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First camping trip was I give up or try again?

(49 Posts)
bobblypop Fri 16-Aug-13 20:19:48

just heading back from first proper family camping trip and it was grim. apart from first day it poured with rain and howled with wind endlessly.
I am however thinking that I may like to try again (once I've had about 2 years of therapy maybe to recover!) am reflecting on how I could improve things ...(apart from the weather!)
Firstly we nerd a much bigger tent.there are 8 of us (me,dh and 6dc) and 2 dogs and our 8 man tent is too small!
Next we need a trailer so we can fit stuff in car and bring enough clothes!
then, although the site we were on was nice in that it was quiet with room for kids to play we need to make sure there are washing machines and dryers on site and maybe a shop, and a bar and slightly less basic toilet/shower I think to keep everyone happy.
we all need better sleeping bags and mats/camp needs.
We need an electric cool box or mini fridge, more lights and maybe a fan heater...

so now again I'm wondering is it really worth it....

anyone hated their first trip and ended up converted? What lessons have you learned along the way?

bobblypop Fri 16-Aug-13 23:42:52, thinking shorter trips, nearer home and only going if forcast nice weather is the first step...
so, considering 2 smaller tents rather than one big one...but don't think DS1(15) would want to share with dd1(13)...although dd1 and dd2(11) would share...but dd3 (9)and dd4 (7)bit little to not have adult in tent...and ds2(5) definitely needs to be with us, but ds1 usually shares pod with him...hmmmhmm mats shock I am thinking biggest, thickest sim I can find...(2 out of 3 of our airbeds appeared to have mysterious punctures and there was MUCH middle of the night airbed pumping going on....sigh...hmm

AngryFeet Sat 17-Aug-13 00:15:48

Duvets. One to sleep on and one to cover you. Good sim. Waterproof gazebo/shelter - tents for sleeping gazebo for sitting during day and evening.

ravenAK Sat 17-Aug-13 00:19:18

Buy 2 x cheap 2 man tents - pop-ups are fun but simple dome tents are likely to last better for festival camping etc later. You can get them from Argos/Asda/Wilkos for about £15-20 each.

Boys go in one (15yo ds1 can look after little bro) & older girls in the other.

You, dh & younger girls (& ok ds2 if that's easiest) share your original 8-berth.

Ignore me re: mats. No-one ever agrees with me on this! grin

ILoveAFullFridge Sat 17-Aug-13 00:29:57

Not bother with a aleeping mat?!shock
Sleep on the groundsheet!?shock

No. Way.

The ground is hard and cold. And what a lovely way to discover a leak in your groundsheet.

WeAreSeven Sat 17-Aug-13 00:59:12

raven, have you bones of steel, woman?

Self inflating mats are the way to go!

ravenAK Sat 17-Aug-13 01:46:50

Honestly, I know everyone thinks I'm weird, but I'm perfectly comfortable without a mat.

Last weekend I ended up with a tatty, 30 yo sleeping bag & a random sofa throw thingy that someone had left in our van.

It was all a bit chaotic as camping with friends & 5 dc between us, who were tent-hopping - I ended up with dd2 & friend's small dd in my tent, & gave them a spare sleeping bag to put under their bags.

I put half of the throw under my sleeping bag, flipped the other half over me & would have had a lovely night's sleep had it not been for a) torrential downpour & 45mph winds & b) being a bit cramped in my single sleeping bag - I'm nearly 6' & with broad shoulders, so I usually like a double bag to snuggle into.

I think it's not so much steel bones as a misspent youth passing out on carpets in Bedsitland, tbh wink.

hz Sat 17-Aug-13 09:28:16

If the weather is foul for more than two days on a long trip then go home. Just don't do it to yourselves. We camp loads, we were in Cornwall this year for 10 days had mixed weather but no sustained rain, then we saw the next two days were going to be 2 days solid rain, so we went home, could have stayed for up to 2.5 weeks.

Go on nice weekends, preferably out of peak season (school holidays) and discover what lovely camping in the uk is really all about! Don't give up!

chocolatespiders Sat 17-Aug-13 16:22:48


Is the only camping I love if you are close enough. You can order from the bakery for the next morning, pub grub on site, nice showers and bath. Washing machine and dryers.

And the kids loved hiring a boat for a few hours on the Broads.

NoComet Sat 17-Aug-13 16:49:58

We need a roof box and a bigger tent/separate tent for the DDs.

We need room for the beer fridge, not to have to keep our clothes in the car and not to sleep so we keep each other awake.

