Ok, ok, I know there’s been a lot of camping posts recently, but for newbies to camping there’s always lots of questions before making the decision to go. Even once you’ve booked to go, there’s still millions of questions especially if you’re going with non-campers.
Of course there’re the benefits of camping that are obvious:
- outdoor living
- freedom from routine (no needing to be out of B&Bs or hotels while they clean)
- getting back to basics (especially if you’re going wild camping)
But there’s lots of other things I learnt from camping with friends.
1. Camping is about community
If you live in a road where no-one knows their neighbours, people don’t say hello, then you might get a surprise when camping. People say hello when they walk past, offer help when you’re struggling, and generally are just happy. Oh, and they all say thanks when someone opens the door to the toilet/laundry block for them.
On our holiday we had quite a bit of wind when pitching the tents. I was helping a friend but we couldn’t hold the tent still to peg in. Next thing we had 3 people from a nearby couple of tents coming over to help hold things while we knocked tent pegs in. Another day we came back from the beach to find our group’s gazebo had been blown out of its tent pegs and over across towards some other tents. Someone nearby tied it to a solid picnic table until we got back to sort it out.
People are happy to chat and share their experiences and learnings; camping is a shared experience even if you’ve never met them before.
2. Adaptability and survivability just happens
I certainly don’t do wild camping. It’s a prerequisite that I need good toilets, showers (ideally wifi, although we didn’t have it as claimed) and only a short drive from supermarkets. But camping certain shows you that you can do things you’re uncomfortable with and adapt as needed.
Each day we got through, we managed and improved at what we needed to do to organise the children, cater for big numbers with limited stoves, and managed wind, rain and whatever else was thrown at us. We have people in our group turning up and leaving at different times through the week, but everyone was welcomed in, added to the meals, and helped out when needed. No tents fell down (although we didn’t have much luck with the gazebo) and despite a few leaks, no-one’s gear got flooded.
Wine did help at the end of the day, but as time went on there was almost a dunkirk spirit and sense of achievement that camping wasn’t a mystery, and that we were enjoying it. It did feel like a holiday despite us still having to cook and wash up all the time.
3. Beauty routines don’t wash it on the campsite
Even though our campsite had award winning toilet and shower blocks, the capability to use the electric hook ups for a hairdryer and straighteners if you so wished (none of us did, although I did originally debate it), I had to ignore the fact that I would look a wreck after one night of camping.
Yes, I still put on a touch of make up to smooth out my skin and cover spots, and I washed my hair everyday as normal. But I still looked like I’d been pulled through a hedge backwards. My hair isn’t good on holiday, it looks flat, is always tangled (not helped by wind, humidity and drying naturally), so I just had to get on with it.
But when crossing paths going to and from the shower blocks in your pyjamas, no-one cares.
You can also get away with living in wellies, trainers or flipflops, and your most casual clothes, depending on the weather.
4. You will get tent envy
You might not have known anything about tents before going camping, but trying to decide on a tent is hard. I researched lots, asked questions of others, and had a brief look in stores. What they should have is more shops where you can go and see tents being put up, set up and put down again. There’s not enough of them.
I thought I was happy with the choice I’d made. It did the job, it was big enough for us. But I was disappointed about a couple of things which I had thought I was getting and didn’t.
Then you get on the campsite…and see everyone else’s tents. I got serious tent envy.
Extra rooms or chambers, amazing looking gazebos, additional porches (the one I had didn’t fit despite it saying it was universal), high roofs, different shapes. If I knew I’d be camping regularly, I’d be off doing more tent shopping like a shot!
5. Your car will be rammed however lightly you pack
If a capsule camping list exists, I certainly didn’t find it online beforehand.
I’d checked out a few lists online, and asked friends what else I was missing off my list. Usually I’m quite good at packing for holidays, and I can drop a few items off my lists and make use of everything I take with me. Camping meant I had a massive list.
Clothes for N and me. I didn’t want to be doing laundry there, so clothes for each day for us, different shoes to cater for all weathers, beach and shower towels, camping equipment, table, seating, food, stove, gas, bike, entertainment for wet weather, beach gear, picnic rugs, food and more.
I’m pretty good at packing, but crikey the car was rammed. Embarrassing really given there were only 2 of us, while others had to get more kids in their cars. Over the days at the campsite, we all realised there were things we could have done with…another table (one to cook on, one to eat at), doormats for inside/outside the tents, gazebo or shelter to cook under, windbreaks to give some privacy. But how would you even get all of these things in the car?! Then you have the depressing task of unpacking at the other end again, as well as having to store all of it afterwards.
Of course, it goes without saying that even if you’re apprehensive about camping, by the end you’ll have enjoyed it…or at least can appreciate what you’ve achieved in spending the time camping.
What else do you think camping teaches you? What are the benefits you’ve seen?
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