Tell me everything about camping with children please!(46 Posts)
We have never camped as a family. My husband has in the past, I have never. We did want a caravan but feel its a big outlay if we dont like it as a family.
We have 3 young children, 7, 5, 2......
What do we need? We are starting from scratch! We have seen a tent that has inflatables rather than traditional poles which looked good.
Any tips and suggestions please!
Hoping someone comes a long to this thread! We are wanting to camp with our nearly 2 year old but not sure at all what we will need! We went before baby a lot and got a new tent the last time before and it turns out not all tents are waterproof!! So definitely do your research on tents! You’ll want one which is hydrostatic at least 1500mm (Learnt that after our tent flooded)🤭
Oh thank you, Im sure this tent we went to see was 4000mm. Im getting excited at the thought of it but Im worried it will be a lot harder work than I think!
If you have never been I would look at borrowing a tent or going somewhere where you can use a ready pitched tent. Camping can have a large set up cost... The tent, sleeping bags (proper 2/3 season ones, not cheap ones for using indoors), airbeds/SIMs, chairs, table, cooking stuff, cool box, plates and cups... It's a very long list
For 5 you will probably need an 8person tent. If you do buy or borrow practice putting it up at home (and sleep in it to work out what you find comfy).
Thank you for the advice.
Im surprised you have mentioned needing and 8 person one? We were looking in 6 persons ones and these seemed really spacious but were of course empty. I guess I have under estimated the amount of stuff we would have with us? Ill have a look in to bigger ones. Thanks again
The “berth” of a tent is based on very narrow dimensions.
We are a family of 4 (dcs are 6&8) and we have a five man tent which is getting on the small side now.
We need to move up to a 6-8 man tent for the bedrooms to be big enough.
Personally I’d go with poles if it’s always two of you putting a tent up, rather than an air tent - only because I know of a couple of people with air tents who’ve had punctures etc (but they are getting better), whereas poles are easily replaced.
Make sure you have decent sleeping arrangements. We’ve gone for traditional rubberised cotton air beds which can be inflated to your comfort. For the dcs they had toddler air beds with raised sides to keep them contained.
We take duvets and proper pillows now instead of sleeping bags. Plus hot water bottles and layers to go underneath you between you and the air bed.
If you camp when it’s cool at night, you need extra layers. So I have proper real wool army style blankets. These are also safe for sitting around the fire at night as they’d not flammable.
Cooking - get a decent gas stove and a couple of pots/pans.
Tables and chairs - we have three tables (!) and four chairs. Two tables are for cooking/storing and the third is for eating at. An absolute god send.
I also have two large picnic blankets. One for outside the tent at all times and the other is carpet inside the tent. It’s handy for when we pack up - as everything can sit on the blanket. Also it is useful for when it’s raining - shoes off outside the tent on the picnic blanket.
Lighting - torches and fairy lights. Fairy lights are super useful for lighting up the tent so you can find it on the way back from late toilet trips!!!
Pick a site with decent facilities. It’s not the time to be roughing it when you’ve got kids. Also somewhere with space for games.
We have a four bedroom plus living area tent. One child bedroom (2/3 children), one adult, one clothes storage, one equipment storage. When they were toddler/preschool it was one adult plus the toddler in one bedroom, older child in another
and the second adult in the third with bags in the fourth and equipment piled up in living area.
My main piece of advice is to realise you will get little sleep! But looking at the practicalities, here are my thoughts.
Yes to inflatable tent - much easier.
Look for one with the dark bedrooms - some sell themselves as using special fabric in the bedrooms that keep it darker in daylight.
Get one with sewn in groundsheet, not bathtub groundsheet. This means the groundsheet is fully attached to the tent, rather than just clipping on to it - less chance of creepy crawlies, mud and wet getting in.
Get a much bigger tent that you need. We have a 6 person Vango Icarus which I bought it on the basis that it would generally just be for 3 of us.