Oh and a proper washing line to dry swimming stuff.

NoComet Sat 17-Aug-13 16:53:50

Also somewhere with a proper big warm leisure pool and a cinema for wet days and nasty cold evenings. Cornwall are you listening?

Snoopytwist Sat 17-Aug-13 17:01:06

Just come back from damp trip ourselves - next time, need to bring a decent gazebo to keep the camp dry, and ideally, electric hook up for those little luxuries that actually take the 'pain-in-the-arse-ness' out of camping.

We saw people in those cheap little pop up tents, but unless they are double skinned, you will get drenched the minute you sit up and your head touches the inside of the tent. don't do it to yourself...

NulliusInBlurba Sat 17-Aug-13 19:15:03

The worst experience we ever had was putting up the tent - a reasonably new tent so we weren't even sure how to put it up properly - in a sudden rainstorm/hurricane affair. Honestly, it came from nowhere. When we started it looked a bit overcast, ten minutes later we're still puzzling over which pole goes where and the rain starts lashing down and the wind is blowing trees sidewards. She shut the DC in the car and battled on through, helped by our heroic Dutch camp neighbours.

We'd just finished when the fairly old tent of our neighbours on the other side totally ripped apart and started flying away, exposing all their stuff underneath. So all four of us rushed over there and started protecting at least the clothes and non-waterproofs. But obviously we didn't have a mobile number (neither did the campsite) and the people were away on a day trip - didn't get back till later that night, just stuffed everything in the car and drove off quickly. Ever since then, whenever we've had a rainy day, I've thought, at least our tent hasn't blown away.

But to your question, how to make camping more bearable:

Damn good mats, we have either proper camping beds or 10cm thick.

An electric hook-up with small electric stove and proper lamp (IKEA does good cheap plastic ones)

Some sort of tarp or gazebo at the front entrance so people can come out without getting soaked instantly. All the shoes etc can stay outside, and you can keep the table and chairs set up there without fear they'll get soaked.

We used to have an electric fridge but found it horribly loud at night and not that efficient actually. We've since gone over to a flexible cool bag always stuffed with two coolpacks, which we freeze in the camp freezer. They need to be changed twice a day to keep everything properly cold, but if you're over at the shower block anyway it's not much extra hassle.

We use a campsite in the Alps, in southern Austria, that's won awards for its quality. Great shower block which is kept pretty clean, unlimited hot water and free attached hairdryers.

"Despite huge tent, we're a bit rubbish at camping." Yeah, I'm always rather envious of the fmiles that seem to have everything sorted. We've taken years to come to the conclusions above, and two years ago actually managed to turn up at the campsite after two days driving to find that we'd forgotten the inner sleeping pods for the big tent. When you're sleeping at 1300m that make it horribly cold at night!

bobblypop Sat 17-Aug-13 20:53:11

more great tips...Thanks.
chocolate That looks a nice site...I like Norfolk, and whilst it may be a bit chart for a weekend it's not nearly as far as Devon lol
I'm actually feeling really I'll today, temperature, cough, red swollen eyes, shivery, achey...the lot. Think it may take me a while to get over this trip lol

chocolatespiders Sun 18-Aug-13 09:51:26

Bobblypop- It is a great site- read some reviews on campsite uk review page.

We have been twice, you do have to book early though as lots of people as they are leaving from being there book ahead for the next year smile

It is more expensive than some campsites but in my opinion worth it. DD loved the disco in the pub grin

Hope you feel better soon flowers

gerbilsarefun Sun 18-Aug-13 10:51:26

We have been camping for 3 years now. Our first trip wasn't pleasant but luckily for only one night, about an hour away from home. It was a hot april weekend but we didn't realise how cold it got at night shock, we only took thin sleeping bags. The next time we took duvets. The first site was in a nice situation, but the owners dogs were running loose, friendly enough, but the grass was covered in dog mess shock. Then some camping neighbours decided to have an all night party, singing and talking loudly. I then found out about the site reviews on We went to a different site a few weeks later and loved it. We joined the Camping and Caravanning Club and discovered their Certificated Sites. These are quite basic sites but quiet and the ones we go to have toilets and showers. They are cheap too.

We have just got back from a site in Lincolnshire, not a certificated site, a larger more commercial site, with a club, washing machine & dryer, a playground and fishing lakes. The tent field was lovely, quiet with loads of space for children to play.

