We spent last weekend camping at the lovely White Mark Farm in Oxfordshire with friends and their children. Everyone we told about our plans beforehand thought we were absolutely bonkers to be going at this time of year with two kids in tow, but it was actually a really fun weekend. I would not consider myself an outdoorsy type at all, but Pete is and he’s slowly been bringing me round to it. Normally, the only camping I would consider is glamping, but this time we did some good old-fashioned camping and I reckon if you’re well prepared, you can be just fine. Here are my tips for an easy camping trip with or without kids.
Make sure you’re well equipped. I would say ensuring a good night’s sleep is a priority, so make sure you have an airbed or similar and warm bedding (we usually just take along a duvet), plus a light, something to cook on and something to sit on. Pete is a minimalist camper to say the least, so camping chairs always feel like a luxurious camping extra to me!
Layers. It’s generally pretty cold at night and in the morning (especially at this time of year), but if you do any kind of walking (or other exercise) during the day, it can get pretty warm – so bring lots of layers. I always bring thermals along when I go camping, and I make sure I have decent waterproof shoes.
Pick the right campsite. I’m a big fan of campsites that are within walking distance of civilisation. We always seem to forget something, so it’s useful to have a shop nearby; I also like to be near somewhere to eat (see below). Another must for us is a campsite that allows fires. It might seem weird to call a campfire a necessity, but it just makes the experience better for us and provides crucial heat, light and entertainment on chilly nights. Plus, nothing beats toasting marshmallows on an open fire.
Outsource food. It may not be an authentic camping experience, but I try to avoid doing any real cooking while camping. This time, our friends brought a big pot of chilli they’d made at home and we baked potatoes on the fire (although bear in mind that baking potatoes on a fire can take a looong time – as we discovered! Crusty bread would also work and be a lot easier :)). Porridge is great for breakfast – or at least for staving off hunger until you can get to a café for a fry-up. In terms of cooking whilst camping, three things you can never have enough of are: tea towels, kitchen roll and wipes.
Camping with kids. I don’t have a tonne of experience of camping with children, but generally this trip was fine. As with any other kind of trip with children, remember to bring all the snacks! Children cannot wait to eat, so make sure you’ve got plenty of food that they can eat easily while they wait for those potatoes. Apart from that, my main advice would be to relax and go with the flow: bedtimes will inevitably be later if the evenings are light, and mornings will be earlier because, well, you’re all in a tent, and we found that George looked like a filthy urchin the whole time – as soon as I put clean clothes on him, they were covered in mud. But hey, it all added to the experience.
Something we’ll do differently next time is to bring some proper entertainment for George. I think it really depends on the age of the child, but we assumed simply being in ‘nature’ would be enough to keep him happy. Cue a rather annoying morning where we tried to relax and drink coffee while he demanded entertainment. Even a ball would have been good.