Think about what layout of tent you want - do you want to all be in one or two bedrooms at one end or do you want to have two beds at either end of the tent. With small DC, I didn't fancy the two bedrooms at either end as its so much easier to deal with any night time issue when they are right next to you.
Don't buy a huge camping kitchen double burner type of cooker. You can buy individual gas rings, just get a couple of them.
Go to Go Outdoors and try to pricematch everything you want - you can save a fortune. Simply find what you want cheaper online and they not only match the cheaper price but then knock another 10% off. I've saved a fortune on stuff over the years doing this - only works with branded stuff ovbiously, not their own brand.
For everything else, Decathlon is brilliant.
Make sure you can fit and carry everything in your car - some tents are huge and very heavy. I've been looking at buying a new one and some I couldn't lift and would have taken up all of the car boot!
Thanks again. So the one we were looking at has 2 bedrooms and a large living area but from what everyone has said it might be a bit small for us...
Im making notes and adding everything to my list. This is really helpful!
Can anyone give me a rough figure of how much every thing will cost to buy that we might need?
We are hoping to go away at least 1 weekend a month then extra over school holidays, maybe even a week over the summer holidays! Its something we have thought about and wanted to do for a few years and now feel its about the right time for our family.
We have a 6 man tent, 2 bedrooms & large living area, made from polycotton. It's great, but needs some maintenance, I would not go back to "plastic" tents ( too hot / cold) or caravan (very cramped).
I think, for your first trip, borrow if you can or by something smaller and cheaper.
I'd take sleeping bags (2 seasons) and extra blankets + pillows.
There are basic gas cookers for one pan / saucepan or use BBQ.
You can use a cool bag and buy some perishable food daily- just but some frozen foods like veg or stir fry to go with BBQ!!
I think it's important to choose your site carefully, by what is on offer for the children and also what the area has to offer for rainy days.
Most importantly, go with the flow and enjoy!
I would see if you can borrow a tent but here's my list:
Tent, sleeping bags, inflatable mattress (double), self inflating rolls mats for kids, pillows, pump, water container, small stove (ours is a single), kettle, fry pan, cups, plates etc, mallet, spare pegs, wellies or crocs, warm sleeping clothes, a potty if you have little ones, screw in tether and long lead if you have a dog. Choose a site not too far from civilisation, a nearby McDonald's or supermarket with cafe is ideal if weather is too wet to cook breakfast - never cook inside unless you can completely open one side of the tent to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning!
Take lots of wet wipes!
Take kitchen things from home, only buy new if you really need to.
Take blankets, cheap fleece ones are good.
We buy a couple of massive bottles of water from the supermarket before we go, refill whilst away then recycle.
We find our children sleep just as well as they do at home, probably because they are outside the whole time!
DH and I share a double sleeping bag as we've found it's much warmer.
Keep food really simple, bbq lots!
If the weather's crap then come home and try again.
finally- just enjoy it!
We have done a lot of camping with kids over the years. Not going to repeat what others have said.
Personally, inflatable tents are not worth the extra cost. I prefer pole tents. They withstand wind ALOT better.
- yes you will need an 8 man tent, or consider buying two tents and a dining fly and place the two tents facing each other with central covered area.
- definitely get a dining fly. These are good in rain or for shade and give you a place to hang out when not in your tent.
- clothesline and clothes pins- to hang swimsuits/towels and if going longer any laundry. Or even a wet sleeping bag in event of accident.
-consider a hammock! Kids love lounging in one outside.
- buy extra heavy duty stakes and a stake hammer- not all sites have easy ground for staking out tent.
-take plastic tub for putting in dirty dishes and washing them...buy plastic reusable dishes and utensils for eating. Can get from any camp shop. Some sites provide fairy and washing up stuff, some do not. Check ahead.
- torches for everyone...or at least 3 to share.
- flip flops or crocs for shower blocks
- cool box- the best are Coleman ones. You simply buy ice cubes in bags and use them to keep food cold. Don’t be tempted by cheapo tesco cool boxes they do not insulate well
- portable fire pit- some sites do not allow campfires and only allow a fire pit. Usually they do sell kindling and firewood on site. Very few sites have firepits there so it’s good to have your own.
