Camping is epic. Oh man, the chance to be one with nature, out in the open air, the smell of hot embers staining the night air as you star up at the stars, holding a guitar that you can't play, your three-season sleeping bag luring you in as a far off coyote howls in its search for food, or a shag - I'm not entirely sure because I'm not David Attenborough. Camping is the best. But camping with a toddler is sh*t. Okay, that was slightly strong. I mean, camping with a toddler can be sh*t... if you don't know what you're doing. At home, you have four concrete walls to (barely) contain your Tasmanian Devil and now you're about to take them into the wild, the wilderness, the great outdoors (you're either a hero or a f**king lunatic, but you won't know until the weekend is one). Anyway. I'm here to kind of hold your hand in a creepy-non-creepy way and give you some advice on taking your Tasmanian toddler on their first camping trip. Yeehaw!
Forget Everything You Ever Knew About Camping
You are parents, and so the reality of parenting has probably settled in; there is no such thing as a quick escape or spontaneity. Jesus, when we want to pop to Aldi it takes 45 minutes to wrestle Phoebe into clothes and put her in the car, only to get there as the doors close. What's more, those old ideas of, "Sod it, why don't we just jump in the truck and drive to Edinburgh for the weekend?" are now made with your own hand slapping your own face, before dragging you to the nearest mirror to look at yourself very sternly. You have a child now, that means everything has to be planned. Camping is not the exception. Trust us. It is going to take some serious prep, planning, patience and balls.
The Test Drive
Do not go in blind. What i mean is, have a trial run in the garden. And take a pad of paper and a pen with you. This is basically your chance to f**k up without f**ing up. The important thing to do is to take this seriously. pack the car with everything you may need (to make sure it all fits), then carry everything through to the garden (to see if you can carry it), then set it all up (to see how easy it is), then sleep in it (to see how uncomfortable it really is) and then make notes of anything you forgot to pack or should have left at home. Genius. You're mistakes have made the real thing a trillion-gazillion times better. Go you.
Don't be a knob. Always do your research. You are running this expedition, so look at the weather and make sure you know how much the temperature drops at night (if you're camping in the Northern Hemisphere it is going to be cold; if you are camping in Spain it is going to be cold; if you are camping in a dessert it is going to turn cold). Are their any threats you need to know about (like wasps or loads of stinging nettles or goddamn bears), is there fresh-water nearby. Is it going to be worth it. This is a pretty important one. I mean, don't bother going if you're going to go and camp in Great Yarmouth. Go somewhere that will blow your mind with epic vistas. Also, don't venture too far away from home. You're a dad, not a mum, and that means something will probably go wrong, like you forgot to pack the tent, or the baby, and it will suck if you have a three day road-trip to endure.
Okay, when a tent manufacturer says that a tent is three-man tent it is important to remember that they are liars. The only way three people can stay in a three man tent is if they plank on top of each other or have experienced a spell in Guantanamo Bay. So buy the biggest tent you can buy and put up on your own. Space is going to be your best friend. It will let you move around, get comfortable and let your toddler run about like Mo Farrah on speed. If it starts to rain, you don't want to be huddled up in balls, you want to be in a bell-tent listening to the rain pitter-patter as you stretch out in your Harry potter style spacious abode. Good. The tent bit is done.
The next thing to consider is bedding. Remember, you can always take items off, whereas finding a nice thick duvet on sale in the wilderness is somewhat unlikely. So make sure you have nice thick sleeping bags and foam mattresses (or inflatable mattresses), and a travel cot for your toddler. They may be comfortable on the floor with you but a) it is better to be safe than sorry, who knows, they may hate the floor and miss their bed and b) you don't want to run the risk of them getting up, unzipping the tent and wandering off into a bear pit. Take a sleep suit for them too. Oh and thick socks for all of you is a must.
One-pot meals are a pretty good thing to go with. That means you only have to take one pot. Simple maths. What's more, make sure it is not a sh*tty little saucepan. Make sure it is a cast-iron cauldron that a witch could sacrifice a small yak in. Take a gas stove too, but just know that they can falter, and that's where a cauldron will save your bacon (quite literally). You can just sit it on the campfire and cook. Done. Also, make sure you have tinned food. And Food you know your toddler loves. And plates and cutlery, and a washing up bowl (which can double-up as a carry-case, nice!). I didn't mention it under the correct heading, but trial a dinner on your test-drive in the garden.
This isn't a reminder to bring your toddler. It is a reminder to bring warm and comfortable clothes for them, and decent walking shoes, and a backpack-sling thing you can put them in for when the hiking gets tough. Oh and bring nappies. Bring loads of nappies. 38% of your boot space should be reserved for nappies. You do not want to run out of nappies. Okay. I think I've covered nappies. So unto comforters. This is stuff like dummies and teddies and blankets and all that stuff your kid has made some incredible bond with. Our Phoebe says her Teddy is her best-friend and her dummy is her second best friend, so take her best friends with her (and don't lose them).
Okay, toddlers are so adaptable. They'll be fine. They have you. It is gonna be you who has to adapt it all. Your kid is going to be fine, know that, and adapt to this whole camping malarky as soon as possible. This will be mad easier if you have thought about all the little things. What are you going to sit on. Where are you going to sleep. How are you going to see in the dark (we mean head torches and night lights as opposed to eating carrots). Have you got the right shoes to hike. Do you have enough water and snacks (kids love snacks so have lots ready). Have some recipes too; one-pot recipes at that.
There is probably a ton of other stuff I have missed off the list. Really important stuff too, like, yes , take a first aid kit with you, an up to date first aid kit that has insect repellent and all that sort of stuff. Boom. Okay, that's one less thing I've missed off the list. So, yeah, I guess it is just a matter of having fun and blowing your toddlers mind while making sure you don't lose yours. If you succeed in this, please tell me how. I'm kidding; you're toddler is going to have the time of their life, I promise you that from the bottom of my heart. Ciao for now.