We’ve just returned from five nights of camping in the Peak District. It was our family holiday; it was eventful, busy, fun and hard going all at the same time. But, whilst there, I realised there are things that happen pretty much every time you go camping, no matter how long you’re away for.
1) You’ll pack everything (including the kitchen sink!)
Ok, maybe not the sink, but you’ll take the washing up bowl. Pre children, all of this ‘stuff’ was not so much of an issue as we had the back seat free for packing things like sleeping bags and my 12 pairs of shoes into and I used to be more worried about things like how to straighten my hair when we didn’t have sockets (neither did the campsite toilets but I bought some that plugged into the car cigarette lighter!) than what the weather might be like or who might be poorly. Now I try to pack for every eventuality, which his why we took the trailer with us. Truth be told, we didn’t need half of it, but you can bet that if I’d left the Calpol behind someone would have needed it. I only take about three pairs of shoes nowadays, but the in car hair straighteners are still going strong!
2) Something will go wrong
This is guaranteed. For us this holiday, it was tipping with rain on set up day so Mr C and I put the tent up very quickly, only to discover the mallet was broken and we couldn’t put the wind breaks up or secure the guy ropes. Luckily we were in the Peak District so I found him a rock to use! Then the air bed pump blew the fuse in the car cigarette lighter, and we didn’t have a manual pump. However, the new air bed we’d bought had a mains powered pump. We didn’t have a pitch with electric hook up so I went and used the sockets in the (deserted) toilet block to blow them up. Carrying fully inflated double air beds up a hill in wind and rain is a challenge to say the least, but I overcame it by carrying them on my head so the fabric covered side didn’t get wet! I may have looked a sight but it was better than sleeping on the ground. Then, mid way through the holiday, the soles of my walking boots split and they were beyond repair. Fortunately I’d packed my old walking boots, which I’d relegated to allotment shoes but which were still in one piece. We survived, and the rain cleared off once we’d got set up!
3) You’ll wait half an hour for a cuppa (or other hot drink)
At first, boiling the kettle on a camping stove has a certain novelty value. However, by the morning of day 3, when you’ve had no sleep and you’re desperate for some caffeine, frustration sets in and you’re watching out for even the faintest wisp of steam coming from the spout. Then you dive in too early, pour it and end up with lukewarm tea.
4) You’ll be cold at night
It doesn’t seem to matter how many layers you wear, it just gets chilly. You end up in your sleeping bag wearing a jumper over your pjs with two pairs of socks but it never feels like enough. (Until about the 4th night, when you become semi hardened to the cold.) You might also look obviously at your fellow campers who brought hats with them!
5) You’ll drink hot chocolate
Even if you’d never even consider it at home, in a desperate attempt to keep warm you’ll drink it at bedtime. You’ll even wait for the kettle to boil properly to make sure it’s hot! You’ll most probably buy marshmallows too, just to make it extra fancy. You might also play cards whilst drinking it (for us it’s gin rummy, which I am better at when drinking hot chocolate rather than wine-Mr C still pokes fun at me for the time I ended up with 13 cards after drinking mugs of the stuff to keep warm).
6) You won’t sleep properly
Whether it’s because you’re too cold, there’s a funny noise, the air bed’s gone flat or just because it’s not home, you’re guaranteed to wake up several times each night. Then of course there’s the dreaded moment where you wake up needing the loo (probably caused by drinking the pre bedtime hot chocolate) and have a whole debate in your head about whether or not it’s worth getting up. You’ll get cold, but then you’ll wake up even more desperate in the morning, but if you get up you’ll be properly awake and it’s scary outside in the dark etc. This is why the morning cuppa is so essential to make you feel human again!
7) You’ll witness nightly scenes akin to a zombie apocalypse
No violence involved, but at around 9:30pm it begins on campsites across the land. Clad in the ‘essential’ uniform of onesies and wellies, and clutching a torch in one hand and brandishing a toothbrush or washbag in the other, everyone heads for the same spot-the toilet block. This normally lasts until about 10:30, and is a scary sight for the uninitiated. However, going for ‘one last wee’ at night is an important part of the camping experience! (The morning version is similar, but spread over a longer time and not as spooky without the torches.)
8) You’ll play football, cricket or scatch
Or maybe tennis, or badminton, or you’ll fly a kite. The lack of tv or other electrical devices will make you play outdoors and enjoy the open space. Of course, it will bring out your competitive side too (the fiercely contested badminton tournament of 2007 is still legendary amongst our friends!)
When you get home, the kids will then demand to play scatch in your very small garden and discover it’s not as fun. Good excuse to go to the park though and put off doing the holiday washing.
9) You’ll probably have spent your whole holiday budget by half way through your week
Sad but true. Even with the best laid plans, things will happen (like needing to buy a new sleeping bag whilst away!) and you’ll spend more than you expected. Thank goodness for National Trust membership providing lots of chances for days out without spending anything!
10) You’ll prepare for showers with military precision
Campsite showers are like nothing else. You have to have everything with you, packed in the order that you’ll need it, ready to hang on the little hooks on the back of the door. Once the 20p is in the shower there’s no stopping it, one misplaced shoe in the line of fire and you’ll have soggy feet for a couple of days. They’re even more challenging when you’re also showering the children, particularly if they drop their dry clothes on the wet shower floor!
11) You’ll threaten to pack up and come home
This will happen at least once, usually after a few sleepless nights. It’s most likely to occur if you’re camping with children, but even the most even tempered of grown ups can become irritating after a few nights under canvas (or polyester!) It can be triggered by such events as everyone refusing to put shoes on, running out of tea bags or just a particularly chilly night. Sometimes the threat even gets as far as putting the children’s toys into a carrier bag. It’s mostly resolved by feeding the threatener as they are probably just hangry (a useful word to describe anger brought on by hunger).
12) You’ll miss it when you come home
The walk to the loo in the morning, cooking al fresco, the lukewarm cups of tea, all seem a million miles away as soon as you step through your own front door. I ate my breakfast in the garden for a week after the first time we went camping as I enjoyed it so much!
As much as you’ll miss the great outdoors, though, the first night sleeping in your own bed feels a lot like being in a hotel. When we got home, the children seemed to look at their toys in a new light and played with them so nicely, as if they’d not had them for ages!
Is there anything else you think belongs on this list? Let me know!