‘A wild pony stamped on my tent!’: seven readers on their first camping experiences

·6-min read

‘It turns out I love camping’

After 18 months of lockdown and seeing nothing but buildings and city life, I needed to get away. I’d dreamed of visiting the Outer Hebrides for years and decided to take the plunge in May 2021, walking and camping solo along the Hebridean Way – my first time camping as an adult. I woke up to stunning beach views and I loved the freedom. But it wasn’t always easy: some nights I had to hold my tent up against the winds at 3am, and carrying all my kit on my back was horrendous at times. But I wouldn’t change a thing. My aim for the trip was to get back in touch with my homeland and endure the camping – but it turns out I love camping! It won’t be long before I’m on my way back to the Outer Hebrides – but with a lighter rucksack and a better inflatable mat this time. Bev Mackenzie, freelance copywriter, Bristol

‘One fear we had to overcome was the food’

We went camping for the first time ever at Hurst View in Lymington a few weeks back. We were lucky to go with a friend who had been camping a number of times and he selected what he felt would be a great first-time experience. It was moments away from the sea and surrounded by the most beautiful villages. But there was one fear we had to overcome, and that was campfire food. Being from an Asian background, we can’t live without spice and flavour! Our solution was to take pre-spiced barbecue food with us, marinated in advance. Adam Shabbir, London

‘His tent was a Rolls-Royce to our Ford Fiesta’

At a campsite on the Dorset coast in 2010, my husband and I attempted to erect our four-man tent for the first time – but had forgotten to buy a mallet. This was the moment that the seasoned camper in the pitch next door had been waiting for his whole life. He strode over, watched us struggle for a bit, tutted, and told us the error of our ways. We asked if we might borrow his and he brought over an impressive array of mallets, selecting one he deemed appropriate for our “little tent”. His tent was a Rolls-Royce to our Ford Fiesta. He had a fold-up picnic table and bench set, an awning, a fully equipped kitchen,and had lit his barbecue with a mini flame-thrower. Meanwhile, his children played badminton over their full-sized net. We felt duly admonished for our basic accoutrements and kept a low profile for the two days we stayed. We did bring a mallet for our next trip though. Clare Lawrence, Brixham, Devon

‘My father pessimistically dug a moat around the tent’

As a youngster, I spent seven consecutive camping holidays in Scotland. On our first trip, we left a parched Essex on a motorcycle combination and travelled 500 miles to the Western Isles, where it was very wet. Every year we were flooded out and our ex-army tent eventually resembled a slab of gone-off cheese. My father would pessimistically dig a moat around the tent perimeter – and, every year, his defences were breached, so our inflatable beds would float across the lapping waters. Some years, gale-force winds would snap the bamboo ridgepole, and my father’s outstretched arms would hold up the sagging canvas until dawn. My last camping trip to Scotland was in 1965. I didn’t return until 2016 – and then I stayed in a hotel. John Boden, retired teacher, Hampshire

‘The temperature dropped to minus two degrees’

My first camping experience was in Scotland in May, where my girlfriend Anna and I had planned a two-week trip driving around the country. We have a Land Rover Defender, which I restored as a lockdown hobby. Our first night was perfect: we were surrounded by imposing mountains, and the evening sky put on an impressive show of colours. But the wind picked up the next day and I witnessed people’s tents being uprooted and blown away. Apparently, this storm only happens once or twice a year. We could barely sleep and we were too scared to get out of the tent. We buried our heads under our pillows and hoped for the best until morning. We travelled from Fort William to the Cairngorms, where the temperature dropped to minus two degrees. It was too much for us, so we checked into a hotel the following night. I had to savour that warm shower as I knew we would be wild camping in the Outer Hebrides next. It proceeded to rain relentlessly for the rest of the trip. So no, it wasn’t a relaxing holiday, but one we came out of stronger. Leks Olubodun, civil servant, London

‘I ended up packing up my car and returning home’

With international travel put on hold for the past 18 months, I drove to north Wales for my first camping expedition, in a bid to make the most of my annual leave. After gale-force winds and torrents of rain, I returned to my two-man tent to find a drenched pillow and puddles of water collecting all around. I ended up packing up my car and returning home. The following weekend, I set out to stay even closer to home, in Cheshire. When I returned to my tent after an open-water swim, I was pleased to see my pitch dry and still standing. I enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine with some camp-stove pasta, and passed my evening watching the sunset and listening to families playing while I read a book. It was bliss. After this more positive experience, I was hooked, and have since had stays in the Lake District and Wales again. Camping has allowed me to explore the UK without having to pay single supplements or extortionate hotel prices – and watching the sunrise from my sleeping bag with a brew is pretty special. I now keep my car packed on the offchance a camping opportunity presents itself. Alison Stott, IT engineer, Wirral

‘A pony stamped on my tent’

A tent in mountains in front of the setting sun.
Childhood adventures taught Neil to love camping. Photograph: fotoVoyager/Getty Images

When I was seven, my family went to the New Forest. Mum and Dad and my little brother slept in the big tent, while I had my own little pup tent. I was nervous, having just read Noddy and Big-Ears Go Camping, where their tent is blown away by a gale in the middle of the night. My brother and I somehow got the tent set up without help from our parents, and I slept well until morning, when I woke to see an enormous slug peering at me an inch from my nose. There were a dozen more in the tent and my sleeping bag was crisscrossed with slimy trails. So the next day, we installed a slug-proof barricade using the Sunday papers. But the next night was even worse: I was jolted awake in the small hours by what seemed to be the hammer of Thor pounding down on my tent, narrowly missing my body. Suddenly, my dad’s arms were pulling me out. A wild New Forest pony had got tangled in the guy ropes and was stamping on my tent. But the pony, the tent and I survived relatively unscathed, and I have loved camping ever since. Neil, teacher, USA

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