Camping, we’ve noticed, is very Marmite. You either love it or hate it. It can probably be a marriage wrecker, which is lucky for us that we are a single parent family. When my ten year old son set his heart on camping during the summer of 2017 my heart sank. But actually, we had one of our very best school holidays ever.
Not being a car driver really focuses the mind when it comes to camping. It’s not impossible to do, but it will take some good planning, organising and a ruthlessness necessary to cut back to only the very essentials that you will need. Our philosophy for camping is that if we can’t physically carry it, it doesn’t come.
If you are planning on going camping either during the remainder of this year’s good weather or next year, it’s a great time to start buying anything you need because camping equipment is now on sale. Also, do check prices on the internet and search for voucher codes, because we got a fantastic deal on our tent by shopping around.
Here’s our list of absolute Camping Essentials that we couldn’t live without.
Campsite and Food
We needed a campsite that was very bells and whistles. It needed to be easily accessible by public transport, have good toilets, good showers and an onsite shop. We chose Holiday Resort Unity in Brean, which was easy to get to by train and bus from Bristol. It had a supermarket, free showers, several take aways, plenty of local entertainment and was directly opposite the beach.
We couldn’t carry food or things like barbecues, cutlery and plates. We managed with hot sausage baps for breakfast at Costcutter first thing in the morning, rolls and fillings for lunch and either a pub dinner or local takeaway. Nothing to clean, nothing to carry, nothing to wash. We took some disposable cutlery, paper plates and cups. Worked a treat.
We’ve had some experience with tents before. Good quality tents with enough space for a family tend to be incredibly heavy. We wanted a very light weight tent, yet one that would stand up to the ferocious winds across the Bristol Channel. It had to be big enough for three people to sleep and enough space to store bags, equipment and clothes. The only brand I was prepared to buy was a Vango.
We went with the Vango Ark 300+. This was perfect for us. Very lightweight and rolls up into the storage bag smaller than the size of a little sleeping bag. It had an inner bedroom compartment which was fine for three people sleeping on mats, but wouldn’t be big enough for three on airbeds.
It has a really good sized living space though not quite high enough to stand in. The tent survived some horrendous wind and rain coming across Brean. It took us novices about an hour and a half to work out how to pitch the first time, but a week later, we did it in about 20 minutes.
Mats and Sleeping Bags
We took three thick yoga mats to sleep on. That way, we didn’t need to worry about pumping up air beds, losing space or getting punctures. The yoga mats kept bodies warm from the cold ground and stuck firmly to the bottom of the tent floor without sliding around or curling up at the ends.
We took three fairly bog standard cheap summer sleeping bags which was fine for August nighttime temperatures.
We took clothing for the exact number of days we were staying. What is essential is one good quality raincoat each – the thin types that can go over clothes without the need for a coat. You will probably need two pairs of shoes each. One pair like good quality waterproof walking boots and something easy to slip on for swimming pool changing rooms or on sandy beaches. It doesn’t matter how hot it looks – remember to pack a warm jumper and trousers.
USB Power Bank
This was an absolute essential for us. We didn’t go with an electric hook up pitch but did need a way to charge a mobile phone. A power bank like this one charges up in a computer USB port and we managed to get one and a quarter full mobile phone charge from it. It’s worth putting your phone to airplane mode when you are not using it and taking a digital camera with you to cut down on draining the power. Priced around £20.
You can pick these up from the pound shops. They are brilliant because they take up hardly any space in your bag.
Really Useful Bits and Pieces
Don’t scrimp on a good bag. If you have to carry all the gear, you need one that fits your body well and is strong and sturdy. Five years ago I bought a Mountain Warehouse large backpack for around £60 on sale from over £100. It’s been an excellent quality item and a good investment. With non-car camping, a tent and back pack are the two things you do not want to scrimp on.
What we wished we had…
The only thing we missed was a windbreak. This was less for the purposes of the wind and more to do with marking territory and drying wet clothes and towels.