Let's go camping
If you think canvas is just for the Scouts, think again. Camping is good for your wallet, and good for the environment.
Peg out your tent and roll out your sleeping bag - camping is one of the best, and certainly cheapest, holidays you can have. There is much to be said for a break outdoors and even in the rain it can be a lot of fun. Before you head off for a life under canvas however, there are a few points to consider.
If you've not been camping before and need a tent, you may want to borrow one before investing in your own. You can buy a two-person tent for under £20, and if you're just going weekend camping in good weather then this will be ample for your needs. If you're going away for longer, or there are several of you, then look for something a bit more sophisticated.
Bear in mind that although a tent may be advertised as a four-person tent, for example, by the time you've stashed all your equipment inside it will realistically only sleep two people comfortably.
Location, location, location
Next you'll need to consider where to go. Even in the UK there are a whole host of options, from beach holidays to getting back to nature by climbing hills and trekking through forests. Your options will often be limited on whether you have access to your own vehicle, or you are relying on public transport.
You'll also need to consider what sort of site you want to stay on. A quiet spot in a farmer's field will feel like 'proper' camping and will certainly be cheap. If you are looking for a more lively time then head for a larger campsite with a range of facilities such as on-site restaurants, swimming pools and evening entertainment.
If you want to give camping a try but you're not really sure you want to put up a tent and sleep on the floor, then you could hire a static caravan. Caravans give you the benefit of home comforts such as television and a proper bed.
There are plenty of web directories of that have comprehensive list of campsites in the UK and Europe. You can often filter searches by location and facilities, and pick the one that's right for you.
Depending on when you go, you should book ahead. Sites quickly fill up over bank holidays and popular sites get booked up weeks ahead of the summer holidays. Also bear in mind that some sites don't accept bookings from large same-sex groups.
If you want to get right away from it all, then there is the option of wild camping. Recommended places include Dartmoor and the Scottish Highlands. There are certain guidelines you should follow to keep your impact on the environment to a minimum.
Asides from your tent and sleeping bag, there are other essentials you can't camp without. Unless you plan on eating out all the time you will need something to cook on. Many high street shops sell portable gas stoves that are more than adequate to boil a kettle and cook your bacon and eggs in the morning. Other equipment you'll need includes:
- Pillows, airbeds and/or roll mats. You won't get a decent night's sleep otherwise.
- Pots, plates, bowls, cups and cutlery. Pack plastic or enamel sets.
- Cool box or fridge to keep your milk and other drinks cool.
- Tin opener and corkscrew.
- Washing up bowl, sponge and washing-up liquid.
- Matches and spare gas canisters.
- Toilet roll and baby wipes. Most campsites do have toilet roll in the washrooms but it's best to take some along, just in case.
- Torch and spare batteries so you can find your way to the shower block in the middle of the night!
- Hammer or mallet to hammer tent pegs into the ground.
- Clothes pegs and string to use as a clothes line. Even if you're only planning a short stay, it can be useful to have somewhere to hang damp towels.
- Bin bags for rubbish and dirty washing.
- First aid kit
- Outdoor furniture - table, chairs, stools.
All of these items are useful, but if you do forget something you'll probably be able to borrow it from a fellow camper. Camp-sites are pretty friendly places and campers are happy to help one another out so if you need assistance - just ask!
Written by Rosie Spowart
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