A flash in the fold away pan or here to stay?

The stress of airport queues, together with the cost of living squeeze we’re all feeling now, is leading to somewhat of a camping renaissance. Cool Camping reported its highest ever numbers for 2022, and according to Mintel, one in five adults went camping or caravanning during the pandemic, and 4.5million of those were sleeping in a tent or caravan for the first time.

Nowadays, it's a far cry from a canvas, rigid A-frame tent, with one space for everyone, there are a dizzying number of options when it comes to your home under the stars, from one-man pop-up tents, assembled in seconds, bell tents complete with wood burning stove, traditional framed tents, and the newest kids on the block - the self-inflating tent.

Try it out in the garden 
If you’re new to camping, or if you have younger children looking for a fun activity over the summer holidays, a great way to explore whether camping is right for you is to pitch a tent in your garden.

The children may get bored when assembling the tent, at least giving you the opportunity to work out the machinations of your chosen temporary abode, but they will not be bored once they are tucked up in their sleeping bags, toasting marshmallows on an open fire and looking for stars in the night sky. It’s a good way to instill a little independence in your older children too, while still being close at hand should they need you.

Festival fever
Perhaps your next step is camping with music, food, and friends in the mix? Camping at a festival is a great halfway house to full-on family camping, and it will ensure you are used to the bathroom situation!

The UK is awash with fantastic festivals (click here for a full list) that provide great camping arrangements for families. It’s possible to rent a tent, meaning you don’t have to outlay for your own and can try before you buy.

Wild camping or fully plugged in?
What could be finer than finishing work, packing a rucksack with a change of clothes, your trusty tent, a single ring cooker and food and making your way to a far-flung destination in the UK countryside? If this appeals, you should try wild camping! You’ll need your walking boots too, as wild camping usually means setting up outside the comfort of a dedicated camp and opting instead for the great wilderness.

While Scotland is the only area of the UK that effectively allows wild camping anywhere, thanks to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, it is possible to wild camp in England and Wales if you ask permission from the landowner.

If the thought of a night without a flushing loo fills you with dread, you can always try a dedicated campsite with electricity hook up and running water…even hot showers! You can pitch on a grass pitch with or without electricity though, and without is cheaper.

Furry friends allowed
One of the great advantages is that dogs are often permitted on camping sites, and some even dedicate land for exercising. You could cut out the cost of kennels or a dog sitter, adding further savings when compared to a holiday outside the UK.

Financial savings
The initial outlay for camping equipment can run into thousands, but it’s possible to set yourself up with the camping basics for much less. A new tent vs. a second hand one can spell big savings. Look for tents during the colder months when fewer people are thinking about camping or there are good offers in stores.

A new, basic pop up four-man tent can be yours for around £200, which is most probably cheaper than a single return flight to Europe with a budget airline but can be used for many years. Already a great saving. Air tents – those that self-inflate and deflate, saving time on erecting and dismantling, can set you back upwards of £1,200, but those that use them give them rave reviews.

Another option is to hire your camping equipment.  Firms such as outdoorhire.co.uk and campinggearhire.co.uk have packages available so you don’t forget something vital you didn’t know you needed or have such a huge initial financial outlay, and you don’t have to store lots of bulky equipment. It also means you can give it a try once, before committing to purchasing, just in case its not your cup of tea.

The basics
So, what will you need to test the water on your new camping holidays? Obviously, a tent and some sleeping bags and perhaps somewhere to cook as well as utensils if you’re staying somewhere remote or would rather self-cater. If the ground is hard after a dry summer, it’s a good idea to invest in some sturdy tent pegs, to be sure yours don’t break or bend on the ground.

You’ll also need all the basics you’d usually take on holiday, but the lighter you pack the fewer trips you’ll have to make back to the car. A portable charger is a great idea so you can stay plugged into the outside world if you want to, and there are some smart solar powered versions available as well as regular versions.

Once you’re sold on camping as a concept, the world is your oyster, and you can buy everything you can think of to give you a luxurious home away from home. Shower cubicles, camping kitchens, clothing storage, even wood burning stoves. It is, though, possible, and usual to start small, make sure it’s for you, and add to your camping armory over a period of time, until you have all the kit you need. It’s cheaper than flying and much more fun.