People who love camping extol the virtues, and sometimes we forget that it’s not always rosy. Mostly because once the rain has gone, we can put that trip down to an experience, one to learn from. And probably, look on trips fondly because of the good parts. Plus kids see bad weather and bad experiences as fun, so sometimes as parents we look back at the harder times with a smile.
Camping with friends makes it all better too. While we had a lot of wind and rain on our latest camping trip, we still had 2 beautiful days on the beach, lots of chatting with our friends, and watching the children enjoy their freedom and play. Even though many of them are now teens and probably won’t want to camp for much longer. Straight away after a trip we’re usually there looking for the next camping trip next year (although we have mentioned a break and going for glamping instead this time).
I’ve camped through a flooded tent as a teen, in freezing temperatures in February (in my brave post-student days), as well as having split poles and getting the duct tape out. But camping is still brilliant fun and lovely as a holiday.
I did want to share some of the truths of camping. Because it’s not always wonderful…but we can generally see through it until the next trip.
The truths of camping
The myth says you’ll be outside and so tired you’ll sleep so well being so close to nature.
Hmmm, definitely not the first night. Now you might be a pro camper and pretty much bringing your whole bed with you. But most adults I know, don’t sleep much the first night. And if it’s heavy rain or strong winds, you’ll probably not sleep much either. The first night you hear everything – people talking, crickets, birds, trees, electricity pylons, farmers driving past carting the harvest. Or it might be because you’re cold, or too hot, or the airbed has deflated. But sleep will improve through the week (or with the amends you make to your sleeping arrangement.
Note, the kids will likely sleep brilliantly, but don’t assume they’ll have a lie in despite staying up til the 10pm lights out.
You will feel like you are jetlagged afterwards
We used to go camping for 7 days, but have reduced it down to 5 instead. This works much better, but because of the sleeping (see point 1), you might feel like you’ve flown long haul afterwards. You will be feeling tired while you’re driving home. You’ll want another holiday afterwards (or at least an early night).
Jungle formula doesn’t always work – you’ll probably find random bites afterwards
Someone will get bitten. Take antihistamine or some bite cream with you just in case. I rarely get bitten at home, but when I’m camping, the bugs love me. With N it’s the other way round. You might not realise you’ve been bitten until you’ve arrived home.
To avoid the bugs, use a spray or cream, avoid fragrances or sweet smelling sun lotion. Try mint essential oils on a hanky in your pocket, or use mint/eucalyptus shower gels – miraculously I didn’t get bites this time and had used this flavour shower gel.
Kids will run wild (and possibly turn feral – unless they’re with teenagers obsessed with showering)
Usually I struggle to get N to shower when on holiday. He’s fine at home, and away it always seems like an effort. But the children will be let loose in the mornings, to be rounded up if it’s meal times or if we’re heading out. They’re still all happy running around as the sun goes down, and it’s only close to quiet curfew that we’ll get them in and away from their friends.
It seems that once the children are older they get obsessed with showers. And N got drawn into that. It was cool to go for showers in the further away shower block. N was only going once a day, but some of the boys were going 3 times a day, morning and evening, plus after returning from the beach.
You will covet other tents and their set ups
This year was all about air tents for our group. I’ve been looking at upgrading for the last year, one of our group has done, so we wanted to check out theirs. Plus how the other air tents fared. One family were using theirs for the first time, and a couple of our group went over to ask if they could go inside and see the tent. But whatever your experience, you’ll see equipment or tents you’d quite like in future.
The camping gear you need will increase year on year
This year I added a camping kitchen to my set up in the side awning. It gave me extra space inside and was easier for preparing food and having items on hand. Friends added extra electrical gear like sandwich toasters and hair dryers to their equipment. Each year you’ll find new things that would be helpful, which is rarely a replacement meaning more car tetris expertise is needed with packing.
You’ll never use everything you take with you
I do try to use everything we take, but it’s not always possible. Even with clothes, you want to add extra just in case you get wet, but I find I tend to re-wear things more frequently when camping than I might at home. We were also quite lazy about cooking this time. I only used my stove in the mornings and one evening. So I definitely didn’t need to take my new second one I’d picked up with some extra gas canisters.
Children will remember everything about previous camping trips
They might forget what they had for lunch or did at school the same day. But an annual camping trip sticks in their mind. Ours could all remember (and do impressions), of 2 of the mums singing into ‘mics’ and dancing around. They could remember places they visited and previous children they met at the playground, who got into a fight with who.
The kids will make friends with another random child
Or group of children. And these random children will usually have a nickname and/or special talent. Not all the relationships go well, but it’s part of the camping trip.
You will get sunburnt
If you’re camping in summer, be warned the sun is strong when you’re pitching a tent. We usually arrive from midday to 2pm, and it’s always (for the past 5 years at least), been beautiful sunny weather. Because you’ve been travelling you probably don’t have sun lotion on and it’s the last thing on your mind when you just want to get the tent up. So stop, put on a hat, get lotion on, and hopefully you won’t get as burnt.
The evenings also tend to be warm – and often deceptively so as the sun’s going down.
You’ll get talking to random people when washing up
Don’t be surprised if they’re a friend of a friend, because the further you travel, the likelihood of meeting someone you know or know of seems to bizarrely increase.
You child will become obsessed with the campsite shop
They will want to / buy toys that are tat. And bad sweets. Because that’s always what is stocked in campsite shops. They’ll see others shopping and will want the same. Ours have come back with ‘farty’ slime tubs, water shooters, silly plastic lip dummies, plastic boats to take to the beach, footballs. Quite often they’ll buy each other the same toy if they’re there with a friend. It’s sweet to see this, so for one trip a year, I can live with the tat (but not the slime when the lid isn’t on properly and it oozes onto my tent carpet. Grrr.
You will take a random item with you and not use it
I can’t think what I brought with me this time, but one of our group has a reputation for doing this. Evidence being taking a pot noodle to the beach with no hot water or fork. And packing a garlic crusher.
You will feel like the tent will fall down in wind
Even if the wind isn’t that strong, being in a tent at night always feels more risky than it is. But it’s rare that tents will fall down – just check out my camping in storms advice post.
Even a wind break doesn’t stop people coming through your pitch
Try as you will, there will always be people coming through your pitch. Especially if you’re near a playground and not backed up to a hedge. Kids are generally oblivious, although I did glare at a young boy each time he did it while we were pitching the tent, and eventually he must have started going through someone else’s pitch instead. Adults should know better, but frequently don’t seem to care. In Wales we had 4 tents pitched together with a gazebo and tarp cover in the middle of them. It was like a maze of picnic benches to get through it, but we still had adults walking through. Sigh.
If you want to close your pitch off, you’ll need a lot of wind breaks and your car to make a big barrier!
Whatever your camping trip, you’ll look back on it with fond memories. It must be fun because some people camp several times a year, others camp for weeks on end. And the rest of us want to go again a year later.
If you’re not enamoured, change the style of camping you’re doing. Try pods, glamping, camper vans or motorhomes, or go to campsites with all the luxuries – electric hook up, underfloor heating and music in toilets and shower blocks.
What ‘truths’ of camping would you add to the list?
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