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It's raining...kids? Top tips on camping with small people

June 6, 2012
by Laura Canning | guides | seasonal

His parents probably don't read Pitchup.com... It is a fact universally acknowledged that it occasionally rains in this country. Decide to do anything, like have a weekend away, go for a hike or go to a festival, and the skies will often open out of what seems like pure perverseness. You can sometimes try and outdo this perverseness by carrying an umbrella everywhere you go, but this method isn’t foolproof and is not to be recommended when doing activities such as windsurfing or rock climbing.

Add children into the mixture and it can get a lot worse. Kids are whirling energetic little things (sadly), and are not generally going to be as content as adults to stay indoors for the entire weekend (cough). Even if you’re staying in a bells and whistles giant tent, a luxury lodge or in your brand spanking new motorhome, the ability of kids to get cabin fever seems to be much higher than adults, probably due to the lack of alcohol in the mixture. So, as it will certainly rain on you at some point during a camping trip with the kids, we’ve put together some tips to ensure that things don’t get too murderous.

First up, you really won’t have to sit in a damp tent or in your caravan/lodge for three days straight unless the rain is of Biblical proportions. Even in Blighty it does stop sometimes, so the first priority is to make sure you’ve packed Wellies, raincoats and weatherproof gear for the whole family to get out and about as soon as torrential rain looks like slowing down for a bit (peering outside to check this on a regular basis can be viewed as an activity in itself if you’re really stuck). Have a look at the info under the 'local attractions' tab of your Pitchup.com campsite listing as well to see what attractions, walking trails, cycle paths and other things to do are nearby.

The main problem with going out and splashing in puddles will be getting everything dried afterwards – if you don’t have an indoor area handy to spread out wet macs etc, look for a site with a drying room . Or, if despite all your care about getting wet weather gear, the issue is wet socks (it will be), stay on a site with a launderette . Also, your mother told us to tell you to bring at least two extra changes of clothes and as many spare pairs of socks as you can manage. Stuff them inside the Wellies when you’re travelling for optimum feeling-clever space.

You can also look for a campsite with as many indoor activities as possible, so that the only time you should feel raindrops on your head is running from your pitch to the games room , indoor swimming pool or on-site-restaurant/café . Or if it’s been raining for a couple of days and everyone is tacitly acknowledged that some time apart would be best for all concerned, send the kids off to the play area or kids' club while you do something much more fun and grown up like going to the hot tub or TV room .

This is all very well if we’re taking the kids to a campsite, but what about if we’re wild camping , I hear you grumpily sniff? (Try Lemsip.) It’s just going to be us, the kids, the tent and a lot of rain. No kids’ club, no play area, no indoorsy fun to pack them off to while we crack open the wine… We feel your pain. Try these tips:

  • Obviously a laptop and/or portable DVD player is your best friend here. You can charge it in the car and bring plenty of crisps and snacks, including popcorn so you can tell the kids that they’re in the cinema. Younger kids will enter into this with the wild-eyed enthusiasm that only they can bring, while older kids – well, crisps.
  • Apart from the usual board games, Nintendo, comic books, colouring books etc, bring Lego if you have it. Hours of fun building things, plus added competitiveness – perfect for a rainy day. Oh, wait…
  • It’s simple but often overlooked – you might not be able to use your camping stove or build a campfire on every camping trip. This isn’t too much of an issue if you’re staying on a campsite or in a caravan with a kitchen, but can very quickly become one if you’re wild camping and it’s raining all day. Always make sure you have a stash of non-perishable food that doesn’t need to be cooked or heated up, and try to add a stretch to the budget for those inevitable times when you’re just going to have to bite the bullet, grumpily get into the car and drive to the nearest chippy.
  • Bring a rainy day box – a plastic sealed box with games, puzzles and toys is something that will save your sanity if you have it in the car all the time anyway. Books like Making Stuff for Kids or The Rainy Day Book will have you sobbing with gratitude – although do make sure you have a flick through them before the camping trip so you can get any arty or crafty materials you’ll need for activities you think your kids might like. (If there’s a particularly complicated activity involving a ton of glitter and three million sequins that you just know your four year old is going to insist on, well, this is the one time we wouldn’t judge you for ripping a page out of a book. Just saying.) You can also throw absolutely anything at all into the rainy day box – well, not the dog – and use it as a story box. Kid#1 closes their eyes and pulls out a rubber shark and starts a story based around it, Kid#2 pulls out a small doll and has to continue the story…you’ll be keeping them entertained and nurturing the next JK Rowling to look after you in your old age before you know it.

And, for both wild camping and campsite camping, remember to always have plenty of resealable plastic bags with you. These should be coming along on any camping trip anyway, indispensable as they are, but on rainy days are good to keep phones, consoles and any other delicate electronic equipment in. And the salt. No-one likes damp salt.

Page updated October 2013.

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