So you think you know camping? It's all tepid tea and soggy sleeping bags, right? Wrong. While many of us might have been put off camping at early age by drizzly, disastrous family holidays or sodden scouting trips, there are lots of reasons to rediscover a love of camping out in the great outdoors again.
Camping is a terrific way to bring families together, step away from the stresses of everyday life and discover a true sense of adventure. What's more, The Wildlife Trust recently found that children have become increasingly separated from nature with fewer than 10 per cent of children used to playing in natural areas.
But going camping is a wonderful way to introduce the little ones the great outdoors as well as giving us grandparents the opportunity to get hands on teaching them the skills we remember from our childhood like cooking on a campfire or building a rope swing over a stream.
So just how do you make a camping trip a success? The experts behind the UK's annual Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show in Birmingham have some top tips.
What kind of tent should I choose?
Camping today doesn't neccessarily have to mean sleeping under canvas. While you may like to go for the traditonal two-man tents that can be put up in minutes, you could also consider 'glamping'' options like yurts, tipis and pods which are available on many camp sites today.
Trailer tents are another option, which are easily towed by a small car and quickly erected. Meanwhile, folding caravams are a hybrid between a trailer, tent and caravan – you simply lever up the sides for a fully enclosed caravan.
How do I choose a campsite?
There are thousands of campsites in the UK and abroad, with an environment to suit everyone, whether in a tent, tourer or motorhome.
Just be aware, camping ‘in the wild’ without permission of the landowner, is not allowed throughout most of England and Wales.
The Camping and Caravanning Club has more than a hundred club sites in the UK, most with full facilities.
The club has also joined with the Forestry Commission: Camping In The Forest provides a selection of campsites in Britain’s forests and woods.
www.pitchup.com provides a guide to more than 7,000 sites in the UK, Europe and the Americas.
Thousands of licensed sites include destinations from farms to uninhabited islands, adult-only and family-friendly locations, with facilities from nothing at all to swimming pools, restaurants and shops. Many campsites allow dogs, and offer activities including golf, bowling, water sports and fishing.
How about caravans?
If you'd prefer to stop over in a caravan you'd certainly be in good company – today the National Caravan Council estimates there are more than a million leisure vehicles currently in use in the UK.
The benefit of a towed caravan is that the car detaches, making trips easy. For those preferring the freedom of a motorhome, there’s the fun of travelling and living in the vehicle and moving from site to site.
“Today’s tourers are light worlds away from the typical caravan of 30 years ago,” says Nick Page, Group Commercial Director of Swift, the UK’s largest tourer, motorhome and holiday home manufacturer. “Lightweight, well-planned and fitted interiors packed with mod-cons make them comfortable and a home from home, whether a compact two-berth or a large, luxury tourer sleeping six people.”
Caravan holiday homes and lodges are also available to hire at many locations in the UK and abroad, which means they are usually already linked to essential services such as water and electricity. Parkdean Resorts is one of the largest with 73 locations across the UK.
What if I want to buy a caravan?
Top tips are:
If you’re planning on purchasing your own caravan or motorhome, there’s never been a larger choice of suppliers and specifications. Tips for beginners include:
- Take your time in researching. There are plenty of specialist magazines and online sites with details of manufacturers, new products, ‘best buys’ and features matching the right vehicle with the right buyer
- If choosing a caravan, what car would tow it? Make sure you have the right driving licence and that your car can safely tow your caravan by asking your dealer.
- Motorhomes range from compact campervans to luxury coach-size vehicles! A van-size, two-berth camper could even double as a daily drive
What do we do on rainy days?
If you're camping in Britain, chances are you'll encounter a bit of rain. But it doesn't have to dampen your holiday:
- Put empty containers outside and ask children to measure the rainfall
- Dress up in wet weather clothes and walk in the woods or even better – take an outdoor shower or go swimming in the rain!
Top tips for keeping a family of happy campers?
When all the generations get together in a tent or caravan, it's easy for tempers to fray. But here are some easy ways to make your camping trip a happy one for everyone involved.
- Let children take part in tasks that older generations might be expert in, for example hand-washing clothes and pegging them out, cleaning out and rebuilding fires and barbecues; practising rope knots on tent pegs
- Bring the outdoors in. Encourage children under the supervision of grandparents to collect bugs, interesting stones, bits of wood or unprotected wildflowers. Everybody can admire them before returning insects to the wild
- Certain games and activities cost nothing at all. A family walk, skimming stones on water or damming a stream is easy entertainment
For more top tips on camping and caravanning visit www.freedomtogo.co.uk
The Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show runs February 21-26 at Birmingham's NEC. Includes over 350 exhibitors of leisure vehicles, camping equipment as well as celebrity guest talks from Countryfile and New Lives in the Wild presenter Ben Fogle; Kate Humble, and President of The Caravan Club Julia Bradbury. To book tickets visit www.ccmshow.co.uk
- There are more days out and holiday ideas in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday