Allthecampinggear has a new home

Hello lovely followers. 

Just a quick post to let you know that Allthecampinggear has moved to its very own website – http://www.allthecampinggear.co.uk

I would love it if you would follow us at the new address – I’ve just put a couple of new posts up, including (forgive me) my first poem! 

Happy New Year. Here’s to a drier one so we can make the most of the gear.

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Car trouble

I don’t want to appear ungrateful, I really don’t, but I think we might have a problem.

Husband is lucky enough to have a lease car, which means we get the use of a new car every four years which is taxed, insured (for both of us), and serviced.

The catch this time around is that we don’t get to choose what the car is. We could choose small, medium or large, and that’s as far as the specifying went.

We were quite pleased when we found out it was to be a Kia Ce’ed as you get quite a lot of kit, even on the basic model. In particular The Tinies are loving the voice control of both the CD player and our mobiles.

Unfortunately, because it’s the brand brand new Ce’ed design, it doesn’t yet have a tow bar option. This is about the only thing we would have been able to specify, but as it’s such a new car they haven’t worked out how to put one on yet.

This leaves us with a vastly reduced boot space – we used to have a Focus estate – and no chance of attaching a trailer for at least the next year. We have a roof box, but Husband is serious when he says he doesn’t think we’ll get half of our kit into the new set up. Now I feel like we’re back to being in danger of putting the job lot on a certain auction site.

So, back to one of our very original questions. What exactly are the essentials that you need for camping. Back then I said something to sleep in, on and within were the very basics, but what about chairs and a table – are these essential? (With two small children, I’m kind of thinking the chairs are at the very least).

Once the weather is a bit better (read, once it’s not raining like the world is ending) we might do a trail pack of the car and roof box to see exactly what we can fit in. If the weather decides to be kinder in 2013 I might be able to leave all of the blankets behind, but that’s not going to save us all that much space.

So, back to the jigsaw puzzle that is packing the car for camping. Do you have any tips or tricks that could help? Please? Anyone?

Categories: camping, Camping equipment, Packing for camping | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Hokey Cokey on the way to Centre Parcs

It didn’t start well. We knew that this particular trip was going to have, shall we say, logistical issues, about two months after we booked it, but we didn’t imagine getting to our weekend away would be quite so difficult.

Earlier in the year we’d decided to go with some friends to Centre Parcs Whinfell at Penrith on the last weekend of the October half-term and a short while later I’d been booked to work away that week. Luckily I was working in Windermere, so it seemed like it shouldn’t be a major problem. Just the small issue of how to get The Tinies to their grandparents’ house for the week without taking two cars, but we soon got that sorted.

I finished work on the Thursday evening and stayed in Windermere that night. Husband had stayed at Mum & G’s and was to bring The Tinies up to Penrith train station to collect me.

Unfortunately a short but severe snow storm had caused a trail of destruction on the M6 and it was closed both ways just one junction after Husband got on it. Although the southbound side was relatively quickly opened, Husband and The Tinies were well and truly stuck in traffic. And then Buddy announced he needed a wee.

With traffic not having moved for 30 minutes and things in the back seat apparently getting more desperate, Husband decided he’d let Buddy wash the car wheel. Unfortunately Buddy had other ideas – perhaps it was stage fright – but no waterfall was forthcoming. Ten minutes later and the car still not having moved, Buddy announces he definitely wants a wee. And so to a repeat performance of last time, Husband pleading with a bare-bottomed Buddy in the middle lane of the M6 to please wash the wheel. No deal.

I understand that this particular comedy of errors took place no less than four times in the intervening 20 minutes. If Buddy thought he was doing the Hokey Cokey he’d missed the important component that would mean he had to “shake it all about”. Still, from the sniggers and grins on the faces of people in the other cars, it was at least doing something to relieve the boredom.

By then it was nearly 12 noon, and finally the motorway was reopened and traffic started to move. Husband was able to come off at the next junction and use the services to both avoid any further toilet problems and get The Tinies a snack so that World War III didn’t break out in the back on the remainder of the journey.

Meanwhile I’d arrived at Penrith train station and texted Husband to say I’d get the bus to Centre Parcs so he could go straight there. Unfortunately he hadn’t got the text so turned up at the train station just as I had trudged the 10 minutes across town to the bus station.

