24/05/2011 10:19 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Why I Hate Family Camping

Why I hate family campingGetty

When I was a child, I loved our camping holidays, so I was looking forward to taking my own children and rediscovering the joy all over again.

And this is when I discovered a well-kept secret - that camping is only fun for children.
Once you are an adult, it is dismal.

It doesn't seem to be the done thing to admit that you hate camping – at the moment it's enjoying a kind of retro resurgence evidenced by the (admittedly excellent) Cool Camping books with beautiful photography packed with information about where to find your perfect campsite.

But at the end of the day, however 'cool' your campsite is, you will probably still have to trek to the loo in the middle of the night with a torch and look at someone else's spat-out toothpaste while you are brushing your teeth.

The thing I really don't get about camping is that you are going on holiday and yet everything is much less convenient and less comfortable than when you are at home.

Ignoring glamping and pre-erected tents for the moment, once you arrive at your destination, probably tired and hungry and with fractious children after a long drive, you have to struggle to put up your tent and probably end up having a row with your partner about how tight the guy ropes should be when really all you want to do is have a cold beer and eat crisps.

Then, unless you cheat and go to the pub as we invariably end up doing, you have to cook using just one cooking ring which keeps going out. Wine doesn't taste the same out of plastic beakers whatever anyone says and then after dinner, you have to pile all your plastic plates into a washing up bowl and trek to the washing up block where there are never any plugs.

This all makes me feel more like I am on some kind of punishment regime in prison than on holiday.


Then after you've eaten your badly-cooked, mediocre dinner, there's no way the kids are going to go to sleep until it's dark and they're up at first light in the morning, so everyone is already tired and grumpy.


And after the trial of trying to eat cereal with warm UHT milk when you only packed two spoons for four people you get to argue over who is going to slop out the wee bucket. Lovely.

The first time we camped was in the Cotswolds one August, when it was so cold we had to wear tracksuits in bed, despite having an airbed, sheets, pillows and duvet, and the rain came in and made everything wet.

I fail to see how taking a tent down in the pouring rain while the kids sit in the nice warm car watching DVDs is in anyway fun.

Last time we camped was in Spain - it was admittedly a beautiful site recommended by Cool Camping, high up on a cliff overlooking the beach and the weather was fantastic. We did have a great day at the beach but showering in a shower block, however spotless, just somehow never really leaves me feeling clean.

And when we tried to cook dinner ants had got into the cool box and everything looked too vile, wasn't that cold and was quite possibly a food-poisoning risk. So we went to a nice clean tapas bar instead, which is of course the only civilised thing to do anyway.

And it's not just me. My friend Kelly says she 'loves the idea of camping, but have done it enough to be infuriated with the reality'. She lists among her pet hates 'family campsites where the family in the adjoining tent things it's hilarious that their "curious" and "into everything" snot-encrusted toddler is in your tent every five minutes rummaging through your dirty knicker bag. Ditto families who bring their supposedly friendly dog which spends its time barking/stealing food/chasing my son every time he gets a football out.'

For others, it's the domestic drudgery which is off-putting. Katrina says: 'I loathe camping but am forced to do it every now and again for the kids. I have absolutely no desire to resort to primeval caveman tactics of rough sleeping to have a holiday. I bought a dishwasher so I didn't have to wash up in a bowl so why on earth would I want to go back to it? Camping is not a holiday for mums – just a lot of hard work!'

And Olivia was put off camping when she did it to gain a Duke of Edinburgh Bronze 1991. She says: 'You'll only ever get me under canvas these days if there's a parquet dance floor involved.'

I couldn't agree more.

Catherine Cooper is author of Travelling with Children: A Parent's Guide, £9.99.

Your kids may love camping, but what about you - do you love it or hate it?
What's the worst experience you've ever had camping?