I recently saw an article in a well-known newspaper, giving a list of 5 things to take camping with you for a touch of glamour.
Aside from the fact that this list was ridiculously expensive (and impractical), it got me thinking about some of my must-have luxuries when I’m heading off for a few days in the tent. Note that these items are for car camping on a campsite, not backpacking on a wild camp!
So here, in no particular order (and by no means exhaustive) are 10 practical and affordable items which I take to make my camping weekend go with a bang!
Love ’em or hate ’em, Crocs generally fall into one category or the other. Personally, I usually fall into the hate ’em category – big, ugly, plastic things. However, when it comes to camping, I think they are awesome. They beat a pair of wellies hands down (unless it is particularly cold, wet and muddy). Crocs are easy to slip on and off when exiting/entering the tent, meaning that there is no excuse for bringing mud and water into your home from home. Better than that though, they are the perfect footwear for those times when you head to the shower block. No more standing on tiptoe because you don’t want to tread in all the grass and muck which somebody else trailed in before you. Shower in your Crocs, walk back to your tent, leave them outside to dry off again. Sorted!
When I first started camping, I used to roll up jumpers and coats to use as a pillow. Then I graduated onto a small travel pillow. Now, if I’m camping from the car/van, I throw a proper pillow in to rest my weary head on. There really is no substitute which is as comfortable.
3. MOSQUITO NET
If you’re camping in winter, the need for a mossie net is negated – blankets, thick coats and lots of layers required instead! However, head for anywhere in the mountains during the summer and I can guarantee that on still, humid mornings and evenings you will appreciate having a mossie net to throw over your head. Ok, yes, they may look ridiculous and yes, they make drinking your glass of wine somewhat entertaining. However, believe me, when the little blood suckers are flying around your head and face, the relief you’ll get from wearing a mossie net makes it all worthwhile. I used one for the first time recently and I’ve been camping years – the mossie net is staying firmly in the camping box for future use!
It doesn’t matter what make or style. it doesn’t matter what the weather forecast is. It doesn’t even matter what time of year it is. A pair of shorts is an invaluable piece of clothing when you visit the shower block. The thing is, the floor in your cubicle is always soaking wet. Add to that the fact that your legs will undoubtedly still feel damp and cling to your trousers when you get dressed again and you’ll start to understand the benefits of a pair of short trousers here. I’ve spent many a time as a contortionist, doing a little dance, trying to keep my trouser bottoms out of the water on the floor of my shower cubicle. Take a pair of shorts to put on after your shower and hey presto, no soggy trouser bottoms. Simple!
5. EYE MASK
This is another seasonal item. Camp during winter and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll need to use an eye mask. Go any time around the longest day and you’ll have light flooding your tent at 4.30am. Sure you can bury yourself in your sleeping bag to hide from the light, but you’ll probably get too hot doing that. Have an eye mask handy and all you have to do is reach for it at dawn so that you can slumber contentedly until breakfast time.
6. HEAD TORCH
When I first started camping, head torches were cumbersome things with big batteries strapped to the back. Things have changed over the years and many head torches now fit easily into your pocket. The benefit of wandering around, cooking, reading and being inside your tent with your hands free is a luxury I’d not like to go without these days. Frankly, I just find it an inconvenience now if I have to hold my torch while I’m looking for stuff!
7. EAR PLUGS
Ok, the first thing for me to say about ear plugs is that I hate using them. Generally, I also love to hear the sounds of nature while I’m dropping asleep in my tent – the stream nearby, the breeze in the trees, the rain pattering on the tent and even the sound of birdsong at dawn. However, there are times on a busy campsite when you’ll have noisy neighbours (it might even be your own friends partying long after you’ve retired for the night) or torrential rain/windy conditions which make the tent really noisy. On those occasions, a pair of ear plugs can be the difference between a good night’s sleep or a grumpy tired start to the next day.
8. LONG SLEEVED THERMAL TOP
I’ve tried out a few different types of thermal top over the years – from the minimal choice of smelly thermal tops 20 years ago, to the wonder of merino wool which was the big thing 5-10 years ago. Merino wool is great and I do wear it in really cold conditions, but to be honest it’s no longer my first choice. I find it a bit itchy and it can shrink/disintegrate with washing. My favourite long sleeved thermal top at the moment is a cosy Odlo top which has the softest inner against your skin. Whatever your choice, a long sleeved thermal top is great for keeping you warm and toasty while sitting outside your tent on evenings chatting with friends.
9. TECHNICAL TROUSERS
A good pair of trousers specifically geared towards life in the outdoors can be the difference between comfortable days/evenings camping and feeling freezing cold and soggy. The weather conditions will obviously dictate just how technical you need to go, but a pair of quick drying trousers with a little wind resistance can improve your comfort considerably over a pair of denim jeans. My favourite technical trousers at the moment are the Prana Halle trousers. Warm enough for much of the UK weather, fast drying, a bit of wind resistance – and yet look good enough for an evening in the pub.
10. HATS, HATS, HATS
Whatever the time of year, I always take a hat with me when I’m away camping. I once forgot to take a hat on a summer camping/climbing trip abroad and boy did I regret it one day when the weather turned cooler. Even on the warmest days, the evenings can feel chilly – especially if the breeze picks up. Seeing as most heat is lost through the head, a wooly hat can keep you warm and snug. If you’re camping in the colder months, sleeping in a hat can make all the difference between a good night’s sleep and a night spent cold and shivering. In the height of summer, I also pack a sun hat. Being a northern English rose, a little shade from the mid-day sun becomes a welcome source of comfort.
So there you have it. 10 of my must-have comforts for car camping. There are lots of other comforts like sleeping mats, midge repellant, chairs, blankets, hot chocolate, shades…..it becomes difficult to narrow it down to 10!
If you have any great ideas yourself which I’ve missed, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below 🙂