- on the fairy lights you can get solar ones so you don’t have to have an electric hookup.
Look for sites near outdoor activity centers. Like in Norfolk Whitlingham Broads is a good one. It’s 5min walk to a Center with indoor climbing wall, canoe & kayak hire, also a boat ferry to Norwich to see the castle. Some Saturdays they have a roving pizza wagon with stone baked pizza for sale.
It will probably cost you around £500 to get bare essentials.
We did also get a roof box and that made packing the car much easier!
All fab advice. I have not heard of a dining fly will look now.
Our reason behind the inflatable was that it seemed easier to put together with having 3 young children to entertain at the same time? We will be looking and considering poles now as well and reading all reviews carefully.
What are peoples opinions on air beds/sims/camp beds with little legs?
most tents have sloping walls so if you use a camping mat or SIM the berths are usually pretty accurate but if you are using camp beds or airbeds you are effectively making the floor area smaller by making it taller, thus more of a squeeze.
We happily camped for years with 5DC across the 4-man bedroom of a vango 800 and then we used one of the 2-man bedrooms for us and had a spare for storage. Thus we could have accommodated 9 easily if we'd used all the rooms.
You have a toddler so leave the firepit for a couple of years. Keep it simple: gas stove (2 rings), buy food daily or use tinned stuff so you don't need to worry about storage except insects: use a sealed plastic tub.
Have some indoor games in case its wet.
Make it special: we have things we take camping that we wouldn't take to a hotel: certain toys and games which are just for camping (fire sticks, poi, diabolo etc for us now, but ours are older): when little we had I spy and miming games for example.
Keep yourselves warm, but don't waste energy trying to heat your environment: so woolly socks and hats in bed, don't bother about heating.
Wire coat hangers are great for drippy coats.
Juice boxes, pepperamis, primula squeezy cheese, crisprolls, cereal bars, tinned latte, iced tea crisps, ricecakes, mattesons smoked pork sausage; don't need refrigerating or cooking and won't go off.
waterproof tent, comfortable beds, warm sleeping bags. Everything else you can make do until you decide whether or not you want to be campers: for example the plastic crates you use for food etc can be a sit-on-the-floor table for kids meals.
If you are planning on mostly weekends make it as simple and light as you can: your DC are still small so consider a 6-man tunnel, not vis-à-vis, so you are all in a line. beds and decent sleeping bags and pillows.
2YO can sit/nap in a buggy.
a single gas ring (handbag stove) for hot drinks and pot noodles/eggs/bacon (basically single cooked element meals); chopping board, sharp knife, spife, mug and plate each.
Your DC might like tripod stools (ours did at that age) and they used to sell them at poundland!.
Small kettle with a whistle, small frying pan, medium saucepan. wooden spoon/spatula, tongs.
You'll need more for longer holidays but for weekends, less is more.
Decent sleeping matts are a must.
Go somewhere you can try them out.
Sleeping matts, sleeping bags, pillows and blankets-
Two burner stove with a grill option, griddle that fits over the two burners, folding stand that has a wind break and storage, shelter tunnel to use as kitchen.
Folding washing up bowl, kettle and colinder. Sharp knife and chopping and board. Pan set
Good camping chairs- again try them out.
Try going glamming a few times before committing to buying lots.
Can you borrow some equipment OP? It will be a considerable outlay to buy everything you need. Or consider hiring a tent, ready set up to give it a try? As if camping doesn’t suit you and your family, you could waste a lot of money.
I do admire your optimism though, I genuinely do.
I have only camped once, hated it TBH. I hope it works out better for you, I know a lot of people enjoy it.
