June is National Camping Month and with the good weather we're having it's a great time to pack the sleeping bags, tent and a bag of marshmallows and head out into the great outdoors. While many are seasoned pros and experts and "escape it all" any time they get the chance, some need more help and inspiration to take the leap and go for their very first micro adventure or full on camping trip. Halfords have published The Ultimate Camping Guide '16 to provide campers with all the information they need to have an unforgettable camping trip.
The Ultimate Camping Guide is very useful and can be downloaded as a PDF. The first section gives suggestions on where to camp in Scotland, England and Wales. We would like to go further afield soon (our tent has never left Wales!) so will be using this guide to help choose an area. It's only a small guide so not fully comprehensive. Don't disregard counties or camp-sites not mentioned- for example, Pembrokeshire didn't make the publication and is a very popular camping county, perfect for family coastal camping trips.
The second half of the guide is full of useful information, everything you need to know about camping from entertaining the little ones to camping abroad.
Beginners Camping Tips
For newbie campers the most useful section will be Beginners Camping Tips which explains everything from the equipment you need to where to pitch your tent and how to set up.
One tip that I have for beginner campers with kids is to do a "practice camp" at home in the garden first. This is also a good idea for fair-weather campers getting their camping kit out of hibernation over winter. It's a good opportunity to check everything is still waterproof and in good working order.
Camping in the Garden
We camped in the garden to test out all our equipment and because the kids love it! As well as putting up our tent we also have a trampoline tent (thanks to our family friend Meurig) so can stay out for impromptu weekend camping "trips" without going far.
Sometimes children (and some adults) find it hard to sleep in a tent at night as they're not used to the darkness, the tent movements in the breeze and the seemingly strange sounds you hear outdoors at night (that they will in time grow to love). So practising in the garden is very practical and saves having an upset child in the middle of the night in the middle of a campsite.
For adults, it's a good way to practise making a camp-fire and outdoor cooking. While lighting the fire and then cooking, the kids sat around and chatted to me, it feels so much more relaxing than cooking tea indoors. The kids had hot-dogs for "tea" and then hot chocolate before bed. They always ask why camp fire hot chocolate tastes so much nicer. I think a camping cup of tea always tastes better too. This guide also contains a section on Camping Recipes.
When camping in the garden, as it gets dark kids will learn that keeping their torch safe is important. We packed lots of books to read and it was lovely to have the time to read whole chapter books without any other distractions.
I had the chance to relax and read a magazine with my hot chocolate.
If kids worry about the darkness you could listen to audio books or watch a film on a tablet/DVD player to help them relax and get used to it, over time they will.
Once the kids are asleep they usually have the best sleep they've had in a long time and naturally awaken as it lightens and the birds sing. Sleeping and waking outdoors is so refreshing.
What Tent to Buy?
I will be using the "what tent to buy" section myself as we need a bigger six man tent now the kids are growing. I love the look of the Orla Kiely range but need to go for a larger tent practicality wise. Ideally, we'd prefer two bedroom areas and a living space in an easy to pitch tent that is still light enough to carry (I'll let you know how we get on).
This guide also contains a festival survival guide and a mini guide to glamping (am I the only person who has only camped and never yet glamped?).
Camping Essentials Checklist
At the back of this camping guide there is a Camping Essentials Checklist. I would print this page out twice and keep a copy to check off each time you pack for camping. I remember my mum's well used typed out then covered in plastic camping and caravanning list which would always be on the kitchen table to prepare us for every trip. The last thing you want to do when camping, especially in a remote area is realise you've forgotten an important piece of kit.
Are you a happy camper? Where is your favourite area to camp?
Thanks to Halfords for collaborating with me on this post.