Holidays still look a little different this year. With overseas travel still very much pending, getting outdoors and away from the crowds is still at the top of most people’s list, with many opting to take the tent and camp out as beds in hotels become a rarity.
amp-goers have been snapping up tents, sleeping bags and portable cooking equipment since last summer as camping enjoys a revival in tandem with Ireland’s staycation boom. Gone are the days of draughty tents and cold baked beans from a can; camping culture has become a chic travel category with durable, functional camping gear that looks the part too.
For beginners, camping can seem daunting, but it really comes down to two things: the need-to-haves and the nice-to-haves.
For starters, a trusty tent is the crux of any camping trip. Vango is a solid bet with lots of styles to suit different needs. Always scale up: a tent that’s one person bigger than the number of people sleeping allows some wiggle room and space for bags. Ensure it’s a double-skinned tent to avoid leaks — there’s nothing worse than being dripped on at 3am. It’s also worth considering a blackout tent if you don’t fancy been woken at 5am by your toddler.
The bumper between you and the damp ground can be the difference between a good night’s sleep and never going camping again. There’s plenty of self-inflating options (Outdoor Adventure Store, Mountain Warehouse, Decathlon, The Great Outdoors) and air beds with pumps — just remember to bring a puncture repair kit.
A good sleeping bag is another essential kit item. North Face’s One Bag, which can be altered depending on climate, is the king of bags, but a good rule of thumb for Irish campers is a three-season sleeping bag suitable for temperatures as low as -5C and there’s plenty of choice, with budget options from retailers like Lidl, Aldi, Dunnes and Sports Direct, to more expensive, durable ones from The Great Outdoors and Cotswold Outdoor.
Comfort and camping don’t always go in the same sentence, but the popularity of festivals over the last few years has seen retailers up their luxury game when it comes to comfort. A good chair that won’t collapse at the first sight of a breeze, is key. And one with a drink holder is an added bonus (Halfords, Regatta Ireland, O Meara Camping, Outdoor Adventure Store, Mountain Warehouse). A collapsible table that fits neatly into your car is another must-have. There’s one from Littlewoods with the bonus of doubling as a games table for those rainy days.
One of the best tips I got was to bring some pre-prepared frozen meals which saved time and energy on the first night, but campsite cooking is half the fun. A multifunction stove, such as the compact party grill from Decathlon, with a stove, hot plate and grill, is a good all-rounder. Don’t forget a kitchen utensil kit, wine opener, some sturdy enamelware and washing up liquid.
Now that you have the essentials, it’s time for the nice-to-haves, which can really enhance your camping trip, such as a good stake hammer, your favourite pillow and clever products like the Vango Midge 180, a compact light featuring hanging hook with added benefit of controlling insects (The Great Outdoors), and a sturdy torch for those middle-of-the-night toilet runs (headtorch from Base Camp), fire basket that can double as a grill (Regatta Ireland), insulated mug (Trespass), picnic blanket (TK Maxx, Decathlon, Mountain Warehouse) and cool box (Smallable, O Meara Camping, Charles Camping), and not forgetting a first-aid kit and some wet gear for when the rain comes. As the saying goes, hope for the best, plan for the worst.