I'm not much of a camper. Having spent four months living in a tent during my gap year, I developed a bit of a phobia of sleeping under canvas. Must have been something to do with all the bugs, floods and unwanted human visitors to my fragile little tent.
For over 20 years I've managed to avoid any camping trips - even spending a weekend at the Glastonbury Festival in a Winnebago, with a hot shower and proper loo (bliss!).
But I want the kids to have as many outdoor adventures as possible despite their urban heritage, so they don't look back on their childhood and only remember trips to the cinema and hours spent on their tablets.
We regularly spend long weekends with our friend John, a mountain leader and outdoor adventurer who lives in the Brecon Beacons. The kids have such a great time exploring caves, castles and waterfalls, until M (officially Britain's clumsiest six year old) inevitably falls into a big muddy puddle and we all have to go home.
Last year my husband (was) volunteered (by me) to take the kids camping with a group of local friends. I had already made other plans for that weekend, so left all the organising to him.
Steve is happiest in a hermetically sealed house, so he didn't know what equipment was needed, opted for minimalism and thus spent an uncomfortable weekend in a field with two damp, hungry and miserable children.
This year Steve refused to go without me, so I set about preparing for a more successful trip.
I spent a fortune in Argos, buying new sleeping bags for everyone, camping chairs, torches and a decent blow up mattress for us. We bought a proper four-man tent from one of our camping colleagues, so we knew at least someone else would know how to erect the damn thing.
We kept a close eye on the weather and warned our fellow campers that we'd graciously bow out if rain was forecast.
We arrived in the rain and all decamped to the pub. No sooner had we ordered a pint that the sun came out and stayed with us all weekend.
Steve managed to get the tent up with minimal help, which was just as well as I was attending to Mr Clumsy. We hadn't even taken everything out of the car when M came running up to me with a bit of dirt on the front of his trousers. It was only when he turned around that I saw he was covered from waistband to ankles in dung. Unbelievable.
One of our friends found the cowpat the following day and it still had the cast of M's bottom imprinted in it.
Family camping in your 40s is quite different to the camping I remember as a teenager. In your 40s:
- You look for a decent B&B nearby before committing to go
- Your tent has a porch
- There is a LOT of halloumi for the BBQ
- No one brings a guitar
- The most exciting thing being passed around the campfire is a box of macaroons
What nobody tells you about family camping is how much stuff you need. The car was full to the brim. Turns out you need to take pretty much everything including the kitchen sink (well a washing up bowl) if you want to be a comfortable camper.
So here's a survival guide - a list of essentials for a successful family camping trip:
- Sleeping bags
- Blow up beds (with pump) or carry mats
- Camping chairs
- Cool box
- Mosquito repellent
- Toilet roll
- Wet wipes
- Washing up liquid and bowl
- Dishcloth & tea towel
- Ear plugs
- First aid kit
- Flip flops to wear in the shower
- Matches & firelighters
- Bats, balls & water pistols
- Plastic plates, bowls and cups
We all had a great time. The kids had a blast, playing cricket, getting muddy, having water fights and toasting marshmallows. We enjoyed good food, entertaining company and the great outdoors.
Will I go camping again? If it's sunny, yes. And next time I'll take several changes of clothes for M.
I write a lifestyle blog at Lifestyle Maven. You can follow me here: