Summer. The time to be outside as much as you can, because lets face it, winter makes us stay in. So don't waste your days wondering what you could be doing, when you can just go out and do it.
This time a year ago I was neither a cyclist or a camper. Living in Scotland, the weather doesn't always lend itself to kindness. We decided to take the plunge as a family and got really into the whole bike thing, and all cycle regularly now. Camping took a little more persuasion. Synonymous with bug bites, cold nights and tinned food, it wasn't something I relished the thought of.
But the kids (as always) were really keen to give it a go. My son is about to join the Scouts, so we thought it would be good to test the camping waters. There is a Scottish company who make tents for the Scouts, and we thought it wise to use a tent from there. It had to be something that was big enough to hold all our stuff and our bikes, because they weren't getting left behind!
It's a pretty tall order for a tent and newbie campers, but we found the perfect match. Vango made one tent that suited all our needs. From darker materials in the bedroom area, to a large living room where we could store out bikes. It was a match made in heaven, but did the dream match the reality? I was very dubious about camping in general as a family.
We chose a local (ish) campsite so we had the choice to decamp should it be completely unpleasant. We managed to pack what seemed like a huge amount of gear into our car. Don't underestimate how much you need, from sleeping mats (which were amazingly warm compared to inflatable mattress's) right down to food and as many extra clothes as you can muster. You have to remember everything like a stove to a tin opener and water carrier.
Once we got there, the tent was really easy to pitch. We did do a practise run in the garden beforehand, because it wouldn't have been as quick otherwise. Everything about the tent seemed user friendly for the beginner camper. Instructions were cleverly sewn into the main carry bag so you never lose them! It took about an hour to do everything from pitching, to hooking up the solar powered fairly lights.
Tents seem to get really warm in the daytime, so ventilations is key. Our tent had two doors (great for getting bikes in and out too) and ventilations points throughout. It did help keep it cool. I didn't know how cold it would get a night though! Just the air in general got cold and damp. But as soon as we got into our sleeping bags we were pretty warm again. The sun comes up early and warms the tent right back up.
I never expected to sleep so soundly in a field in the middle of nowhere, but we all did. The kids did wake early but not as early as I thought they would. I was impressed that the darker material in the sleeping area worked so well.
Cooking when camping is half the fun. We had a stove with one burner and managed no problem. A kettle and non stick frying pan made tea and bacon rolls a great breakfast before we set off on our bikes for the day.
If you think you aren't the camping type, my advice is just to do it. Borrow a tent before you buy and take the plunge. Stay local, buy convenient and easy to cook food (it is a holiday after all) and pack a good book. I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable and warm camping can be now with the right gear. And it turns out its a great way to discover new cycle paths too. Cycling and camping have become the perfect mixture for me. Do it and enjoy the outdoors.