“I first started camping as a child with both my school and the Cubs, and later the Scouts. I also used to go camping with school friends, which was great fun and helped develop a sense of independence. I’ve always loved outdoor activities and camping is a great way to get you out in the countryside enjoying your natural surroundings. As a child that has sometimes been as simple as exploring woods and trying to find your way back to base again. I also remember the old canvas ridge tents that we used in the Scouts – the smell of canvas is still really evocative and nostalgic for me today.
The first trip with my young family was by a lake at my old sailing club. We were not exactly prepared, and our tent had become a bird hide overnight. When we quietly unzipped the door, having been woken by Canada geese at dawn, we sat in total awe as the lake’s birdlife went gliding by. As a dad, it was a very special moment. Despite now being teenagers, both Tom and Elliot still jump at the chance to go on a camping trip and then hike up a mountain, go mountain biking, canoeing or climbing.
In a nutshell, it’s spending quality time with my family creating lasting memories. Camping trips have also enabled us to really get closer to nature and the countryside, and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities along the way. My favourites include hiking up a mountain or big hill, taking to the water for a paddle in an open Canadian canoe, and relaxing outside in the quiet night by simply staring up at the stars in total amazement at the universe.
One of the joys of camping is that planning isn’t always required. We’ll just pack up the car and head off on a family adventure, any time of year and whatever the weather. And yes, we have camped in sub-zero temperatures – it makes the early morning cup of tea taste so much better.
ACE CAMP - Simon’s top tips for a smooth, fun trip
- Get youngsters involved with planning. Chat about where you want to go, what activities you want to do and how they can help pack and set up camp. First-time campers may wish to have a trial camp in the back garden first – it will get the kids excited and build parents’ confidence when it comes to pitching the tent.
- Try new activities or learn fun skills. Why not make a campsite weather station or learn how to navigate using a map and compass? Learning to tie knots becomes much more fun when you use cooked spaghetti that you can eat. Or go for a walk in the dark complete with head torches – the kids will be amazed at how their senses become much more heightened in the dark.
- Go with a wider circle of family and friends. You can have great days out as a group and all muck in together when it comes to pitching the tents or preparing meals.
Simon McGrath’s Camping with Kids is out now, by AA publishing