In defence of camping

You can’t beat unzipping a tent first thing in the morning and stepping out, barefoot, onto fresh grass. 

Provided you’re not in a packed out campsite and you have a decent lookout from the opening of your tent, this moment can be peaceful and inspiring.

Obviously if it’s raining and cold and your tent looks out directly onto someone else’s, it’s a different story – but bear with me.

I know that camping isn’t for everyone but there’s something about it that always leaves me feeling happier and, in a sense, free.

In Switzerland, we camped for the entire week but we were absolutely spoiled. The campsite was so spotless and the toilets were so clean and modern that it felt like glamping. The view from our tent was surreal too. The first thing we saw each morning was the crystal blue waters of Lake Brienz, overlooked by looming mountains; their slopes covered in lush green grass with majestic snowy peaks.

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But even in campsites with less of a view, the joy of waking up in the great outdoors still rings true.

I’ve had a few varying camping experiences now, from sharing a six-man tent with five other girls for an entire month in Kenya to camping with my boyfriend in the fields of Nottingham and Cornwall, to our most recent trip in Switzerland.

In Kenya, we went without the luxury of even a normal shower, spending time each morning filling up a bucket from a pump, hooking it onto a pulley system which then tipped the water through a shower head. If you wanted a longer shower, you needed to put in the work and fill a couple of buckets…

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It was hard work but it was strangely rewarding too. I gained a new appreciation for a simple shower and the physical act of getting water each morning made me understand how lucky I was to have it at the touch of a button back home.

A few years later in Nottingham, it felt like we were camping in a field thanks to gaining a pitch as far from the campsite facilities as possible. That was our choice – it wasn’t peak season and we didn’t want to be surrounded by people. Waking up each morning to silence, with only chirping birds and the soft sound of the wind was like a real return to nature. We may have faced a walk to the shower and toilet blocks, but it was worth it for our only little patch of peace.

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Then in Cornwall, we were on a slightly busier campsite but we were clever with the direction of our tent. We created our own little home for the week which gave us as much privacy as possible and, crucially, left room for a wetsuit drying area after our surf sessions. Behind us was a line of trees and behind that was a lake so it wasn’t like we were surrounded by other campers. It was all great until one morning we woke up after a night of heavy rain, and heard ducks quacking so loudly we thought the lake had flooded and the birds were swimming past our tent…

Thankfully they weren’t, but dismantling the soaking wet tent after that trip was fairly stressful. Despite that, I still don’t regret choosing to camp rather than spend money on a hotel.

So, as you see, lots of varying experiences of camping. And while I do love the luxury and comfort of a hotel, there’s just something about camping that makes my soul happy.

Here’s what I think it is.

  1. The freedom to rock up to your pitch and set up home for the week however you want.
    True, you’re restricted on space (pitch sizes etc.) but depending on how big your tent is, you can choose the direction it faces and what you’ll see last thing at night and first thing each morning. If you have a little table and chairs, you can set up a separate dining area and any other equipment (kayaks, wetsuits, surfboards, bikes etc.) can be propped ‘artfully’ against any windbreaks or spare land you have left.

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  2. After a few days, you start to worry less about your appearance and more about enjoying your time away.
    On camping trips, I usually pack make-up essentials only – BB cream, waterproof mascara and bronzer – fully expecting to have to tackle poorly lit mirrors or tiny handheld ones in the tent. But I still pack a hairdryer and straighteners, worried I’ll fail the ‘natural’ look and instead end up sporting a frizzy head of hair that looks like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. If this sounds like you, here’s two bits of advice. Firstly, most shower blocks have hairdryers you can use – so save the space and pack something else that’s more useful. As for straighteners, I would use these when we were going out somewhere nice or heading to a restaurant for dinner in the evening. But when we were in Switzerland, I didn’t use them once. I embraced the wavy hair look, plaiting my hair when wet or letting it air-dry and hoping it didn’t go too frizzy. And actually, the results weren’t bad. I surprised myself too by reducing the make-up I used each day – I stopped using BB cream after two days and even mascara, the one thing I will never leave the house without, disappeared after three. Sure, the first day I ventured out with barely styled hair and no make-up, I felt a little self-conscious. But when you’re wearing sunglasses most the day anyway, your eye make-up is pretty pointless. Plus, campsites are one of the most non-judgmental places. You feel fresher and energised and care more about how much you can cram into the day rather than whether you have enough time and lighting to apply a full face of make-up and style your hair. And if your days are being spent around water, or walking among the hills and nature, it’s better to let your skin breathe and go au naturel. As for your hair, it’s often better out of the way. Learn how to braid your hair, embrace a wavy, windswept look or stick with a good ol’ ponytail.
    Being in an environment where I wasn’t indoors, constantly faced with my own reflection, made me worry less about my appearance and enjoy what I was doing. I found the whole experience refreshing, confidence boosting and freeing and I would highly recommend trying it.

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  3. There’s something therapeutic about being ‘out’ in nature
    Okay, sleeping in a tent isn’t technically being ‘outside’ but it’s close enough. Provided you’re blessed with fine weather and don’t find yourself battling winds or rain, camping can give you a real chance to unwind and focus on what’s important. The air feels cleaner and you actually fully appreciate and notice your surroundings. I’ve written many times about the benefits of nature on your wellbeing and camping gives you a chance to exploit that.

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It has it’s ups and downs, and it can be hard work (kudos to anyone who can put a tent up and not get stressed), but camping can provide amazing, unforgettable experiences and, crucially, allow you to just be you.

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