This is the most important thing to get right. You can get by on just a tent and a roll mat, but a few additions to your car boot will make the experience of tent erection go from frustrating to surprisingly rewarding and have you trading a broken, uncomfortable sleep for a restful eight hours.
The tent: Think big. If your camping escapades involve a car, you can afford to get a bigger tent than if you have to lug it on the train or carry it across the British countryside. Get a three- or four-man tent as this will leave plenty of space for all your gear, room to roll over and should the weather turn grim, a useful porch to play cards in.
Bedding: In the UK or anywhere colder, you need a decent sleeping bag. However sunny it is in the daytime, it will often be freezing at night and waking up to icy feet isn’t the best way to start the day.
There is no greater joy than lying down on a firmly inflated air bed after a long day in the open air. Don’t forget a pump - electric and battery powered versions are great for low-effort, or if you’re unsure you’ll have access to electricity, bring along a good old fashioned foot-pump or one that attaches to your car’s cigarette lighter.
Pillows are also vital to avoid a cricked neck and don’t forget sheets and pillowcases for that touch of home comfort. You’ll soon forget you’re sleeping under canvas - until the occupants of the tent next to you forget their walls are made of flimsy material and start being inappropriately loud.
Cooking gear: Gas stoves are cheap, easy to use and multi-functional. Presuming you can find a supermarket to stock up on ingredients, you can happily cook up a decent cuppa in the morning, a full English if you’re feeling brave and any dinner you’d normally make on the hob at home. But remember you won’t be able to keep things cool for long so try not to bring too much that needs refrigerating. The main problem with this is beer. But you’ll have to find your own solution to that. Or pack plenty of bottles of red wine (it doesn’t need chilling).
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Bring along a saucepan and a frying pan, mugs, plates, cutlery and washing up stuff. Also handy to have are basic condiments such as ketchup, cooking oil, mixed herbs and salt and pepper. And don’t forget the gas canisters. Put all these things in a plastic ‘camp kitchen’ box that you can bring out for each camping trip. This will make you feel tremendously organised and pleased with yourself, which is a good way to start the holiday.
Odds and ends
Don’t forget: extra tent pegs, a mallet, a tin opener, bottle opener, a bucket BBQ, matches, fire lighters, a head torch, toilet roll, a blanket, insect repellent, bin bags.
Nice to have: tea lights, camping chairs, a folding table.
Don’t expect too much. Accept that this type of holiday might mean you have to be slightly less showered than you would normally be and that you might not get as much sleep as you would in the four poster bed of a five star.
Make up for it by enjoying being outdoors, living simply, making fire, turning off your phone and playing cards. The best part about camping is that it offers you a true break from the stresses of our modern cities, jobs and social lives.
Pack your walking boots and wear yourself out with a good dose of countryside and you’ll sleep well however hot your canvas castle becomes by 7am. Also bear in mind, sleeping in separate sleeping bags isn’t especially conducive to passion so be realistic with any seduction plans.
Assume it’s likely to rain and you won’t be disappointed when it does. Pack waterproofs and remember, it’s only a bit of water.
Camping is great, but it can take a few tries to get it right. Keep a list of anything you think would be useful for next time and most importantly, don’t overdo it. After four or five days, perhaps consider booking a night in a B&B or hotel to send you back home fully rested.