Family Camping: What we learned

Camping. If you don’t want to be enveloped by a boiling cloud of your own piss, may I suggest you learn from the mistakes of my camping companions, and never attempt to douse out the glowing embers of your campfire at the end of the night by weeing on it.

We just got back from our annual camping weekend away with a load of other families. We’ve learnt many things over the years from this trip, but this particular tip sticks with me (Not literally. Urine vapour doesn’t actually stick, so I’ve been told.) This particular error in practical fire extinguishing happened on a previous trip, but for obvious reasons (idiocy, drunkeness, the passing down of hard won wisdom to a new generation etc) the story is now told on every trip.

“Once upon a time, children…”

The evening around the campfire this year was livened up by a number of at the time terrifying, later amusing incidents. Nothing says sophisticated like fresh baguettes, three types of cheese and a bottle of red round the fire after dark; nothing says colossal pisshead like throwing all of the above wildly into the fire as you trip, pissed, over several camping chairs on your way back from the coolbox. We somehow also managed to burn to death a brand new camp stove by assembling it incorrectly then watching in dismay as the whole thing burnt to a cinder. Bastard thing didn’t even boil the kettle.

Despite these mishaps, I still maintain that camping is ace, and anyone who says otherwise has clearly not been doing it right. Don’t get me wrong – I love ‘wild’ camping, where you stomp for days over the moors and sleep in a tinfoil bag with your face wrapped in a North Face balaclava; I’ve woken up to minus seven degrees and frost inside my tent and kayaked my way away from a bear after a night pitched on a rock by the side of the sea, but – and here’s the difference – these trips were all before I had children. Now, the ultimate goal of camp heaven is to make sure that there are always enough 1. other children to entertain your own, and 2. crisps, and 3. children to pass you a new packet of crisps so you don’t have to leave your camping chair for more crisps.

Empty chairs. Gone for more snacks.

Whilst we’re on the subject of crisps, you’d be surprised how many packets a £600 Tesco online delivery to your campsite looks like, and the really surprising thing was that it was still not enough snack provision to feed five families for two whole days. Normally we all take our own food, but after many years of camping together we realised that to prevent the hell that is five bottles of ketchup but no bacon, we should pool our resources. As it turns out, if you look like you’ve forgotten to bring any coolboxes to decant your supplies into, the Tesco delivery men will let you ‘borrow’ the crates it comes in, which makes for a bloody brilliant camp kitchen area. We perhaps should have factored in that the free range chickens pecking around the site could also access our croissants through the holes in the crates, but you live, you learn. So will the Tesco delivery men when they return to ‘pick them up’. Long gone, my friends, long gone.

Don’t bother going camping unless you plan to breakfast like THIS.

Other things I’ve learnt include the art of retiring to my tent at around 7pm to ‘put a jumper on’. What I actually do is put on my thermal pyjamas and seven extra layers of tops underneath that jumper, which means that as well as being toasty warm all evening whilst sitting outside, when you stumble your way to bed at 2am, shitfaced,  all you need to do is peel off the top layers and crawl into bed, without flailing around naked and freezing trying to get changed in the dark. It does have the unfortunate side effect of making you look like an ever so slightly fatter version of your best self, but frankly, when I’m camping I couldn’t give two shits what I look like, as is painfully evident when I get home and look at the photos.

Seeing as we’re now firmly out of ‘youthful adventure’ mode and rather in the ‘drive to campsite’ bracket, I also take a duvet, pillows, nine hundred blankets and – full disclosure – an actual, memory foam mattress, which goes in the back of our van. My husband has also at times been known to take a petrol generator, solar panel car battery charger, full size canadian canoe (never used, looks good on the roof of the van) all of which I can assure you are actually completely unnecessary.

I suspect we might reach a point where our camping setup exceeds the general living standards in our actual house, being such as it is a half completed building project, but until such time camping remains the most fun you can have with literally all your clothes on at once. Just don’t forget the fire extinguisher.


My top tips, assuming you’re driving to a campsite and not carrying it all on your back:

  1. Ear plugs for the win. The birds are lovely and all, but did you have ANY IDEA that they start at 4am? Nobody likes 4am.
  2. No-one died from 2 days without a shower. That’s why god invented baby wipes. Take all of them.
  3. Take at the very least three other families with children older than yours.
  4. There’s not many problems which can’t be solved with marshmallows.
  5. Take more blankets than you ever think you’ll need. Having once endured a night in a tent with a vomiting child, it’s best to be prepared. Plus, it’s colder than you think – put them under and over your airbed. Those foam play mats you can get are also good for keeping out the cold from the ground. (assuming you make it back to your tent and don’t just end up sleeping where you fall on the ground, in the hedge)
  6. Chairs with cup holders in the arms. Otherwise your children WILL spill your beer.
  7. Wind breaks and gazebo for cooking area. Just remember to peg those fuckers down so they don’t blow away in the night like ours does every single year. We never learn.
  8. Dont take your dog. One year, ours got out in the night and joined another family in their tent after, presumably, eating all their breakfast supplies. She LOVED it. Them, possibly less so.
  9. Don’t run out of crisps
  10. Don’t piss on your bonfire.
Camp Heaven. Goodnight Vienna.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Having just returned from camping with children in Wales, I agree with all of the above but have to point out one glaring omission: It’s weather dependent.

    If it’s warm and sunny camping is brilliant. If it’s wet and/or cold camping is appalling. There are also grey areas.

    Oh, and thanks for the bonfire/piss tip. That was bound to happen eventually.


    1. Lindsay says:

      I find the ‘grey areas’ to be somewhere between 4 and 5am when I really need a wee.
      Agree that the weather can make or break – when it’s raining, all our camping usually comes to an abrupt stop.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed. Camping has it’s problems.


  2. dubiousape says:

    Hi, Love this! Our family loves camping and the descent into frozen madness. I’ve just started a blog to vent my welling up of over-tired emotions, please come and have a look at my camping story “French Leave” on – I’d really appreciate some feedback.


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