So this summer holiday, if it ever stops raining long enough to build the tent, we are going camping. We have threatened to go before but I have to admit that in recent years, the furthest we got was to camping was in the garden.
But we have an amazing tent and very eager children who are more than happy to relinquish their precious devices (which is a miracle in itself). So we just need a better weather forecast.
We did camp many years ago when my eldest son was young and enjoyed the experience but as that was a few years ago, I am compiling a list of camping essentials.
I would ask my husband but as he once went on a camping trip with a friend armed with only a tent, a bag of junk food and two towels, I think I am better off doing this on my own.
So what are the family camping essentials?
Camping without a tent would be tricky, so that has to be top of the list. For our family adventures, we have the Eurohike Rydall 600 6 Person Tent from Blacks (current price on sale at £199). Spacious, practical with lots of nice features, this tent will hopefully give us plenty of space to enjoy our holiday.
We have sleeping bags of all shapes, makes and sizes as we all have different preferences. The kids don’t like feeling too enclosed, so they prefer the rectangular sleeping bags as they can still move around or open it out and use it as a duvet. I prefer the mummy style sleeping bags, they are shaped to fit quite snugly around your body and they keep you much warmer but they don’t give you much room to move. I would avoid buying junior sleeping bags as they seem to grow out of them so quickly and standard sleeping bags will last a lot longer.
I have my eye on this Berghaus Women’s Transition 200W Sleeping Bag from Blacks as it looks super cosy.
You will also need something under your sleeping bag to make things a bit more comfortable. We prefer airbeds and managed to pick some up from the local supermarket quite cheaply. They do take up quite a lot of space too, so if you do a test run with the tent, make sure the sleeping space will fit the required number of airbeds. Alternatively, you can buy camping mats for a couple of pounds each or go for a bigger investment and buy camp beds.
Stove and cookware
If you are planning on doing some cooking, there are lots of stoves on offer, some simple single ring stoves and some with more options to cook with pans and grill. There is also the barbecue option which my kids are very keen on as nothing makes them feel like they are on holiday more than a good old barbecue. We are going to go for a simple single canister stove for our first trip and if we get into camping, I will invest in something bigger next year. You can buy lightweight pans and kettles to go with your stove and a toasting rack is a good idea too. This post is a really useful read if you are unsure about which stove to buy.
Make sure you set up a separate place outside the tent to do your cooking as it is really dangerous to try and cook inside the tent and you need lots of ventilation.
When it comes to plates and bowls, I have always opted for melamine as it is so durable and lightweight. We have this set from Olpro which we have had for years and it has survived quite a few summers use in the garden and I love the colourful design.
Torches are fun and we have found head torches to be particularly useful over the years, we rarely go out in the dark without them. But when it comes to camping, torches can be very distracting when you want the kids to settle down and it is nice to have something static.
Varta has lots of great options when it comes to camping lanterns, torches, head torches and power packs, all which make the camping easier. We particularly like their camping lanterns which are battery operated, powerful and robust.
If you want to inject a little more fun and holiday spirit into your lighting, Flying Tiger has these fabulous solar powered hanging lights (£2 each) lightweight and easy to hang, these would brighten up any tent space.
First Aid Kit
Another essential is a first aid kit. Any holiday has its bumps and bruises when you have active kids and this first aid kit from Lifesystems looks well-equipped for every eventuality. It costs around £20 and contains;
- Primary care leaflet
- Low-adherent dressings
- Zinc oxide and micropore tape
- Medium dressing
- Paracetamol, antiseptic wipes & duct tape
- Small-eye pad dressing & eyewash
- Small fabric dressing strip & wound closure strips
- Fabric plasters
- Burn gel & triangular bandage
- Woven bandage & small crepe bandage
- Scissors & tweezers
- Safety pins
We discovered the Reimann P20 sun protection range last year when we went to America and it is now a firm favourite. Even my children agree and they are not the biggest fans of applying sun cream. The P20 is a light spray which is easy to apply, non-greasy and really works. I buy this brand now and use it all of the time, so it will definitely be in my camping bag.
Washing up equipment
One thing I didn’t even think about when we went on our first camping trip was the washing up. Whether you invest in a stove or not, it makes sense to take some plastic plates and bowls to reuse and they will need washing up. Always remember to pack a small bowl, washing up brush, cloths, washing up liquid and a couple of tea towels. You can buy collapsible wash bowls for around £5 and these are great as you can fold them flat when you are packing them away. I will also be taking my trusty Dishmatic washing brush and Power Mesh with me. The Dishmatic washing brush can be prefilled with washing up liquid and it is ready to use and the Power Mesh is really lightweight but packs a punch when it comes to getting rid of tougher jobs.
You need to take a selection of food that travels well but is easy to prepare or eat. My biggest worry is taking fruit as it doesn’t travel well but Dole has these great fridge packs of fruit which are perfect for the job. These could be used for snacking or pudding and the pouches reseal too.
However long you are planning to camp, you will need somewhere to store your food. An electric cool box is a wise investment and I like this one from Halfords.
It is a really good size, sturdy and easy to clean. The real beauty of it is that it keeps everything cool without the need for additional ice blocks. This one is powered by an in-car 12v accessory socket. There are also larger models which are mains powered.
I also love a product that multitasks and the cricket-loving men in the house will love this John Lewis Cricket Cooler Box (£75).
