Camping Is The Cheap Holiday You Can Actually Afford To Do With Your Mates
The Debrief: Here's how to do it so it's less middle-aged and more midsummer madness
There comes a time in everybody’s life when someone suggests going on a camping trip and because you don’t have the funds and are currently living off lentils you know there’s no other option but to agree. But, and you're going to have to trust us on this, even with the recession/rent/wine perpetually affecting your state of finances, planning a group camping holiday with your mates needn’t be the world’s most dire experience.
What’s memorable about an air-conditioned room, an oversized margarita, and a kidney shaped swimming pool? Nothing. Nobody comes back from vacation with an hilarious anecdote about their TV remote. By going on a camping trip you’ll have enough anecdotes to share with Tinder dates for the next 150 years and the sort of experiences that’ll cause you and your friends to collapse in hysterics whenever you remember 'that' incident with the cow-pat.
My grandmother always said that the best thing to take on a camping trip was a sense of adventure. Even if that does sound a bit Famous Five and twee, she’s completely right. Go expecting rain, and when you get sun you’ll be delighted. Camping during a stereotypically warm time of year like say, August, guarantees snow, while camping in February will yield endlessly sunny days and tropical level humidity. Fact.
Firstly, make a sensible decision regarding accommodation. Arguing over tent pegs does not a happy holiday make. Get one of those cheap ones that you throw up in the air and it puts itself up. That way you can drink a bottle of wine and still erect your tent. Also, to put it down, all you have to do is basically sit on it. Easy. This one's only £14 and (at a push) can fit two people.
Cooking is another miserable memory many people have from camping trips. 'I got food poisoning from sausages' and 'it rained in my baked beans' are two common complaints from previous family holidays. Avoid these dramas by not trying to cook anything ambitious. Ellen Clements spent her teenage years camping with her scout group in the Peak District and thinks that the secret to a great camping trip is going vegetarian: 'Nobody wants to be washing sausage and bacon fat out of pans in the morning. Pasta and sauce is an absolute camping essential.' If it rains, go to the chippy. Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to practice misery and self-sacrifice. Think of all the money you’re saving by sleeping under canvas, and treat yourself to a piece of battered cod. You deserve it.
After struggling to eat and trying to erect the damn tent in the first place, 'not sleeping' has to rank pretty highly on unpleasant camping experiences. Wear lots of layers Ellen says: 'A hot weather forecast can still mean bitterly cold nights. A good sleeping bag will help too. There's no central heating in a tent so it's up to you to keep yourself toasty.' Make sure you’re sleeping on more than just a yoga mat too. Thin air beds that are like mattresses are cheap and light (this one's just £7), and super comfortable with a sleeping bag.
Don’t stress if you forget a pillow. I’ve been on more than two dozen camping trips in my life, and to date, I have never remembered to bring a pillow so I can share the following information: fleeces make the best headrests while socks and undies are terrible. Ellen suggests bringing an empty pillow case or jumper and just stuffing it with clothes.
Lastly, any camping trip can be vastly improved by a campfire. Having a campfire will elevate your tent-based trip from merely excellent to stupendously good. Collect firewood first (or just stay somewhere that has fire pits and sells kindling), throw about 300 firelighters on it, and light a match. Stock up on marshmallows, wine, torches (for atmospheric ghost stories) and thermal underwear and you’re all set.
Other added benefits of campfires: it will keep you warm at night when the temperature will without fail drop into the negatives. 19th Century African explorers also swore that campfires kept away unwanted camp wildlife: you may think there are no elephants in Dorking on Sea, but as my sage grandmother once said, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
So rather than opt for that ugly beachside resort with the horrific weather averaging in the low 40’s, make memories with your friends on one of Britain’s beautiful white sand beaches. Pros? Save on suncream, airport stress, and a long journey. Cons? None.
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Follow Eleanor on Twitter @EllieRoss102
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