Camping is liberating. A chance to escape city life, throw a tent, sleeping bag and box of wine into a car and really connect with nature. Myself and Mr T have always camped - probably because we were too skint for anything else - but even before smartphones took over modern life, it felt good to go off grid.
Add two kids to the mix however, and the logistics change. It now takes three days to pack and prep for a two day camping trip. You need a whole new car with a boot/roof box/trailer that can fit EVERY SINGLE THING YOU OWN in. And really a camping trip for my family is an endurance test to see how long you can last with minimal sleep.
Despite these harsh realities, camping is still freedom. It's basic. It teaches my kids about resilience, making do, and having fun with very little. Giving your kids a love of the great outdoors is a gift – but it takes time and practice to nail camping with kids. I’m not quite there yet, but I know some people who are and we have cobbled the list below together to help you on your way…
DO – Find a good campsite. A great and shit campsite can make or break even the hardiest of campers. Do some research, book ahead if you can and find a site that meets your needs. (coolcamping.com is a good place to start).
DON’T – Buy loads of expensive camping equipment for your first camping trip. Whilst camping can be a cheap holiday, it can be pricey to get set up. Beg, steal or borrow the essentials for your first trip then slowly add to your camping hoard. You will have a collapsible washing up bowl before you know it. ( gooutdoors.co.uk)
DO – Pack the layers. Even if the weather forecast looks good, chances are you will need onesies and wellies for the morning.
DON’T – Expect your kids to fall asleep at 7:30pm as usual. They will be feral with the excitement of sleeping in a tent. Airbeds in a small space = soft play. So expect a lot of bouncing about and ‘fun’ before they finally settle down at 11pm.
DO – Be a good neighbour. You are living in a space with zero acoustic properties. As are your camping neighbours. Respect the space of others. If you want to have a party, find a campsite that allows that kind of thing and let loose.
DON’T – Feel that you have to keep your kids on a leash. Family-orientated campsites are generally safe places for children. It is however a good idea to conduct a walkabout with children who are old enough to roam, making them aware of danger spots and where the boundaries are set for them.
DO – Get organised. Have a space for everything and encourage order. Otherwise you might just go mad looking for your head torch in the pitch black tent.
DON’T – Feel like you have to be making mud pies all day. Take an iPad if you need to or prepare to take shelter in the cinema/leisure centre/museum. It might (probably will) rain.
DO – Enjoy the little things. You are making memories that will shape someone’s life. So relish the fire, marshmallows, warm booze and hot chocolate.
If for any reason you're still having doubts about going camping, here's 35 SCIENTIFIC benefits for you and your kids, including better sleep and more 'happy hormone'
Written by Lowri Thomas
Lowri is mum to two girls aged 6 and 2. She lives in South Manchester with her husband, kids and cat. She spends her free time walking in the hills, cooking and planning holidays.