Camping With Kids by Kate Duggan

Top tips to making sleeping under the stars a whole lot more enjoyable…

Fly the flag

If, like me, you have the navigation skills of Nemo’s best friend Dory, you may find yourself getting lost occasionally. A telescopic flagpole and windsock is a useful marker, particularly if you’re planning to give the kids a bit more freedom.

To wee or not to wee

No one enjoys a 3am trek to the loo, so a portable toilet is your friend. A potty is fine for younger children, but you’ll need something a bit more substantial for older kids (and adults). If you have room, a bucket style loo is ideal. Otherwise, try a collapsible toilet. We recently bought the Bivvy Loo, which folds down small, supports up to 23 stone and comes with biodegradable bags and powder to transform liquid to gel.

Let there be light

You’ll need headtorches to find your way around after dark. A rechargeable camping lantern is also useful for evenings (and those 3am toilet breaks). And a string of solar fairy lights around your door will help you to identify your tent at night. (They also look rather pretty.)

A decent night’s sleep

If you’re only planning to camp occasionally, air beds are usually fine. However, they do tend to deflate somewhat overnight and don’t exactly have the longest lifespan. While camping beds are more expensive, they can work out far better value in the long run. And you’re likely to get a much better night’s sleep.

Dress for the occasion

Even the hottest British summer’s day can turn cool at night. Close-fitting PJs (or leggings and a T-shirt) will help to keep the warmth in.

Make sure you pack plenty of layers. You’ll appreciate a fleecy jumper when you’re huddled up sheltering from the rain. Speaking of rain, it can be difficult to get dry in a tent, so waterproofs are a good idea.

Eat, drink and be merry

A camping stove is essential for anything longer than a weekend break, even if you’re planning to mainly barbecue or eat out. Stick to easy-to-cook meals, from breakfast fry-ups to fajitas. Don’t have an electric hook up? A cool box with ice blocks makes a useful fridge. You’ll need to refreeze the blocks each day, which you can usually do in the site shop.

My kids love ‘camping cereal’ (aka mini variety packs). Pour the milk directly into the cereal bag. No bowl = less washing up.

Ideally, start collecting condiment sachets a few weeks before your holiday, so you have plenty of ketchup, mayonnaise, vinegar etc. to see you through.

And what camping trip would be complete without toasting marshmallows?

Other essentials worth packing include:

  • Washing line – string it between your tent and a tree to dry swimming costumes on
  • Baby wipes – handy no matter how old the kids are
  • Dustpan and brush
  • Doormat
  • First aid kit
  • Extra-thick thermal socks (Heat Holders are ideal)
  • Gaffer tape for tackling leaks
  • Travel games, a ball and a frisbee