An article I wrote for The Ultimate Edit magazine about why it’s worth shaking off the negative connotations and giving the great outdoors a try.
When you hear the word ‘camping’ what do you picture? Finding a drunken group of Metallica fans in your tent at 3am at Glastonbury? Being dragged away with your Brownie troupe when you were a desperately homesick 9 year-old crying for your own bed?
Up until a year or two ago, my opinion on camping was shaped by my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze overnight trip on which my friend Zoe and I, total novices and possibly high on Haribo, slept the wrong way round in our tiny, triangular tent and woke up, our hair matted and our faces pressed both tightly together and to the condensation-heavy canvas walls. It was about 1000 degrees and we were dehydrated beyond belief.
Surely there must be a happy medium? What about a trip into the wild countryside with your other half or your besties? It could be a fun, new option for a weekend activity this summer.
Fancy your risotto with a view?
I’m not professing to be an expert – although my outdoors-crazy husband does know a thing or too. But hopefully these tips will help inspire you to give camping a chance.
Six top tips for a good camping trip:
1. Whether the weather be good…
If at all possible, have flexible enough plans that you can postpone if you know it’s going to be bad weather. If you want to fall in love with sleeping in the great outdoors you’ll probably be more open to it if there aren’t hailstones raining around your ears.
This weekend I seized the sunny opportunity and wild-camped on the Sussex coast
2. Pack light, but pack right
Whatever you pack…you have to carry. I know it’s obvious but it does help you work out what’s necessary and what’s just going to weigh you down. So sleeping bag = yes. But real china plates = nooooo. Pick the lightest versions of the things you need and take the world’s most useful piece of cutlery to halve the amount you’ll need: THE SPORK. All hail the spork.
3. You’re so wrapped up in layers, onion-boy
That’s a quote from Shrek. If you’ve never seen Shrek I’m afraid you’re not yet fully living so – please – go watch it then carry on with your life, and this article.
Anyhoo, layers are KEY. Pack a light anorak that’ll fold up small and protect you from the rain (should England choose to act English) and long walking trousers or yoga paaaaants that’ll protect you from nettles, bugs and keep you warm at night.
Hark at these folk, having a right stylish giggle in the woods
4. Wild or tame, which is your game?
There are pros and cons to both wild camping and booking onto an established campsite. Wild camping has the thrill of not knowing where you’ll end up and having the area totally to yourselves, but you have to steer clear of angry farmers and get used to al fresco peeing. Booking a pitch at a campsite might not be quite as exciting, but the perks are that you’ll have running water, plus you can set up your tent and head to the nearest village for drinks and an explore of the area without having to worry about leaving your ‘home’ unattended.
5. Go big or go home
Why not make your trip one to remember? When we were dating my husband brought along a lobster (caught by genuine fishermen and not us, in case you’re feeling completely overwhelmed!) and we cooked it over a real camp fire on the beach. It was – without a doubt – the best tasting meal I’ve ever had. There’s such a satisfaction to cooking something so decadent in the wild outdoors. I’ll never forget cracking open the claws on the rocks because it’s the closest I’ve come to being Bear Grylls.
What could be more delicious? (Unless you’re veggie of course!)
Why not take something equally sumptuous along on your trip? Or a bottle of Prosecco will do just as nicely, and it’ll help you sleep like a baby.
6. Leave the countryside as you found it…or better
I hope you’re already in my non-litterbug crew of cool kids, but it should be the last top tip that in order to keep our country pretty enough to camp in, we need to take home everything we take with us. And if you’re feeling particularly virtuous, why not pick up a few other pieces and drop them in the nearest bin? Mother Nature thanks you…and so do I.
Camping: it’s pretty, in tents. Or, it’s pretty intense.
I hope this has inspired you to decide for yourself.
For more tips, buy my husband’s e-book on camping for beginners – Stepping Outside – from Amazon, a steal at 99p!