I don't know - our first camping experience with kids was in a four man tent with 2 year old dd in a travel cot in one bedroom, ds (5ish) on a ready bed in the other, and H and I on an airbed in the middle
We had chippy tea at the site, brought a bottle of wine and plastic glasses, and packed the kids bowls and cereal. Oh and used our duvet. It wasn't the most comfortable night as the airbed went down overnight, but it gave us a taste of camping without the massive outlay. And we did go again. It was only one night I should say! I overheard a bit say to his dad as they walked past our tent - how do they all fit in that?!
Went more recently when they were 4 and 6ish and definitely do need a bigger tent (but we've separated now anyway!).
We have a 6 man tent I think and it's comfortable for us and 2dc sleeping in a row across the back. Living area for games, chairs, general crap. All kitchen related stuff, and the table and chairs are outside under a Trespass mini shelter. It would be very cramped having the table inside and simply not possible to cook I don't think. We use the one ring things powered by a gas aerosol thing that slots in, I was way too intimidated by the thought of a proper cooker with a regulator and huge gas canister.
You don't need to take as much stuff as you think. We are in France, there's a play park, a pool and a beach so the only things we have brought are small games like top trumps and a few activity books.
Thanks again Im still keeping note.
We have actually been given a tent with poles but never used it as we read reviews and pretty much every single one said it leaked.
My husband decided we shouldn't risk it as it would more than likely put me off for life.
After reading all the advice though we may get that old tent out, buy beds and sleeping bags or even take our own pillows and duvets then borrow all other bits we might need from friends and family to just see and check we will actually like it....we live in york and would love any advice on nice family camp sites if anyone knows of any. Thank you all again for all your advice I really do appreciate it.
We pretty much glamp as I am a reluctant camper, so with a full boot, 2 children and a double roof box we have
Bell tent- £500
Camping kitchen-Aldi £40
Cadac double stove- g outdoor £90
Self inflating thermal air mats- AlpKit- £300 for 4
Duvets and pillows from home
Heavy wool blankets from home
Hot water bottles- iron monger store, one each
Fairy lights for the tent- tiger tiger £5
Good lantern light- go outdoors £20
Wooden trunk- fancy wine box left over from Christmas, we use this as a little table in the tent to put stuff on
Flat foldable boxes- Ikea £10/2 we have one each for our stuff
Straw baskets- IKEA £10/ each for our toilettes
Bell tent carpet
Fold out table with benches- go outdoors £90
Camping chairs- go outdoors £30/each they are very comfy
Little table- amazon, folds to nothing and handy for kitchen prep
Camping pot/pan set- Hi Gear £30
Plates and cups and cutlery. An assorted lot that we have accumulated
Icey Tek cool box- £100. Worth it as it stays cool forever!
Cushions- nice for sitting around on. From home.
Camped for many years,when our 3 were little.The only piece of advice is make sure you get a big enough tent.
Made the mistake of buying a five berth tent for 5 of us!!! A never to be forgotten disaster of a first family camping trip.Laugh about it now,but it was no fun in Wales and it poured with rain the entire time!
We've just started camping again since having DC (now 4 and 2). We sold our 5 man vango for a 6 man Coleman which we take with a gazebo for all the kitchen/seating stuff. I'd really recommend the Coleman with young kids - blackout bedrooms!! Need I say more! We went for a pole one because we're ok with putting it up but the air ones do look good.
I camped for the very first time aged 36, having always assumed I'd hate camping. Outdoorsy dh persuaded me. I was pregnant and we took 2yo dd. To my amazement I really enjoyed it and we've been often since (dc now 11 and 13). Going again this month.
We have a 6 person tent (large living area and 3 bedroom pods), a plug-in cool box, an ancient 'camping kitchen' (set of light collapsible metal shelves with a double gas burner which sits on top). I have an airbed, dh and the dc have mats. We take a collapsible table and 4 camping chairs. And our large dog!
I love our tent. The living area is big enough to walk around in and to seat all four of us around the table to eat inside if it's raining!