Cool bags are also useful as they fold flat when not in use. This is a gorgeous design from Flying Tiger and it is only £4.
I think a few days without electricity sounds like a wonderful thing in theory and I think we could manage but I have invested in a Mobile Mains Kit so that we can hook up to electricity to charge phones and things. Mains kits can be really pricey but there are a few out there around the £30 – £40 mark which have great reviews. I chose this one from Eurohike which is currently on sale for £25 (usual price £70). This was recommended to me by a friend who camps regularly and has used this kit and said it was really easy to use.
Carbon Monoxide Alarm
It might not always be on your holiday essential list but a carbon monoxide alarm should be. Over 40 people have been injured or died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a tent, caravan or holiday cottage over the last two years. This can easily be prevented by popping a carbon monoxide alarm in your case.
Gtech Multi Cordless
The Gtech Multi is small enough to pack away in the car for your trip and powerful enough to keep everything clean while you are away. It is the perfect handheld to get into those hard to reach places with a variety of attachments to be able to get into lots of different places and it has twin LED lights to ensure that you can ensure that all dust and crumbs disappear. It is also useful for hoovering up creepy crawlies, an extra which my daughter certainly likes as she has been hoovering up spiders with it all week.
The Gtech Multi is an amazing piece of kit to have around the house, car or tent. It has a powerful suction and makes light of clearing up after messy kids. It costs £149 which is a serious investment but you can use it in so many different places, it is a worthwhile investment. It is perfect for cleaning out the tent as even in just a few days, there will be grass, dirt and cobwebs and the Gtech Multi will get rid of those in a few minutes flat.
In addition to the Multi, you can also buy a Car Cleaning Kit (£49.95 0r £25 if bought at the same time as the Gtech Multi). Having a cordless vacuum is so useful when it comes to hoovering out the car and with 20 minutes charge when it is fully charged, that gave us enough time to do most of our car and we charged it for an hour just to get a few more minutes to finish off. It is small enough to store away and really handy to have around the house to quickly clear up crumbs or other messes.
- Soft dusting brush – Long, soft bristles, ideal for dusting the more delicate surfaces of a car interior – like the dashboard. Gentle enough for dusting around television tables and stereo stands too.
- Flexible crevice tool – Reaches the spots that other tools can’t, like in-between car seats and into door pockets.
- Small upholstery tool – A compact upholstery tool, designed for the precision cleaning of car upholstery. This tool is also ideal for cleaning difficult crevices in the sofa too.
Find out more at www.gtech.co.uk.
Kärcher OC3 Portable Cleaner
I have to admit that this is the first portable cleaner I have had and given that this is quite a compact little unit, I was really surprised how effective it is. It has a compact 4-litre tank which you can easily access using the rubber cap on the top. These are the main features.
- Packs the punch for a quick wash anywhere, anytime
- Low pressure of the device is perfect for a body shower
- Battery powered with its own water tank is light and perfect for on-the-go
- Specially designed nozzle perfect for cleaning everything from wellies to tents
- Stores up to 4 litres of water, easily refilled when out and about
It is battery operated and one the water is in, you simply turn it on and then press the trigger and start cleaning. The OC3 is perfect for camping for a number of different reasons. Firstly, it is great for cleaning muddy shoes or wellies which will stop those muddy shoes messing up your tent. Secondly, it can be used to clean off any dirt from the outside of the tent. Finally, you can even use it as a portable shower which is a great feature (although it might be rather chilly).
We have tried the Kärcher OC3 to clean out the paddling pool and to clean down the car and I am really impressed, it certainly does pack a punch for such a compact device.
Toilet Seat Covers
Toilet seat covers from Flying Tiger (£1 for a 8) are a useful thing to pop in your bag just in case those campsite toilets aren’t quite up to your usual standard. They come in a handy plastic pouch and hardly take up any space so easy to carry around. I must admit that dirty toilets are my biggest concern when we go camping so I will be taking a few of these pouches with me wherever we go.
Somewhere to keep your valuables
This mini safe may be small (215 x 35 x 89 mm) but it is the perfect place to keep things like passports, phones, iPods or even keys. The Master Lock Safe Space travel safe also has an integrated cable for tethering to a fixed point and has a 4 digit resettable combination. This costs around £25 – £30.
Looking after your tent
Many people make an investment in a good tent but then don’t really take the time to look after it. One thing you can do is invest in some good products to look after it. Storm’s Tent Cleaner (SRP £8 300ml trigger spray bottle) is suitable for tents, covers and fabric surfaces and can also be used as a re-proofing treatment. It helps you to remove dirt without damaging the original waterproof coating.
Once your tent has been cleaned, the next step is to re-proof it to restore its waterproofness with a product such as Storm’s Brush On Textile Waterproofer (SRP £15 for 1 litre bottle). Ideal for tents, awnings, tarps and general covers, Storm’s Brush On Textile Waterproofer is a fast drying silicone-free proofer. The non-staining proofer is perfect for both natural and synthetic fibres. Simply paint on and allow your tent to air dry.
Also in the Storm range is the Non Scratch Sponge and Tear-Aid Fabric Repair, both small enough to store away in your case but might come in really handy to keep your tent in good condition.
So that is my list of family camping essentials with a few luxury items added in to help make life easier. I realise that as I am not a seasoned camper (yet) there are probably more things I need to add. What would you add to the list?
I was sent a selection of the products featured in this post for the purpose of the post. All opinions are my own.