Helen Skelton and Liz Fraser discuss the merits of holidays under canvas. And remember you can save 15% on all your camping gear with Boundless at Cotswold Outdoor.
Helen Skelton has been a television presenter since 2008, cutting her teeth on Blue Peter before moving on to shows including BBC Countryfile and the Summer Olympics. She has two children aged under three.
“Can you camp with a baby? Well, babies, to be fair. I have two boys aged under three and I am going to use them as my mitigation for totally cheating on a recent camping trip to the Lakes. I say ‘camping’ in the loosest sense of the word because we actually booked a cabin in the woods. A remote cabin on a site on the edge of Windermere.
“To be honest, I have never really camped in the way that most people do. I’ve spent time under canvas in the desert and on Antarctica, in Amazonian jungles and Alaskan woods.
“I know that sounds like a total brag, but I don’t mean it to. It’s just that my camping experience is usually quite extreme, so the opportunity to walk a short way in order to use a shower block and laundry facilities was a totally new concept – and proved to me that you can, one hundred per cent, camp with babies.”
“If you go to a camping ‘site’ you’re basically getting all the home comforts you need, it’s just that they are communal and outside. Yes, outside. In a world in which we’re constantly looking for ways to get our kids away from screens. If you get them outside, in the woods, you don’t even need to try – there are distractions to be found everywhere. Building fires. Looking for foxes in the middle of the night. The simplicity but addictive nature of throwing sticks and stones. Things you can’t do in real life, in a city or a town are not only allowed but encouraged in the woods, where there is no one nearby to raise an eyebrow or point out a danger. In a wood in the middle of nowhere, you can do whatever you want.
“My kids sat on rugs outside our cabin naked, except for wellies, eating sausages cooked on a fire pit, kicking stones and splashing in the edge of the lake. It sounds too ‘Famous Five’ to be true, but it is a fact. The site was quiet because it was the very start of the season. A lot of people wouldn’t have camped in April, but we had a cabin and a log burner, woolly hats and extra layers for the night.
“Technically, booking a cabin is cheating – but it meant we could rock up with nothing more than matches, head torches, food and a change of clothes. The ease, the simplicity and the joy of it all was overwhelming.
If you are happy to abandon routine and put aside the things you think your babies need, you can not only camp with babies, but you would also be a fool not to.”
Liz Fraser is a writer and broadcaster, best known for her weekly ‘Three Teens and a Baby’ column in The Telegraph. She has three children and is expecting her fourth later this year after a 15-year pause.
“I spent the best part of 18 years of childhood holidays under canvas. Often wet, always cold, and generally trying to swat midges off my face. I’ve lugged tents up mountains in the Cairngorms, Alps, Himalayas and across America. I’ve whacked tent pegs into volcanic rock, waterlogged grass and sand. I’ve camped under stars, in forests and beside glaciers, I can fold a damp groundsheet with the best of ’em, and ensure I don’t pitch up in a flood plain.
“And through all the years of family tenting, here’s what I’ve concluded: I hate it. I loathe it. I will do almost anything to avoid it. And to anyone who tries the ‘but it’s the good, old-fashioned stuff of childhood!’ approach, I say yes, but then so are corporal punishment, spam sandwiches and woollen vests, and I’m not a big fan of those either.”
“Camping is a misery from start to finish. There’s a good reason I work hard to put a roof over my head, and that’s because it’s a roof, not a piece of cloth. I also don’t need to make that roof every night before I go to bed. And it doesn’t leak, or let snakes in. I have a strange preference for sleeping in a bed, with a mattress, not on a half-unfurled sleeping mat with rocks and sticks digging into my spine. I know, it’s weird, huh?
“Not only that, but I like to be able to put my pants on in the morning in a room in which I can actually stand up, instead of writhing about on my back, on a slippery sleeping bag, crotch in the air, feet protruding through the zip of what counts as a front door, while last night’s rain drips into my eyes.
“And this is to say nothing of all the carrying, packing, unpacking, unrolling, rolling, torches, mosquito repellent, camping stoves, bags of folded up metal poles, and late-night visits from cows.
“Other than all of the above, I really do love camping. It’s just that now, in my forties, I feel I’ve been there, done all that, got the midge bites and sore shoulders, and would much prefer to walk up a mountain and come back home to a hot bath and a bed, than have to build my own room first, in a gale. Childhood fun? I’ll take adult comfort, thank you very much.”
Illustrations by Duncan Beedie