Camping eh? Immersing yourself in the middle of forests, mountains and Lakes. Idlely swigging on a local ale by the campfire as you strum a guitar. Perhaps a spot of leisurely gourmet camp food preparation to while away those splendid al fresco hours of relaxation?
Uh-uh. Not anymore! Welcome to camping with a toddler! Last year we had several successful camping trips with the Chicken. After all, she was not yet mobile. This time, however, it was like being at home, in the garden (y’know, with wormy soil to eat and stagnant rainwater to drink direct from puddles like a puppy)? Only without fences. And with actual dog food, and dogs. And fires. And brambles and nettles. And cars. And sub zero night time temperatures and light, noisy evenings. So. I will now share with you, what I have learned. You’re welcome.
1. Layers. If it’s freezing at night, you will need to dress your child in a bodysuit, two babygro’s, a snow suit and a sleeping bag. She may overheat and die. Or so you will think as you peel back the layers and wake your child from her slumber because she is now too cold. If your child sleeps face down, turn the hood of their snowsuit inside out, or else it will act as a carbon dioxide rebreathe tent for your sleeping child’s head. And they may die. Or so you will think. Best not to chance it I say…
2. Manage expectations. You are going for the experience. Not for all the relaxing properties listed at the top of the post. (Get over it. You have a child now.) We took turns following the wee’n around the site, while the other one prepared the food / tidied the tent / tried to eat (see points 3 & 5). A conversation was had about how to stop her from roaming about the campsite so that we could have a bit of a sit down. The obvious answer being – we can’t. Coupled with the excitement and the late nights, she was totally wired and we were totally exhausted. The culmination on day two was me folding my arms across my chest and proclaiming “Thats it. I’m not doing it again.” And then driving an hour and a half to Dad’s where a bed and a chance of rest awaited me. In terms of hardcore outdoorsiness and eco credentials, it was a fail. In terms of sanity, it was a big thumbs up.
3. Leave your inner gourmand at home. Crack open the baked beans and revel in crisps. You must not at any cost, forget the alcohol. You need it. You deserve it. You are a camping parent now.
4. Safety in numbers. Consider camping with a group of other families. We had a mixed group including another young family, but the briefest spells where the kids played nicely together close to the tent was brilliant. But never assume somebody else is watching your child unless you have asked them first. They aren’t. You need to ask. We are not good at this yet. Also with other families you can probably share out the meal preparation and therefore the hassle. (Read: pour all the tins of beans into one pan to save washing up.)
5. Plan. But be flexible. We have SO MUCH STUFF. From 8am to 8 pm on Good Friday, we packed, sat in a car, then unpacked. We only drove from Yorkshire to The Lakes. Next time, we will try to plan out the things we really need to take & try to buy food ahead of time. We also failed to check the roads, so a 2 hour journey took us 5 hours instead. With only crisps and rice cakes for the Chicken to eat. She was not impressed. Once you have the travel, food and equipment essentials covered, feel free to mount the crazy horse of spontaneity and see where that mad old mare takes you.
Camping is in itself a lot like childbirth. You get all excited about it and plan a whole “back to nature” experience. Then when it happens you are so traumatised you say “once is enough”. Then the good bits start to happen. Watching her little eyes widen at the trees all around her, and the birdsong and the ducks and sheep and rivers and flowers. And her look of disbelief when she realised that she could wander about in it all and poke stuff. Well. She loved it. Thats the new normal isn’t it? They are happy so you have to work out a way to keep that stuff happening. We are not defeated yet!
This last picture is my Living Arrows 16/52. Taken using Sony A300 DSLR. COmpletely untampered with.