Camping with Kids
We’re not experienced campers and have only been three times with children, but we learn something new each time and feel like we’re almost there now. And a long weekend at Camp Bestival certainly helped cement our learning as we noted with envy others’ set-ups.
We have a small hatchback car with two large extended rear-facing car seats which take up most of the back seat and footwells, leaving limited space in the boot for any essentials. We have an Outwell Virginia 5 tunnel tent which has a living area and separate bedroom with optional divider for privacy. There is a front and side entrance which we’ve found useful depending on the weather – the wind always changes direction once the tent is up! There is a sewn in ground sheet and it takes just three poles to erect. It’s the perfect size for the four of us just now, but I always wish we had the extension option whenever it rains. As it is no longer available (the tent was discontinued and therefore all accessories were too), we’ve looked around and ordered a Coleman Galileo 5 extension for our next trip which is meant to be a good fit and will virtually double our living space.
The sleeping area is big enough for our double ready bed and two single airbeds – although at the moment, we have a child’s ready bed and a mini self-inflating camping mat and small mummy sleeping bag which fit sideways in the space, leaving even more room. With some experimenting, it seems that Bunny’s mat and 2/3 season mummy sleeping bag provide the best comfort on cold nights. Bear slept well in the ready bed, but I placed a car sun visor underneath it, lined the bed with a cashmere blanket and used two fleece blankets on top as well. I used two emergency blankets under our double ready bed and a thick fleece blanket on top of it but we were still cold so are investing in individual 2/3 season mummy sleeping bags for next time and may even consider the camping mats in future. Inflating the airbeds is hard work, so our battery operated pump has been a godsend – and was only £6 in our local Tesco.
If we’d had more room in the car, I was tempted to bring our Magic Bed travel cot for Bear to sleep in as it is so portable, easy to put up and looks cosy. But as I mentioned, there just wasn’t room! Although we’re hoping the HandiRack inflatable car roof rack will help us next time as we carry some of the bulkier items on it.
When it comes to food, we have a coolbox that plugs into the car to keep food cool on the journey down and for a while afterwards (freezing as much of the food/drink as possible in advance helps with this too). I picked up a couple of picnic trays from the pound shop that have indents for cutlery, a cup/can, and food. They are perfect for the girls to use and make their drinks more stable.
I cook our food using the ultra tiny Go System Thermo Pro stove with optional clip-on windshield and it hasn’t failed us yet. I use some stackable pans/kettle on it and have used the lid as a frying pan in the past as well. It’s not much use for gourmet meals, but for pasta with sauce it works well and boils water quickly. I would like to upgrade to something better now there are 4 of us, but so far we’ve managed. I do like the look of the Trekmate flameless cook system though – perfect for in-tent cooking in really bad weather (or before getting out of bed for morning tea and coffee). It’s on my list for next summer!
I have a collapsible water carrier and also a solar shower which can be great for cleaning mucky hands and even washing hair with warmer water. The little spout at the end makes it more user-friendly than a bottle. Though, baby wipes are the easiest option for a couple of nights away – they can be used for an all over freshen up first thing or just to clean hands before eating. And of course, every camper’s favourite – the dry shampoo spray. I noticed that Batiste have lots of different options, so there’s one for every hairtype! When it comes to toothbrushing, some folding toothbrushes from the travel section in Superdrug are brilliant.
Add in a mallet (for thumping in tent pegs into dry, hard ground), toilet and kitchen roll (in plastic ziploc bags to keep them dry), some clothes pegs for hooking things to the tent to dry (towels, socks, jackets) or to quickly pin open the unzipped doors, lots of bin liners and plastic bags for keeping things dry and for your rubbish (take more than you think you’ll need!) and of course some LED lights and torches (or headlamps for handsfree illumination of midnight toilet trips) and we are pretty much all set!
However, the biggest lesson learned at Camp Bestival was the amazing usefulness of a trolley to transport all of this from the car park to the camping pitch (and to get two little people around a large festival site after their bedtime, allowing them to curl up and sleep if they want to). A definite must-have and lots of fun too if customised to be even cooler than it sounds!
We’re heading off again this weekend and hope that some of the extras we’ve ordered will make it even better than last time.
What tips do you have that I’ve missed?