We’ve just spent the most chilled out weekend camping in Kent, and thanks to being one of Millets Outdoor Explorer families we did it in comfort and style in a brand new tent and with some great new camping equipment too. This was our second camping trip of the year and we have two more planned in August at festivals and then we’re hoping to go away again in September for a weekend once the kids are back at school too as a final goodbye to summer! I wanted to share some tips and tricks to make camping a bit easier for anyone, but especially people who want to try it for the first time and also to share what we thought of the equipment that Millets sent us. Firstly though if you’re not sure what there is to love about camping then you might want to read this post first!
Choosing a campsite
Once you’ve decided which area you want to stay in then hit the internet for some recommendations and read about the campsites in the area. Some will be better for transport links to attractions but that might mean they’re next to a main road and a bit noisy. If you’ve got kids then you might want to choose a campsite with a play area or things for them to explore. Similarly if you’ve got kids then a campsite that bans amplified music might be worth going for, though lets face it your kids will be up well past their bedtime anyway! Check out the restrictions on group size, camp fires, dogs etc to check you’ll be happy there.
Other things to think about are the sort of toilet/shower facilities available, whether the campsite allows fires (and if so does it sell wood too?) and if they have a shop on site. Most we’ve stayed at have had a little coffee bar open in the mornings and chips and burgers or similar available in the evenings.
Choosing a tent
Most modern tents are pretty simple to put up so that’s less of a consideration these days, but air tents will go up in minutes! We used the Buckingham Elite 8 for the first time on this trip and absolutely loved it! It took about 25 minutes for Sam and I to put up together, and less than that to pack up. It’s an 8-man tent spread over 4 bedrooms that sleep 2 each. Our old tent was a 4 man tent but it was a dome tent, which meant it just had the one area; it was tricky to keep things organised and when the adults went to bed after the kids we had to be careful not to wake them up. This tent however means that we can have the kids in their own rooms at one end of the tent, the living area in the middle and our bedroom at the other end, giving everyone the privacy and peace and quiet they need! Or if we were camping for more than a long weekend/it rained a lot we’d all sleep at one end and not use the other rooms, giving us a much bigger living area. I’ve made a video giving you a tour of the tent, which is the best way to see how it’s set up and get an idea of the space – but if Sam at 6’5 can stand up in the middle without ducking you know it’s spacious!
The Buckingham Elite 8 also has two doors which both have fly-screens so on really hot days you can have both doors open to circulate fresh air. It has built in storage in each bedroom and in the living area. The bedroom zips glow in the dark which was handy when Arlo woke in the night and I needed to get into his room in a hurry, and the external zips have elasticated protection over them to stop any water getting through if it were to rain! Both windows have screens that can be rolled right down or left half way for privacy and there is plenty of ventilation too.
Choosing a camping pitch
Do you want to be sitting in the shade in the evening, or the sun? This might change depending on the time of the year and the sunset time. If you pitch your tent to be in the evening sun then it’s likely you’ll be in the shade in the mornings, which means you’ll be a lot cooler in the morning BUT your tent will probably still be damp when you go to put it away, which is not a good idea unless you can get it out and hang it up as soon as you get home- it will get mouldy otherwise!
Other factors to consider are your proximity to: toilets & showers, a water tap, the routes through the campsite (ie will you have lots of people trekking past within a few feet of your head waving torches about whilst going to and from the loos all evening when you’re trying to get to sleep…
A Good night’s sleep
There’s nothing quite like being snuggled up inside a sleeping bag, and the one I christened on this trip is an Adventurer 300 from Eurohike, and is one of their ‘mummy’ style sleeping bags, meaning you can effectively envelop your whole body including your head- leaving just your face poking out! This one is super cosy, and so cosy in fact that on the second night I just had it over me duvet style as it was so warm in the night, but it’s not often in the mid 20’s overnight when you camp in the UK! With easy to use zips, a little pocket inside for any valuables you might want to keep on your person and a cosy lining this is the perfect sleeping bag for me!
