strip it back to what is necessary: love, fun and food! Our family camping experiences tend to revolve around food (that might be everyday life too when I think about it…) and mealtimes are so much more social. You will talk more, you will have lots of comfortable silences, you will watch your kids happily without that usual dread that comes with confined spaces or crowds, you might even read! At night, you can watch the sun go down and then star gaze without the burden of light pollution. The usual hustle and bustle feels a million miles away.

Back to basics campsite: The Lost Brickyard, Norfolk

10 Camping Activities to Fill your Days

A friend asked me the other day: “What camping activities are there and what do you actually do with your day?”

I initially thought ‘erm…where do I start?’ as we do manage to cram in a few things during our trips. But it’s a valid concern – in fact we had the same anxieties at the start of our family camping journey: Will the children be bored? What will we do when it rains? What should we pack for entertainment? It would be a real shame if people are put off from giving camping a go simply because they fear not being able to fill their day. So, here are 10 camping activities to ensure a well-entertained, contented camp:

1. Friends

 

Children love to play with friends. They don’t like being lonely. The good news about campsites is that they tend to have lots of children about and they very quickly find each other. If your child is a little shy, help them out a bit by saying hello to other families and introducing the children.

One of the best tips to absolutely ensure your child has friends is to go with another family or families. We love doing this! It means that you also have your own pals to help out with any difficulties that might arise, can share equipment and have someone to share the beverages with – winning all round!

2. Campsite Activities

Think carefully about the campsite you are going to and make sure it’s right for the age and stage of your children. If you have young babies and toddlers, not a great deal is needed at the campsite specifically for their entertainment so go for what suits you as the adult (Check out our other blogs Top 7 considerations when taking babies camping. and Camping with Toddlers). As they grow older, you might want to ensure potential for a good range of camping activities such as wide open spaces for riding bikes, woodland to explore, a play area, sand pit, animals to pet, etc. Or you might even go for an all singing and dancing site with full sports facilities, swimming pool, evening entertainment, etc.

3. Meal times

Meal times will be communal and that is part of the beauty of camping. Your family will come together far more than you would at home and meal times do take up a large part of your day. Involve your children in meal prep where possible to help build the “team effort” approach – toasting marshmallows on a fire, for example, is something all can get involved in and is a real novelty and treat that you don’t get if you stay in a boring old hotel!

Don’t let wet weather put you off. If it rains, place your BBQ under an awning, set up a tarpaulin sheet or improvise like we did last week when we realised we’d forgotten ours!

4. Beach

We live in the middle of the country so tend to gravitate towards coastal areas for our holidays as a beach is a guaranteed few hours of pure outdoor fun. It doesn’t necessarily involve great costs and there are a huge range of things to keep little people happy: sandcastles, sand sculptures, collecting pebbles and shells, building stone towers, paddling, swimming, body boarding, sand boarding, exploring rock pools, searching for creatures, crabbing, burying various members of the family, etc.

5. Get into nature

One of the main motivations to get into camping is to spend time outside. So, embrace it. Wherever you camp, a walk isn’t far away – find a nearby woodland, river, coastline to explore and wander along at the pace that suits your pack. Look for things along the way such as animals or their trails and homes, try to identify different trees or plants, listen to the birdsong, climb that mound of earth!

For older children, get them to do a scavenger hunt – give them a list of items to collect and send them on their way. Get them to do a little art with the things they collect – sculptures, making faces out of leaves, twigs and stones, mud pies! (Make sure shower is nearby!)

6. Fly a kite

The thing with camping is you have to go with the weather. So, when the wind gets up, instead of battening down the hatches, get out there with the most classic of camping activities – a kite! You can get them for very little money from your local B&M or other such bargain basement and they take up hardly any room when packing. I wouldn’t have believed it, but our 2-year-old was fascinated by ours for hours at our most recent trip and her cries of “mine!” could be heard for miles around! (Much to the disgust of the older children who all desperately wanted a go but knew better than to mess with the tiny dictator!)

7. Ball games

Some campsites welcome these, some have designated areas and some have lots of signs up telling you it is BANNED! Avoid those.

So, take a football or a couple of tennis rackets and ball, swingball, rounders set, skittles, etc. You can either play with your children or when no.1 is accomplished, they can play with the many friends they have made whilst you read your book that you never get round to – winning!

8. Bikes

Camping is a great opportunity to get kids going on their bikes – it is where ours learnt to manage the balance bike and stabilisers as they grew in confidence on grass after they realised it gave a soft landing. Groups of children tend to have races, engage with lots of bike swapping or just meander around the campsite, all of which helps to foster independence and improve their cycling skills.

9. Games

When they’re tiring of all the running round and fresh air, bring them back in the tent for a good old-fashioned board game or game of cards. This can wile away a few hours and is especially useful as a winding down period before bedtime. We are currently big fans of the card game “Uno” as this is very easy for littlies to grasp, Connect 4, Guess Who and Snakes and Ladders. Jenga goes down well too (no pun intended) although we often end up just building random towers rather than playing the game as it is meant!

