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Your camping must haves / must do's please for a complete and utter novice

(96 Posts)
Monroe Sat 21-May-16 12:36:56

Our financial situation will be taking a significant hit over the next few years. DH has therefore bought a tent and thinks this will solve our problem of at least getting a few breaks away with the DC's. The problem is neither of us have ever been camping and are pretty much winging it.

So please can you tell me what your essentials would be, what we should definitely do and also what we should also avoid. It will be me, DH, 9 year old ds and 6 year old DD, thank you ☺

defineme Sat 21-May-16 12:46:36

I am not a really experienced camper, but I know what makes it bearable for our cheap annual holiday.
First I hope you have practised putting your tent up in the park or back garden?
My must haves are chairs (don't find table essential as eat off laps and takes up room in the car)
Cheap Gazebo or at least windbreak for separate cooking area
Bucket with lid for middle of night wees that you don't want to trek the kids over to loo block for.
My own frying pan and pan as folding camping ones are crap.
Washing up bowl.
Fleece blankets and onezies along with thick sleeping bags...i am very cold even in August.
Red wine, plastic wine glasses, mosquito repellant for night time sitting outside tent.
Lantern or 2.
Flip flops or crocs so not constantly taking off shoes before coming in tent.
Wet wipes.
I like airbeds but lots of people like sims...try them out in the shop.

treeagate Sat 21-May-16 13:01:33

Having camped every summer for 22 years including with baby and kids now 10 and 8:

Baby wipes
Loo roll
Gas fridge - expensive but you save money in the long run as you can store food
Cadac gas cooker / bbq - again not cheap but a godsend and very easy to clean
Lots of treats to perk you up - my kids love hot chocolate with marshmallows, pancakes for breakfast etc

When I camped with the kids when they were young I made a lucky dip in advance for those moments when they drive you mad or are bored. Go to the pound shop and buy lots of things you know they'll love but won't want or will break so you don't have to cart them home. My two loved stuff like water pistols, bows and arrows, fake barbies etc. Wrap them up so it feels special - this also saves you a fortune in holiday shops!

When things get really bad a local supermarket is a godsend on a wet day. Usually you can get a hot cheap meal in the cafe then spend a happy hour Whilst the kids spend the £5 you've just given them on crap.

Blow you budget on beds! We have 2 camp beds for the kids and husband and I have memory foam mattresses that I bought cheap on eBay. A good nights sleep is worth a lot.

Pack a sense of humour my DD aged 2 wet herself in the tent bedroom and the whole thing looked like a mini swimming pool.

Finally camping is about fun but I always write my car Reg and mobile on the kids hands in biro in case they wander away on the campsite so you can swiftly be reunited!

SirChenjin Sat 21-May-16 13:06:11

Hot water bottles - it gets cold at night.

Buy the warmest sleeping bags you can afford and get comfy beds. I prefer camp beds, others in my family prefer air beds.

Storage - if you can source these camping cupboards on Gumtree etc they are a godsend. Nothing worse than rummaging in a tent.

Ear plugs - some campers don't seem to understand that noise travels and don't feel the need to keep the noise down.

Look at campsite reviews - and choose carefully. We had a couple of disasters before we found this site.

Got to run but will come back later if I think of more.

PurpleRibbons Sat 21-May-16 13:10:48

Quiet activities incase the kids wake up very early e.g. crayons, sticker books.
First time we camped we didn't think to take a washing up bowl, now we drop in plates etc as we go along then carry the whole lot to the sink to wash up in the morning.
Torches are essential, you can get wind up ones very cheap (ours were £1 each in National Trust shop).
Take lots of baby wipes and hand gel, a few clothes pegs are also useful for drying towels, wet socks etc - peg onto guy ropes.
Put food like rice etc in ziploc bags.
First night take something with you e.g. frozen Bolognese or chilli, it defrosts on the journey whilst also keeping the cool bag chilled and you can heat it up quickly.
Take binoculars and bird/wildlife books and have a nature hunt, dusk is a good time to spot owls, hedgehogs etc.
Sew a loop onto towels to hang them up in the shower. Those hanging wash bags that roll up are also useful.
Finally take hot water bottles, my feet always freeze!
Have fun!

