Camping Tips

24 06 2011

So, the summer holidays are almost upon us and, for those of us trying to stick to a budget, camping is probably somewhere on the agenda.

I’m really not one to try to take all my home comforts camping with me; all I want when I’m camping is somewhere to sleep, eat and have a drink. The first two turned out to be somewhat problematic the last time we went.

The problem with sleeping turned out to be the thing we thought would help the most: an air mattress. While it kept its word and protected us from bumps in the ground, it also indulged in some pretty base treachory, which took the form of wobbling, tipping us into the middle and causing each of us to bounce up and down every time the other moved. Perhaps it would have been less trying if it had been for one person. We ended up deflating it and using self-inflating roll mats instead. They were fantastic but, to be honest, a good layer of blankets and clothes would have done as good a job.

Another caveat is temperature. It can be pretty hot in a tent when the sun’s been on it, but the temperature can seriously drop in the night. I particularly dislike having hot feet in bed and find they get far too hot in sleeping bags, so I prefer multiple layers of blankets. Layering provides good insulation and it’s easy to add and shed layers as temperature dictates.

I’d love to hear about your camping experiences:

  • What is your must-have camping item?
  • What have you learnt the hard way?
  • Why do you like (or dislike!) camping?
  • Do you have a favourite camping food or drink?
I’m afraid to say we also had problems with eating, as our camping stove set fire to itself within 5 minutes of switching it on. I’ve just stumbled upon this video, which shows you how to make a camping stove from various materials. I’m itching to give it a go!


Click here for a slightly more complex version





Free Summer Fun

8 06 2011

The summer holiday season will soon be upon us and who doesn’t know someone who’s going somewhere that makes you green with envy? At this time of year, it can feel as though you’re no one if you’re not going somewhere that’ll make everyone green with envy.

I don’t know how many of you watched the BBC TV series, Beautiful People, but there was an episode in which Simon’s family had been telling everyone they were going away on a fantastic holiday, but found themselves too short on cash to actually go, so, to keep up appearances, they locked themselves in their house for a week and carried on as though they were on holiday. They decorated the house, dressed in their holiday clothes and held holiday-camp-style competitions in their living room. They had a whale of a time.

I’m not suggesting that you go to the lengths of lying to your friends, family and general acquaintance about your whereabouts, but here are a few ideas for fun holiday activities on a shoestring budget.

House Swap

If you fancy getting away, how about swapping houses with a friend who lives in another area? You can have fun making lists of local sights and activities for one another and you won’t have to worry about finishing absolutely everything in the fridge and getting someone in to water the plants and feed the pets.

Picnics

Picnics are vastly under-rated. You can go where you like, within legal limits, obviously, and eat what you like, when you like. You don’t need to be near a cafĂ© or restaurant, you don’t need to comply with their times, you won’t find that there’s nothing you like on the menu or that everything’s over-cooked. It won’t be hideously expensive. Basically, it’s all on your own terms and you don’t have to be on your best behaviour!

Fishing

Spend a pleasant summer’s day by a river, enjoy being outside, take a picnic and maybe a book or a radio and you’ll maybe get something to take home for tea. It’s not free to fish everywhere – you need a ticket or club membership in many places. dofreefishing.co.uk has information on where you can fish for free and what you can catch there.

There really is something very satisfying about catching your own food!

Free Days Out

For ideas on free days out, try dofreestuff.com. There’s also a list of free museums provided by the Department for Culture. It would also be worth checking your council’s or local attractions’ websites, to find out whether admission is free or discounted for local residents.

Discover your home town

Very often, we look further afield for our holiday fun, but how many of us can say that we’ve taken the tourist trail round our home town? Get a guide-book out from your local library and find out what you’ve been missing out on.

If you can get hold of a walking tour map itinerary, you could give yourselves the full-on tourist experience. Go in a large group and you can take turns at being the guide and being the tourists. Why not go the whole hog and create characters for yourselves?

Cycle paths, bridleways and green lanes

The countryside and, for that matter, towns are full of paths and shortcuts you would never see from public transport or your car. They say a change is as good as a rest, so why not look at your town from a different perspective?

Scavenger Hunts

These are great, in that you can easily make them age-appropriate and you can even sneak a bit of learning in there.

For those who don’t know, on a scavenger hunt, each participant has a list of items they have to find. The first to return with the full set of items within the allowed time wins.

They’re nice because you can pass time with spin-offs. A rainy-day project could be making or decorating bags to carry collected items in. The journey could be spent making up the item list in the style of the game ‘Granny went to market’.

Let the Children Camp in the Garden

Just because you’re not going away, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to the term-time routine. Why not let the children camp out in your garden? You can have a quiet night in and they can imagine they’re anywhere – American pioneers, heading west, nomads in the desert, circus performers, a travelling fair, jungle or arctic explorers – the world’s their oyster! If you have a sandpit and or a paddling pool, they could create their own beach. They could put on their own circus act with your friends. It gives a taste of independence, with the safety net of running back in if they need to.
Maybe they could cook on a camp fire, under adult supervision? Some easy cooking ideas:

  • Baked beans – cook them in a pan then eat them out of a mug
  • Jacket potatoes – wrap them in tin foil and put them in the embers of the fire, once it dies down
  • Marshmallows or toast – put them on skewers and toast them over the fire
  • Cocoa – make it in a pan over the fire, then pour into a mug. It goes really well with marshmallows.

When you’re camping in the garden, you might see all kinds of wildlife you wouldn’t see in the daytime: hedgehogs, foxes, owls, badgers etc.








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