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Family camping from The Camping book by Ed and Kate Douglas

At a time when most of us have less cash to spare, the family camping holiday is becoming ever more popular. It's an inexpensive holiday choice and it can be great fun for young children who will really enjoy the adventure. The Camping Book is a useful companion for anyone who dreams of getting away from it all, but worries that the reality will be screaming children in a car packed with tent poles or waking up in a rain-soaked sleeping bag. The book goes through what you'll need, where and how to camp and also includes tips for campfire cooking. We're featuring some extracts from their book to help you decide whether a camping holiday could be just the thing for you and your family.

What type of camping?

Why do you want to go camping? Are you looking for a cheap family holiday? Or do you want to get far away from it all, camping wild in the hills? Once you've decided what you want from your camping experience, then you can start to think about where to go and what you'll need. Make a list of all the different factors that have to be considered before you spend money on tents and other equipment. Here are some things to think about. Ask yourself:
  • Do you want to get away from it all? If you're looking to commune with nature, think about going wild.
  • What kind of campsite would you prefer? Some campsites will have all sorts of facilities such as showers, shops, play areas for children, and even swimming pools. But they will probably be busy. Some are highly organised, with shower blocks and numbered pitches for your tent. Others are little more than fields where you can pitch your tent wherever the fancy takes you.
  • What time of year will you be camping? Just summer? Or spring and autumn too? This will affect the quality of tent you buy, and the thickness of your sleeping bag.
  • How many people will you be sharing a tent with? Will they be adults or older children and will they need their own separate compartments? Or will you be taking young children and want to stay together in one large space?
  • Will you fit everything in the car? If you plan on camping out of a car, then you're going to need enough space to carry all your stuff plus your regular number of passengers. Having a small vehicle won't stop you, but it's something to bear in mind when choosing a tent.
  • How are you going to eat? Do you want to cook over a campfire? Or will you be eating out in cafes and restaurants? You could start by just using your camp as a base, then building up to a full outdoor lifestyle. Many campers find that the savings they make allow them to have more of the treats that holidays are all about. But you'll need some kind of stove, even if it's just to make tea in the morning.
  • How rugged are you really? If you need certain home comforts and you can carry them with you, then bring them along. Choose your campsite and equipment to suit you and your fellow campers. Don't try to turn into a survival expert overnight.

What to take - Family tents

The modern options most appropriate for families are larger tunnel and dome tents. Frame tents are still available, but their weight, their volume when packed and the time they take to put up undermine their appeal. Dome tents have become very popular, although some of the biggest models can be pretty complex and time-consuming in their own right. Most family tents are hybrids of dome and tunnel types.
  • Bedrooms - Many family tents have separate compartments. In some tents these are removable, so if you've got a young family you can remove them and put them back when the children are older, and you all want more privacy. Check the 'people rating' on these tents carefully. You'll get a more accurate figure if you can get everyone to try them out in the showroom.
  • Colour - Darker-coloured tents block out more sunlight, so they're easier to sleep in after dawn, but they absorb more heat so they get hotter during the day. A brightly coloured tent stands out, useful for children finding you again, or for hunters spotting you from a distance.
  • Fabric - Modern tents are made of nylon and polyester, which makes them lighter, but hotter, and prone to condensation. Unless the weather is very cold, leave a few zips undone at night to allow the air to circulate.
  • Groundsheet - Most modern tents have a sewn-in groundsheet and the more expensive ones are usually better quality. Shaped like shallow baths, thee groundsheets should remain waterproof even in heavy rain.
  • Lobby - Cooking inside is highly dangerous. If it is raining and you want to cook, either use a tarpaulin outside, or cook in the lobby, providing it's properly ventilated and large enough to accommodate the stove and the cook. A stove should never have the chance of coming into contact with the tent fabric.
  • Poles - These are the components most likely to break or fail, particularly the elastic linking the poles together. This elastic allows you to construct the poles quickly, but it must be cherished.

What to take - Kid's camping kit

Camping is made for children. The outdoors is a classroom, playground, and a home from home all rolled into one. But kids may be anxious about some aspects of what is a strange new experience, so take some time to explain some of the wild new things that might happen. Give them their very own equipment and camping goodies, along with a few well-chosen favourites from home, and you'll be halfway there. It's also worth having a dry run at a campsite a few miles away. Back gardens are fine, but the temptation of a familiar bedroom can be overwhelming at 2am.
  • Favourite toys, books and games will make kids feel at home, particularly at bed time, but make sure you either watch that cuddly toy like a hawk or keep a spare secretly stashed, in case it all goes wrong.
  • A disposable camera for making a record of early adventures is great fun, even if the pictures come out a little wonky and blurry.
  • Treasure boxes should be kept handy for kids to collect any amazing feathers or stones that they might find, or anything else that takes their fancy.
  • Nature books and spotters guides for birds, insects and flowers will give children every chance to develop their inner naturalist. Binoculars and a magnifying glass will help too.
  • A rucksack doesn't have to be big, or expensive, but it's very exciting for kids to have their very own bag to put their important stuff in.
  • Emergency rations should be kept in the rucksack in case things go awry. These will last approximately five minutes after dark, but then, that's the point.

The Camping Book by Ed and Kate Douglas is published by Dorling Kindersley (


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