It’s no secret.
We. Love. Camping.
We camp all seasons, in all parts of the country.
However, it wasn’t always like this. We had to learn some valuable lessons first.
Lessons, that I want to share with you today, so you can also take your camping to the next level.
How our camping story began…
Nearly 16 years ago we started family camping, which proved to be very different from how Shell and I camped in our youth.
We began camping with just a small tent, and without all the knowledge and info you can get today.
The problem: It’s usually wet in Britain!
I bet this is a story familiar to you. It’s glorious weather all week, but when you get to the weekend, the heavens open.
For tent campers, this goes slightly different. It’s glorious weather all week, and on the way to the campsite, but as soon as you’ve pitched the tent, the heavens open.
as soon as you’ve pitched the tent, the heavens open
How do you entertain the kids? Zip up the tent, open a pack of ‘snap’ cards, and hope for the best?
Nope. They’re soon bored.
OK. Let’s get on coats and welly boots and go for a walk.
That works for a bit, but then you return to your tent.
Oh no! Where do you put all the wet gear? In the corner of your tent? Ooops, the water has now run onto the sleeping bags! Oh, and the wet clothes has caused lots of condensation in the tent, which is also dripping onto the beds!!
Camping Lesson Number 1: Keeping Dry
We bought a porch extension for one of our first tents, which was a godsend.
It meant we had somewhere to leave all the wet gear keeping the inside of the tent nice and dry.
It was also big enough for our kitchen unit.
You shouldn’t cook inside your tent, but makes things difficult when it’s pouring down with rain. Fortunately, this porch solved that problem.
On one wet camping trip, a group of families turned up. They all pitched their tents and then put up an old army field kitchen. They cooked, sat, ate, and played in there. They even had a stove to keep themselves warm.
Now, a field kitchen is too big for the average family, but you can create something similar, and that’s what we did.
All you need is a rather inexpensive camping tarp.
With a tarp, you can create a good-sized outdoor living area. We set-up our camp kitchen under one.
We also keep a very basic tarp with our camping trailer, which is big enough to cover both it and the boot of the car.
When it’s wet, we can pack and unpack in the dry!
A year later, we had booked a camping holiday in North Devon during August. It should have been beautiful sunshine. But no. No one had told the weather it was summer.
Instead, it was windy, cold, and very, very wet.
it was windy, cold, and very, very wet.
Many campers had a frustrating time, zipped up in their tents, trying to entertain their kids.
We were the exception. We had a tarp. We could stay dry. We could dry clothes. We could cook. We even had a campfire.
So, an essential bit of kit I recommend to all campers is to get a tarp.
The Problem: It gets cold.
Just like the wet weather, we get cold weather too.
However, even if it’s not too cold when you go to bed, you can wake up in the night freezing.
Camping Lesson Number 2: Keeping Warm
Don’t get lulled into buying the first cheap sleeping bag you see. You’ll most likely end up getting cold unless you keep your camping to hot late summer nights (and of course, that means a lot of trust in the British weather).
A good sleeping bag should have a temperature rating. For example, a Snugpak sleeping bag I’ve just tested has a ‘comfort rating’ down to -7C. Alternatively, a sleeping bag may be categorised into seasons. A 1-season bag is ideal for very warm summer nights (or kids sleepovers in their friend’s bedrooms); a 4-season sleeping bag is perfect for most UK winters.
The problem is a lot of those good buys you may find in non-camping shops is that the sleeping bags tend only to be 1-season.
What’s worse, there are not many kids sleeping bags made for the colder temperatures.
So what do you do to keep your family warm?
If you get cold during the night at home, you may throw an extra blanket on top of the bed.
While this works at home, it won’t work well when camping. You will still get cold.
Why? Because you are sleeping on the ground, and the ground will slowly suck the warmth out of your body.
You need a good layer of insulation between you and the ground.
Some sleeping mats have excellent ground insulation. However, if you use an air bed, you may still get cold when camping outside of summer. This is because the cold ground will make the air cold in the mattress, which can then make you cold, and, could cause condensation to build up between the airbed and your sleeping bag!
A simple solution is to put a blanket underneath your sleeping bag.
This simple trick will make a huge difference.
We put a travel rug down in our tent bedrooms, and always then insulate under the sleeping bags whenever we go camping in the colder seasons.
A simple rule of thumb: you want two underneath for every blanket on top.
More tips on keeping warm while camping
The problem: How do you feed a family when camping
We made do with a single-hob camping stove for a long time. In fact, we still use it today. It’s very reliable.
However, it’s difficult to feed a family with just one hob.
We’ve also had our fill of BBQs. Burnt burgers and sausages soon get boring.
Camping Lesson Number 3: Eat Well
There’re lots of interesting ways you can cook at the campsite.
We started to find campsites that allowed campfires and started experimenting with a few different recipes.
Pocket Pizzas are a great favourite with kids. Here are a few fun recipes you can get the kids involved with, whether you have a campfire or a BBQ at the campsite.
Gooey Chocolate Bananas
Simply slit each banana down the middle, let the kids put in chocolate buttons into the slit, wrap in foil and warm through until the chocolate has melted and the banana is gooey.Read more >
Campfire Chocolate Orange Cakes
Slice the top off each orange, and scoop out the middle. Mix up a chocolate cake mix and pour into each orange. Put the top of the orange back on and wrap in foil. Heat in the embers of a campfire or BBQ.Read more >
Slice pita bread in each half. Get the kids to stuff with pizza sauce, cheese, and other toppings. Wrap in foil and warm over a campfire or BBQ until the cheese is melted.Read more >
You can also get creative, such as this DIY Pizza Oven we made.
But one of the big changes to how we cook is when we got a Dutch Oven.
A Dutch Oven is a large cast-iron pot. You can use it to boil, stew, bake, fry, and roast. So you can cook a good variety of food.
Plus, you can use it either with a campfire or, and more commonly, with BBQ briquettes.
As soon as we could start to cook some great family meals – and involve the kids in the process where we could – our camping improved.
Eating well helps you keep warm. And of course, we cook this under our tarp that keeps us dry. And staying dry helps keep us warm.
More info on eating well when camping
Happy camping in all weathers 🙂
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