Sam and I shared a double flocked airbed* which was surprisingly comfy, with its pre-formed pillow shapes at the head end and an integrated foot pump at the other end- this meant we didn’t have to remember to pack a foot pump, and had this blown up in under 5 minutes just by stamping on the pump! So clever!
How to stay organised when Camping
Organisation is key when you’re camping, otherwise you can’t find anything you need when you need it and packing to go home takes forever. We used the inbuilt tent pockets, which are located in each of the four bedrooms and a larger one in the living area. This was ideal for car keys, sun screen, charger packs for phones and other small bits and bobs – the kids shoes fitted in there perfectly too but I’d only put them there if they were clean! We then used the four shelf camping cupboard to keep all our clothes organised and used to top to store lanterns and toiletries and bottles of drink. There is a handy pocket on the side for sunglasses (or perhaps mobiles or pens – anything really) and what I especially love about this cupboard is that it folds flat and pops into its own storage bag with handles!
We also use a wicker hamper to keep all our food, crockery and cutlery in when we’re travelling, and then when we get home this just goes up into the attic in one piece, keeping it all in one place. The little gas bottle fits in too, along with the camping stove, lanterns and torches. Plus when you’re at the campsite the wicker hamper doubles as a side table for drinks or for the kids to eat their dinner round on a picnic blanket!
Cooking with Gas
Although marshmallows toasted over the fire are compulsory on a camping trip a proper camping stove is a real help and means you can cook a proper meal rather than just eating barbecued meat! You can boil water for tea, coffee and hot chocolate, make pasta, toast bread and all sorts of things! With a small gas bottle attached to the Campingaz folding compact stove the culinary world was our oyster! Well, more or less…
Having the ability to have two gas hobs on AND a grill at the same time was really helpful. We found the grill a bit hit and miss for anything other than toast but it was helpful to finish off things that had been barbecued to make sure they were cooked through. We made macaroni cheese, grilled Salmon and made morning fry-ups using the hobs though! The stove folds flat into it’s own carry case, and is surprisingly light weight to move too. You don’t need a lighter or matches to light the hobs or grill either, it’s all incorporated. Don’t forget a whistling kettle for that all important first cuppa of the day! We have a cooking table with a zip up cupboard to keep food safe and dry, and more importantly keep bugs away from it, means we’re cooking at a better height than on the ground.
Camping doesn’t have to be uncomfortable at all, we’ve all got our own chairs, though the kids often try and sneak into ours when we get up! Sam bought us both Moon Chairs this year as he knows I like to sit cross legged, which is a bit trickier in a regular chair! The kids both have animal chairs which they love, and they all fold up into their own bags for storage and transportation and we’ve been using them for two years already, they’re still in great condition!
I also have my favourite tin camping mug- which proudly tells everyone I’m a ‘Happy Camper’ and a cuppa from that in the morning is just perfect! Though a G&T in it in the evenings is pretty good too! This year we bought some solar powered lights for our tent too to add a bit of atmosphere to our campfire, and we leave on overnight for a bit of added twinkle and to give a little bit of light in the tent!
Other things to remember
- When you’re thinking about buying equipment make sure everything will fit in your car! You could always use a roof box for additional space, or a small trailer that you can leave at the campsite when you go out and about.
- You’ll need a cool box and ice to keep everything chilled before you cook it, but do also expect to be visiting a grocery store daily for extras (especially ice!) unless your campsite has a little shop. If you fill bottles of tap water and freeze before you go you can use them as ice blocks then use them to drink (or cook with) afterwards.
- Dry shampoo and shower gel is your best friend!
- Buy some large capacity charge blocks for your phone/camera etc. We have one that will charge both our phones three times over which is really handy.
- Flip flops are a must for shower and toilet trips
- A dustpan and brush though not essential is a good idea, so you can brush all the dried grass (And dead insects!) from inside your tent before you pack it up!
- Use Microfibre towels – they take up less space and dry really quickly too.
- Marshmallows and wooden skewers – the most essential items to pack!
So hopefully this has answered any questions you might have when thinking about planning your first camping trip, but do please ask anything else in the comments below, I’m happy to help!