Toni Kent on the truth about camping

PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 July 2020

SafakOguz/Getty Images/iStockphoto

SafakOguz/Getty Images/iStockphoto


Our new columnist, Toni Kent, is an author and stand-up comedian who lives in West Berkshire with her husband, two children and two dogs. Here she shares her observations on family life

At the time of writing it is looking unlikely that holidays abroad will happen – even our planned trip to Wales where our itinerary includes long walks that will tire out the dogs and make our children resent us hangs in the balance. This change could mean more of us decide to staycation, perhaps even giving camping a try. So, if you are planning to venture out under canvas for the first time,

I thought I’d share with you my family’s experiences in my first column for this magazine – so here is the truth about camping.

Camping is cheap

Unless you’re camping in your garden and subsisting on tap water and foraged blackberries, this is a LIE. When you first buy

a tent, you think: “We’ll invest now and reap the rewards for years to come.” Then you realise that pitch fees are £15–£50 per night. And you have to buy good sleeping bags. And chairs. And

a miniaturised version of your own kitchen. Watch your cheap weekend spiral into profligate spending as you realise that

a) your mattress has a hole in it or b) your food has gone off thanks to an unexpected spell of sunshine and a lack of ice packs.

Camping is easy

This is also a LIE. Packing a car is worse than packing a dishwasher for a relationship and (for us at least) involves one member of the family having to balance a carrier bag of random bits and pieces on their lap for the whole journey.

Then try to put up a tent.

Together. My husband’s tactic was to conduct a trial run with one of his friends, which meant that when we went camping as a family, I had no idea what was required. The same went when we had to take the thing down and pack it into its slightly too small bag. It was one of the least laid-back holidays we have ever had. On the plus side, it worked wonders for our marriage as, several trips later, we are experts in tongue-biting and compromise.

Camping is great for kids

This is TRUE. Our children have cycled through forests, swung on rope swings over streams and made new friends*. It’s the main reason that I enjoy, and recommend, camping.

*Under no circumstances say to your children: “Why don’t you go off and make some new friends?” It’s like your husband pointing out a group of mums and saying the same thing to you. These things just need to be left to happen.

Camping gets you back to nature

Yes and no. On the one hand, we have woken to deer and cows looking at us in an adjacent field, enjoyed fresh air for days on end and had our routine dictated by the weather. We have felt the sun on our backs and walked in grass glittering with morning dew. We have observed starry skies and unbelievable sunrises. I am certainly more relaxed for spending time outside.

On the other hand, the sites we have selected always have ‘facilities’ ranging from club houses, pubs and play parks, to heated swimming pools and shower blocks with hairdryers (hello Swiss Farm in Henley).

Camping is healthy

Given that the diet of the average camper consists largely of barbecued meat and alcohol, I’m putting this down as a LIE. No nuts and berries here, my friends.

Camping is fun

Aside from the fact that your children will argue no matter where you take them on holiday (or how you holiday), that you will forget something important (never the gin) and that any sound in the middle of the night is equivalent to the Vulcan Bomber flying overhead, this is absolutely TRUE. We’ll be going again as soon as we’re allowed.

Toni Kent’s books, Reasons to be Cheerful Part One and Two, and comedic poetry – I Need a Wife – can be found on Amazon


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