Everything you need to know to be ready for a successful camping trip
Every time we go camping we learn something new. We discover a new camping hack from friends, or we learn from our mistakes and figure out a new camping tip. We’ve been camping most years with the kids since our eldest was only 9 months old (that’s 9 years ago!) and had camped many times before kids too. We are still learning, and that’s half the fun of it. Here are some of our favourite camping hacks including choosing the perfect campsite, packing solutions and that all important list of things to take camping.
Choosing your campsite
Once you’ve decided that you are up for going camping you’ll need to decide where you want to go, and if you’re tent camping or if you’re going to ease into it with a spot of glamping. Our favourite UK camping and glamping sites are listed here and include some great family-friendly options.
Think about what’s important to you before you pick.
- Are you camping with a group of friends?
- Does the campsite need to be dog-friendly?
- Would you like entertainment on site, or definitely not!
- Are firepits allowed? What about BBQs?
- Is having a shop on site important to you?
- Would you like additional food options (eg pop-up pizza, breakfast stall) available to you?
- Are you hoping for a wild camping feel (compost toilets!) or do you prefer a more managed environment with built-up shower and toilet blocks?
- Facilities – from playgrounds to swimming pools, decide what’s on your wish list.
- Location! Near the coast, walking distance to a pub, bike paths nearby, would you prefer to camp in the woods or on an open field, be remote or have easy access to town…
If you’re planning on camping in France we highly recommend the Huttopia collection. We’ve stayed in a few, but our favourite experience by far was on the Ile de Re at Huttopia Chardons Bleu. You can read about the week we spent in one of their safari tents here.
When we are looking for a new campsite in the UK we usually start with a search on Cool Camping. We’ve stayed in a number of the places they list and we’ve not been disappointed yet. In Summer 2020 they are offering a Coronavirus Booking Guarantee for additional peace of mind when you book through them. (Not an ad, we’re just big fans.)
What to take
Packing for a camping trip is not like packing for a weekend break in a hotel, or even a self-catering holiday. When else do you need to take not only your own bed with you, but the kitchen sink too!
Over the years we’ve built up our camping essentials packing list, much of which has been inspired by friends we camp with. Each family will have their own items which they can’t travel without. I’ve included our essential camping items alongside pretty standard camping items. Even if you’re used to camping it’s really useful having a packing checklist.
Pack your kitchen kit into a large, sturdy plastic box. We have a camping box that is always ready to go. It has the pots, pans and kettle, washing up bowl, crockery and cutlery (in a separate Tupperware box), drinking cups and thermos mugs stored in it. It also usually has some bin bags, paper towels and loo roll in there too. We check it over and top it up as necessary before it’s loaded into the car.
Use a separate sturdy box for your dry food (cereal, bread, oil, biscuits, crisps etc.). Boxes are great as they can stack on top of each other, saving space in the tent. Large, reusable shopping bags are also a good choice for storing food as they are more sturdy than flimsy plastic bags.
Bring two full sets of ice packs – one set to use, and one set to freeze – to keep your chilled food and drinks cold in your cool box. Many campsites have freezers available for campers to use to refresh their ice packs. Bring a plastic bag or two for your ice packs when you pop them in the communal freezer for easy identification.
Pop card games and small toys into a storage box. This makes it easy to stack and tidy away. It also makes it much easier to find things in fading evening light than if they’re stuffed in the bottom of a bag.
Picnic rugs are not just for picnics! We place one in our indoor non-sleeping space, and another one or two at the entrance to the tent. Wet, muddy, sandy shoes get taken off on the rug and left outside the tent. This reduces the amount of pine needles, grass, sand and mud that makes its way into the tent. We use the outdoor rug as our general hanging-out zone, where we’ll play cards, read books or where the kids will draw or curate collections of pinecones or shells.
Tablets – not everyone will agree on bringing electronic devices for kids on holiday. Our children are early risers, so they use their tablets with headphones in the morning when they wake up. Their tablets also act as night-time clocks for them even when they are locked for use. When we’re camping in the summer it’s useful for them to have an easy way to tell the time, so they know not to get up at 5am if they wake up with the dawn chorus.
Lights! Hang a light from the top of your tent – or simply find a way to hang your torch. This will make getting ready for bed much easier than your head torch swinging wildly from side to side as you search for your pyjamas and toothbrush. For a festival feel consider getting some fairy lights for inside or outside your tent. Add to the festival atmosphere by giving the kids some glow sticks when it’s dark.
Camping Food Hacks
One of the joys of camping is cooking over an open fire, but it’s good to have a few tricks up your sleeve to add some variety to your camping meal plan, and for those days when cooking on a BBQ or firepit just isn’t possible.
One of my favourite camping food hacks is borrowed from an experienced camper friend. Make up a batch of bolognaise sauce (or chilli / stew etc) at home and freeze it. Bring your homemade frozen meal with you on your camping trip along with whatever sides you need (dried pasta / rice etc). Your frozen meal will act as an extra ice pack in your cool box, and will defrost slowly over a day or so. By the second evening it will be ready to heat up on your gas stove.
Before any camping weekend I usually make up a couple of easy salads to bring with us, such as pasta pesto with peas (ideally made with orzo or other small pasta shape), or a spicy coleslaw. I keep these in large food containers, then we dig into them over the weekend. If we’re only camping for two nights I’ll often prep some salad veg (carrots, peppers, cucumber etc) and pop those into a food storage pot to save me having to wash and cut up the veg on site.
You’ll notice on our packing list I suggest bringing a baking tray. This isn’t because I expect you to be baking cookies on the campfire. We find it useful to bring a medium size baking tray / roasting tin to load up the cooked food as it comes off the fire. Pile it high with sausages, kebabs and steak then place it in the middle of your table for your camping feast.
I hope you’ve picked up a few ideas from us. What are your top camping tips and hacks? Share in the comments below.