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Our top tips and picks for new family campers

Words by Taunton Leisure

on 26/06/2020 15:00:17

Vango tent

Our top tips and picks for new family campers

Join us as we lay out a little knowledge on what makes for a great time away with the family.



As far as we’re concerned, nothing beats a good escape into the sunny outdoors with the family. Long camping holidays are a superb way to spend time together in nature, staying up around the fire reading stories and singing songs. A toasted marshmallow or six always helps as well. Without fail in our experience, kids love camping and escaping outdoors as it is a great time to learn and play.

On the 4th of July, as lockdown lifts, campsites will once again be opened to the public and camping season, though a little late this year, officially begins!
If you’re new to camping and are looking for a little help on what to buy and how to truly nail your first camp, this list is for you. We’re going to be handing out our top tips for preparation for your first family camp, starting with one of the most important choices you have to make.
Within, we’ve put in some of our top picks for your family camping supplies and gear.

RObens Tent

Choosing the right tent for you

There is a very wide variety of family tents out there, it can be overwhelming choosing between them. In our minds, the most important thing to do is plan what you’ll most likely be doing with. If you’re planning on quick weekend trips away to sunny campsite, then a very large and heavy tent may not be right for you as you may not want to spend a large chunk of your precious time setting up and throwing a lot of unnecessary luxuries into your space, whereas if you’re planning on weeks away at a time to a campsite near the beach, you will greatly benefit from a large, spacious tent to call home with enough room for the whole family, furniture and a couple of kayaks. Here are some things you should think about.

Space 

How big is the family and how much gear are you bringing? You’ll definitely want a tent built for at least the number of possible sleepers, though if your looking for added comfort we would recommend a tent built for one more just to give you the space (example: a 6 person tent for 5 sleepers definitely gives you a lot of extra wriggle room). if you’re looking for something relatively compact for 4 happy campers but with just that bit more space for sleep and comfort than the Vango Stargrove II 450 is an ideal tent which also comes with fantastic Midnight bedrooms for a good, long lie in. After this is decided, you should be looking at how much camp furniture you’re looking to fit into the tent, it is great to have a large living space with room for a table, chairs and perhaps a play area for the kids. Not to mention that you’ll need space for storage of food, clothing, toys etc. Choosing a tent with an XL living space such as the Vango Stargrove II 600XL provides loads of room for dining, playing and relaxing.
Some more traditional tents such as single room bell tents and tipis have less living space but provide instead a wonderful circular environment (some which you can even light a fire in!) which is perfect for relaxing together, be it late night discussion or perhaps even playing instruments together.

Materials

Often looked over, different tent materials play a very large part in how your tent performs from breathability and durability to practicality and versatility.

Polyester tents come in different weights and strengths but primarily are all lighter weight and mostly all waterproof with membranes laminated to the underside of the fabric. You will see this fabric used on the majority of family tunnel tents. A heavier polyester fabric tends to be more durable and have a higher hydrostatic head, the weight does add up though. These tents will not need any weathering like canvas tents. They are quicker to dry than other fabrics and on the whole require less maintenance as the fabric is resistant to mildew and rips because of ripstop technology sewn in to many tent models. One the whole, they tend to be cheaper than tents made from canvas or polycotton.

Cotton canvas tents again come in different weights and strengths but on the whole are heavier than polyester tents. You will find this material used on more traditional tents such as bell tents. Their main strengths are both insulation and breathability, they are a wonderful environment in both cold and hot weather because of this, being warmer on cold nights and considerably cooler during hot days than polyester tents. Cotton Fabric is also more UV resistant meaning it’ll most likely last longer after a few good summer holidays. Due to the absorbent cotton fabric, condensation is taken into the fabric which then evaporates outside. It should also be noted that on windy nights, cotton canvas is far quieter when being shaken by the breeze. With a lot of brand new canvas tents, you will need to be able to pitch it and get the fabric wet before heading out on your first long camp, this is called weathering. The tent will need to absorb water to allowing stitching to expand and fill in holes in the fabric caused by the sewing. You only need to do this once.

Polycotton tents such as the Outwell Rock Lake 6ATC are a hybrid between man made polyester and cotton fabrics. It is the fabric of choice for many of our top brand’s most luxurious tents. They feature all of the good features of canvas tents such as breathability, condensation management and insulative properties but also with the mildew resistance, rip resistance and quicker dry time thanks to the polyester blend. They are still considerably heavier and bulkier than polyester tents but we like to think a nicer environment.

