Camping. For many of us, the word brings back memories of carefree childhood days, unending summers, freedom to explore the countryside, and making new friends. For others, the memories are less … erm … enthusiastic. Rain, noisy campsites, grotty loos and showers, no loos or showers at all, rain, collapsing tents, lack of sleep, and did I mention the rain?

OK, so camping’s not for everyone, but if you’ve always been a campsite refusenick, perhaps it’s time to think again. Modern tents are a million miles from the loose collections of canvas and wooden poles that passed for tents in my youth, and there’s a whole new industry devoted to camping in style – there’s even a new word for it: glamping. For families with young children, camping can be a fantastic experience, enabling you to spend quality time together without the distractions of modern life, and getting back to nature … well, as close to nature as you feel comfortable with, anyway! There are new camp sites springing up all over the place, some offering luxuries such as hand-cooked food delivered to your zippered tent door, others offering a more back-to-basics experience. Something for everyone in other words!

If you do decide to take the plunge and pitch your tent this summer, I’d like to offer a few bits of advice for all you camping first-timers!

Think about what you want from your holiday

The first thing is to establish exactly what it is that you and your family actually want from a camping holiday. If you have young children, you’ll probably want to make sure that there are adequate showers and toilets, perhaps an on-site shop, or at least somewhere nearby to get nappies in an emergency! A camp site that advertises itself as a family destination will probably have decent facilities and may well offer entertainment for both adults and children. Swimming pools and kids’ clubs can be a real godsend when you need a couple of hours’ peace! The down side of this kind of site is that they can often be quite noisy, with discos going on quite late and people coming and going constantly. At the other end of the scale are the ‘back-to-nature’ camp sites. These sites typically lack major facilities, though most at least have loos and showers these days. It is the 21st century after all! So why choose a site like this? Well, it’s the simplicity of it all that’s the appeal. Peace and quiet, all of nature to explore, woods, hills and valleys, family time together without ‘devices’, tablets, and i-this and i-that. Of course, there are plenty of sites that sit somewhere between these two extremes. It’s just a case of working out what’s right for your family!

Gear

Ok, when you talk about camping, there’s no way of avoiding the subject of gear. Well, unless you opt for one of those all in one rent-a-tent deals, which, to be fair, can be a great introduction to this type of holiday. So, assuming you’re not doing that, you’ll need gear. So, a tent. A tent and sleeping bags. Oh, and sleeping mats or air beds. Then there’s the portable stove, the inflatable chairs and the air pump – don’t forget the air pump! – the tent carpet (I know, I did a double take at that one too!), the camping lantern, the extension lead to hook up to the on-site electricity point if they have one, not to mention all of the travel plates and cutlery … well, you get the idea. The thing is, you can spend as much or as little as you like, but the key point is to make sure that you have the right basics. Most of the other stuff is optional. So do your research on the tent, and make sure you get sleeping bags that are appropriate for the season. One thing first-timers often don’t realise is that it can get quite cold at night in a tent, even in the summer. For your little ones, you can use their Slumbersac sleeping bag if the temperature allows. We also have long-sleeved bags available if you anticipate cooler nights, and add-on sleeves for your traditional sleep sacks.

Try it out first

If you’re still not convinced of the merits of camping, why not do a test run? Try a rent-a-tent deal, or borrow a tent and go to a local camp site, or even pitch it in your garden if you have one! Before you know it, you’ll be proclaiming the joys of camping to all of your friends – or, perhaps, chalking it up to experience and vowing never to do it again!