After our first friends camping trip last summer, we’re booked to go again this year. I did a lot of research into buying a tent and opted for a Vango 4 man tent. It was easy to put up even on my own, but there were a few things I wanted to change prior to another camping trip. So that one needs to be sold on, and I wanted to upgrade to a taller, probably bigger one with a porch/door area. I’d already done some research, we’d not seen many at a trip to Go Outdoors, so when I happened across the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show at the NEC, I decided that we’d head there to check out tents galore.
I couldn’t persuade any of my camping buddies to come along with us, but N was happy to come. We only had to pay for adults and parking was included in the price so it was worth going for an advance ticket around £7.
The caravan and camping show at the NEC was on over 4 days. We’re only 30ish minutes away and I decided we’d go on the Sunday. I’ve been to shows at the NEC before and found them busy inside, but I’ve never queued to get into the car park like this show. It was mad. Obviously, it’s a popular show. I was just hoping we’d get some good deals on tents.
We were parked some way away which meant a trip on the free buses. Always good in N’s eyes although we did need to queue for a bit. When we arrived we found there were 5 halls. It was a huge show – I suppose getting caravans and vehicles in means you need the space. The mix of people was really diverse as well…although shows like this really must be a British thing because I don’t think I heard a foreign voice the whole time I was there apart from on the clothing stall. Maybe noone else gets into caravanning like the Brits!
After a breather and stop to have a snack, we headed straight into the tent hall.
Wow, I’ve never seen so many tents in one place, and the first ones we saw were those advertising Pembrokeshire for camping and caravanning. Amazing tents and yurts. Cool wigwam style complete with artwork, and a 2 man ridge tent with sheep on it…for blending in I presume. Plus a bit of fun.
We both quite fancied staying in these hobbit style yurts – a group of 3 perfect for a family.
Then it was off to see the normal tents. Weirdly (and I don’t know if this is normal for camping shows), but it seemed that all the tents and camping equipment were represented by one company PJ Outdoors. They’re obviously a huge outfit, and there were all the major tent brands there.
Our old tent is a Vango and I’d done some research prior to the show and wanted to see the Vango tents and Outwell, both of which were brought to the show. A lot of what was on show was the new airbeam tents but they’re out of my price range because we don’t camp enough to warrant tents like those. It was pretty amazing watching a Vango tent being inflated by a member of the public in 52 seconds. N wanted a go in the air challenge, but he was too young – his reasoning was that I could help, but I wasn’t going to do so. Maybe next time when he’s older and stronger!
I was a bit disappointed at the prices. Normally at various shows I’ve been to, there have been great deals on items being sold. But with the tents I only spotted one (in the awnings section) that was a great bargain, but not a brand I’d heard of or a tent that fitted what we wanted. The rest didn’t seem to have been particularly discounted unless you wanted to buy the demo tents. We did buy a Vango tent in the end. It was more than I’d planned to spend but wasn’t far off the prices I’d seen online for that size/style of tent. Plus I did get a carpet and footprint included for free. Oh and free delivery – I didn’t fancy carrying it all back to the car!
As well as Outwell, Vango, Royal and other big brands, we took a brief wander through the camping equipment area. I’m after a new larger sleeping bag (because my mummy one gives no room for manoeuvre inside), an air bed and pump, and ideally a kitchen stand/table thing so we can keep our existing fold up table for eating off. I have booked a picnic table at the campsite we’re going to but a kitchen stand will give us more options. We didn’t find anything we wanted, so I’ll do some searching online at another time.
There was also one clothing stand, so I treated myself to a warm jumper which will be perfect for the cooler evenings and pottering around at home. I do love stripes and there were lots to choose from – It’s great losing weight and having the need for a new wardrobe.
Then it was just about time to find somewhere to eat our lunch. I’d packed something for us to bring because while there are places to eat at the NEC, there’s usually queues and on a Sunday I wasn’t sure what would be open. We wandered through all the different halls so got to see everything.
N loved the camper vans and just had to climb in a van to check out the mod cons.
The caravans weren’t that interesting, but we did pick up some freebies and enter some competitions in the holiday and campsite area. We also stopped to look at the birds of prey on show – I’d not expected to see those but it’s something for the children.
We couldn’t get near the show arena because Ashley and Pudsey the dog were doing their display and the crowds were several people deep. They did have tvs higher up so you could watch on those, but we gave up after a short and went on to find the rest area and the Lego caravan.
N’s a fan of Lego like many other children, and the Lego caravan was quite a sight. Apart from the real tyres, and the kitchen door fronts, it was all Lego. And complete with its own security guard. There was quite a queue around it so I didn’t get many photos, but it was interesting to see it and N had lots of questions about how it got in the halls and whether they built it onsite or elsewhere.
After enjoying the Lego, we stopped for a breather to rest our legs and eat our lunch, before heading back through the halls again to go home.
I’m not sure I’d go regularly to the caravan and camping show – for a one off if you need to look for something specific it’s great, but apart from research and shopping there’s not that much else to do. Yes, there’s a few demos, and displays but there’s not much to keep children entertained for a whole day (or adults unless you’re seriously into both tents and caravans and want to know the technical ins and outs of everything and try everything out.
I’m pleased we’ve got our new and hopefully final tent, so now it’s just a case of learning how to put it up and selling the old tent on.
Do you go camping or caravanning? Have you ever been to a similar show and what did you think?
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