Complete guide to camping in mother natures wilderness

There’s a vast amount satisfaction to be had from pitching, or in some cases propping up a tent. New designs have made them far less complicated than they used to be (Vango Airbeam now produce a 6 berth Infinity tent our team can erect in 1 min, 26 secs), but it’s still an achievement to transform a small bag on the floor into a luxurious palace that you can live in for weeks on end. There’s unlimited rewards including the wonderfull connection to be made with Mother Nature: you will be constantly reminding yourself & stating that old cliche, “The best things in life are free” you’ll be breathing fresh air and enjoying the delights of the countryside around you & What’s more, you’ll be doing so in an amazingly flexible form of accommodation.  

Finally, there’s a practical benefit to camping. Even after the cost of your camping equipment is taken into consideration, it’s still one of the cheapest forms of holiday making there is. Pitches at sites starting from as little as £5 per night in the UK, a tent is a perfect base from which to ramble, cycle, visit local attractions & believe it or not sometimes you can sunbathe. It’s certainly a popular pastime: around three million camping holidays are taken by Brits each year, representing some 15 million nights under canvas.

SO HOW DO I GET STARTED?

First things first: seek professional help at an outdoor or camping shop such as outdoorgear4u.co.uk  You don’t get carried away by all the gadgets & gizmo’s. The most important thing to bear in mind is if the gear you’re choosing will be suitable for the area and climate you are travelling to. There’s no point buying an expensive mountain sleeping bag if you only ever intend to camp in Newquay in July.

These days, you can buy a good tent for surprisingly little. To give yourself a better idea of the options, visit Four Seasons Leisure (01695-574-050) www.fourseasonsleisure.co.uk or Outdoorgear4u (01704-893-477) www.outdoorgear4u.co.uk  A basic camping set-up amounts to a tent (two-man versions start at £29.99); a sleeping bag (from £9.99 for one that will serve you during the summer months) and a sleeping bed (from £8.99 for an inflatable air bed, or from £5 for a foam camping mat). 

Unless you plan on eating out every night, you’ll also need something to cook with. Basic single-burner camping stoves start at £9.99 Everything can, of course, be upgraded according to your needs: family tents have porches, canopies, carpets and separate sleeping compartments (family tent prices start at about £99), and family-size stoves, with two gas rings and a grill, start at £34.99

As far as camping accessories go, there’s a huge array of devices designed to make your trip that little bit easier, from waterproof matches to folding chairs and collapsible cooksets. But probably the most important single item is a torch: vital for discreet loo trips in the middle of the night. 

IT ALL SOUNDS TERRIBLY PRIMITIVE…

That’s entirely down to you. camping is all about necessity. Hikers who travel with two pairs of pants and three pairs of socks have made travelling light their first priority. For these hardy souls, a bivy bag (basically a sleeping bag with a hood, prices start at £19.99) represents luxury. But the British Holiday and Home Parks Association (BH&HPA), to which over 3,000 UK holiday parks belong, has identified a fast-growing market of “born again campers” – couples and families who have tired of luxury hotels, hiked up prices and who now want to rediscover “the pleasures of waking up to birdsong, snoring and fresh country air”.

Nowadays parents are anxious for their youngsters not to miss out on the type of experiences they enjoyed as children. They also worry that their kid’s might be getting too used to leisure that relies on artificial surroundings and ready-made entertainment.
The Camping and Caravanning Club (024 7669 4995, www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk) also runs lots of graded sites across the UK, some of them providing the basic facilities and others being more upmarket. Membership costs £27.50, which includes discounted rates at certified club sites, and access to other sites abroad. (you should more than get your membership fee back from the savings you make on site fee’s after just a few trips)

If you prefer “wild camping” – pitching up at places other than parks and other licensed sites – then you must always ask the landowner’s permission before raising your tent, otherwise you may be guilty of trespassing. The rewards are fabulous but it’s only for the hardcore campers, Sorry no hot showers & hair dryers available!

For general information on camping in the UK, Come to our stores or give us a call, our staff are all campers & love to chat about past experiences, get a copy of Cades camping guide, or get on to www.ukcampsite.co.uk/  for great site reviews, forums & general information.

IS THERE ANYTHING I SHOULD BE SCARED OF?

It’s a jungle out there. Or a forest. Or maybe just a field. Wherever you pitch your tent, nature has a habit of biting back. Mosquitoes are the traditional plague to befall campers, especially in Scotland & Snowdonia. Anti-mosquito incense coils and citronella candles are effective, along with liberal doses of mosquito-repellent deet on exposed skin. But the best defences against airborne attack are to be obsessive about zipping up your tent, and to avoid camping near stagnant water.

Weather-wise, unless you’re already a serious camper, you’re unlikely to have to deal with extremes in temperature, so the worst the elements are likely to throw at you is rain. Always observe the golden rule: never pitch your tent at the bottom of a hill, or you’ll wake up in a lake. 

IS CAMPING REALLY FAMILY-FRIENDLY?

Absolutely, not least because of cost. Campsites also give children the freedom and facilities to enjoy themselves. Companies such as Eurocamp (0870 366 7558, www.eurocamp.co.uk), Canvas Holidays (01383 629 000, www.canvasholidays.com) and the Alan Rogers Travel Service (01892 559 898, www.alanrogers.com) specialise in self-catering package camping holidays at locations throughout Western Europe. Fleur Holidays (0870 750 2121, www.fleur-holidays.com) runs packages to campsites in France only. Typically, campsites run by package operators will provide space for tents, as well as areas for mobile homes and caravans, alongside family-friendly facilities such as a pool, tennis, volleyball and mini-golf, creche facilities and children’s clubs, plus shops, restaurants and bars. Sites flagged as being good for teenagers tend to have the best facilities and lots going on, including cinemas, discos and bands. Games and events are also run for younger children.
What’s more, with a package like this you don’t even need to bring your own canvas. If you so wish, a family-sized tent will be pitched ready and waiting for you, with a fully equipped kitchen including gas cooker, refrigerator, cutlery and crockery, and bedroom compartments separated by partitions (you have to bring your own bedding, although beds with sprung mattresses are supplied). This is the closest that camping gets to a luxury hotel: there are even checking-in times (which are usually between 4pm and 8pm). 

WHAT ABOUT SOMETHING A BIT OUT OF THE ORDINARY?

If France is too far, then try a self-catering tepee at Tregildrans in Cornwall. Prices start at £295 for one week (£175 for a long weekend) and you have to bring your own sleeping bags, although the rest of your camping equipment is supplied. For more information, contact Cornish Tipi Holidays (01208 880 781, www.cornish-tipi-holidays.co.uk).

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Ten top tips for a successfull camping experience

 * Always do a trial run and set up your new tent before you go away. Make sure all the components are there.

 * Before you pitch your tent, clear the ground of any leaves, stones and twigs.

 * If you can, avoid packing up your tent when it is damp, and after your holiday make sure it is dry before putting it away into storage

 * You can increase the life of your tent by laying an extra groundsheet or footprint groundsheet under the floor of the tent before pitching it.

 * Always use waterproof sealant such as Fabsil on your tent if it has had a lot of use or is a bit older & letting in water.

 * Always take duct tape on holiday with you to mend any unexpected rips or tears in the fabric.

 * Never attempt to cook inside your tent!

 * Do not pitch your tent on a hill, or below one, in case of heavy rain or flash floods.

 * If you want to pitch your tent in the open countryside, make sure that you get the appropriation permission: check beforehand with your local tourist information office.

 * If you are backpacking, take a roll mat or better still a self inflating mat for comfort.

Well I think thats about covered most things. If you think there anything missing please post your thoughts, Ideas & hot camping tips.

Carry on camping,

Andy: Blogger

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