Construction

Not all tents use poles anymore. The introduction of inflatable air tents in the last 10 years or so has certainly added another thing to consider when choosing your tent.
The main feature to think about with air tents is that they are considerably easier and quicker to pitch, everything is already stored within the structure of the tent and it really is as simple as pumping it up (pumps are always included with the tent). Because of the flexibility of the inflatable beams, they can be more wind resistant when compared to poles in very strong gusts as they cannot snap. As a rule, inflatable tents are heavier than pole tents of the same size and more expensive. In our mind they are certainly not looking to replace poled tents but instead offer other options.
Pole tents are of course a tried, tested and approved method of pole construction, they are lighter than inflatable tents and certainly provide more space for their weight. They are cheaper too. However pole tents are a little more hassle to pitch (with the exception of tipis) and require more people than their inflatable comrades. Pole tents are more practical when it comes to repair as just about all camping shops offer accessible replacement pole pieces.

Shop Family Tents HERE


Now that our Exeter Store has reopened, why not ask to see one of the tents pitched before you buy? More info HERE.


Campion introbillede side 24_DealernetOUT20_(72)

Getting a good night’s sleep

Now that you have an appropriate tent, you have to make your bed and sleep in it. To ensure you get and the kids get a good nights sleep (with nobody waking up too early, fingers crossed), look for comfort and insulation from the cold ground as well as breathability in your sleeping bags or quilts to stop you getting too hot on warm nights and hot morning lie ins. Here are some things to think about.

Mattresses

The most comfortable camping mattresses are inflatable, that’s just fact. Lifting you up from the ground prevents you feeling any lumps and bumps, mattresses like the Outwell Flock Classic Double  & single do an excellent job of this with the mattresses providing a lot of comfortable padding. For months with colder nights such as those in Spring or Autumn, more insulation within the mat may be required to protect you from the cold ground which can suck away a lot of body heat if allowed to. The Vango Trek 3 mat is filled with dense foam which expands, self- inflates the mat and provides really good insulation. Despite not lifting you as far from the ground as other inflatable mats, it packs down smaller and is considerably lighter whilst still providing great insulation.

Sleeping Bags and Quilts

When it comes to sleeping bags, what is most important is understanding the temperature ratings. Every good quality bag will have been tested by its manufacturer so that you can have a clear idea of what temperatures they are appropriate for and how far you can push the insulation in colder conditions. You will most likely find 2 different ratings on each bag, the comfort rating and the extreme rating.

The comfort rating refers to the optimum temperature you will feel warm and comfortable sleeping in when in a rolled up position. When the bag is used in any temperatures below its comfort rating, the user is likely to feel cold. For example the Outwell Campion Lux (Also available in a double size for 2) bag has a comfort rating of 5 degrees c, meaning if it is any colder then that, you’ll get chilly.

The extreme rating will likely sit at a considerably colder temperature than the comfort rating and is essentially the survival temperature. Put simply, this is the very limit at which the bag will keep you alive without temperature related ailments. You should avoid regular use at this temperature. The Out well Campion Lux bag has an extreme rating of-16 degrees c, this is very coldest safe temperature you could use this bag in, though we would not recommend it.
For hotter nights under the stars, you can forego a sleeping bag all together. Camp quilts fold up small and provide superior breathability for those that run hot. The Outwell Constellation Comforter is perfect for this and doubles as a camp blanket when sat around the fire.

Pillows

Simply optional, though always worth it. Whether it be something small or a little larger it is nice to have something to support the neck, you do not want to go on a long camping holiday without one. Take a look at our range of practical, lightweight and comfy pillows HERE.

Looking for the perfect summer sleeping bag for young children?

Look no further than the Vango Atlas Junior Bag HERE


Cooking

Cooking up a storm

Cooking in the outdoors presents its own challenges. Whether it is over the campfire or on a camping grill/ stove, the weather certainly will have something say about it. If you are camping and frying up breakfast, as a rule: Do not cook inside your tent! Grease will spit onto the tent fabric which will weaken it over time, carbon monoxide can build up unnoticed if the vents are not properly opened and then of course there is the risk of fire. Some tents have a great deal of fire resistant treatment put into the fabric, but we and the tent makers still do not recommend cooking inside large family tents.

Luckily, many family tents include an open porch area with sufficient ventilation to the outdoors which makes the perfect cooking area in the event of rain and other poor weather and there are many great products that are made to fit nicely into this area. Cooking while camping can be easy and incredibly rewarding. Here are some things to consider when looking to become the ultimate outdoor chef. Why not get the kids to help?

Camping Stoves

When it comes to cooking for the whole family, it helps to have a BIG stove! With at least two burners, you’ll be able to cook just like your at home with just about any meals that are makeable on a hob being possible. Bring on that Spag Bol!