Thereshegoesagain Sat 21-May-16 13:14:28

Wet wipes
Loo roll
Tea towels
We don't have a fridge but have upgraded to a posh ice box
Tin opener
Bottle opener
Decent knife
2 chopping mats ( one for meat only- food hygiene stresses me when camping)
I roughly plan a menu and bring herbs/spices in small amounts for the menu
Easy cook rice
Pegs and a bit of rope
Matches on a plastic box/bag
Roll of food bags
Lantern for night time
Torches for all
Clothes/shoes for all weather
Cricket bat
Colouring in/paper pens
Solar charger
I also recommend a fleece blanket underneath your sheet to stop damp inflatable bed ickyness....

Cerealchanger Sat 21-May-16 13:18:56

Lots of tea towels and clips for open bags of food

Monroe Sat 21-May-16 13:19:06

Aw you're all brilliant, thank you.

We have booked a week in August in Cornwall which we couldn't have afforded otherwise so starting to feel a bit excited.

I am really nesh so warmth is important to me! What beds / bags would you recommend?

Also, and I know this sounds daft, but how do you prepare meals? And what foods/meals are best or easiest to prepare? We plan on being out exploring the area each day but will be preparing a lot of meals on camp if possible to keep costs down

Off to start making a reeeeaaaallly long list!

elspethmcgillicuddy Sat 21-May-16 13:21:10

Here's my handy checklist I keep on the pinboard and use each time.

elspethmcgillicuddy Sat 21-May-16 13:24:07

Couscous pots are a great healthy alternative to pot noodles!

Thereshegoesagain Sat 21-May-16 13:25:03

I keep food simple.
Meat, pasta/rice, salad or day veg.
We cook on a BBQ and cooker, with meat, I stick to steak, lamb, sausages and burgers, if I cook chicken, I only buy breast and slice it thinly but I'm a bit paranoid about undercooked chicken...

PurpleRibbons Sat 21-May-16 13:26:46

Thought of more! Keep plates, cutlery etc in a plastic box with a lid to keep flies off.
Also keep the bedroom zipped up to keep flies out.
Our best meals are:
Spag bol (use fresh or quick cook pasta so you use less gas boiling it)
Chilli with tortilla chips.
Sausages with tinned tomatoes and fried potatoes (I take cold cooked potatoes from home and fry them).
Frittata is easy on a camp stove.
We always have fish and chips one night and one pub meal too for a bit of luxury.
If it's hot you can have bread, cheeses, olives, quiche etc from the supermarket.

RaisingSteam Sat 21-May-16 13:49:38

These are some of our camping hacks

2 or 3 35 l Really Useful boxes - totally bug proof for food, stable enough to double up as a kids seat or wine glass table. Fidgety kids much less likely to fall off them and spill cornflakes all over tent. Then you can keep your camping stuff pre packed in them between trips.

We have one of those roll out tables like this, you can get them everywhere, we cut about 4 inches off the table legs (so you can still fold it up) so its a better height when using this kind of arm chair. (see comment above re children and cereal). I would not buy children's chairs, they will just want to sit in your decent chair instead!

We have one lantern for the tent and a head torch each. We just use bags-for-life for organising stuff.

Good for washing up bowl

Buy a 5litre mineral water with a little carry handle and then refill for your water container during your stay.

Always take something for clothes line and few pegs even just to dry towels after shower.

It's a real balance between taking enough stuff to be comfortable and having so much that packing the car and setting up/striking camp become a PITA that takes the fun out of the holiday. People range from completely minimalist to home-from-home with rugs and fruit bowls.

We use thick mummy sleeping bags and self inflating mats to keep the pack space down, do take decent pillows. Your sleeping bag should have a "comfort temperature" of close to zero or be 3-4 season, if it doesn't quote either it will be a rubbish sleeping bag. If you go for airbeds you will need a thick blanket under you to insulate. Some people take loads of duvets but depends on space I guess.

Worth getting familiar with Decathlon and Go Outdoors or your local camping shop and THIS WEEK in Aldi - sleeping bags and mattresses. Including a camp bed which with a SIM on top could be an excellent bed.

Start with a short break to test your set up - maybe even near home so you can visit first. Also look at UKcampsite website for campsite and tent reviews.

Worth having a small, sturdy table for your cooker, secure it with a couple of tent pegs, and as stated have a windbreak around it. Does your tent have a porch? Then you can put bunting round and other MNers will recognise you!

RaisingSteam Sat 21-May-16 13:49:56

what an epic post, oops!

