Camping is one of life's great pleasures, as long as you've remembered the corkscrew. Here are our top tips for getting the most out of it.
The first rule of camping is to choose a campsite within walking distance of a good country pub. One of the many joys of a life under canvas is to ditch the car and take a long foresty walk to a cosy, oak-beamed pub for a pint and a ploughman’s. But it's best to do some research beforehand. Does it have the all-important beer garden? What time does it serve food until? Are kids allowed? And always, always remember to return back to camp before dark. Getting lost in the woods, at night, with three kids in tow is not fun. Believe me.
While camping en famille is all very nice, going with a group of friends and a pack of kids can be a whole lot of fun. Think of it as a weekend-long barbecue in wellies. While the kids turn feral, grown ups can share the cooking and camp chores over bottles of chilled fizz and a competitive game of Swingball.
If you plan on camping with under-fives, a black-out tent will save your sanity.
If not, say hello to dawn. There are a number of tents currently on the market which, rather ingeniously, come fitted with a black-out liner and will ensure that your little darlings will sleep past 5am. You can also can make do by pegging large swathes of black-out material to your existing tent's fly sheet.
The humble wellington is an essential piece of camping kit. Even when the sun shines campsites can get notoriously muddy. Kit out the whole family in a rainbow of Hunters and you'll never suffer from swamp feet again. Pair with cut-off denims and a pair of Ray-Bans and the whole family could be rocking Kate Moss' Glasto vibe this year.
While getting grubby is all part of the fun of camping, when you can't actually identify your child under the layers of grime it might be worth investing in a makeshift tub. Pack a small inflatable dingy or a paddling pool, fill it up early in the morning to give it a chance to heat up in the sun and chuck 'em in. For added, ahem, cleanliness bring a pile of super-soaker water guns and let loose on the kids.
Want some adult-only time? Pack the kids off to bed early with a portable DVD player for a movies night. Knock up a batch of camp popcorn using large sheets of tin foil, add a handful of popcorn and a splash of oil, fold over and twist the sides tightly shut. Make a little hook in the foil so the pouch can hang off a long stick and hold over the campfire. Once it stops popping it's ready to eat.
While camp toilets have certainly improved over the years, you don't want to spend half the weekend in one. If you have kids under five build them a little private loo using a beach windbreak and a potty and set it behind the tent. You'll appreciate it in the early hours when you don't have to traipse a sleepy toddler halfway across the campsite for a wee. Just don't tell the men or they'll want one too.
Camping is a competitive sport. You can spot beginners a mile off with their pristine kit and look of mild fear, but give it a year and they'll be fashioning a three-piece suite out of hay bales before you can say “nice bunting!” Why not go the whole hog and bring sheepskin rugs, Moroccan cushions and battery-powered fairy lights for the ultimate in flash camping.
Remember, dining al fresco doesn't always have to involve the barbecue. For the first night bring a ready-made stew which just needs to be heated up and served with crusty bread. Risottos are a surprisingly easy dish to prepare on a gas stove and mostly only need store cupboard basics. And long gone are the camp suppers of Beanfeast and Pot Noodles, Waitrose now do some really good posh ready meals which don't need refrigerating.
Most importantly, don't forget to pack a sense of humour. Two if you have a spare. Tempers will fray and blood pressures will rise (the setting up and packing down of a tent has been the cause of many a marriage breakdown). Just remember, camping is all about embracing the great outdoors and having fun in the sun with your loved ones. The odd glass of wine helps too.