First camping trip just had for me and 3 dc. (My 2 plus dd1's friend) we were fine in a 4 man tent with a large porch I can't imagine it would be a huge amount more of a squash if one child had been an adult . We had 2 camping tables, one for cooking and one for eating. 2 of the single gas burner hobs from go outdoors, (£10 each) one frying pan one saucepan. Blow up beds £8 for a double from go outdoors with a lovely soft topping, sleeping bags with double duvets over (one per 2 people) the little bulb torches for hanging in tent as well as hand torches for going to toilet. 2 things I'd do next time ... gazebo to cook/sit under in rain and a sealed box or food storage unit within a table to protect from the magpies. Oh and don't forget the air pump that runs off the car cigarette lighter. We couldn't have had more fun even though we had thunder, lightening and torrential downpours.. it was warm so not too many soggy clothes. Feel free to ask incase I've missed anything
Ill look at coleman tents, any other tent specific recommendations?
We've done lots of camping with our 2dc, now teenagers. Invested in an inflatable tent eventually and very happy with it. Has withstood all sorts of crappy Scottish weather. When dc's were little we had them in the roll up beds with sleeping bag attached from decathlon with another sleeping bag inside. No need for extra blanket and meant they didn't roll off mattress. They slept brilliantly. Also, tents where the sleeping compartments all across one end and zipped "walls" in between them are great so can sort anything without getting out of your own sleeping bag is a winner.
Were a family of five who started camping last year. We got a vango inflatable 8 man because my husband was obsessed with inflatable tents. Wish we had stuck to a traditional pole tent. It's ok but definitely not easier or quicker to put up or down.
Won't add to everything else but there is a good website I used to refer to when I was getting started https://www.getoutwiththekids.co.uk/family-camping/equipment/ it has some great advice! Have fun!
yes to inflatable tent - DH puts our up in 20mins while I unload and DD (8) runs around...
we've got a Berghaus air 4 - but they also come in six and eight person versions. we've also got the extension which is invaluable - extra space and a place to cook under cover if/when it rains
have also found tents with air beams better at staying up in the wind - ours has survived storms! we're on our fourth year camping with it, and it's been really good - we hanker after a polycotton, but this is lower maintenance
Have a look on eBay for a second hand tent. Probably lots about at the moment, I
Imagine plenty of people have been put off
Camping after the recent bad weather!
Do not camp with 2yo
You will regret it
You will work very hard without the facilities you have at home.
I'm in the same boat as you @User07. I've found this Facebook group quite useful as every day there is someone that asks the same question as you. The responses are really helpful and I keep adding nuggets of clever info to my list.
Thank you for all the links and suggestions all very useful and we will be looking at everything.
Perhaps try camping in a pre-erected tent and see how you get on before paying out for all the stuff that goes with a tent. There's a couple of sites nr the new forest and I'm sure plenty of others around the country. A bit like try before you buy & give you an idea of what you need 😉
Aww, we had some lovely times camping when the DCs were little. There's even a fabulous camp site just outside London at Picketts Lock.
We'd have a sleepy game of 20 questions as the DCs snuggled up for the night then sit outside with a glass of wine watching the stars and listening to the world go by in the distance.
Don't go to Billing Aquadrome.
Have some great days, take lots of photos. It can even feel cosy and protected in the pouring rain.
Do it! We are new to family camping but have taken our 2 dc (4 & 1) on 2 weekends this year and we're off next weekend too. We've loved it so far! We had a lot of stuff already so haven't really needed to invest but we got:
Cheap 4 man tent - can already see that we're going to outgrow this. It's working well for now though. Having pitches with the car next to it helps as we tend to keep stuff in the boot.
We sleep 1 adult and 1 child on airbeds in each sleeping bit. The airbeds do take up a lot of room but it makes it cosy imo. Brushed cotton fitted double sheets on the airbeds has been a big game changer. Pillows from home, sleeping bags and blankets
Small fold out table for the stove. Bigger camping table to eat at.
Coolbox, plastic plates etc from home. Generally another bag of dry food. 1 breakfast always cereal, brioche rolls/Croissants and fruit, then bacon sandwiches the next day. 1 ring stove thats been with me since 2003! We've just bought a little camping bbq that I'm excited to try, mostly for Marshmallows if I'm honest!