Monroe Sat 21-May-16 14:53:35

This is fantastic, thank you

Mumsnet bunting, does it need to match the Mumsnet scarf grin

BlueGazebo Sat 21-May-16 20:39:28

Already posted but the Aldi SIMS are good. I don't like the blow up air beds - very uncomfy.
Wet wipes
Lots of outdoor kiddie stuff: footballs, frisbee, badminton, kites, scooters.
Wellies and crocs
Torches for the kids
Anti-bac hand gel
pac-a-macs for all
wooly hat for cold evenings and nights
plastic garden pop-up (Aldi, Poundland) for using as a tent bin
coffee and cream sachets
crisps, snacks, dips, popcorn, nibbles
bacon butties every morning
mini condensed one squirt squash things
lots of lanterns and spare batteries
plasters and first aid kit
love my Cadac BBQ
campingaz single gas ring, kettle

The kids will love it. A few years ago I remember a pack of kids racing around the campsite as it got dark - then, looking for rabbits down rabbit holes with torches. You don't get that kind of fun in an expensive hotel. Hope you take to it - there is a clear divide - love it/hate it! I work with people who hate it - they hate the disorder, dirt, lack of loos, etc. I love it!

SirChenjin Sun 22-May-16 08:58:40

Thought of another one - which will show us to be the lightweights we are. if your site has the option of an electric hookup, go for it. Tea/toast in the morning, slow cooker meals, hair dryer.....bliss grin (Remember to buy a hookup cable thing though)

Oh - and a portable CO monitor.

Monroe Sun 22-May-16 09:11:41

Oh we are definitely going to get an electric hook up grin personally I'd go for a portable loo and shower if I could!

My main concern now is getting decent beds, we will spend most days out and about but want to get a half decent sleep

gleegeek Sun 22-May-16 09:49:32

I never sleep well the first night camping and then sleep the sleep of the dead the rest of the timegrin
I can't wait to go over half term!
This is a great thread, found myself agreeing with everything.

BlueGazebo Sun 22-May-16 10:03:41

You often find that the non electric hook up areas are nicer - less regimented with no caravans. There are various types of porta loo/buckets with lids, etc, or camp next to bushes and trees... wink

There are luxury SIMS (Fat Airic I think). They are expensive but look really good. The kids are always fine whatever they sleep on. DP moans and groans but he is a bit heavy.

Bugger1ugs Sun 22-May-16 10:17:34

Separate groundsheet, even if your tent already has one. Keeps the tent groundsheet clean and dry so you don't have any dampness when you put your tent away (and there is nothing on Earth like the smell of rotten dead slug when you next come to use the tent...)
Fleece travel rugs on the floor under your beds - keeps the cold and damp out.
We've just moved from air beds to camp beds with SIMs on top - much warmer and comfier, plus you get storage space under the beds.
Head torches for everyone.
Flip flops or similar - easy to shove on for wee trips and to remove when back at the tent.
If your sleeping bag doesn't have a hood, beanie hats or buffs.
Dustpan and brush - take the time to sweep the tent out before you put it away and you'll be glad you did when you come to put it up next time.

Monroe Sun 22-May-16 11:28:18

Brilliant, again, thank you

The kids and DH are the type to sleep anywhere at anytime so not too worried about them, it is definitely me that will suffer the most. Do you go for a single each or doubles? DS already has an inflatable mattress which seems fine for him, been used for sleepovers with no problems. I'm thinking a double for me and DD to share and another single for DH?

Sleeping bags will definitely have hoods. And I'll be stocking up on plenty of fleece blankets. I can see this getting more and more expensive confused

PurpleRibbons Sun 22-May-16 13:34:25

We've tried double and single airbeds. I found the double warmer but I rose and sank every time DH moved! Singles were more comfy. We've just got some sims which I'm hoping will be warmer as there will be less air underneath us.

BlueGazebo Sun 22-May-16 13:36:05

Personally, I would steer clear of a double blow up mattress. All the weight goes to the middle where it will sink and you will get sucked in. On the other hand, if you buy a really really expensive posh one, it might be OK. We have an extra large Coleman soft brushed cotton type sleeping bag each - better for heat regulation so you are in control of your own destiny. Being squashed in next to DP would not work.

traviata Sun 22-May-16 14:00:34

cheap plastic backed picnic rugs. We take about 5.
- one is the rug for each bedroom, under the SIMs/air beds, keeps the beds extra cosy
- one is outside for the kids to sprawl on with colouring, toys etc
- one for the cook to lay out equipment etc (if not using a table)
- one can be used to cover stuff against light rain.

TBH as long as you are warm enough for your first time, you will figure out what you need. No point in buying 'furniture' until you know what you want.

Onesies are lovely until it comes to going to the loo, but your DC are probably old enough to manage.

We take loads of easy snacky stuff, crisps, brioches, crackers - more than we'd normally eat at home.

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