You need to take into account the different stoves available to you and most importantly which fuel is used to power them. For a large stove whilst camping with the family we like the power of butane gas stoves or if your in a modern campsite, we really like the reliability of an electric hook up stove.

Butane gas stoves pack a great amount of power and are certainly a tried, tested and approved method of outdoor cooking. They operate linked up to large blue butane cylinders, a big pro of this is that it certainly takes a great deal of time to run out of fuel and you’ll be able to get the same performance that you get from your hob at home plus some additional features. The Campingaz Camping Chef Folding Compact Stove is a robust and durable stove which packs a lot of heat and even packs an easy to use grill underneath, perfect for serving up tasty meals to the whole family.

Electric hook up stoves are just that, YES! Gone are the days of no electricity on the campsite. Many campsites offer an electric hook up cable which doesn’t just allow you to cook on an electric stove but also power anything else you need. This Kampa Dometic Double Electric Hob is so easy and convenient that we simply had to feature it!

Stands and Storage

You’ll need something to stand your stove on, due to the wonderful heights of large family tents, you can do just about anything while stood up. This includes cooking out in the porch so it’s nice to have worktop surface. The Kampa Dometic Colonel Field Kitchen is perfect as it comes with plenty of shelving and hooks for pots pans and utensils, speaking of which….

Pots, Pans and Utensils

Your pots and pans from home are bulky and most likely take up a fair bit of room. Camping pots and pans are lightweight and more often than not either fold down or stack neatly into each other just like the Kampa Dometic Space Saver Deluxe Cookset. If your looking for responsive, heat conducting cookware look no further than the Vango Gourmet cook set which features all non stick pans and pots.

When it comes to plates, bowls and cups, it is best to not have anything breakable. That way you don’t have to be careful how you pack it and also don’t have to worry about the kids when their washing up. Kampa Dometic do a really nice set of plastic plates, bowls and mugs which is perfect for a family of 4, take a look at that HERE.

Water

Keeping water handy in the tent at all times is very useful, on hot sunny days you’ll get through water really quickly and it’s always good to have some handy for washing hands doing the washing up, let alone cups of tea! A decent water carrier like the Outwell 15 litre Collapsible carrier is perfect for always having a back up water supply to save you from having to find the campsite tap after dark.

Take a look at all of our awesome camping stoves HERE


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Lighting up your space

As the sun goes down, so does your light. You’ll need plenty of light in the evening to cook, wash up, read stories and gather by. Lighting up the tent is no problem however and there are plenty of easy to use lamps and lights available.

Having something easy to carry is handy, that way you can move a light source anywhere throughout out the tent and campsite if necessary, a lamp like the Luci Light 2.0 is perfect for this as it is super lightweight, acks down nicely, is waterproof and gives off a really good spread of light, it is also solar powered so you can make extra use of that summer sun.

It is also wise to have a permanent light source through out a large tent so that nobody trips over a loose football or canoe paddle. If your staying in a campsite with an electric hook up, this Outwell Epsilon Bulb set comprises of three wild bulbs which can be hung from different points within the tent. Ideal!

Shop all lighting HERE


Table

Making yourself at home

At least a little furniture is essential for family camping. You can’t beat gathering round a table to eat at the lend of a long day outdoors and you can certainly still have that luxury while camping. Beside the kitchen utilities you can also bring plenty of chairs and tables in to fill out the space. All camp furniture should fold down or pack away to help them easily stored in the car or at home when not in use. You can easily have a very comfortable set up around the tent that’ll have you relaxing and kicking back in no time. Here are some things to consider.

Seating

Pull up a chair! There are plenty of seating option to keep inside and outside of your tent, double seaters such as the Outwell Catamarca Camping chair are great to place against the inner wall of the tent. Lower seats for bedrooms and the kids such as this Vango Micro Steel Camp chair are ideal as they pack away very small making them good for trips to the beach when leaving camp for the day (certainly a handy thing to consider).

For sitting around the dining table or camp fire the Vango Malibu is perfect height and is very comfortable, it of course features classic camp chair cup holders, one of the most underrated features of any camping product in the history of the outdoors!

Tables

It is nice to have something big enough to fit the entire family which can also double as a work space for food prep. The Folding Vango Granite Duo 90 is a good size with adjustable height and feet for small children and tricky ground.

Going for a more spacious tent gives you the option for bedroom furniture such as a bedside table, an Outwell Nain Low table is a perfect little pedestal for placing a lamp or anything you don’t want to roll over onto during sleep such as a book or phone.

Take a look at all of our great camp furniture HERE


We hope you’ve found our guide helpful! If you’d like more recommendations from experienced campers, why not pop into our Exeter Store which has recently reopened to the public. More info here!

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