Saturday, 5 June 2010

What you don't need when camping

The night before we left London for a week's camping on Exmoor, Graham and I thought we'd be terribly efficient and load up the car and roof box that evening to make a quick almost-dawn getaway down the motorway the next day.  We lugged the enormous and unwieldy roof box and its bars through the house, out onto the street, and discovered that they don't fit on our new car.  We looked at each other in disbelief.  Our tent alone normally takes up almost the whole boot.

The thought of starting our holiday with a 9:30am trip to Halfords, followed by a lengthy morning packing the car and roofbox and then sitting in stationary traffic down the length of the M4 was so depressing. "We don't really need the big tent, do we?" I said.  "We could just take the small one we use for festivals."  And so we culled.

We ended up leaving our lovely, giant three-pod tent at home, and taking three little two-man tents instead.  We would have taken two of the small ones anyway as the children like to have their own tents, so just Graham and I had to downsize - from a vast ten-man whopper of a tent, with spare rooms for storage, to a little cosy two-man one.

I removed two enormous, thick sweaters from my bag, and G nobly left two pillows at home.  I took out every pair of shoes apart from a pair of crocs and a pair of walking  boots.  And then did the same to everybody else and sneaked a pair of Birkenstocks back into my bag. 

We took a deep breath and just took one bottle of cider (for me) one bottle of porter (for Graham) and the two bottles of mead (not negotiable), reasoning that we were heading to the West Country so we could buy more when we got there.

We left the gas stove behind and took the two trangias instead.  In the end we only used one of them.

Two things I was very pleased that did come with us were all the quilts and all the chairs - despite taking up an unreasonable amount of precious space in the car.  They gave us a level of comfort that we appreciated all the more for having to crawl in and out of our tiny tent.  Years ago we ditched our much-hated double airbed and duvet for top of the range self inflating mats and three season sleeping bags - all of which stuff down to virtually nothing, so those could be squeezed under seats and into footwells with no bother.

We left the collapsible table at home and Graham did all the cooking and coffee-brewing sitting cross legged on the grass.  We played games while we sat out on the grass and read books sprawled out on the grass or in our tents.

And you know what - our pared down camping was a delight.  We truly did not miss anything that we had to leave behind. 

There are caveats of course - the biggest one being that we had glorious weather.  Had it been raining all week then crawling in and out of the tents and sitting cross-legged on the grass to brew coffee would have just been grim.  Also, the children are at an age where they don't need many belongings with them, and are happy to sleep in their own, small tents.  They spent most of the week sploshing through the River Exe, which ran along the length of the campsite.

All they needed was a supply of toasted marshmallows, and a change of dry clothes occasionally.

The campsite we went to was beautiful.  Situated in four quiet fields on a working farm slap-bang in the middle of Exmoor National Park, it was remote, peaceful and deeply relaxing.  We woke to the sound of the River Exe (a grand name for the pretty burbling stream) and a cuckoo each morning.  The farm shop kept us well supplied with sausages, milk, cheese, marshmallows and other essentials, so we barely left the site.  There were marked walks from the farm onto Exmoor, but we soon decided that sitting in the shade with bottles of cider was a better option.

And yes.  Of course I took the bunting.  It did sit in a bag on my lap all the way down the M4 though, as there was no more room in the boot.


  1. I love that you left the table behind but took the bunting.

  2. It all sounds fabulous - even without the whopper-big tent!!!

  3. sounds fantastic, especially the bunting! love cooking on a trangia, we had dinner at the beach with ours one night this week just becuase. x

  4. The bunting and quilts look as though they made it all worth while!

  5. I sometimes do wonder about the size of our tent. But you're right, camping in the rain demands SPACE.

    Wolf Hall was a clever choice. Big enough to know you weren't going to have to pack several more 'emergency' novels, which I always end up doing.

  6. I did laugh at your post - as when we go camping we have a top box, boot AND trailer full - lol. Sometimes it takes us longer to pack/unpack than we are actually there!!! I dont know if I can do pared down camping!!

  7. phew. So glad you enjoyed it-always slightly nervous about recommending campsites, but thought it was a good one for you guys. Brilliant that you had great weather as well.

  8. I didn't know the children travlled in the boot too!

  9. You make it sound so lovely, I could almost be tempted to give it another go!

  10. My first thought was 'crikey you own a lot of camping stuff'. I have never really been camping, but now i think of it it seems the kind of thing that would need the creature comforts of duvets and quilts. Looks like a fabulous holiday

  11. We do have so much camping stuff, Joanne! Every time we do a trip we come back with a list of things that would make our next trip even better, and so without really noticing we've acquired a whole load of kit. It did us good to cut back a bit this time.

  12. Ooh, you had a lovely time! I agree though, pared down is great in fine weather, not so in rain. I cannot wait until my two are old enough to travel without 2 ton of stuff each. My list for a caravan holiday in France is 4 pages long, including must-have bed companions, a range of model motorbikes and god knows what for the car journey.....

  13. Looks like a marvellous holiday and *so* impressed with your packing. And you're right: marshmallows and bunting are camping necessities!

    K x


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