Luckily he called me before I boarded a bus and I trudged back (up hill this time) to meet them. I was later pretty grateful for this change of events, given the length of the driveway that leads into Centre Parcs from the road. I wouldn’t have fancied doing that pulling a week’s worth of luggage behind me.

Despite its inauspicious beginning we had a fantastic time that weekend. We shared a newly-renovated forest lodge with some good friends, the children got along famously and the weather, although cold, was mainly dry.

Children holding hands as they walk along a path

Buddy makes friends

We had great fun in the swimming pool and spent some quality time decorating pottery with all the children. Me and C even got Sunday morning off from family duties to spend a few hours in the spa – which I have to say is one of the best I’ve been to.

Pheasants greeted us at the front door on Sunday morning and we warmed ourselves by the open fire every evening. Buddy even spotted rabbits playing at the back of the lodge and the children spent a few quiet minutes staring out of the patio doors watching their frolicking.

The weekend was topped off by a spectacular fireworks display over the lake. The children appreciated the fireworks set to music and it’s the first year that Buddy hadn’t jumped into my arms and begged to go home at the first fizz-bang.

Centre Parcs is definitely not the cheapest of weekends away – especially compared to those under canvas – but it was wonderful for a treat and to catch up with some good friends. Now to plan what to do together next year once it’s too cold (by my standards anyway) for camping.

Categories: family, holidays | 3 Comments

Just a quickie

Forgive me the self-indulgence, but I’m really excited. I’ve just had my first magazine feature commissioned by an editor who found me through this blog.

It’s a dream come true for me as I’ve spent years writing material that gets published, just with someone else’s name on it (in the form of press releases).

No idea when it will be published, but fingers crossed the editor likes what I do and I’ll share a publication date with you as soon as I have one.

At least now my mum will understand what I do for a living!

Categories: camping | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Turning into my mother – the joy of thermals

As a girl in my early thirties I often catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and think I’ve seen my mum. It might be the staple mother-in-law joke, but for me it’s certainly true that if you look at my mother you’ll see what you’ll be getting in a few decades’ time.

However, as a proud thirty-something I’ve always tried to resist the mother comparison, not least because she has three decades on me. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with my mum. I love her dearly, but no one likes to think that we look like someone thirty years older, do they?

However, I have taken one inexorable step closer in the last couple of weeks by giving in. I gave in to the fact that thermals would probably be the only thing to keep my warm during a day spent watching others climb poles and trees in the Lake District when the weather forecast said it would be a maximum of 3 degrees.

This isn’t the first year I’ve been on the activity (I won’t bore you with the details about why I was there and why I didn’t get to climb any trees) and I already had a good selection of jumpers, some lined and waterproof walking trousers, and a good-quality coat. But I remembered getting pretty cold towards the end of the day and knew that this year the temperatures were likely to be lower than I’d ever seen at that location.

Cold is something I’ve never been very good with, which is perhaps why my mum never had to implore me to take a coat when I was going out on a Friday night. I had a varied selection of leather, suede and velvet (!) jackets which I happily took with me and then refused to lend to my shivering friends as we waited for a taxi in the early hours.

I don’t have anything against thermals. I bought both of the Tinies a pair when we first started camping. They don’t think they’re thermals though. We just call them camping pyjamas. And even though it was May they certainly came in useful! If I’m honest I had a vague notion that I’d be warmer if I had some of my own to sleep in, but seeing as Husband is like a human hot water bottle I hadn’t got as far as buying any.

This trip provided a new imperative however, so off I toddled that fateful day, looking for a full set of thermals and hoping I’d be able to get some from a camping shop. I think my sub-conscious had already admitted defeat though. My mum is known for her almost-year-round attachment to her M&S thermal tops and I was edging ever-closer to doing the same.

On I ploughed, searching well-known outdoor gear shops for a suitable set that wouldn’t break the bank. I even briefly considered a children’s set in bright pink which, the sales lady assured me, would fit fine given my lack of stature. In the end I ruled these out as I wanted to be able to wear them under lighter-coloured clothes if necessary. See, another element of my mother – her infinite practicality – was already ruling my decision-making process!

And suddenly there I was. Stood in front of a big green sign and watching middle-aged men troop round after their wives like sulky teenagers. Marks and Spencers. The place I was certain to complete my mission.

I wasn’t disappointed, even though it was an outlet store. There among the big cotton pants and 100 denier tights was a stand of thermals. I even had a choice of long or short-sleeved tops and could get long johns and a top for the grand sum of £15.

