The last time I went camping was about 20 years ago when I was in the Cubs (or Scouts, I can’t remember).
Recently, we decided that we wanted to try a new adventure and take up camping as a couple. We even brought the dog along!
Since deciding to go camping I diligently went into full research mode and filled my brain with camping tips, gear reviews, rules and regulations, dog camping tips, campsite reviews and even some basic bush-craft and survival skills that will rival Bear Grylls (because who doesn’t need to know how to find an emergency water supply on a purpose built campsite with ample fresh drinking water?).
You can tell I’m the nerdy one and Claire’s the fun one…
Anyway, armed with a ton of fresh knowledge I went into full on bargain hunt mode and sourced all the equipment I thought we would need for our first trip whilst trying to keep the list basic. We wanted to be comfortable but not too comfortable. It’s camping after all.
I really wanted to try wild camping but unfortunately that’s basically illegal in England so we may opt to go to Scotland or Dartmoor (the only place wild camping is allowed in England) soon. I’ll certainly be making use of these great wild camping tips when I do decide to pitch my tent in great outdoors.
Where did we stay?
Entrance to the campsite
For our first trip we wanted somewhere close to home, quiet, dog friendly, small and not much in the way of facilities. What we found was a perfect mix of all of them! We stayed at the Golden Grove Caravan Park in Essex.
See our review here.
The first day
Packing up the car was the first challenge. We have a pretty big car and trying to pack all the camping gear alongside the biggest dog crate in the world (for a small King Charles Cavalier) was bringing out the Tetris mastermind in me. Once I was done I was fully expecting the producers of the Crystal Maze to drag me onto one of their shows as a star player.
All loaded up, we jumped in and headed for the site.
Our tent all set up. Isn’t she a beauty?
First things first. Unload the tent and get that bad boy erected (hehe). We opted for a cheap and cheerful Freedom Trail Sendero 4 from Go Outdoors which was surprisingly easy to put up seeing as we didn’t test it at home beforehand (the tent was big and we couldn’t be bothered). Apart from some utter confusion with a single guy line which for the life of me I couldn’t figure out, I got the tent set up pretty damn quickly. Claire and I have an agreement whereby I like to do these things on my own so she went exploring with the dog while I got to work threading some poles… Umm. Pun not intended?
Next up was camp chairs, cool box and a well earned beer before getting the beds sorted. I certainly don’t want to be putting up an air bed after a few cheeky beers.
Here’s Lilly pretending to help but actually just judging us.
When it came to dinner time, I was on cooking duty and I was looking forward to it. We bought the cheapest nastiest looking stove we could and it turned out to be absolutely brilliant! It was easy to use and cooked things fast.
So I get started organising all the bits needed for an exotic one-pot Jambalaya when I realise that of all the things to forget, I forgot the rice. I remembered 1000 different items to bring but I forgot the damn rice! At this point I didn’t care so we had rice-free jambalaya instead which was still good but not as filling. Good job we brought plenty of snacks.
Our cooking setup. Yes that is a Tefal saucepan. We didn’t have special camping pots yet.
Empty beer bottles are now piling up nicely.
After hanging out on what are simply the best camping chairs with built in beer holders and shooting the breeze until the stars came out, we decided to retire to inside the tent and carry on the party there until it was time to go to sleep.
That night wasn’t great… I slept approximately 26 seconds all night because of 3 different things.
That’s right, goddamn owls. I love owls, I do. But this time there were 2 particularly crappy owls that were clearly trolling us. One was sitting in a tree right next to our tent having a chat with another owl somewhere else, the same way a drunken person would walk down a quiet street at 2am having an illegible shouting match with another drunken mate on speaker phone.
Dear Owls, you can fly. Go fly over to your mate and talk there!
Neighbours with sleep apnea
When staying on a camp site you need to be courteous and respectful of other campers. Well this night I was cursing myself for not bringing my ear defenders designed for shooting. Not that I think that they would do much good.
The couple in the tent next to us needed to see some kind of Doctor, and quickly. They couldn’t have been snoring. I can’t believe that at all.
Have you ever stood right next to a train track as a freight train goes thundering past whilst being surrounded by 1000 crashing trees in the middle of a violent thunderstorm? That would be a lullaby compared to these two.
The condom sleeping bag
I bought myself one of these cool mummy style sleeping bags designed to hug you and keep you warm at night.
Hell to the no!
This thing was certainly “mummy” style alright. I felt like a suitcase that had been wrapped by one of those plastic wrap machines at the airport! Adding to the sweat I genuinely thought I was being embalmed.
Not for me. I’ll be investing in a good old fashioned square style sleeping bag so I can wriggle and spread as much as I want without the claustrophobia thank you.
The next day
I was pleased when morning broke and got blessed with an amazing view.
Not a bad view to wake up to
Sticking the kettle on the stove gave me boiling water for a coffee in no time at all which cheered me up enough to get another brew and breakfast going.
I really needed that coffee
After hanging around for a bit and going on a super long walk with the dog we decided to pack up and head on out of there.
At first I was disappointed as I thought I would really enjoy the experience. Turns out Claire loved it and I was on the fence. Clearly I’ve become a delicate little flower who’s developed certain standards and a level of comfort.
However after writing this I can look back and laugh and now I’m looking forward to going camping again (with a few small tweaks mind you, and more booze).
Do you have any camping stories you would like to share? Got any tips for us for our next trip? Let us know in the comments.