I don't mind basic facilities, as long as the showers and loos are clean. Our camping neighbours told us about a site in Norfolk called Deers Glade, they said it was a 5* site with great facilities.

I have an electric cool box, bought from go outdoors, which works well, but we do shop every couple of days, so fresh food isn't in it for very long. We have an estate car and a roof box and everything fits in for 4 of us, we have a 6 berth tent and it fits us comfortably.

The first trips are all about finding what suits you, what mistakes you have made and how to make the next trip more enjoyable.

chocolatespiders Sun 18-Aug-13 10:59:45

Gerbils would you be able to tell me the name of the site in Lincolnshire. My dad is moving that way and it would useful for when we are visiting him.
Many Thanks

gerbilsarefun Sun 18-Aug-13 11:45:40

chocolate The site was Grange Leisure Park, in Mablethorpe. We really liked it.

anyname2011 Sun 18-Aug-13 12:00:14

dry clothes for sleeping in (thermals, woolly socks, hat) which on a long trip, are not allowed to get wet or be worn anywhere but in bed. On an overnight trip, wear the next day's clothes to bed.

baby wipes for washing.

if you can excuse the cost, get those waterproof stuff sacks which come in different sizes and colours. use for must-stay-dry stuff.

avon's skin-so-soft to keep the midgies away.

a big hairband so you don't have to brush or wash your hair! extra important if you have been using 'skin so soft' as it's very greasy. I have one in lovely colours and also bring a current favourite scarf, so I feel not too grim if we go to somewhere where people who haven't been camping might see us!

all this only good for a one or two night stay.

quick-drying materials - think what you would wear hillwalking - and thermals. lots of wool.

bobblypop Sun 18-Aug-13 12:10:09

so many great ideas...I'm going to start a list...will have to add to supplies bit by bit due to cost...and maybe by next summer we may be better equipped to try again....
Question about booking hard is it to get booked on a site with facilities booking last minute when weather looks good? reluctant to book too far in advance again and then have terrible weather (although obviously there are never any guarantees!) so thinking next may leave booking later....although needs to fit in with my annual leave to...sigh..

chocolatespiders Sun 18-Aug-13 13:08:18

Thanks Gerbilsarefun smile

YoungJoseph Sun 18-Aug-13 16:20:22

I always book far in advance to fit in with school holidays and annual leave. However, some sites only require a deposit at booking time and you can pay the full amount on arrival, this means that if you change your mind you only loose the deposit. Check the FAQs for each site because they do vary, some require the full amount at the time of booking.
IMO it is better to book anyway, then you can turn down other invitations that crop up during the year because you've something booked. If not that then keep weekends free 'just in case' and keep an eye on the forecast.
To answer your original question are you camping because otherwise you wouldn't have a holiday or are you doing it for fun? If the former then I would persist, it's taken me a while to get into it, mostly because of the poor weather we've had. However we learn a bit / buy a bit each time and now we are pretty good at it and know what to expect. If you can afford a different type of holiday then I would be tempted to do that instead of/ as well as camping. You've certainly had a baptism of fire camping with 6 DC, 2 dogs and poor weather.

bobblypop Sun 18-Aug-13 19:38:26

youngjoseph thanks. Yes, it was a case of camping or no holiday due to finances...we already had tent and sleeping bags and stove so didnt need to buy much else, although I now realise what we had was not quite up to the job!
I think I could like it. the first evening when the weather was OK , and we weren't yet sleep deprived and the dc were playing in the field while we sipped wine was lovely....then it all went rapidly downhill form there!
I am wondering about cost though....based on what I think we would need to make it even vaguely enjoyable for us all it will cost a fortune...but then I suppose once you have it you can keep using it, unlike if you spend more ££ on a single holiday then it's gone iywim....
hmmm hmm

YoungJoseph Sun 18-Aug-13 20:14:29

Well whatever you buy you should be able to sell if it didn't work out for you. Once you are set up camping is so much cheaper especially for the larger family. UK campsites is a good site for tent / kit reviews. Also stuff is for sale on there and of course there's ebay, gumtree etc. You could spend much less getting some decent kit than others spend on one break. It's getting towards the end of the season so I'm sure there are plenty of bargains out there. Good Luck with whatever you decide oh and of course there's MN camping section for help.

chocolatespiders Sun 18-Aug-13 20:43:57

We got our self inflating mats from Aldi. During one of there special weeks. You release the valve and they suck in air and then I also blow some air in and do the valve back up. Wilkinson also do pans and stuff

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