Schools break up for the eagerly anticipated summer holidays next week and as with many other families we plan to go camping to enjoy time together outdoors. From experience we have found that preparing to camp with kids takes considerable time and effort. Prior to having children, my husband and I enjoyed many spontaneous camping trips. Often just throwing a tent and duvet into the back of our car if dry weather was forecast for a few days.
One of our fondest camping memories is pitching a tent in the dark and then calling a local takeaway restaurant to deliver food to our tent in the middle of a field. Before giving our order we checked that they had plastic cutlery as we literally had nothing with us! Oh how times have changed…. When we pack to go camping with our boys we load our car to the max! Highchair, travel cot, water proofs, toys, pots, pans…. it all comes with us. I don’t believe you can do minimalist camping comfortably with kids. You just need a lot of stuff!
From experience these are the steps we take when preparing to camp with kids…
1. Pitch tent in advance
As I have written before in my guide – How to Survive and Enjoy Camping with Young Children – one of the things we always do in preparation for a camping trip is pitch our tent in the back garden. I’ll be honest, its a bit of a pain but it avoids us getting to the campsite and realising we have forgotten essential items like tent pegs or the ground sheet!
2. Ensure tent is big enough
As a rule we like to camp in a tent made for two people more than we need i.e. a six man tent for the four of us. We were recently sent a six man Aventure tent* to review by Halfords. In preparation for going camping over the summer holidays we put it up last weekend. On the website it didn’t look that big but we were delighted to find that it provides lots of space for our two energetic boys and all of our camping kit!
We were also pleased to discover that the tent has two bedrooms and a spacious living area. From past camping trips we have found it handy to have separate bedrooms so that we can split our boys up if they are too excited to sleep together. A large living area is also essential for sheltering from the rain if necessary and to give kids space to play and chill out.
3. Carefully plan what to take to contain and entertain kids!
As mentioned before in my guide – Essential Kit for Camping with a Baby or Young Child – we always pack something to keep our youngest son Harry safely contained and lots of outdoor toys and favourite books etc to keep both boys entertained.
The first time we took Harry camping at four months old we took his bouncy chair, as he became more mobile we packed his walker. We always pack a highchair for he will sit happily for ages eating whilst watching everything going on around the campsite. His travel cot is also often used during the day as a play pen when we need to make sure he is safe whilst we prepare food etc.
4. Select a family friendly campsite
Obviously some campsites are more family friendly than others. If you want to avoid campsites that attract hen and stag parties and instead have family friendly facilities such as playgrounds and nearby attractions check out Halford’s Ultimate Camping Guide. The guide provides useful maps so you can easily see how far campsites are to local attractions and popular family events. I particularly like the sound of Eskdale Club campsite (page 9 in the online guide) which according to the map is close to Grizedale Forest and not too far from Lake Windermere, my favourite area in the Lakes.
In addition to picking a family friendly campsite, my advice for families camping for the first time would be to camp fairly close to home. When we camped for the first time as a family of four last summer we stayed in Gloucestershire. If our boys had refused to sleep or the weather had turned for the worse we could easily have packed up and returned home.
5. Do as much food prep as you can at home
One of the things I love about camping is cooking outdoors. There is something really special about sitting around the camp fire chatting to family and friends whilst tucking into BBQ food. I’m not however such a big fan of trips back and forth to the campsite washing up facilities with piles of pots and pans! Halfords have some great tips in their camping guide which I intend to use this summer including chopping up vegetables at home and storing in zip lock bags ready for cooking on the BBQ. The guide also has a genius idea for a lazy full English breakfast which I absolutely love the sound of! Check this out….
6. Pray for sunshine (but pack your waterproofs in case your prayers go unanswered!)
Unfortunately the one thing we cannot guarantee in the UK is good weather. As the saying goes – There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. I always pack waterproof coats and wellies for the whole family and for our boys I pack extra clothes and waterproof trousers too.
I hope you have found our guide to preparing to camp with kids useful. If you have tips you would like to share please comment below. I wish you and your family fun camping adventures this summer!
*Aventura six man tent RRP £150, currently on sale at Halfords for £100.
Disclaimer – This article is in association with Halfords. All words are as always my own.