Today’s a big day in the Highs and Lows house. I’m expecting a large delivery from Winfields Outdoors which marks the first phase of transitioning from solo-and-slightly-smelly wild camper to master-of-the-campsite family camper.
Wild camping was always my thing. Sleeping out amongst the fells when everyone else has gone home is a wonderful feeling. Waking up at the crack of dawn with only the mountains for company is a real privilege.
Starting a proper job put a stop to this. It shouldn’t have done, but it did. And slowly but surely, my backpacking gear was relegated to the loft with only an occasional outing to look forward to.
Fast forward a few years and my new mindset of redressing the work-life balance. I’ve dusted off my kit and it’s had more use. I’ve got the bug again. But something’s been missing on these solo trips. Something really important. My family!
I suspect this is the case for many a parent. You’ve probably amassed a load of kit in your youth, designed to be carried on your back. A small 2-person tent maybe. A lightweight (but uncomfortable) sleeping mat. A tiny stove suitable for boiling water but not rustling up a killer fry-up.
Pre-children, I took my wife camping in Derbyshire over a bank holiday weekend. The weather was foul (I should have known) and the two of us were cramped in my small tent. Again, ideal for solo trips by a mountain tarn but not great for whiling away the hours on a campsite in the rain. Family camping requires a different mindset – comfort over speed. That was the moment I realised that once kiddies came along, I’d have to go shopping…
Fortunately, I love a bit of research and I’ve slowly been amassing a encyclopaedic knowledge of camping equipment I never knew existed. Toasters for your camping stove, kitchen units, carpets, fire pits, LED lighting and chemical toilets. Folding picnic tables, bunk beds, solar showers, hanging cupboards and marshmallow skewers. The list goes on and it’s frighteningly long.
If you believe what you read on the internet, making the transition from backpacker to family camper involves spending thousands of pounds on all of the above. Missing out any one of those items means you’ll have a miserable time and receive disapproving looks from your fellow campsite residents. It’s all quite overwhelming.
And then you get to the most intimidating part – the tent. Of course I was drawn to the palatial tents with multiple rooms, air-beam poles, an orangery and a garage. Who wouldn’t be? And then you see the price tags, which wouldn’t look out of place on rightmove. These things take up the whole boot of your car, take hours to erect and weigh as much as a small moon. OK if you plan to be away for weeks at a time and need to create a home-from-home but for the odd weekend adventure, it’s overkill.
After listing all the items I thought I needed, I went into edit-mode. The collapsible washing up bowl, the two-burner hob with integrated grill, the inflatable three-piece-suite could all go. All useful items, sure, but for your first family camping trip, they aren’t exactly necessities.
I’d been caught up in the hype, and felt liberated after some furious editing. The final shopping list was more palatable. The heated camping toilet would have to wait…
The weather looks promising this weekend so we have a mini expedition planned for the garden. Test out the kit and make sure everyone is happy. Check it’ll all squeeze in the car without the need for a separate trailer, roof box and courier. Then it’s a case of being breezy enough to pack up the car and set off on a real adventure.