Yesterday, Daddy Pig decided to take us all camping. It’s fun being spontaneous. Until you spend the next 4 hours packing up the car with all the crap you need to survive one night in the wild. Here’s how to ‘do’ camping with kids in 24 hours.
Logs burned: 10
Sausages eaten: 16
Wine drunk: how many units are you allowed again?
Fruit and veg portions: 0 (unless glacier cherries are a fruit?)
Marshmallows eaten: 50+
Showers taken: 0
Change of pants: 0
Hours of rain: 9
1. Keep it brief.
Even 24 hours is probably too long.
In the end, we camped for 19.
If you’ve never been before as a family, this is the perfect amount of time to a) see if you like it b) like it and c) not kill each other. Or yourself.
We have returned from our trip happy and with a sense of achievement.
Another night and it definitely would have been misery and a sense of insanity.
2. Stay local.
You don’t need to travel for hours to find a campsite or piece of woodland. Especially if you’re only staying a night.
We ventured just 30 minutes from home into the exotic depths of Dartford.
A tree’s a tree, yes?
(And if you change your mind, you can leave them all there, drive home and pick them up the next day.)
3. Travel light (ha ha).
None of the gear. No idea? Don’t worry. You don’t need it for 24 hours, well not ALL of it, anyway.
‘Why do we have duvets and a yoga mat?’ I asked Daddy Pig.
‘Well, do you want to be cold?’ said Daddy Pig.
‘And the yoga mat?’
‘Like I said, do you want to be cold?’
Proper campers have posh stuff like 3 bedroom tents, groundmats, airbeds and sleeping bags. But you know what? All that stuff takes time to put up and take down. And if you’re only there for 19 hours, do you really want to spend 6 of them doing all that?
Us? We had a two man tent, 5 bodies, 2 duvets and a yoga mat.
Actually, I’m surprised we lasted 19 hours.
4. Take appropriate clothing.
Like stuff to keep you comfortable. Warm clothing. Sensible footwear.
I forgot my coat and my boots. Luckily I was wearing my neon pink flip flops.
Luckily, we were in the middle of an actual forest. A damp, muddy forest.
Luckily it only rained for 9 of the 19 hours we were there.
5. You won’t need eyeliner.
Whilst we’re on the subject of what to take, you don’t need a washbag full of toiletries. Once you realise the toilets don’t have a flush, you won’t bother to check out the shower block. If there is one.
Toothbrush and toothpaste. A pack of baby wipes. And you’re done.
You might think you’ll fanny around putting on tinted moisturiser and eyeliner when you wake up. But you won’t.
You probably won’t even change your pants.
6. Make sure one of you knows what you are doing.
I will put my hand up and say I knew nothing about camping. Clearly. (See 3. above).
Daddy Pig meanwhile is clearly a pro. He had wet weather gear, body warmers and blankets. He packed bin liners, cooking utensils, kindling, washing up stuff. A potty (how did he know our girls would refuse to use the site toilet because, I quote, ‘It is dusty and stinky.’ Yes, it’s an outdoor toilet). Even Calpol, just in case.
It’s like he’d done this before. Even though he’s NEVER packed for a family holiday.
Within an hour of arriving, we were sitting by a fire he’d built. Drinking wine. Tent up. Sausages on.
If it had been left up to me, we’d have all been sitting there in flip flops wondering how to get to Costa.
7. Pack food that you’re actually going to eat.
You’re not going camping for your 5 a day.
And this is one of the other good things about going for just 24 hours. You don’t care what you eat. What the kids eat.
We ate bacon, sausages, beans, jelly babies, marshmallows, bakewell tarts, sweets, crisps and bread.
We had Haribos and chocolate buttons for breakfast because it was raining and the actual food was in the car.
By the end, we were feeding The Boy with No Name as if he were a duck. Tossing him bits of bread. Because we’d eaten all the chocolate buttons.
It’s part of the novelty. I mean, no one ever looks back on camping trips and fondly remembers toasting broccoli and eating midnight feasts of apples.
8. Take hundreds of bin-liners.
There is NOTHING you can’t do with a bin liner when you’re camping.
Make-shift sleeping bag. Tick. Poncho. Tick. Sarong (if you’re lucky). Tick.
Not to mention quarantining everything when you leave.
We put muddy clothes in one. Bikes in another. We even had a bin liner for our dirty plates and cutlery.
Come on, we didn’t change our pants. We were hardly going to wash our dishes, were we?
9. Make friends
Get your kids to do this as soon as you get there. Because if your kids are playing with their new friends, they’re not playing with you. See where I’m going with this?
The girls had made friends before the tent was even up. Their very own Brat Pack.
Unfortunately for us, this backfired. Our camp snacks were obviously more appealing and so we ended up with an extra four kids for most of our waking hours.
Their parents asked for our email address when we left. Because they’d like to hook up with us next time they go camping.
(I bet they would.)
10. Let stuff go.
And parent like it’s 1975.
You’re in the middle of nowhere (OK, Dartford. But you know what I mean). You’re not washing. You’re eating marshmallows for breakfast.
Does it matter if your children let loose a bit too?
This is by far the BEST bit about camping. Letting your kids forget their manners for a bit. Letting them roam free. Letting them setup the coolest camping tents we could find and buy on short notice. Letting them be kids, without all the restrictions we constantly place on them.
You’ll see a more relaxed side to your kids. They’ll see a more relaxed side to you.
And you’ll all be much, much better for it.
(I imagine this state of being expires after 24 hours. We didn’t stay long enough to find out.)