The Total Joy (And Abject Horror) Of Camping Holidays With Children

It's Britain. It will rain. 🏕
Peter Cade via Getty Images

“Nothing is certain but death and taxes” – oh, and one more thing: when you go camping, it will rain.

Yes. If you’re in Britain and you have small children, you’ll probably think it’s a good idea to go and sleep in a tent in the wild outdoors at some point this year. “It’ll be invigorating!” you will cry, drunk on the scent of possibility. “The kids will feel at one with nature, and we will forage, build a fire and toast marshmallows. Nobody will argue, for we will be back to our forest-dwelling roots and feel happy and free!”

But let me tell you something – and I’ll make it very, very clear – it will rain. And if by chance it doesn’t, it will be cold. So very cold, that at some point you will wake up – probably around 3am – to find your kids climbing into your sleeping bag, wrapping themselves around you like you’re a skinned rabbit and they’re trying to wear your pelt.

The inside of the tent will feel a lot like Game of Thrones, in fact – because, yes, it’s perpetual winter in there. You will wake up with your face pressed against the side of the tent and it will be wet and soggy. You will have had no rest at all because it was too hard on the ground to sleep properly. You will be stiff and you will ache – and probably look rather a lot like a White Walker.

Yet the next day, at approximately 6am, the time everybody is already up, dressed and on their third breakfast – there it is, the shining sun of hope. You will begin drinking warm cider from cans at 11am and reminisce with other mums and dads (for you will always go camping in groups of 20) about how it feels a bit like Glastonbury in the early 90s.

As the cider flows, you won’t even mind that it has begun drizzling again, or that your wellies now have a hole in the bottom. You will forget that your two-man tent (which you really did use last at a festival in the 90s, and is entirely unsuitable for a family of four) has collapsed on one side because your child decided to build a Lego castle on top of it and then beat it with sticks.

The kids, by the way, are having a spectacular time.

“The inside of the tent will feel a lot like Game of Thrones, in fact, for it is perpetual winter in there."”

One of the other mums or dads will be a hero, by getting out a disposable BBQ set and hunching over in the rain – wearing a see-through plastic poncho – to cook sausages that will almost certainly give you the runs. And that will be a problem, because here, in your eco-friendly campsite, there is a compost toilet. Just one, mind, and it doesn’t flush, so if you need to pass solids you are expected to lay down a light sprinkling of sawdust and be on your way.

So, after eating that half-cooked pink sausage on Night Two of the Big Camp Out, you will wake up in the dark and need to use the compost toilet. As you stumble over to it, breaking into a run for the last 100 metres, you will realise two things: 1) you forgot to bring a torch; and 2) camping is like giving birth: you forget how awful it is, so you foolishly do it again.

See you next year, yeah?