John is a fervent writer, gamer, and guitar lover. Former automatic-transmission repairer, welder and hobbyist game developer.
With electronic devices permeating more and more of our lives, it’s increasingly common to want to take a break from the constant stream of information that is the Internet. Indeed, millennial parents often look on in distress at how little their children look up from their various screens and socialise, or go outside.
One of the most cost effective ways to achieve this break from modern life is to go camping. It can be done relatively cheap, it can be greatly enhanced by doing it with friends, it can be a great experience for children and, depending on your choice of campsite, things like Internet connections… and even electricity… may not even be an option in the first place, which helps tamper down any temptation to check Facebook or send a quick tweet while you’re away.
So in this article, we’re going to go over the main things to consider when planning a camping trip, be it with friends, children, or both. Not to mention solo camping expeditions.
Who You're Camping With
The first thing you should look it is the people you are travelling with, what their interests and needs are. Obviously if you are camping alone you only have to consider your own needs, but if you are travelling with friends, or there are children involved, it dramatically changes the needs of the group.
If you are looking at fully fledged campsites, they can usually be broken down into two types; family friendly and open to all. Obviously both types have rules, but family friendly campsites will tend to be stricter on the whole. Curfews for excessive noise will be earlier, for example. While you may think a family friendly campsite is only for groups with children, it is actually suited for a range of people. If you expect to be hitting the sleeping bag early, don’t like particularly rowdy neighbours, and like a friendly, social atmosphere, family friendly campsites are usually the best fit.
If, however, you’re part of a large group of people, especially if the members of that group are mostly young and/or male, there is a chance you will be turned away from some family friendly campsites before you even pitch your tents. Or at the very least be charged a large group deposit that might be refundable after you leave and haven’t wrecked the campsite.
On the other hand, campsites that don’t claim to be family friendly tend to expect a lower level of… consideration from their clients, and as a result the facilities may be to a lower standard, and even the condition of the terrain on which your camping may be less looked after. If the site owner expects raucous groups making a mess and a lot of noise, they might not put as much effort into keeping the grounds in the best condition they can.
These are, of course, generalisations. Every campsite should be judged on its own merits and reputation.
What Facilities you Need
On the subject of facilities, this is another significant factor you should consider when choosing a campsite. Family friendly campsites understand the struggle of dealing unwashed children who need to brush their teeth at bedtime, and will usually have a place to do washing up, toilets facilities, and even showers. A site that is expecting large groups with the likely intent of getting a fire going and drinking their body weight in alcohol might limit their facilities to a few toilets and a water tap (though most proper campsites will have some kind of shower facilities).
Family friendly sites will often have a shop of some kind, if not on-site then nearby, whereas other sites may adopt a more “fend for yourself” attitude and provide little more than field and a place to fill your water butt up.
There are positives to this kind of seclusion, of course. If your aim is to get away the modern world and its constant connectivity, you may prefer a campsite that is little more than a flat patch of land and few toilets. But if you are travelling with children you should bear in mind that these campsites are also likely to be the main destination for the less family-friendly campers.
As a very general rule of thumb, the better quality the campsite and its facilities, the more restriction there will be on what you can and can’t do within the campsite.
Location Location Location
The next major thing to look at is your location. Now, if you’re camping on your lonesome there’s a good chance your location has already been determined. Solo-campers tend to be hiking or climbing or pursuing some other outdoor activity, and will often be limited in campsite choices by the location of their desired activity. For the rest, the surroundings of a potential campsite should be very carefully considered.
For example, if you are part of a relatively large group of friends looking to have a fun weekend away, and don’t really have any interest in hiking or climbing, the base of a mountain isn’t an environment particularly conducive to a fun gathering. Likewise for any cold environment. And, while the temperature is probably the most significant aspect in this regard, the scenery should not be overlooked. It’s safe to say that, while a group of friends with a campfire can probably have an entertaining evening in any location, the evening would be greatly enhanced by a shoreline view, or a forest setting.
By the same token, taking children on a camping trip can be fun with as little as a few games to play and plenty of open space to run around in, but the novelty of being out in the open countryside will quickly wear off if there’s nothing else to do. This needn’t be a zoo or amusement park, but a hiking trail or swim-friendly riverside, a beach or forest run would go a long way to keeping children entertained. Basically something to break up the trip. A few tents and some good company may be enough for a group of friends, but it almost certainly won’t be enough for young children.
Most of this article has been aimed at groups so far, be it groups made up of friends or families (or both). If you are camping alone or with a small number of individuals, perhaps tackling a mountain somewhere, or making your way along a particularly long hiking trail, your needs for camping will probably be minimal. Indeed, you may be thinking of your campsite as a means to cook a meal, get some sleep, and little else before moving on.
In those cases it can be tempting to forgo campsites altogether and camp in the true wild (if you’re in a country that still has some wilderness left). In those cases, be sure to mind private property. When you get into the open countryside, the borders of private property are not always clearly and obviously marked, though the owners of that property could be just as irked at your intrusion if you camp on their land.
Solo Camping (with a dog) in the Wild
It is also important to be mindful of your surroundings. Campsites take a lot of guesswork out of camping. They establish rules for what you can and can’t do, they provide a safe place to camp your tent. In the open countryside there are no rules to stop you accidentally starting a brush fire, and no protection against wild animals stealing your supplies.
Hopefully this article has helped you in your quest to pick the campsite that best suits your needs. But I am only one person with one view and one set of experiences. If you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment below.