Updated: Jul 24, 2021
Camping – A tale of the great outdoors
Camping with a view (Photo Credit: C Riney)
Camping has been a staple in my travels since I first went, at the tender age of 6 weeks old, to Canada with my intrepid parents. My husband’s family’s first camping experience was wet and cold and never repeated (well, not as a family unit!). Unfortunately, the tent didn’t have proper sides, it rained … you can fill in the rest of the blanks. It can be daunting if you have never been and some will prefer never to try it.
You can camp just about anywhere in the world. I have done it in Africa, UK, North America, Australia, Scandinavia, Central Europe but the list of places is a long one and those that camp will have their favourites.
We like to have a focal point of sorts when we camp as a family or a group. Often it involves cycling, kayaking, canoeing or walking. This year it didn’t matter what we did it was all about who we were with.
Garden camping (Photo credit: C Riney)
During the pandemic last year, we found a window to visit the Grandparents but didn’t want everyone staying inside so we did some garden camping, as I like to call it, using my little green tent, an REI special, from my backpacking days. It just needed some waterproofing seam seal and it was good to go. REI is an outdoor co-op organization in the USA that is well worth looking into if you are in the country. Also, if you are interested in companies that do great things and are not only about making a profit, check out my article on B Corps.
On that note waterproofs of all kinds, tent, clothes and shoes are the key, we think, to a successful camping adventure!
The garden setting was perfect as you can see from the photo and the teenagers in the tent enjoyed it. I know this is something kids can do easily if the family don’t fancy going too far from creature comforts. You can even do it under a marque or a tarp you don’t need a tent necessarily.
Also, not much is required in the way of equipment for garden camping. The bare minimum is:
Tent = substitute anything water proof or just sleep under the stars (on something water proof)
Sleeping bag & Pillow = duvet or blankets & your favorite pillow
Roll Mat = blow up mattress or cushions/pillows
Advantage here is that you have all the facilities of the house close to hand and you don’t have to share with strangers.
My daughter and her friends made the most of post lockdown last summer 2020 and did go “proper” camping together right next to the beach in Birchington-on-sea. Impressively they went swimming in the sea which for a Floridian like me, well, burr. A very basic campsite but well run and it had all you needed. It is located between Herne Bay and Margate.
Photo credit: A Riney-Lucas
As for food, a trip to the fish and chip shop was the main attraction. But they had cooking equipment as well and enjoyed using their combined Duke of Edinburgh, Scouting, Woodcraft folk skills to set up a complete camping experience.
Peak District National Park
Image from the Peak District website.
This is a favourite place for us to go with friends, located North of Nottingham. We have been going every summer with the same group of people for about 18 years. Not everyone goes every year but we probably average 20 people. This year it was 24. Last year we were not able to go due to the pandemic. This year, 2021, it felt like we needed to gather and we would be outside and we would be within the rules...! At that time it was up to 30 people outside.
Activities – hiking/walking and cycling
Our favourite things to do there are walking/hiking and cycling along the Tissington, Manifold or Monsal trail. All old railway lines. Everyone picks their activity – cycle or walk/hike or hanging out in the campsite. We usually all try to meet up at one of the cafes on the river for a picnic or even a dip, especially if you are one of the 2-7 year olds as the water is very shallow.
Getting ready and the Manifold Trail (Photo Credit: C Riney)
We did the Manifold trail this year on a gorgeous sunny day, as luck would have it! We stopped at the Wetton Mill Tea Rooms on the river Manifold.
Outside the Wetton Mill Tea Rooms (Photo credit: C Riney)
If you want to walk/hike to caves and enjoy some lovely views I would recommend taking one of the paths off the Manifold trail and don’t miss Thors Cave.
Thor's Cave (Photo credit: C Riney)
Monsal has the longest tunnels to cycle through which is fun, don’t forget to shout out to hear the echo. Tissington is the longest ride at 13 miles. All have places to stop for lunch, ice cream, coffee, bike hire, etc.
It was an especially important gathering as we could share our stories in person, remember those no longer with us, get reacquainted with the little ones, relax in camping chairs and take in the view.
Circling the chairs - no campfire needed (Photo credit: J Butterworth)
We took turns feeding others, feeding ourselves, having a few glasses of wine or some biscuit tea. It rained the first night for a few hours but we had the tents up and two marquees for the food and ourselves, still had a sunset and then the campfire. Light till after 10pm, what more could you ask for!
Of course there has to be a campfire, lots of time chatting around the fire and roasting marshmallows. We do make s’mores (started as a scouting tradition in the USA - stands for Some More) as there are a few North Americans and those that have spent time there, all needing a “chocolate/biscuit/marshmallow” fix!
Photo credits to: M Riney-Lucas, C Riney, & J Butterworth
Video credit: B Paechter
Just on the old campfire and environmental impact question. It does have an impact on the environment without question so here are things to consider to minimize this:
Keeping safe for you and the environment – build it in a safe and protected place so as not to burn anyone or the area around it. We use a raised metal firepit. Other places have designated fire pits and recently we have seen the inside drum of a washing machine for hire on sites.
Put it out – make sure it is out when the last person goes to bed
Dry wood & small - dry wood burns hotter and releases fewer pollutants into the environment and into your lungs
Of course, you can go without, circle your chairs round a snack table!? With or without soft lamp lighting.
Snack centre point! (Photo credit: C Riney)
Like anything you do in the great outdoors it is so important to take all your rubbish home with you (see this site) and recycle what you can but definitely leave nothing behind, not even your friends! You know the saying -
Take only memories, leave only footprints.
By Native American Chief Seattle
This is how we cleared the field!
Taking down the tents - don't forget to take all the people too.
(Photo Credit: C Riney and P Metcalfe)
This kind of camping entails more equipment but you don’t have to buy all your own. Friends have rented and borrowed it. Here is our list, it will open in another page.
Other Types of camping
Always fun and no equipment needed, usually. Could be under canvas, in a yurt, in a log pod – sounds like the beginning of one of my favourite Dr Seuss stories - Green Eggs and Ham.
“So I will eat them in a box. And I will eat them with a fox. And I will eat them in a house. And I will eat them with a mouse. And I will eat them here and there. Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE!”
Just substitute "camp" for "eat them"
Swag or Bedroll
This is what transient labours from the 1800s used to carry belongings and a waterproof sleeping sack in on their travels around Australia. The swagman walked between jobs sleeping wherever he needed to in his swag. Similar to the cowboy and his bedroll. Both are still available to buy now, definitely significantly updated these days and a wonderful way to travel light & sleep under the stars.
Campgrounds come in all shapes and sizes, from the ones with all the mod cons to the empty field in the middle of nowhere. One way to do it if you want a bit of both worlds are at YHAs (Youth Hostel Associations) that have onsite camping, some even have tents already set up to rent.
YHA Grounds – the closest you can get to Garden Camping. Where you can camp in YHA grounds you will have access to their kitchen, toilet and shower facilities.
Field with benefits - The one at Hulme End that we stayed at has excellent facilities- hot showers, septic tank toilets, washing up area, even a shop, all very nice and clean. Often you will find compost toilets and no showers. But whatever the facilities, we have usually found them to be clean and well managed.
One way to set up your tent!
Video credit: Paechter family
I am sure everyone has one or more "funny" stories at least of camping, so here is one of mine.
A funny story before you go…
In Scandinavia you can camp almost anywhere, so we took a train out of town and ended up pitching the little green tent in the dark – never a good idea – turns out we were in the middle of a path which happened to be hosting an early morning running event…