This year we’ve been cooking up a fair old bit of Family Camping, peppered with a LARGE pinch of irony since I don’t like being grubby and I do like sleeping well! I know – double whammy right?! But it’s been AMAZING to re-discover something I adored as a child, and see my own children thriving on the experience.
Here are my Top 5 must-haves for a great experience all round:
1. Tent – Vango Airbeam Eclipse 600
The lovely people at Vango sent us one of these to test out in our summer of camping fun – Brand new for 2013, the Eclipse 600 is surely the Mothership of the tenting world? Instead of faffing around with poles, you just blow up the 5 support beams with the hand pump provided, peg out the guy ropes and you’re good to go. It’s that simple!
The Eclipse sleeps 6 and can separate into 3 double compartments, but we all ended up sleeping together by joining two compartments which left a spare double compartment for our bags, keeping the main area clear. I love that this tent has enough living space for a family. We’ve been lucky this summer as we’ve had great weather every time we’ve used it, but if we were rained-in, we’d have been grateful for the inside space for the kids to let off a bit of steam! And there are lots of windows which gives it a really airy feel.
The guy ropes are reflective at night which is a great touch, so nobody tripped up. The tent even comes with an external storage pod for muddy boots which I LOVED!
We had a few practice runs in our garden to prevent rookie mistakes on our first outing since nobody wants to be a virgin at a festival (!) and the tent was perfect. It’s on the larger side which meant we had that bit more privacy as a family and could shut the madness out when at Festivals. Talking shutting, each door has a mesh interior so you can let the air in, but not unwanted flying guests! We even had a bit of wind action at Camp Bestival, but the tent was solid.
The Eclipse is pretty quick to put up – haven’t managed the 8 minutes claimed by the manufacturers yet, nor have we managed to “sit back with a drink while the kids do it” but we’re getting better. With no less than 3 doors, every time we put it up the kids literally spend the first hour running through the various entrances and exits, leaving time for us to sit with a nice glass of Merlot! What’s not to love?!
2. Keeping it Cool by bringing the heat – Hot Water Bottles!
A great tip I’ve discovered from our trips to Featherdown Farm: Instead of cool packs, freeze hot water bottles! Means a) you don’t have to store them all year and b) they’re twice the size of most cool packs, so keep your bits cool for longer. Win win baby! Just remember to write your family name on them.
The people at Bog-In-A-Bag sent me one of these to test out and it’s been a complete life-saver this summer, especially at Festivals. My kids are both too big for potties now so this completely saved the day – and night! Let’s face it – nobody wants to do the midnight dash to the loos through wet grass when camping. I “might” have even used it myself during the day, to avoid the queues at the portaloos! You just put the special bag (degradable) through the hole and over the seat, then dispose at the end and there’s an absorbent pad in the base to soak up any liquid. There’s no walk of shame through the campsite with a full potty in your hand. As the name suggests the Bog-In-A-Bag comes does what it says on the packet and comes with it’s own bag (!) and it’s lightweight so you can take it anywhere. A genius invention. No family should be without one. It would even be handy to keep in the back of the car for those side-of-the-road moments! Although I’d maybe limit those moments to the kids!!
4. The Shrunks – Indoor Tuckaire Kids Twin Travel Bed
When you’re camping, comfort is key! Lets face it, you’re living without enough of your creature comforts, so feeling cosy at night is not a luxury, it’s a necessity to getting as good a night of sleep as you can. When the people at Shrunks suggested their blow up mattresses, I was beyond sceptical since I’ve slept on airbeds before, and spent the whole night bouncing around, listening to the thing creak every time I turned. But then The Shrunks came to town! I got a Twinbed for both kids and at Camp Bestival we ALL slept on them – I’m not even joking. Each bed took a kid and adult, they’re THAT generous! Trey and I didn’t even bother blowing up our adult mattresses. I love that The Shrunks travel beds have the security rails on the sides so the kids can’t fall off / wake up. They’re super quick to inflate and come with carry bag, repair kit and electric pump. The mattresses are Phthalate,BPA and Lead safe, there’s space to tuck sheets at the sides so they don’t hang over and the felt base is super cosy and means nobody slides around. Perfect for camping or as a spare bed at home.
Kid + Tattoo = Kattoo! (see what they did there!) Seriously, these things are brilliant. If your kids are anything like mine they LOVE temporary tattoos so these were perfect for my peace of mind every time we went camping. They come with a market pen so you just put the Kattoo onto your kid and write your contact details on. Perfect! Ours stayed on for 4/5 days, even with suntan lotion. At Festivals and just for general camping and even days out, they were great.