Camping Guide for those who are starting out

I spent the best part of my summers in the 80’s in a trailer tent en France. How lucky am I? Once August rolled around following a month improving my mother tongue in Irish college & learning other life necessities such as where babies come from and how to kiss boys, we hit the road to Rosslare or Ringaskiddy. 

Of course we were laden down with 4 weeks worth of necessities for our sanity and journey. But my parents had it down. These were the days before most electronic devices. So the lists were hand written and stored neatly in our filing cabinet. Our reading books were rationed to 4 a piece. One toy was allowed (always of the cabbage patch variety). This was down to a fine art.

Excuse the quality but this photo is over 30 years old! Moules Frites on some sort of a structure that I desperately hope wasn’t a bin somewhere in La Rochelle. Everything changes but everything stays the same huh?

I haven’t reached the same level of organisational expertise that my parents did. I suspect I may never however I have learned a lot & am willing to share once you bear in mind that I do not claim to be Bear Grylls. One thing I do know is that we are happy campers. 


This is a decision that could end up blowing your mind – if you let it. So I’ll try to make this as simple as possible. When choosing a tent there are certain considerations you need to make:

How many people are you?

What is your budget?

What country are  you going to use you tent in?

How long is each camping trip going to be?

Who will be putting the tent up and down?

How much room do you have in your car/trailer/roof box for the tent?

The answers to all these questions will rule in and out many of the options.

  • Size: 

Obviously getting a tent with the minimum requirement for the amount of people in your party/family is a must however if budget/space allows it is nice to get a tent that accommodates an extra body or 2. This is to allow some more room for bags and any of your stuff. For example, we are a family of 6 and have an 8 man tent. This allows us to have room for the boys airbeds (that take up much more room than the girls self inflating mattresses). Its not a necessity but it makes life easier for sure.

  • Material:

There is a huge variation in tent prices for the same model made from different material. So which do you chose?

Canvas/polycotton versus Nylon/Polyester Tents: 

  • Polycotton/Canvas tents are more breathable than polyester. This means they will be cooler on the inside in warm weather. Condensation is also not as much of an issue thank to how breathable the fabric is. 
  • Polyester can discolour from UV rays, whereas polycotton is a much more durable. The Canvas/Polycotton tent will be more durable.
  • Polycotton/Canvas tents are heavier and bulkier than polyester tents. This is where considering your space becomes important.
  • Polyester/Nylon is a less expensive material than polycotton/Canvas. However they may not last as long.
  • Polyester/Nylon dries a lot faster than Polycotton/Canvas – this is useful to know when considering packing up to go home or simply drying the tent out for storing mildew free.

In short, we wanted out tent for camping in Ireland. So getting too hot on the inside was not the issue it would be in France. We also were only looking at short breaks a few times a year. Therefore we felt we did not need it to be super hardwearing but we did need it to dry out quickly. Plus with 4 children space is a premium. Therefore we opted for the less expensive Polyester/nylon option and are extremely happy with our decision.

  • Air tent/Poles

There is no right or wrong answer to this. It’s personal. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages. 

Air tents are super easy to put up. They are also very quick to assemble. However they are more expensive, are heavier and take up more room when folded than a traditional pole tent. We have an air-tent and love it. However the packed tent is much too heavy for me to take from the car to a pitch on my own. I could however pitch it. I would need help getting the folded tent to where it needed to be to put it up though. That is a consideration if you are planning on going down ahead of any other adult help (earlier in the day for example to get set up).

For reference we bought a 8 man 2017 Kampa Studland and I’ll link it here. 

The newer version of the same tent is linked here.

I know what you are thinking……No we do not bring the wheel barrow!!

Sleeping Arrangements:

Every family may have a different preference here. I’m going to share ours. We arrived here from advice given to us from friends in similar positions but with more experience of camping in Ireland.

Adults first I guess! We stared out with a SIM (self inflating mattress) each. Our are from Aldi but you can purchase them cheaply from many shops. After one weekend camping I must admit I was crippled with lower back pain. And I never get lower back pain. So I obviously blamed these. To remedy the situation I was prepared to invest. (I have spent the most part of the last decade deprived of sleep – this is one area of my life where I am happy to throw money at a solution). We have 3 season sleeping bags but I also bring 2 double duvets. One for under and one for over (in case we need it). I kinda’ hate the sleeping bags to be honest. Give me thermal leggings and tops with the duvet under me and over me anyday. You have to play it by ear a little to be honest, with regards the air and ground temperature.

 The solution? We bought 2 Camp bed Air bases from Decathlon and they are the BEST. I highly recommend these. We put our Aldi SIM mattress on top.  We do clip them together too (not because we love each other so much or anything like that but because it just makes them more stable to get in and out of. I’ll link them here.

The girls sleep on the same SIM’s that we have and they are happy on the ground. They have 3 Season sleeping bags and I bring a big double duvet for them also to share if they need.

The boys sleep in air mattresses we bought in Aldi. These are really handy and we use them for sleepovers all the time too. The high sides on them keeps them secure and stops them from rolling out. Even when we are camped on a slight slope. They sleep with a single duvet under them and also over them.

I store all the camping duvets in a huge Vacuum bag from Homestore. On the way home we squash them in but there’s normally more room as the food we bring is gone. The regular bags in there are good but every so often they get a giant one in €9.99. Grab it when you see it. These vaccum bags are a life saver!

I started my little camping stash the summer before we took the plunge and actually went. The costs add up but my advice is to buy little bits as you go along and ideally borrow a tent for a weekend off a friend to try it first. However when you have the necessities then it is a fantastic way to get out adn see the country without incurring huge accommodation costs over the summer. I would book a plot with electricity though – these are the little things you need to be aware of.

I’ll do a list of other essentials in my next post. This one is long enough already.

Your’s hoping for sun and dry ground,

Cli xx





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