I wrote recently about how we'd spent a few nights camping as a family in the New Forest. Growing up I had a lot of camping holidays, but Ram is a more reluctant camper, and of course as adults you have more concerns about the practicalities of family camping. I don't claim to be anywhere near an expert, but I thought I'd share the ways in which we make the most of our camping experience without doing without our home comforts for long.
Firstly, begin by camping in the garden. You can test out your tent and be confident that it will remain standing, is waterproof, will fit all of your bedding, and that the children won't suddenly change their minds.
So far, we've only been camping away for one night. We arrive at the campsite soon after midday, pitch our tent, then we have the afternoon and evening to spend exploring the forest and having fun outdoors. We leave first thing the next morning, so there is no need for showers and we are home by lunchtime.
We eat a main meal out in the evening, so we don't need to worry about cooking, washing up, or transporting all that extra equipment. There is always a pub nearby with easy parking and a play area for the children. If we do progress to camp cooking then we'll go with a disposable barbecue, with plastic plates and cutlery. For lunch on our first day we take along some sandwiches, and for breakfast we pack some dry cereal like Cheerios in a plastic tub for the children and a selection of croissants.
We sleep on two double airbeds, and although it's not too much hassle to pump them up with a foot pump we recently invested in a cheap electric pump that runs from the power socket in the car which makes inflating a lot quicker. It also deflates, so you can easily remove all the air before trying to stuff them back into original packaging. We take our own pillows and we each have a cheap sleeping bag. We take an extra blanket or two and we dress warmly for sleep.
Something that we very much enjoy having with us is our folding camping chairs. It makes a big difference to your comfort when you have somewhere that you can sit properly and they have drinks holders in the arms for that all important 'Pimms in a tin'.
We have a torch each, and they are all wind up torches which are pretty cheap in Ikea. We're not very good at winding them up in advance so you need to wind them as you go, but they are fun for a late night walk in the forest. We also have a small battery powered lantern which hangs from the roof of the tent and makes getting ready for bed in the dark much easier.
We are very much beginner campers at the moment, and I'm not sure that we'll ever manage more than a couple of nights away, but even spending just the one night in a tent with the family can be really fun and it's a great experience to share with children!