Ah, the joys of camping with children. Blissful, wild, crazy freedom for the little ones but possibly slightly more exhausting for the adults on tour! Just a few extra pieces of prep will make the experience an enjoyable one, not an endurance test. Even if you don’t expect to get much sleep!
When you arrive at the campsite, you are likely to spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to find the perfect pitch. Not too stony, too soggy, too hilly, too windy, too close to the loos, too far from the loos, to close to a rowdy group, too close to people you don’t want to disturb… be prepared for this and try to urge patience. It’s worth roaming around for the best spot.
Unless you are very familiar with your tent, your Little Explorer’s ‘help’ might not be very welcome. It would hardly be fair to send them away when you are doing - what they consider to be - one of the most exciting jobs of the whole trip, so set them some tasks. Counting out the pegs, or lining up the poles in size order will make them feel useful.
There’s nothing quite so earthy and rewarding as preparing and eating food and drink outdoors. It really does taste better when you can smell the grass and sense the ozone in the air. Don’t forget the icebox and ice blocks – you can usually freeze these at the campsite office so take a few and use in rotation.
Hot chocolate is of course the number one most important ingredient – as are marshmallows if you’re lucky enough to find a campsite that allows fires. Send your Little Explorers off on a stick-finding adventure. Only the perfect stick will do for those precious marshmallows! From experience of our latest camping expedition, where we ended up huddled under wildly flapping canvas in 26mph winds – don’t take red wine. Cold red wine from a mug does little to soothe. Gin and tonic is a far better option!
The perfect camping breakfast in our book is sausages, eggs and croissants, accompanied by a good, strong, coffee. We take our mini stove top espresso maker for extra luxury – it’s those details that can pick you up after what could be a long night.
Extra light can make the whole experience more appealing so here’s a great tip. Don’t forget your head torches. Our adventure brand, Lifesystems, make a range of powerful and lightweight torches. These are perfect for hands-free illumination when you’re eating, reading or heading out to the loo. To make your torch into a lantern, simply poke it into an empty plastic milk carton – the larger the better. This will create a gentle, calm glow that fills the tent. If you want to make sure you can spot the children after dark, tie a glowstick to their clothing. Set everyone up with headphones and music, and you can create a silent disco too!
Comfort is king when camping. Unless you are hardcore campers and you have trekked to your destination carrying everything you need on your backs, I’d recommend taking as many fluffy pillows, cosy duvets and blankets as you can fit in your car! As uncomfortable child is generally as unfriendly a companion as you could fear to meet – especially at 2am. A thermal mat is an absolute must if you’re camping in the UK, where even the warmest days can turn into chilly nights. I would even suggest you take woolly hats for everyone just in case.
Don’t even think about trying to get the children to bed at their normal time. You will only be sorely disappointed. Accept the fact that they will go to sleep very late on the first night at least, but that their sleep will be deep and revitalising. Sleeping in the great outdoors for a couple of night has recently been shown to reset your body clock. So, bring it on for those poor sleepers and suffering parents out there!