Friday, 18 April 2014

In-tent on having a good time!

Are you/did you do anything nice over the Easter holidays?

We had our second ever camping trip. We were booked in at a camp site in Northumberland. A relatively new one which had a great web site and looked fab. We booked in for three nights which I found was the perfect duration when we went camping last year.

I am totally new to camping. I never thought I would enjoy it as I like my home comforts. I hate going a day without a shower for a start and my mental image of camping was staying in the old style triangular tents and going to the loo in a bush. How wrong could I be? It is amazing how much tents have changed over the years and the gadgets and equipment you can buy are fantastic. You can book into sites with great washing facilities so my fears were allayed.

Camping games
Outdoor Family Fun
Last year, we booked into a large site which housed dozens of tents, touring caravans and statics. It was during the summer holidays and apart from the odd rain shower, we scored really lucky for the weather and had a great time. I discovered that I loved staying in the open air. It was great for our family to have some quality bonding time. Hubby enjoyed cooking on the stove, the kids loved the fresh air and the open space.

Outdoor Camp Cooking
Cooking on the Camp Site

We decided to buy a relatively cheap tent package which included a 4 berth tent, airbeds, sleeping bags and lights. We bought it on ebay as we didn't want to spend a fortune in case we didn't like camping. Over the coming weeks, we bought some bits and bobs like a gas stove, cool box etc. It is the type of holiday which is quite expensive at first but once you have the gear can be really cheap so

Lesson 1: Beg, borrow (don't steal!) as much equipment as you can until you can build up your gear.

We were lucky enough to have family and friends who have loaned and donated some of their stuff so we haven't had to fork out for everything all at once.

We did discover that the ice blocks in our cool box we had bought didn't last for ages. At the end of our break we found out that the site shop would refreeze them for us. We found out too late and had to throw out some food.


Lesson 2: Find out what facilities the site has before you go. 

We now have an electric cool box which is fantastic!

Buy Good Sleeping Bags!
Buy Good Sleeping Bags!
After our first night's camping, we came to the conclusion that the sleeping bags that came with our tent were rubbish. We went to a camping shop and bought some great mummy style sleeping bags. They weren't cheap but what a difference!

Lesson 3: Don't skimp on sleeping bags! A good nights rest is essential! 

Relaxing in the Great Outdoors
Relaxing in the Sun
Although we thoroughly enjoyed our trip, it became apparent that the tent we had was a little small for a family of four. We had to move everything into the bedrooms during the day and then move everything into the living space at night. You couldn't stand up inside (and we aren't tall people). There wasn't any space to sit comfortably around a table in bad weather. As we had decided that camping holidays would be more of a regular occurrence, we started looking for a new tent. Hubby found a monster tent (probably way too big for our needs) and bought it. Not only did he buy this massive six berth tent, he also bought the extension. Well you never know, we might need the extra space...

Lesson 4: Don't let a man choose the tent. It will inevitably be a mansion.

Spacious Tent
Our new huge tent!
So with our first trip under our belt, we decided to start early this year so that we can get two or three trips in over the season. I chose the site and we were all excited to be going, hoping for a repeat of the previous years trip.

We arrived at the site early afternoon. It was a much smaller place with room for about 20 tents and a small area for camper vans. We'd chosen the standard pitches over the wild area which was on offer as we wanted electric hookup and also to be near the toilets.

Lesson 5: If you have small children, try to get located relatively close to the toilets... oh and take shoes that can be slipped on easily through the night.

We took trainers last year and it was a nightmare at 3am so ended up buying some clogs locally.

It was pretty windy and we weren't allowed to park next to the pitch as the ground was soft. We had to carry the tent etc to the pitch and then drive down to the car park. The pitches were very spacious but very rugged. It took a while to find a big enough space without a big tuft of grass on it. I asked hubby if he had looked up how to erect this huge tent... Nope!

Lesson 6: Find out how to put up your tent BEFORE you go!

He had seen there was a YouTube video for the tent below ours in the range but hadn't bothered to watch it. BIIIIIIIG MISTAKE! Coupled with a really strong wind and a very exposed pitch (no trees etc around), it was a nightmare. We almost took off at one point and discovered that the tent was a makeshift hang glider in disguise. It took all of our strength not to let go. Thankfully, four good Samaritans came to our aid and helped us put up the tent. If it hadn't been for them, I think that we would have given up.

Onsite Cafe
Lovely onsite cafe
We ate at the site café which was delicious. The facilities were great and there was also a small play area for the kids. They loved having the freedom to go there whenever they wanted.

We started to unpack and it became apparent that I had neglected to pack several items. Bowls, cups, matches, batteries.....really useful stuff! They were all in the old cool box which we had left behind.

Lesson 7: Make a list of things you need and check them off as you load them into the car! 

Luckily, there were some shops in the nearby village and we managed to buy the things that we were missing - though they only had two bowls, so breakfast was done in shifts, and the cups were like thimbles so we had to have two cups of tea each time.

Fun at Kielder Park
Fun at Kielder Park
We had a terrible night's sleep - partially down to some noisy neighbours who, despite the 10pm quiet time, insisted on making loads of noise. I had two 'middle of the night' trips to the loo with the girls (why didn't we have boys?!!!) and the wind was terrible. Part of the tent became unpegged through the night and hubby had to get up to pin it back down.

Next day, we went off to Kielder Lake. We had a lovely time at the castle, salmon centre and the play area. It was cold but still an enjoyable day.

We got back to the camp site around 4pm and it was blowing a gale again. Added to the mix was rain too. We were gasping for a cuppa and it was almost time for dinner but there was no way that we could cook anything on the stove in that weather. We had some ham but had eaten that at lunchtime on our trip out.


Lesson 8: Take some food that doesn't need to be cooked!  

We ended up sitting around an electric camp fire toasting bread! 

Fun at Kielder Park
Fun at Kielder Park
The weather was relentless and it was starting to become tiresome and we were not having fun anymore. The prospect of another sleepless night was not appealing. We were feeling dismayed but decided to call it a day. When there was a gap in the clouds, we packed up and went home.

Perhaps if we hadn't had the kids or if we had been more experienced campers, we might have sat it out but the exposed pitch just wasn't worth the misery.


Lesson 9: If camping early in the season, choose a site with some coverage.

We haven't been put off camping. We have a fantastic (big!) tent and will definitely be trying again later in the year.  It's a great experience and can be a cheap base for staying in some fantastic places.

Have you tried camping? What tips have you picked up?

By Bee


  1. We used to do very basic camping without electricity and just one little gas cooker. We found that if you dont have a fridge make sure that you pack some things in a storage box that you can also use as a make shift fridge by filling it with cold water and keeping it in the shade ... obviously only some things can go in there but its great for keeping drinks cool

    1. That's a good tip! We could use our old coolbox with some water in next time if need be. I suppose we are used to our electrical appliances these days and its a case of going back to basics when camping - thinking about how things used to be done back in the day.

  2. Wow, it looks really good, I must say one should have such experience once and I am really glad to see that you have taken your kids with you. Thank you for sharing your experience with us