More and more families are finding out about the pleasures of being together under canvas...
More and more families are finding out about the pleasures of being together under canvas, or taking advantage of cheap caravan holidays. But what to take with you when you go? Our camping expert Nick Harding has some fine ideas.
Totally in Tents
If you’re planning on taking your own, Outwell’s Bear Lake 6 is my current family tent of choice. It sleeps up to six, and is in polycotton – cool in summer, warm when the weather turns. But be warned, it’s no lightweight. You’ll get great, all-important tent information as well as top deals at outlets like Millets, Go Outdoors, Yeomans and more, but do make the effort to see if you have a specialist tent retailer nearby. They can often give you vital one-to-one advice. And absolutely make sure to see the tent you’re thinking of buying pitched before you purchase it. Don’t just buy a bag of canvas and poles off a shelf. Of course you can take the hassle out of family camping holidays if you go for the ready-erected tents that many places offer on site. This means there’s no stress with transporting and putting up and taking down your own unit – particularly good if you need a larger tent for your main holiday break.
Cooking up a storm
Need kit for cooking? Well, you’re likely to have two fuel sources – gas or mains electricity. My trusty cooker of choice is a single-ring Campingaz Twister. It’s compact, always performs well and you can get replacement gas cartridges anywhere.
For something a little special, how about a barbecue? You just can’t beat food cooked outdoors on a hotplate. Weber’s Q models always cut a dash, while Beauclaire’s Griddles and Cadac’s Braais are brilliant. For something different, the Remoska (exclusive to Lakeland) may look like a big pan with a lid but it can bake/roast/fry/defrost/re-heat almost anything.
Keeping food cool is just as vital. Check out local camping shops as well on-line specialists for special deals on coolboxes (Coleman and Campingaz especially). I actually use a coolbag – an Outwell Cooltime – with icepacks.
Note some continental campsites are more limited than their UK counterparts when it comes to electricity supply. Also, bottled gas is usually cheaper abroad, but make sure you have the right connections, especially if you have to switch from Calor cylinders that are only available in the UK.
Guarantee yourself as many good nights’ sleep as possible . That usually means sleeping bags that are the right size, comfortable and able to perform during the season you’re going camping in (check the label). Coleman, Vango, Snugpak and Gelert are brands to look for – check out the latter’s large and comfy Pod. An extra sleeping bag is ideal back-up in case of emergencies. Take your own pillows from home - they’re handy for falling asleep against during long journeys, too.
Be safe, be legal. Check your vehicles are fully prepared for travel wherever you’re visiting. Organisations as diverse as the Caravan Club, Camping and Caravanning Club, Alan Rogers Travel as well as the AA offer great advice on the legal aspects of driving with caravans abroad. At an absolute minimum take hi-visibility wear for everyone, a breakdown kit including warning triangle, and a set of replacement bulbs. And make sure the back of your vehicle sports the GB sign.
For more caravanning safety advice, read our driving expert Simon’s guide to caravan holidays in France.
P&Os camping holiday expert
In the past 20 years, John Lloyd has written extensively on travel and the outdoors in newspapers, magazines and books. He also edited Camping Magazine for 10 years and now writes regularly for the Caravan Club Magazine as well as for Living Spain, Destination France and France Magazine. There are few places in Europe and the US where he hasn't pitched at tent at some point. Whilst he's happy to enjoy the luxuries of a top grade campsite, he also likes camping out in remote wilderness areas.