If you’ve made it through parts 1 and 2, then thanks. This is the last part for now. Here I’ll set out the gear I bought for our recent trip to Arran, plus make some suggestions, based on budget, and on frequency of use. Again a few assumptions. I’ll assume that Dads will be taking the kids to a campsite that you can rock up to with a car.
The cheapest tent you can get is worse than no tent at all. If you’re not sure a tent is the right investment, then BORROW ONE. Chances are someone at work, or a friend will have a tent – try it out & see if it’s for you.
Pop up tents & festival tents. Don’t, just don’t. They sure as feck pop up, but they don’t pop down and are not built to withstand a rough night of bad weather. You can get a branded three season tent for occasional (weekend) use from around £50. Spend upwards of £100 and you should get something that lasts a few years and will weather not just the elements, but also the occasional poke with a stick.
My own force 10 tent had disappeared during the last house move. Grr!, and the tent I could have borrowed was just too big. In the end, I needed something cheap I could use maybe a dozen times or so to justify the outlay. I bought this Regatta 4-man dome tent from Argos for £35. It’s not a patch on my Force 10. But it’s a surprisingly decent spec for just £35!
After a practice it goes up in about 15 mins, and does, if you fold it nice, fit back in the bag.
One of the taped seams leaked just the tiniest bit (just a few drops) in really quite rotten weather. The sewn-in ground sheet is also worryingly thin.
The outer skin doesn’t quite come down to the ground on all sides so in high wind there’s a wee bit of flappery and guy-rope tightening required. But for £35, we’re still impressed!
After a stormy night, it wasn’t the worst looking tent on the site, and there were some expenive big berthers that looked ravaged in comparison. The tents which I thought had faired best were the low-profile hiking tents, and the long sleek Vango Equinox tents.
If your tent stays dry, then you don’t need a life-support system in a sleeping bag. A cheapy from the supermarket can be got for £8. I’ve got a Tresspass cocoon bag, which is v comfy.
B&Q have this mattress for £1. Does the job. I’m not a fan of airbeds – they take up too much room & a bit of a faff. Guess I’m just old-school.
Dixie or Mess set and cookware
If you can afford it go for stainless steel kit. A BCB mess set will come in at £20. I wish I had bought it instead of this Gellert Dixie set at £10 – waste of money. It reminded me of a set I had for hiking in the Scouts. Times have changed! My best advice to newbie campers is to procure a stainless steel pot with a stainless steel lid and handle. The pot cupboard is a good place to start!
Wooden utensils with long handles are quite safe & easy to clean. Check the middle drawer!
CAUTION: Only remove the household tin opener and the cork screw if you have left spare ones in the house for your partner!
Something to cook on
A relaxed and low key replacement for the open fire is a Barbecue. I bought this B&Q bucket barbecue for £10 and some charcoal for £3. Both outstanding, and pretty safe in a breeze. No protective lid means you have to extinguish it after use or put it well out of reach of playing children.
As a back up, I also bought a Gellert Camping stove. It failed its own safety checks 10 minutes into first use, and started leaking gas in the mechanism. Serious campers will spend around £50 on a good dual burner with a lid, and hikers should consider meths burners. The bucket barbecue worked just fine, every time. Heck you could make your own!
Utensils, cutlery and crockery
Raid the cupboards for a few plates & bowls, plastic preferably. If not back packing you don’t need clip together cutlery.
There is no such thing as mood lighting when camping. Never, ever take a candle near a tent, nor any naked flame for that matter. Camping lanterns are very cool, but a head torch is by far THE BEST way to camp at night. Argos do a kids pack of TWO Energizer head torches (batteries included) for £5. They are brilliant. A better beam than some big-money head torches I’ve seen out on night runs, and also perfect for reading stories and doodling at bed time. Without a doubt the best purchase I made!
Kind of optional. There’s always the seats in the car I suppose. But if you have some fold-aways in the garage, they’re worth packing.
Useful bits & bobs for the well-prepared dad
Flask & cool bag – I have my grandfathers orange melamine flask and a cool bag I got free from the supermarket. Both fine.
Leatherman (or swiss army knife). This is the one time you are allowed to pack sharpened steel – but BE THE DAD, NOT A D1CK – unless you plan to dispatch, skin and gut a small roe deer, you need no K-bar nor cruel-looking folding knife.
Alright, so you might want to spatchcock a chicken. Just take a pot big enough to braise it, throw in a few carrots, spuds and white wine, and you’ll be far more impressive than a f*ckwit with a Rambo fixation.
Mallet (or hammer from the old toolbox) – one that has been passed down from father to son is best!
Canteen or water container – I took a used 5-litre plastic water bottle from the supermarket. Sports/gym water bottles also pretty useful.
Matches or lighter – long matches are best. Keep ’em locked in the car.
Map, compass, paper, pens & toilet roll – keep ’em handy in the car.
Flat surface for food preparation – aluminium camping tables are cool. But so are plastic tea trays. And you can’t go sledging on wet grass on a camping table can you? You can on a tea tray, achieving speeds upwards of AAAAAARGMPH.
Wind break – this is not ‘code’ for farting. A wind break is great for keeping the wind off you when cooking and relaxing. Inexpensive from most hardware & jumble stores.
Ziplock freezer bags, polly bags, ice packs & tin foil. I can guarantee you’ll be glad you packed them. Trust me – two days into a camping trip you’ll be tying up a pair of skiddy ben-10 pants tightly into a polly bag with a smile on your face, relatively speaking.
So here’s what I spent to go camping from a standing start. I’ve only listed items I had to buy from scratch.
- Tent (Argos) £35
- Mess set (B&Q) £10 (rubbish, should have taken my own Ikea pot instead)
- Ground mat x 2 (B&Q): £2
- Head torches x2 (Argos): £10
- Ice packs: £2
- Kid’s sleeping bag £8 (SUPERMARKET)
- Bucket Barbecue (B&Q/SUPERMARKET): £10
- Charcoal: £3
- Camping stove plus gas (GELLERT): £11 (poor quality, should just have borrowed a better set from a pal).
If I return the mess set and stove. The total is £70.
- Camping guide for dads part 1 – guy ropes! (rennyrambles.wordpress.com)
- Camping guide for dads part 2: the lie of the land (rennyrambles.wordpress.com)
- Picking Camping Tents and Portable Electronics (moneysupermarket.com)
- Commonly Forgotten Camping Accessories (moneysupermarket.com)
- Wet socks, fox, vikings and marshmallows (rennyrambles.wordpress.com)