Top Family Camping Tips

We have just returned from a camping trip and one of the things I enjoy doing while camping is wander round the site where you can get some great ideas for enhancing future trips (as well as a big old dose of tent envy.)

Our latest foray to The Camping and Caravanning Club site at Adgestone on the Isle of Wight was particularly interesting. We've not really camped much on organised sites with electricity. I have to say I enjoyed having power which we mainly used to charge our phones.

Apart from the phones when camping we are more field and torch kind of people generally. However camping at Adgestone revealed a breed of more organised obviously experienced campers enjoying more of a home from home experience so along with my own top tips here are some ideas from my site-wandering.

Firstly - camping does not have to mean existing on a diet of beans and sausages. I always take a stash of instant noodles and pasta for emergencies but we like to barbecue chops, cook vegetables or prepare a picnic feast with tasty treats. We usually have soft white rolls stuffed with bacon for breakfast.

campiste bacon breakfast

The Adgestone campsite was awash with sophisticated campers preparing mouth watering meals around us. Two families close to us cooked fresh mussels on the camping gas cooker and salmon fillets on the barbecue. I saw another guy wilting spinach (yes I know!) in a wok on his single burner.

We *may* have been lazy and availed ourselves of the onsite takeaway. Well you have to eat fish and chips at the seaside don't you!

Second tip. Take appropriate footwear. We each have a pair of Crocs or the non-branded equivalent. Yes I know they are the summer equivalent of Uggs which make anyone's feet look shapeless and enormous but I love both for comfort and Crocs are the ultimate camping shoe.
kids wearing Crocs and similar shoes

They are great for slipping on and off as you exit and enter the tent meaning your groudnsgeet stays clean and dry and great to walk across dew-covered grass in.

 They are perfect for showering in if the floor is less than perfectly clean (not at all the case at Adgestone may I add  - everywhere was spotless.)

They rinse under the tap and are great for the beach or pool and everywhere I looked campers young and old were wearing them!

Tip 3. Take towels. In the words of Douglas Adams: “A towel, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have."

You might be a camper not an interstellar hitchhiker and you hopefully won't need it to wrap round your head to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you) but towels are still vital for camping I feel.

We take some for showering, some for swimming or sitting on the beach if appropriate and then some extras. We take an old small one for rubbing sand off feet with the help of talcum powder and another to use as a mat for our damp Crocs and other footwear. I take a hand towel with a loop sewn on to have near my camp kitchen.

Tip number 4. Choose a tent which is adaptable. We started with an old canvas tent which took hours to erect and was huge even when packed away. We moved onto a 12-man  satellite tent with bedroom pods which was enormous . This was great when our family size was at its peak until campsites caught on and started charging by footprint size and occupancy. Sad times.

tent with porch extension

We now have a 5-man tent which has two bedroom pods which you can choose to hook in or leave off giving you a very adaptable space..

We also have a tent extension for longer holidays. Can you believe it - extensions for tents! Ours attaches with a kind of drawstring system although I did spot a camper at Adgestone who had added crocodile clips to his - I'm guessing he's experienced near loss of an extension in breezy weather! We plan to pack some too just in case next time we go camping.

The extension is amazing giving extra room and shelter from sun, wind or rain. Our extension is a different colour to the tent as it's a late addition so I would recommend buying the two together if you can. You can also get smaller porches, side porches or canopies.Most tent manufacturers make a couple to fit a number of their models or you can buy universal extensions. Check your measurements carefully!

Another tip. If you have your heart set on a particular area or site, book well in advance. Prices vary vastly from season to season, site to site so it's worth shopping around and tweaking dates if you can travel outside school holidays. 

Talking of saving money, The Camping and Caravanning Club offers great discounts for members and it doesn't cost a lot to join. You can peruse their amazing range of sites, including the Camp in the Forest sites and choose remote sites with few facilities for  real back to nature adventure or sites with lots to do or near well known attractions. 

My final tip. Take your sense of adventure (and humour!) My husband had never been camping before he met me but he has adapted well to wearing layers of clothes and eating outside when sensible people have retreated indoors. He has set up camp and de-tented in howling wind and rain and in the dark. 

A friend has a great story about a camping trip a couple of years ago in an area hit by storms and flooding. She told us her husband stood holding the centre pole of their tent up as they sang a song of the children's choice - God Save The Queen bizarrely. They abandoned the camp in the middle of the night piling their wet tent into the car around the children and headed home!

On the whole though we have had nothing but lovely experiences  We have watched the stars come out, us with a glass of wine, kids with their hot chocolate. We have toasted marshmallows, explored new areas and had lots of family fun, all on a budget. If you've never camped - borrow a tent and try it or have a go at glamping - more on that in a future blog post.

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