Sleeping, beds and tents

One of the things people worry about when camping, especially for the first time, is sleeping. The beds and the comfort are high on people's priority list. When you are a kid you'll sleep anywhere, like a cat. Gravel, grass, sand, the floor of the lounge, you get tired, you sleep and wake fairly refreshed (or get carried to bed by a caring parent and wake all warm and snuggled) but as an adult you are more likely to ache.

I'm 48 and I have a neurological condition that makes me feel pain differently. I can't tell you which sleeping method will work best for you but I can tell you what I've tried and how I found it. DD is 14 and she has tested the options too.

First off there is the bulkiness and weight to consider. When we camp and can park the car near our pitch then weight is not an issue but the bed still needs to fit into the car. I know of people with vans and bell tents that take whole futons. We are not those people.

The first festival we went to we were very new to camping. We had a free tent and not much kit. We travelled light and cheap. We used some very thin, very cheap roll mats from Argos. There were actually not bad. I did wake in the night if I rolled onto my side as they made my hips hurt a lot due to the lack of depth or 'give'. But as a light option to smooth the bumps on stony ground for a few nights they were OK.

Next we tried some inflatable beds. We opted for one double and when this sprung a slow leak we realised our mistake, I ended up on the ground while (lighter) DD was still on an inflated bit! But each time I moved she was jolted all over the place. Eventually the mattress went down altogether and we bought some basic camp beds.

The camp beds looked great, but being very thin (just a hammock of canvas) they were very cold to sleep on unless we added the roll up mattress to them! Also, being canvas they too had no 'give' in them, and I had the same trouble with my hips as I'd had when sleeping on the floor! To top it all the legs were extremely wobbly and often fell out of the holes they were set in when we moved the beds. They were heavy and I got rid of them.

We now have gone back to the comfiest option, the inflatable bed. We have a mattress each (they all seem similar quality and have cheap ones from a supermarket ) - pick up a bargain at the end of the season!.

Our top tips, don't over inflate. A squishy mattress is more comfy - rock hard and you may as well be on the floor. They will expand or contact with the heat/cold. Don't assume you have a puncture if the bed feels flatter at night when the air cools. Add a blanket (or thin roll mat) under your sleeping bag to stop the cold of the ground leeching into your bones. If you have space, take a spare, just in case. We once had a vole chew a hole in the ground sheet...anything can happen when you are camping.

Sleep well.

10 most annoying holiday moments and a film you might like...

car covered in mud in  a festival car park
An annoying festival event...
WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY is a heart-warming, uplifting comedy for all the family.

Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) and their three children travel to the Scottish Highlands for Doug's father Gordie's (Billy Connolly) birthday party. It's soon clear that when it comes to keeping a secret under wraps from the rest of the family, their children are their biggest liability...

This film is packed with endless amounts of annoying and complicated holiday scenarios- so, to celebrate its release, I am taking a look at what some people may see as the most annoying moments of every holiday...  

10 Most Annoying Holiday Moments From the creators of the hit BBC comedy series Outnumbered:

1. The packing So you really, really, really want to go on holiday but first there’s the packing. Whether you’re a list-maker or a chuck-it-all-in-the-bag kind of person, this task is still a burden. A scenario filled with what am I going wear? Don’t forget the toothbrush and do I need a coat? And if you have children like Jess from ‘What We Did On Our Holiday’ they will probably want to bring their pet rocks and stones- naturally. To make it a little easier always plan ahead and try not to do it all at the last minute- this way you have more time to remember the things you’ll usually forget.

2. The journey The journey, be it by car, coach or aeroplane can be a really annoying part of the holiday- you know you’re so close but so far. There’s traffic to deal with, service stops, long waits at the airport, bored kids in the car, not enough legroom, noisy passengers and all sorts of problems. Unfortunately there’s no magic carpet that can solve any of these problems but the best thing to do is to research and plan air journeys from airports as close as possible to where you live and check for traffic updates in the morning. Rise and shine way ahead of time to plan for delays. Make sure you keep the kids (and yourselves) entertained in the car with music, stories, drawing or play I Spy- literally do anything you possibly can to avoid that dreaded question ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ I favour a printed 'treasure hunt' of things you need to spot, one for each child!

3. The 'everyone wants to do something different scenario'. Whether you are on a family holiday or going away with friends- there will no doubt be debates about what everybody wants to do. If you’re in a big enough group then maybe split into smaller groups with similar interests. If not, then sort out a schedule where everyone gets to do at least one thing they want to do throughout the trip. Especially true with children, try and let them have at least one day each of things they want to do, to keep the peace! But don't forget the grown ups too.

4. The weather- so unpredictable. This is especially true if you are holidaying in the UK. Let’s say you’ve planned a summer holiday in the UK. This translates as holidaying with your whole wardrobe: winter, summer, autumn and all year round included. Unfortunately, the weather is one part of your holiday you can’t control, but wherever you are going make sure you don’t let the weather stop you.

5. The food. This probably isn’t annoying for the more adventurous types, but for many, the food (wherever you go), just isn’t the same as it is at home. (unless you are at a camp site making it yourself of course!) Do you opt to try the local delicacies- with names you can’t pronounce? Is there something for the kids to enjoy? A whole range of questions can unfold- perhaps if you can bring some snacks the kids will enjoy with you and embrace the local cuisine as much as possible.