Camping chairs, quick dry towels, 2x washing up bowls. One gets used as a bath as my kids hate showers. Plenty of extra guy rope and pegs to make a washing line.
Entertainment - a tablet with some cbeebies downloaded, only gets used first/last thing to keep them quiet, orchard toys games for the older one and some books, sticker books and aqua doodle mat for the smaller one. Also take bike, doll pushchair, ball, velcro mitt catching game.
Crocs for little feet although going to also take wellies next week as morning dewy grass caught us out going to the showers.
Travel potty with a lid, we had this anyway but its been pretty invaluable!
Big waterproof bag (an old drawstring asics carrier bag) for dirty washing. Lives in the car.
That's it really! We may replace certain things if we decide to camp more often but I really don't feel like you need to spend a lot on the full bells and whistles when you're starting out.
Ps: our kids sleep a lot better in a tent than they do at home!!
Try Catgill Farm near Bolton Abbey for one of your first trips, it's a lovely site with quite a few home comforts available if you want them.
We love camping. My youngest had his first camping trip last year at just 3 weeks old.
Most people have covered the basics but I'd add
Windbreaker does what it says on the tin plus it sections off your pitch for a bit of privacy.
Gazebo of the site allows not all do
B&m do huge electric pans (assuming you're going down the ehu route) it's like a big frying pan you plug in and brilliant for camping.
I also take my slow cooker.
You need a special plug adapter thingy ma jig (😂 sorry I don't know what's it called) to hook up to the electricity
Also saw you mentioned you have a tent but it lets water in. You can get the waterproofing redone
Thanks for the site recommendation. We are getting excited over the idea of camping together. I know the older two boys would just love it. Is september to late in the year for new/inexperienced campers to start?
The reviews say it lets water in...we have yet to try it.
Love the idea of slow cooker and electric pans.
We have an inflatable tent and love it. One person can put it up so quickly. We started with a wonderful massive vango 6 berth poly cotton one, which I love but it literally takes up more than half of our boot and we have a big car. So we have invested in a smaller tent now. September should be ok but be warned it will get very cold at night so furry onesies for the children with thermals and you should also have thermals. Sleeping bags will keep you warmer. We invested in a good deep air bed- like 40cm deep, with its own plug to the mains to pump it up. It’s as good as a bed. The kids don’t care and will sleep anywhere so cheaper ones will do. At least if you go in September there will be sales on camping gear and a lot of good quality stuff on eBay. We love it but almost always go to France because of the facilities and weather.
Pick your first trip for scheduled dry weather and worry about water another time
We loved camping pre kids and just did our first trip with our just turned 2yr old and 4m baby. We bought an inflatable tent from decathlon with two large bedrooms and a giant living area, it was more expensive than I wanted to go for but we were convinced to go inflatable as one person can put it up while the other occupies the little ones.
We have blow up mattresses and duvets for sleeping, a camping cupboard which was amazing, keeps all the cooking bits and food contained and high enough to stand to prepare food, a table and chairs for eating and games, and a picnic blanket for lying on at the front of the tent.
I would highly recommend a ‘cleaning box’ for washing up, put all your dirty dishes in to carry to the washing up area, couple of tea towels, washing up scrubber soaked in washing up liquid in a plastic sandwich bag, makes tidying up much easier.
TBH the biggest challenge is fitting everything into the car, we have an estate which was filled to the brim, and are strongly considering investing in a roof box, although we will go for the tiniest buggy we can find for next time which will help loads.
Enjoy! We had a great weekend but another night would have moved from ‘nice holiday’ to ‘bit of an ordeal’ as keeping a toddler occupied in the outdoors is still difficult, too young to do nice walks but needed lots of amusing. She also struggled with bedtime although happily slept through in her own tent bedroom once she had fallen asleep. We’re hoping to do little and often rather than a 2 week trip once a year.
Join the discussion
Registering is free, quick, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.Get started »
Please login first.