For the past 6 or so years, our summer holidays have largely been camping orientated. As a mum to three sons, I’ve tended to assume that camping trips are part and parcel of raising boys. I was raised on camping too. We spent many summers under canvas as kids and I have fond (if a little fuzzy) memories of whittling sticks, building campfires and snuggling in sleeping bags.
However, as a fully grown woman now accustomed to my home comforts and a fairly high standard of hygiene I’ve started to wonder, is camping all it’s cracked up to be?
Over the years experience has taught us what works and what doesn’t and we’ve honed and added to our camping equipment accordingly. We now have a relatively large, carpeted, 6 man tent with all the mod cons; a camping pantry with gas stove and grill, multiple folding chairs, tables and stools and the all important Cath Kidston 24 piece melamine crockery set with co-ordinating cool bag. However, despite our best efforts, we have yet to find non-deflating air beds, a lantern that works even when dropped (it always happens!) and a camping fridge that actually keeps the cheese from melting and the milk from separating. As a result, it’s not unusual to find me breakfasting with an aching back and a bowl of curdled cornflakes.
There also seems to be a gap in the market for a blackout, sound proof tent. Why has no one thought of this? Many campers who camp during the summer months do so with kids so such a product would have a huge potential market. Dawn’s early chorus of chirping birds and bright sunshine rarely fails to wake my kids, irrespective of how late they collapsed into their sleeping bags. As a result, Dave and I often find ourselves squinting and groaning as we try to cobble together a bowl of Shreddies for a hungry child at 6am. A sound proof tent would also come in handy when my stress levels reach critical level. Privacy from my eavesdropping neighbours would be appreciated when I’m forced to utilise certain expletives to explain why wellies shouldn’t be worn in sleeping bags.
Things can be equally challenging outside the tent. Sharing a shower and toilet with countless camp mates brings out the OCD in me. Drains clogged with other people’s hair and sinks peppered with squashed moths are hardly inviting to someone who Cilit Bangs the bathroom taps at the first sign of a grubby fingerprint.
Then there’s the neighbours. As a Londoner I’m used to cramped living quarters. But on campsites I find myself sleeping just a few feet from complete strangers! Without bricks and mortar to provide privacy, i can hear every cough, snore and ‘pop’ (as my boys call them) within a 5 metre radius. Ewwww!
I could also live without the mosquitos, the constant washing up (I should patent a design for a camping dishwasher too…) and tripping over guy ropes every 5 minutes.
All that said, I have to admit that camping does have some redeeming features. Without the distractions of housework, my iPad and the Sky News channel I can enjoy “quality time” with my family. Glowsticks, daily BBQs, toasted marshmallows and mini packets of sugar coated cereal are just some of the little treats we enjoy together when camping. And watching my boys run excitedly around a moonlit campsite with caving torches strapped to their heads is always a highlight.
So it may not be comfy or clean or convenient, but the Great Outdoors offers my lot a unique type of freedom, far removed from the daily routine and constant CBeebies background noise. With that in mind, maybe the bugs and bugbears aren’t that bad after all.