10. Rainy day?

When in Britain, we must expect rain to occur at some point. Now, you wouldn’t expect to spend all of your time in a hotel if you went on holiday, so you don’t need to spend all of your time at the campsite either.  So, at the start of our holiday, we usually pinpoint a few potential excursions for times when the weather turns. This can be something simple like going to a local leisure centre for their swimming pool, game of table tennis, etc or a cinema trip to a big day out at a zoo, round a castle or local museum.

If it is still raining when you get back in the afternoon, you could set up a ‘movie night’ via that universal babysitter the iPad to keep them amused whilst you get tea ready. Do also pack some colouring pads, paper and pencils and set up a table inside your tent for artistic creations.

The overall message here is think about the sort of things your kids enjoy or want to try and go with it during your holiday. Camping activities don’t need to be complicated or expensive and you don’t have to be the one providing entertainment at all times. If they come to you and tell you that they are bored, by all means give them some ideas but send them off again as it is really important for their development that they learn to use their imagination and find their own way through it.

And don’t let them play on their iPad every day!

Camping in Somerset? Petruth Paddocks is hard to beat!

Family camp at Petruth Paddocks

If you’re looking for great camping in Somerset, then look no further than the lovely campsite at Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping right next to the Mendip Hills. We stayed there for 4 glorious nights last week along with another family and were struck by the friendly atmosphere, wide open spaces and sense of freedom for adults and children alike.

The owner, Jules, likes to take the approach of “free-range camping” so you are not restricted by a numbered pitch, but can choose where you would rather set up camp. There are two large fields to choose from, one of which is for those who wish to have a quieter camp. During our mid-week stay, despite being in the “non-quiet” field, there were no issues at night and our children (aged 2 and 5 year old) went to sleep peacefully and easily. Jules explained that during peak season at Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping, the weekends can get much busier hence the two different fields. He added that he loved the atmosphere during the busier times as you might have some people playing guitars, campfire singing, children having great fun in big gangs. So it would depend on your needs when and where you wanted to stay – whether you prefer a livelier atmosphere or just want some peace and quiet.

Jules encourages children to roam, make friends and enjoy themselves outdoors without the pull towards electronic devices. During our time there, we saw groups of children clambering over the old landrover parked up in the field, much shouting, laughing and chasing as well as ball games and bike riding.

At night time, Jules pops around the campsite offering firepits for those that want a cosy camp feel. We advise you take him up on this as it definitely makes for a lovely atmosphere and it was a stunning site seeing the gentle glows around camp. After he had done his deliveries, Jules offered the kids a ride round on the quad with him which went down a storm! At the weekend, he also takes any kids that are interested across the field to meet his resident menagerie including pigs, ponies and chickens.

At Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping, there are all the facilities you need for a comfortable camp: plenty of toilets and hot showers, separate sinks for washing up, facilities for charging electronic devices, a fridge and a freezer as well as a small shop to top up on necessities. Jules clearly pays attention to detail as he provides a comprehensive booklet on arrival outlining all you need to know about the campsite and the surrounding area. He also insists on careful separation of rubbish into the various types of recycling which we found refreshing as we can’t bear the big skips of mixed rubbish at most camps all going to landfill.

Whilst we were camping in Somerset, we found lots to do. Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping is on the outskirts of the lovely village of Cheddar, home of Britain’s favourite cheese and the magnificent Cheddar Gorge. There were lots of lovely places to eat including cafes, restaurants as well as the obligatory ice cream parlours and the chance for climbing, abseiling and exploring the caves of the Gorge.

We ventured further to the child-friendly Wookey Hole to see inside the incredible caves which have to be seen to appreciate their dimensions, stalactites and stalagmites – our children were quite happy and there was none of the whinging and whining that can accompany trips out. It is also essential that our holidays involve dinosaurs in some way and Wookey Hole delivered by way of huge robotic models and an “archaeological dig.”

On the way to Wookey Hole, we took advantage of local produce enhance by the particular “micro-climate” of Somerset and sampled some simply divine strawberries courtesy of Cliff Besley’s strawberries. They were streets ahead of the watery supermarket versions and we are not ashamed to say we scoffed the lot whilst the children were asleep in the landy (well, you snooze, you lose!)

We also sampled cider from local producers and would encourage you to look out for the little businesses as you are out and about – buying local makes such a difference for real people rather than lining the pockets of huge earners of big organisations! And after all, you can’t go to Somerset without sampling the cider!

We were lucky with the weather as it was consistently scorchio for the time we were there. We noticed this when we went paddling/body boarding in the sea at Berrow and Brean… really warm water, actually thought we were in the Med! At Berrow beach, the #2minutebeachclean was in place. This is a step up from pick up 3 pieces of litter each time you go to the beach but really encourages the children to look after their environment and raise awareness of the problem of littering. Our own little miss bossy boots LOVED this and took control of both the litter picker (or crocodile as it became known) and the bag so it took a little bit longer than we anticipated! It also triggered a really sweet conversation with our 5 year old son about litter and he told me how it would affect his beloved sharks and the fish that they eat. This project is gathering apace and you can find out more about it and also what beaches are covered on their website: https://www.beachclean.net/

So, if you decide to go camping in Somerset during the summer hols or if this has made you think about next year, do check out the lovely site at Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping – you won’t be disappointed!