Escape: A Camping Guide

I should be sunning myself on a beach in Portugal right now. But with a global pandemic still tearing through the Country, I had to accept that perhaps my sun and fun holiday to the Algarve just isn’t going to happen this year. Not if I don’t want to quarantine in the prison cell that is my living room for two weeks on my return, which it’s safe to say I do not. I’ll have to save working on my tan and drinking bottomless cocktails by the pool for another time.

So what could we do instead? I heard staycations are the new vacation. Camping perhaps? Everyone I know is camping at the moment, what could be so great about swapping the cosy life of warm comfy beds and actual toilets with seats for a cold tent and a hole in the floor?

There’s something very hit and miss about camping. I’ve seen tents ditch their humble roots, leave everything behind and take off into the night in gale force winds. I’ve camped in heatwaves where you can barely stay in the tent after 6am for risk of being cooked alive, leaving in the early hours to find a cool bit of shade to sleep in (heatwave at Secret Garden Party 2016 – never forget). Another few minutes and I would have been the perfect amount of medium rare.

Another festival I went to a few years back, I returned in the middle of the night to find everything, and I mean EVERYTHING I owned was drenched. Battling hypothermia I layered up in 8 soaking wet jumpers and crawled into my soggy sleeping bag, laying my tired head on my cold wet pillow and bedding down for the night to cry myself to sleep. Not my finest hour. That was a time in history when I swore I would never camp again. But here we are.

So last year I took myself out of my comfort zone and went camping with a group of mates for a friend’s birthday. At first I was a bit dubious, I don’t know what I expected, but ‘dig-a-hole-in-the-woods-and-shit-in-it-like-a-bear‘ springs to mind. But to my relief, we weren’t wild camping. In fact, according to my friend, they had all the facilities I could possibly need. I was promised showers, toilets – the works. Well that sounds lovely, maybe this camping stuff isn’t all that bad after all, count me in!

I showed up optimistically clutching my towel, shower gel and selection of hair cleaning products. Shock horror, there is no shower. My friend’s a liar. “You wouldn’t have come otherwise.” Ok.

There’s probably a lesson to be learned here. Always remember to check the facilities yourself before setting off!

Despite beginning my trip on a bed of deceit, I wanted to see the positive side. There was at the very least a toilet located at the on site pub, which definitely helped to take the edge off having to wet wipe wash myself like a filthy festival go-er. Having a pub on site was an absolute touch for a hot meal and a mid-morning shot of tequila, which was needed after being woken up at 6am by the campsite cockerel. On that note, I need to have some serious words with who ever thought putting a cockerel in a campsite was a good idea.

Overall the campsite was great value, your bare minimum field to pitch up in, toilet and water facilities and a pub available if you need it, and all for £5 a night. The location was amazing, just a half hour stroll from the beginning of the four waterfalls walk in Brecon Beacons.

Location, Location, Location

Speaking of Brecon Beacons, location is everything! Most recently we stayed at Hillfort Camping & Yurts in Pembrokeshire. West Wales has some of the best beaches in the UK, and the location and scenery around the campsite was absolutely stunning, Strumble Head mountain just a five minute walk away and with a 360 degree view of Pembrokeshire. Nothing better than a great view to look over as you spend three days relaxing and getting drunk in a field. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you’re in the area.

Hereford is another great location with some stunning scenes. Although as a word of warning, we recently stayed in a campsite that sent sheep into the field in the middle of the night, not sure what the aim of the game was there, presumably to wake people up? I have no idea. All I know is when my friend’s car alarm went off at 3am, the last thing I expected was to poke my head out and find myself face to face with 50 sheep milling around the fire pit. It was pretty in-tents (sorry not sorry).

The view from Strumble Head mountain

I can’t believe I’m saying this but, sometimes a complete lack of signal can actually a blessing in disguise.

I’m usually the type to have my phone permanently glued to my hand. But for once I actually quite enjoyed having a digital detox, I don’t have to hear any more about COVID for a whole weekend?! This seems too good to be true. Taking a break from refreshing the feed on the gram and checking who’s viewed my story for the 12th time to instead live in the moment, and brew up a cup of tea in the hundred year old whistling kettle by the fire like some 1920’s housewife. I’m so wholesome sometimes.

I mean, don’t get me wrong I didn’t leave my phone at home. One milestone at a time, please. How else am I supposed to get the obligatory photo of me in my camping chair?

You do get that feeling of absolute freedom, living like a wild woman out in the countryside, work couldn’t be further from my mind. What deadline? All I care about is my next can and where the hell all these flies came from?!

