Can I go camping?
The obvious answer to “Can I go camping with kids?” is yes, do, it’s fun. But camping with children, especially babies, is a master class in dealing with the precautionary principle. Here are a few ideas from me, Nicola Baird, but please add your own to share.
Camping’s better when it’s not wet, or too cold, so use the weather forecast. But our family uses a more poetic guideline – “If the Greater Celandine is in flower (it’s yellow) and the swifts have returned from Africa then it’s OK to camp”. This year (2010) our blooming bird test was passed on 26 April. Because our garden is tiny Nell, 9, is now eyeing up the green roof as a possible outdoor camping spot… This looks a dangerous idea and so I may just give her a sheet and a couple of logs and see if she manages to make her own tent, Swallows and Amazons style by draping the material over the washing line and then anchoring it down.
THERE’S A LOT OF KIT
Tents are so cheap now, and can be so easy to put up that you probably won’t have to borrow one. Most camping shops also sell useful repair items – patches, tapes, extra supports for the ones you lost – which means modern tents can last as long as the old-fashioned canvas ones. Even though they are light (unless you pick one that converts into a three- or four- podded bungalow) I’ve really struggled to camp with kids without a car. For anyone with a car camping is spur of the moment adventure. Without a car it means factoring in time to rent a vehicle or book the car club car.
Water containers – hot water bottles are an Arctic explorers essential and you can use them too. If you heat up water in a storm kettle for a cuppa you can use the extra in a hot water bottle as a good night (or even fireside) treat. And if it’s clean enough inside and the water is potable, then when it’s cooled you can drink the contents in the morning without even leaving your bed. A bigger container is useful too for washing up, decanting for nappy changes, dealing with spills etc.
Plastic bags – we love to hate them but when you’re camping (especially if it rains) nothing beats a plastic bag. Get super efficient by colour coding them so blue always means dirty stuff.
Clothes pegs – are a fantastic way of getting your stuff off the floor, stopping tent flaps flapping, keeping sun hats/gloves in an easy to find place and for drying any nappies/muslins that need laundering.
Potties – One of the brilliant mums, Zoe (see pic left) quoted in my new book, Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children (out 1 July 2010) swears by a lidded potty if you are on a public campsite, or at a festival with your young children. Here’s her top tip: “I bought a travel potty at an NCT sale. It has three layers. A seat with holes at the bottom for liquid to go through, a base and a seal tight lid. It’s been great for journeys, camping and I’ll keep it in the pram for Pip’s potty training. At a camp site where there were lots of surfers I once was embarrassed having to walk past a group of cool teenagers with a smelly poo sitting in an open potty when I went to empty it down the toilet, so I’m glad we have this type of potty now.”
Fleece – wherever you go in the UK it’s so often chilly (think wind, after swimming in the sea, overcast mornings, at dusk) that although the rule should be take as little as you can manage, don’t skimp on the fleeces.
WHERE TO STAY
With kids it really doesn’t matter. You could try it in your garden, or squeeze into the garden shed, or have your first go at a friend’s house who has a big garden and doesn’t mind you running in to use the facilities. You could check out the campsite plots offered here (finding dog-free, away from water or an old-fashioned spot that allows fires as well as the county). Or go to a festival – the literary one at Hay is from 26 May-5 June, or enjoy live music… Glastonbury is soon too.
Why not have a go during the bank holidays – find out what works best for your family (Camping mats or blow up matresses? Sleeping bags in double sizes or duvets?) and practise getting the kettle on for the first brew of the day.
Camping doesn’t have to just mean a pre-booked site in mid August – although that’s the sort of family holiday many of us dream about all year round. Good luck, hope the weather’s dry… and if you are in a field with thistles don’t expect those brilliant Croc shoes to work – your poor little uns will be crying with pain as they are stabbed by thistle needles. But wellies are comfortable (even ones that leak) until the kids come to the spot where bare feet will feel so much better.