Why camping is the ultimate staycation

Why camping is the ultimate staycation

10/09/2020

Looking for an idyllic UK holiday? Wild camping is the way to go for the ultimate staycation.

Using one hand to turn sausages on a barbecue is doable. Flipping burgers is somewhat trickier.

This is something I know because I camp. And when you go camping it rains. And when it rains you have to use the hand that isn’t cooking to hold an umbrella.

Either that or you get a sibling, friend or grumpy partner to hold it for you.

Then you eat your half-raw banger in the comfort of a tent that has the water resistance of a colander, while playing Uno to the light of a gently leaking gas lamp that someone found in the garage in 1993.

Every year you vow to buy a new one but somehow it makes it back into the boot.

My family holidays have always been in tents (and intense). They began as soon as learnt to walk.

We’d trundle down to Burnham-on-Sea in a rattly old VW Camper. From the outside it must have looked rather like an experiment to see what happens when you vacuum-pack two parents, four children, a grandmother, dog, duvets, pillows, an icebox and lots of duct tape into a rusting metal container.

We would always – always – forget something. The saucepans. The towels. Max, the dog. But they were brilliant, formative, fun holidays. Dunkirk spirit makes people bond – even siblings.

Now we have funny stories to tell each other at the Christmas dinner table. Like when my brother was locked inside a self-cleaning French loo – St Malo, 2009 – and got the wash of his life.

Nowadays, our annual family camping holidays tend to be on the Gower coast in Wales. We avoid better-known Rhossili for the explosively idyllic Oxwich Bay. I’m regularly baffled by how few people are there.

Social distancing has been a thing here since forever. Country lanes wend their way through protected landscapes down to a sandy fingernail of a beach with clean, clear, calm water.

It’s a stand-up paddleboarder’s dream and safe for the kids. Dog friendly, too.

Behind it, dunes, salt marsh and woodland join forces in a charming little nature reserve. The campsite above is a raised, verdant nest, with great views across the bay. The highlight is a five-mile coastal walk to Port Eynon that begins on the beach and takes you around a wooded promontory to the west by St Illtyd’s church. Ensure to pack a mac.

I’ve glamped a number of times too, but find it less comfortable than a hotel room and not as unpredictable, and therefore fun, as stamping (standard camping). Not for me, thank you. I’d suggest what my friends and I call flamping – flamboyant camping.

For example, this summer we drove to Champagne in classic cars, set up 70s tents (think flowery curtains), lit the candelabra and mixed drinks at our portable cocktail bar wearing suits and ball gowns. The mantra is simple, ‘If it’s non-essential, it’s essential.’

At the other end of the spectrum, of course, is wild camping. I’ve done it once when some friends and I cycled from London to Barcelona. I ate a(nother) dodgy sausage and had a funny tummy, with no toilet (obvs), so remain scarred by the experience.

That said, there can surely be few more affirming things to do than pitching up anywhere you bloody well like in the Scottish Highlands (Scotland being the only place in the UK you can wild camp) and screaming, ‘I love camping!’ directly into that merciful Gulf Stream. See you there in 2021. BYO Brolly.

Camping equipment checklist

Essential kit list apart from the tent, obviously

Matches

Use these long ones for safety. £3.95, rexlondon.com

A corkscrew

The Swiss Army Knife remains a true camper’s greatest companion.
£23, victorinox.com

A flocked airbed

Take a good roll mat or air mattress (make sure you have layers underneath). £10, blacks.co.uk

A torch

This 3 LED rubber torch is a wonder, £3.99, mountainwarehouse.com

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