Tent Sizes are a Lie

How many times have you crawled into a tent and thought, wow this sure is spacious?

I’m going to guess, never.

Speaking from personal experience, tent sizes are the biggest myth since food portions. Supernoodles are not a portion for two, and my six man tent is not a space for six people.

Perhaps if you all laid eerily close to one other like a matchbox and brought nothing with you but the clothes on your back then you could all squeeze in together. However if the feeling of breathing on your neck and the smell of 6 people sleeping in a 2 metre long space for a whole weekend doesn’t appeal to you, then realistically, my tent should be fitting a maximum of about three people with all their gear.

Four man tents definitely sleep two, two man tents sleep one if you’re lucky, and a one man tent?! You’d be lucky to squeeze in a small toddler. Have you ever seen a grown man sleeping in a one man tent? Usually easily identifiable by the pair of legs sticking out of the door.

Glamping is Definitely the New Camping

Changed the game and traded in the West Wing of my little tent for life in a Yurt recently, and it was amazing – oh how the other half live, I never want to go back to slumming it in a tent ever again.

Our yurt came with actual beds that could sleep five people, which made a nice change from waking up with the back problems of an 87 year old after a night on the floor. It was in it’s own private field away from all the other campers, which was absolute music to my ears. Get the tunes on, ‘en.

Included was a kitchen area complete with stove and other cooking equipment, plates, cutlery, the works! There was also a fire pit, solar powered phone chargers, picnic table and our own outside toilet, what a touch.

Don’t get me wrong, although comfy it was still the coldest night I’ve had in a while. That bitter wind off the Pembrokeshire coast. I packed like a god damn fool for this trip, all the essentials, or so I thought…. Crop tops, bikinis, shorts, sunny G’s… clearly I did not expect to arrive to sub zero temperatures. That’s the last time I trust Alexa for the weekend’s weather update. Lying there shivering at night wrapped up in a hundred blankets thinking about all the times I was warm and took it for granted. The yurt did offer some shelter from the elements, I half expected to find some of my unluckier team members may have frozen to death in their tents in the night. Can someone turn up the campfire, please?

Garn Fechan Yurt and kitchen at Hillfort Yurts and Tipis in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire

Always Pack The Essentials

There’s nothing worse than getting caught out on a camping trip without your essential gear. Besides the obvious, I’ve got my absolute essentials list that I would never ever camp without.

  • Ear plugs – An absolute necessity, if you don’t want to hear your mate snoring like a wild boar in the tent next door.
  • Camping Chair – You think I’m sitting on the floor, hun?
  • Pain au chocolat – My ultimate camping snack. First thing in the morning? Pain au chocolat. Light snack? Pain au chocolat. Lining the stomach before a reckless day of drinking in a field? Pain au chocolat. Midnight snack? Pain au chocolat. I could go on but I think you’ve probably got the idea. I think I ate about 10 over the course of my most recent camping weekend. I bought so many I’m finding them everywhere. It’s giving me mild PTSD, but don’t let that put you off.
  • Fly spray – Thank me later on this one. There’s nothing worse than getting mauled alive by the campfire, or coming back from your last trip to the portaloo, settling down for the night and hearing that buzz…. where the fuck is that?! Where is it coming from? Here’s to another sleepless night. Also, bonus as it doubles as a weapon if you’re like me and despite being mid twenties, are still worried about someone intruding into your tent in the middle of the night and stealing your clean clothes.
  • Torch – Headtorch if you wanna be extra, nothing worse than rooting around in your bag in the pitch black by the dying light of your phone. How am I meant to find my ear plugs if I can’t see anything, please? If you’re feeling really fancy you can hang your torch from the little hook at the top of your tent.
  • Portable charger – Although it’s great to take some time off from the gram, photos are great to look back on and it’s good to have your phone for an emergency. How else are my followers going to see what I’m up to?
  • Eye mask – If you’re not bringing an eyemask camping, you’re an absolute amateur. There’s nothing worse than that invasive light hitting you straight in the face at 6am, those thin tent walls are not enough to protect you. And once you’re up you’re up. Do yourself a favour, get an eyemask and sleep in for as long as you like.
  • Self inflating mattress – Because comfort really is key! To save you shaving 2.5 years off your life expectancy and keeping you off that hard terrain. They can be a bit spenny, but they really do make a hell of a difference and once you’ve got one it should last years.

Despite the weather, the lack of facilities and missing my bed. Camping is great fun, nothing better than waking up in the morning and pulling out a camp chair with your mates. Is it too late in the year to go again?

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *