8 things you need to know before taking your first camping trip
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If you'd told me this time a year ago that I'd be spending the best part of half term camping in a field in the UK, I'd have toppled off my blow-up bed for laughing.
Having spent years wondering why anyone would willingly choose to swap the comforts of home for a tent where you have to trudge to the toilet for a wee in the middle of the night, I'm just back from a glorious 5-day camping trip to Devon.
The pandemic has forced me to pop my camping cherry and I'm now a total convert.
It seems I'm not the only one to be embracing the charms of sleeping under canvas right now.
With foreign travel looking increasingly uncertain, bookings for outdoor holidays have increased by as much as 273% compared to two years ago, with campsite bookings up by as much as 500% in some parts of the UK, according to travel agent Cool Camping.
Camplify, a campervan and motorhome sharing community, is predicting a record year for rentals after it had its busiest month ever for bookings in May, seeing a 189% spike in bookings since March 1 2021.
Meanwhile camping site, Pitchup.com has seen a 234% rise in bookings this week compared to the same time in 2019.
"What is partly driving this year's enhanced staycation boom and year-on-year increase is consumer confidence following the vaccine rollout in the UK and the general easing of restrictions in line with the government's roadmap," Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com told Thisismoney.co.uk.
"Adding to this is consumer hesitation around booking holidays abroad due to the potential repositioning of countries on the traffic light system and the potential of missing out on a UK substitute if they don't book something soon."
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While some may feel less than enthused at the prospect of swapping the sunny shores of Spain for a shepherds hut in Scarborough, as a newly crowned camping convert I can report that if you are planning to bed down in a tent this summer, there's actually a lot to be excited about.
But there's also a lot for novice campers to know.
Here's 8 things I wish I’d known before my first camping trip, so you can be prepared for yours.
Choose the right site
Because not all camp sites are created equal. Of course it kind of depends what you want out of your trip - total seclusion, facilities for the kids, somewhere to toast marshmallows (and if you do plan on cooking al fresco, it is worth checking that fires and BBQs are allowed).
While larger sites may have more facilities, there's also a lot to be said for a small, independent site with plenty of natural charm.
We chose a spot that offered the best of both, a quieter, more natural site, with fancy facilities available (swimming pool, mini golf) at the sister site down the road.
Consider your pitch
We were camping with a few other families, so managed to secure a spot all together in a little valley. Not only was it sheltered but with our tents pitched either side, it offered us a bit of privacy as a group.
It's also worth noting that canvas isn't sound proof so you might want to choose to pitch up away from any loud snorers.
On a further sound note - while it can be amazing to wake up to the sound of the dawn chorus, it can also be pretty tiring after the fifth early call in a row, so if you want to lie in a little longer, you might want to pack some earplugs. Ditto: an eye mask to block out the light.
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It's all about the comfort
I love my bed and one of the things that was concerning me most about camping for such a long stretch was how I'd cope with the sleeping.
Thankfully, we decided to invest in a luxury blow up bed and while it was a little pricy, I have zero regrets.
Top tip: remember the bed will start to deflate after about 10 hours so though it's a bit of a pain it is worth re-inflating it every night before bed, particularly if you like to sleep on a harder mattress. I'm forever grateful to my husband for dragging our mattress up to the car every night to pump it up.
Buy it: Deeplee Camping Mat | £28.99 (Was £35) from Amazon
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Learn the camping code
Mainly, thou must not steal anyone's hot water for their morning cuppa! A camping kettle takes an age to boil so someone swooping in and snatching your just-boiled water is a real camping no-no.
The code also includes the sharing of camping chores such as washing up and cooking. Yep, you may be on holiday but there's certainly no room service to turn down your sheets and leave a chocolate on your pillow.
Which means you'll need to remember to pack washing up paraphernalia - sponge, washing up liquid and tea towels to dry up. It's also worth taking a crate to carry the dirty and clean kitchenalia to and from the sinks, unless you want to do the walk of shame collecting all the dropped cutlery.
Buy it: Odoland Stainless Steel Camping Cutlery Set | £20.99 from Amazon
Remember it gets very cold at night
No matter how hot it is during the day, the night-time cold always strikes on a camping trip, as I learned from experience. Despite it being balmy every day for our entire trip, the nights were always chilly, so much so that sometimes I'd struggle to sleep. To prevent the freeze stealing your zzzs, it's worth prepping for the coldest of nights.
At the very least, sleep off the floor on an inflatable ground mat or blow-up mattress, and even if you plan on taking your duvet it's also worth investing in a proper sleeping bag. We opened ours up and stretched it across the blow up bed as a sort of topper, which helped keep out the cold rising through the mattress. I also packed a hot water bottle to warm up my bed before lights-out, but thankfully didn't need it.
Buy it: SWTMERRY- Sleeping Bag | £27.99 to £67.41 from Amazon
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Be prepared for rain
While we only had a bit of midnight rain on our first night, if you plan on camping in the UK it is worth prepping for wet weather. Take rain macs, wellies and umbrellas and plenty of socks as it is often difficult to get soggy socks dry.
Also try to remember to bring in any drying clothes and camping chairs when you retire for the night, our friends shared experiences of theirs getting soaked and even blown away on previous bad-weather trips.
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Don't fear the showers
Pre-trip, so great was the fear of the communal shower facilities I told myself I could always substitute actual washing with a scrub down with a baby wipe. But in reality a hot shower in the morning became a real comfort, and I got used to walking across the site for a spruce up.
Sure it's nice to embrace the grubbiness while camping, but smelling like a campfire every day was is not ideal - and no matter what the facilities are like, a daily shower will always be worth it.
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Organise the pack away
As much as I loved my first camping experience, the clearing away was almost enough to put me off signing up for my next trip. We learnt from seasoned camping friends that it is made all the easier if you're organised in advance.
Take a picture of how everything fits in the car, we didn't do this and couldn't fit everything back in. We had to rely on friends to bring the extras home.
It's also a good idea to take time to properly wipe down the bottom of your tent with an old towel before folding it away, so its nice and clean for the next use. If this sounds like too much hard work, and trust me it was, invest in a groundsheet.