6. The beach Heading to the beach? Sounds like a great idea…Listening to the waves, sitting in the soft sand and relaxing the day away. All this until you want to get up- sand everywhere-in your hair, in between your fingers and in between your toes. Then as you go to shake the towel off all the sand blows in your face and all over the picnic you bought with you. (take talc! rubbing talc on your childrens feet (and yours!) and between the toes gets rid of sand, dries the feet and makes getting shoes back on so much easier!)

7. The argument There will no doubt be some arguments on your holiday- possibly about the range of annoying holiday moments above, such as ‘Why haven’t you packed my toothbrush?’, ‘I don’t want to go and see the ruins on the top of that hill’, and ‘Why did you have to take us to the beach? Now we’re all just covered in sand.’

8. Torn between relaxing and being a tourist The ultimate what is the purpose of our holiday scenario? Are you there to relax and to spend quality time with the people you love most? Or are you there to be proactive and see and do everything that’s on offer? The best way to solve this is to do what you love most and make sure that everyone is happy and getting to spend their holiday just the way they like it.

9. It's never long enough After all the above chaos, you would think holiday-goers would be ready to come back home. However, the reality is that holidays are never quite as long as you would like them to be, and you never quite want them to be over. Because when a holiday is over it means back to reality- work, emails and school and that’s hardly ever as fun as a holiday.

10. Coming home And so the coming home begins, this means the annoying holiday moments of the packing and the journey have to be relived all over again but without the excitement of an upcoming holiday.

From the creators of the hit BBC comedy series Outnumbered - WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY is a heart-warming, uplifting comedy for all the family. Something to enjoy while on holiday? a movie?

It's out now and the reviews are looking good. It's on my list of movies to watch.


A Walk around Swanbourne Lake

What a gorgeous day we've had today. After yesterday's rain it was lovely to see the sun out, check the weather forcast and realise that it would last all day!

I slept in until 7.30am and woke to find hubby had got up at 4am and done 2 loads of washing. After a lazy breakfast of bagel and cream cheese, and a refreshing shower, I was all set by 9.30am and hubby and I decided to make the most of the day with a walk (teen remained resolutely in her room glued to her laptop)

We went to Arundel Park and walked around Swanbourne lake and it was beautiful. Warm and sunny enough, but with a slight chill that enabled a brisk walk without getting sweaty. We saw lots of ducks and geese of course, and I even spotted a cheeky stoat dashing about the path as we passed by.

Entry to the park is free and dogs are allowed on the public footpath bits (on a lead only). It's a lovely place for kids, and the whole family. We finished up with a coffee and cake at the lodge tea rooms, whilst watching the birds.

Lake and island arundel birds

coot swimming on clear water

swan and coot swimming

castle lodge huntung lodge on a hillside

tree roots
ferns moss and trees green

fallen twisted tree and lake

keep out deep mud sign lake

swanbourne lake arundel

Time for some cooking - Festivals

I haven't talked much about food have I? Maybe I have, whatever, here is some food chat.

This is primarily festival food chat today, I'll look out some 'proper' food and recipes for another blog post.

At festivals lots of people just don't bother to cook at all. After all, the place is usually full of eating places, and carrying stuff miles to your pitch is a pain, especially if it's heavy, even if you do have a trolley.

Bacon always the best option - Camp Bestival

Curry at the Out of The Ordinary Festival

Cake at Glastonbury
 And from experience taking some beer is nearer the top of the list than cans of soup!

We are over packers!!
 Another thing to consider is if cooking is allowed at all. Many festivals have restrictions on what sort of stoves/fires can be used on site so check before you go!

Camp Bestival for example bans open fires but allows small gas stoves. Wilderness allows enclosed 'real' fires and barbecues and solid fuel stoves, but no gas! And Glastonbury seems to just allow whatever.

Kelly kettle storm kettle cup of tea camping
At the very least I would suggest you need to be able to boil water. The Kelly Kettle is excellent for that if you can get it going, I take some dry kindling and try and collect twigs while I'm wandering the festival. I've also been known to use the pages of a (bad) book.

A small cheap gas stove with a kettle is of course another option.

Lots can be made from boiling water; from an essential morning coffee (using real coffee in bags - I'm not a Philistine) , to a pleasant afternoon cup of tea, to the ubiquitous pot noodle.

There are cup a soups too, and my personal favourite 'instant meal' the porridge pot. Some of the supermarkets also stock their own instant food ranges including instant mash with various flavour editions.

Another good (light to carry) option are packets of crisps, biscuits and breakfast bars. All handy as snacks and first thing in the morning when you are too hungover to stagger to the bacon butty van.

The more adventurous might cook their own bacon but a summer festival, in a tent with no electricity means food won't keep long, even with a cool box.

Which reminds me, coffee whitener is the best option for your coffee, or dried milk powder. You can also buy individual long life milk portions that require no refrigeration (also useful for the more wild camper). Don't forget sugar - I favour taking sugar cubes as you can't make such a mess in the tent, or lose them all in the grass, when you drunkenly spill them.

If you have kids then add a few healthy options too - oranges and satsumas keep quite well, and a banana or two, maybe apples. I've not tried Baby Bel cheeses kept out of a fridge, but they may also be an option. Try keeping food cool using the old evaporation/tea towel trick.

What are your favourite festival snacks?

Night night, sleep tight - Camping sleep mats review

For a long time I have searched for the perfect comfy night's sleep when camping. As I'm in my 50s the simple thin foam mat favo...