I have to say, I don’t regret my decision. They are fleece-lined and very comfy to wear. Not the sexiest attire in the world, I’ll grant you, but I was certainly toasty-warm the whole day, so they did the job. I’ll be adding them to my camping gear from now on too. There’s nothing worse than being cold in the night is there?

I was even big enough to give my mum the pleasure of being right for all those years when she donned her thermal vest and declared that things are better when you’re warm. As you can see, she was most gracious.

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Categories: Camping clothes, Camping equipment, family | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Is it too early to say the C word? (Christmas, that is)

I always try to get to November before thinking too much about Christmas, especially as Husband’s birthday is at the start of that month and I don’t want to over-shadow it with festive frippery.Tent decorated with Christmas lights

But my mind is wandering almost of its own accord to the big date this year, perhaps because The Tinies are already making mental lists for the big man, so I thought I’d put together a wishlist of my own.

So here it is, my money-no-object camping Christmas list, because I’ve been a really,   really good girl, honest Santa.

  1. A boginabag – I think these are inspired and would help with my middle-of-the-night loo issue
  2. Top of the range Thermarest Dreamtime – hoping it would solve the sleep problem
  3. Porch extension for our tent – so there’s somewhere for shoes and a bit more storage
  4. A pop-up trailer. Think I saw one of these in a recent Camping magazine and quite liked the idea
  5. A butler – okay, so perhaps butler isn’t the right term, but if someone could pack up all our gear, transport it to the campsite and have it all pitched and ready when we get there, with the BBQ hot and the beers cold, I’d be in heaven. Oh, and they’d need to do the reverse once the trip was over
  6. Decent Swiss Army Knife – what can I say? Spending my weekends on a farm when I was growing up introduced me to chainsaws, tree climbing and motorbike riding. I might play the helpless female, but I’m actually quite a practical person. I reckon one of these would get plenty of use in the camping kit
  7. Collapsible non-electric heater – I expect this doesn’t actually exist, but I’m thinking not powered by electricity because we don’t always have hook up and collapsible because we have no space for extra kit. Perhaps someone makes one that can slide under a car seat? Something like that, so we can have a toasty-warm tent without the electricity
  8. An insulated, breathable tent – alright, so this is probably another one which doesn’t exist, but I’m thinking a tent that is insulated to keep in the heat from the collapsible heater, but breathable so that we don’t get all sweaty and condensation on the windows. That would be fantastic
  9. Super-insulated cup – a big one that stays warm for ages because for me there’s a fine line between coffee that’s mouth-scaldingly hot and too cold to drink.
  10. Truly black-out sleeping pods – one each for the Tinies and a large one for my and Husband so we can get to sleep in the light evenings and not wake up with the larks. Oh, and any chance of some sound-proofing too?

What would be on your Christmas camping list?

Categories: Camping, Camping equipment, family | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Change of plan?

I hate being wrong. I really do. It doesn’t happen often mind you, but I might just have an example for you.

I really wanted to go camping in France for our holiday next year. It seemed like a much better-value way of having a holiday in the sun and a compromise between Husband and I about where to go and what to do.

But the prices have been going up and up, so when we finally came to look at it in detail, it was going to be close to £2,500 for 11 nights, plus fuel to get us there and back. Oh, and all the food and drink for while we’re there.

So I had a quick look at package holidays, which this year had been totally unaffordable being in the order of £3k for self catering for a fortnight in the school hols.

Maybe it’s the economic climate, but the package holiday companies seem to have got back their sense of realism and all of a sudden we can have two weeks all inclusive at a 4* resort in July school hols for £3,500. That’s starting to seem like quite a good deal, even if it means Husband gets his way.

Still, if the consequences of me being wrong are two weeks in the sun with no cooking and without 24 hours of travelling to get there, I reckon I can take that on the chin.

Categories: family, holidays | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

I win! Time to book a holiday in France

Mission complete. Or at least operation complete.

Of those who know me well, I’m sure few doubted my ability to bring round Husband on the subject of next year’s holiday. I know he won’t mind me saying that the man is very concerned about his family being happy and, finances allowing, would do pretty much anything to make them so.

All it took was the seeding of the idea, a little gentle persuasion and the confirmation of a new project for me, and Husband has relented.

I’m currently on the train home from a nine-day work trip to Spain and can’t wait to see Husband and The Tinies after being away for what feels like an age. The only problem I have is that the early booking discounts all appear to end this weekend, so my usual style of holiday research – leisurely and thorough – may have to be compromised so that we can get the best deal.

