Although we are currently campervan owners we often wonder if the current set up is the optimum in terms of convenience, comfort and cost. So what are the options when considering how best to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle with your family?
Probably the most popular because it can be the cheapest and is very flexible. Although the initial cost of your family tent, sleeping bags, self inflating mattresses, cooking equipment and general paraphernalia can seem a little steep, you won’t have to replace that stuff for some time (unless you caught up in the upgrade frenzy).
On your first trip it is definitely a good idea to borrow as much stuff as possible and if you enjoy it invest in some decent kit. For instance a good quality SIM (self inflating mattress) whilst not a cheap item to buy, will be worth a lot more to you than a cheap flimsy mat on which will never get a good night sleep. NB Air mattresses are
the devils work often not great as they are cold and frequently deflate.
- Relatively cheap – there is a huge variety of tents ranging from very cheap festival goer’s weekenders, to large family tents of varying quality, to high-tech backpackers tents.
- You can get a lot of space in a tent, some people go to the extreme!
- Even a mid range tent will keep you warm and dry in normal weather conditions
- Almost all campsites will accept a tent ( there are a few that only accept touring vans but you don’t really want to go there anyway, do you?)
- If you have the space in your car you can equip your tent with all the luxuries of home or keep it basic, camp according to your own style.
- It can take a long time to pack all your camping gear
- You need to be very organised to make sure you have everything you need, gathered from every corner of the house.
- When you reach your destination (often a fairly long drive) you then have to set up your tent and your kit.
- Of all camping options, you are most vulnerable to the elements in a tent (you may see this as a pro!).
- The tent pitching argument – every couple does it!
Campervans have long been very popular with campers. There is a certain romance associated with campervans, they seem to symbolise freedom to many people. The ability to up and off at short notice is certainly one of the big pro’s of a campervan. However, they are not without their disadvantages!
- Keep your van packed with the essentials, all you need to do is add clothes and food, choose your destination and you are off!
- Want to stop somewhere along the way for a cup of tea? No problem, just pull over and fire up the hob. The kettle will be whistling in no time.
- Inside your camper you will be completely protected from the UK’s dodgy weather.
- You will get a comfier bed.
- Kids get themselves all muddy on a walk – no problem, you have a change of clothes with you.
- Once you’ve arrived at your destination it will be a pretty quick set up.
- When you aren’t camping a campervan works perfectly as a family car.
- No tent pitching argument!
- There isn’t all that much room inside compared to a tent. (Although many people add an awning or separate tent this does add to your pitching and de-camping time).
- When you need to go anywhere from the campsite you will need to pack away beds, etc before you can drive away.
- Unlike a tent you have to pack away the bed arrangements in the main compartment every morning and get them out again every night.
- They can be expensive both to buy and to run but it depends how flexible you are about your requirements.
The caravan, loved by their owners, hated by everyone else! Well that is a bit strong, and I had many happy holidays as a child touring round England and France with my parents towing a caravan. There are many advantages offered by a caravan but you will need somewhere secure to store it.
- A good amount of space
- Comfortable beds.
- Lots of mod cons including a toilet, so no traipsing across fields or squatting behind the tent in the middle of the night! Tell me that isn’t only me).
- If the weather is rubbish you can hang out safely in your caravan and still enjoy some good family time. Of course you can do this in a tent too, but you are more vulnerable to wind and flooding.
- Some styles of caravans have an increasing cool factor particularly vintage models.
- You should be able to keep most stuff you need for your holiday ready inside your caravan, though this will depend on where you are storing it in terms of security.
- With most styles of caravan you will need to make and unmake the beds every day.
- Towing a caravan is notoriously slow and tricky, especially when maneuvering down those pretty country lanes.
- Towing a caravan can be dangerous especially in high winds, no good at all if you are a nervous driver. However, you can now go on towing courses run by organisations like the ‘Camping and Caravanning Club’.
- You may need to pay to store the caravan,
- They can be expensive, though it is possible to pick up old models relatively cheaply.
- Many of the smaller campfire campsites do not accept caravans so you may be missing out on some great campsites like Thistledown Farm, South Penquite Farm and WoWo.
Trailer Tents and Folding campers
I have to admit to being a little mystified by trailer tents and folding campers, I am unsure what the difference is but I have had no personal experience of them but they seem an interesting proposition.
- Easier to tow than a caravan as they aren’t high sided.
- As with a caravan or tent you retain the freedom to use your car without packing everything up (as you do in a campervan).
- A good amount of space.
- As with a campervan or caravan you are well protected from the weather.
- Proper beds!
- The main disadvantage I have been able to discern is that they take some time to erect, possible even longer than a tent. Sounds like one big tent erecting argument to me!
- As with a caravan you will need somewhere secure to store it.
The fashion for glamping seems unstoppable! Tipi’s, yurts, bell tents, geodesic domes, camping pods, tree houses, gypsy caravans – there are some fantastic types of accommodation available. The term ‘glamping’ seems to cover almost any pre-set up tentlike accommodation. However, true glamping (glamorous camping) will include plenty of luxury, pretty decoration and, one hopes, a comfortable bed!
- It largely depends where you go but the majority of the equipment will be there for you so, no laborious packing and no tent pitching argument!
- A good glamping site will give you plenty of space around your accommodation, no need to worry about others camping too close.
- Glamping sites are very often advocates of campfires or wood burning stoves, lovely.
- You will need to book in advance, so no spontaneous camping!
- It is expensive and you will have nothing to show for it other than lovely memories.
So, what is your camping accommodation of choice? I think if money were no issue I would love to glamp but for immediacy, the ability to get off at short notice my vote is still with the campervan – for now at least!