I think we’ll be going to the Vendee because the weather is good and it’s only a 3-hour drive from St Malo. We regularly do those kind of distances to Pops’ house, so The Tinies are used to the drive. There’s just the small matter of a 9-hour overnight ferry on the way there, and an 8-hour daytime one on the way back. But I’ll cross that bridge, if that isn’t mixing my metaphors too much.

Barring the location, all we want from a campsite is to be close to the beach and perhaps a kids club so The Tinies can do a few activities and make some friends. I’ve already said that for 11 days I think it’s worth having our own bathroom, especially in light of the tales my mum tells about our family holidays and headlice, so we’ll have a static caravan, rather than a tent.

All that remains is to select a tour operator and actual campsite, so any recommendations are most welcome. By Tuesday if you will, so I can get on with booking it before Husband changes his mind and cancels my credit card.

The file on Operation Vacance isn’t quite closed, but it’s fair to say it has gone my way and I can’t tell you how happy I am about that. À bientôt.

Categories: camping, family | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Operation Vacance

In my old job I worked with teams who specialised in undercover investigations. Sometimes it felt straight out of a James Patterson novels, with code names, hidden ear-pieces and microphones and cameras attached to trees in an attempt to capture vital evidence.

I wasn’t on the front line – no crawling around in combats for me – but I was the media liaison when we invited various journalists to tag along for the ride. I always wanted to be able to name an operation but apparently there’s a strict protocol about how the names are allocated. So to satisfy my own need I’ve created a name for my quest to persuade Husband to go camping in France for our main family holiday next year – I present you with Operation Vacance.

Alright, so it’s not the most creative I’ve ever been, but it plays to my ego and it is my blog after all!

We didn’t go abroad this year as I’ve been busy establishing my own business and, to be honest, cash has been tighter than in previous years. Combine that with the price of a traditional package holiday reaching the heady heights of £4k for the four of us in school holidays and I’m sure you can understand why we’ve been Blighty-bound this year.

Having dipped our toes in the world of camping at least three of us enjoy it, so I decided to investigate some options for camping in France. I spent quite a few holidays on Keycamp and Eurocamp holidays while growing up (you might want to read about travel essentials in France, or the time when G had to drive back to the campsite half-naked) so I have happy memories of pine forest camp sites, tents pitched on sand (how did they do that?!) and chicken and chips from the takeaway van.

There is a problem though. Husband doesn’t “do” France. I won’t share his irrational views with you – based, I have to say, on one school trip to Paris and a ten-day holiday to the Dordogne when Mimi was six months old – but suffice to say that if he made a list of countries he didn’t want to visit, France would be right at the top.

So Operation Vacance has commenced. Without wanting to diss my partner and best friend, he’s a simple soul. And, at the risk of blowing my cover, he probably already realises that booking a holiday to France is inevitable. We’ve been together 13 years and know each other pretty well, so I know that in order to get may way I need to seed the idea, then leave it a while. Then I need to present logic and evidence, and leave it a while. Then I need to set a deadline for a decision.

Now Husband reads the blog, but I’m not giving anything away because he also knows that I know!

The operation is underway. Resistance is futile. Vive la France

Categories: camping, family | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

A wee issue

Without wanting to go into too much detail, I’m not great at going extended periods without access to a loo. Nevermind the kids, I’m the one who goes for a wee before we leave for a walk but still ends up needing one halfway round.

The issue of the last wee before bedtime and the first one in the morning was one of the things that concerned me when we were thinking of going camping, especially if we were planning on having a glass of wine (or three) around the campfire.

Friends of ours have a bucket with a lid which they keep in the tent. We have just such an item in the garage, having used cloth nappies with both of the Tinies, but Husband flatly refused to entertain the idea of bringing it along. I pointed out that the problem was more for us girls than the boys, but this didn’t sway him and some arguments just aren’t worth having.

But I think I’ve come across the answer! Boginabag is like a little fold out stool with a hole in the middle from which you suspend one of their special plastic bags with absorbant crystals. Once you’re done you take off the bag, tie it up and pop it in the bin.

Now I’ve seen it I do vaguely remember watching the episode of Dragon’s Den it was on and thinking it was a great idea. All I have to do now is persuade Husband that the £30ish that it costs is worth it. Wish me luck.

Categories: camping, Camping equipment | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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