On the face of it, camping always looks like an extremely affordable break away. And it can be, assuming you already own all the necessary gear.

But what if you don’t own anything yet but you would like to give camping a try?

What’s essential? How much will it cost you? And are there any other ways you and the family can experience camping, without the initial outlay?

What are the essentials when it comes to family camping for the first time?

It’s easy to imagine that you need to buy everything you’ve ever seen on the camping pages of online retailers. Including that inflatable sofa for three. But what do you really need if this is your first time in the great outdoors?

A decent tent

Let’s start with a tent. Because having cover over your head, protecting you from the elements, is something of an essential.

The size of tent you buy will of course depend on the number in your party. There’s a trend for much bigger tents now, than say 30 years ago.

Gone are the days of crouching in a small canvas ridge tent for two, which leaked as soon as you touched the sides. Nowadays, modern tents are huge affairs, with multiple sleeping pods, vast living spaces and windows galore.

And if you don’t want to spend long erecting your tent, you can even buy tents that are inflated in minutes.  

Check for those with integrated groundsheets for additional weatherproofing and comfort. Or head to social media and see what’s on offer second hand.

Sleeping bags

The quality of your sleeping bag will more than likely determine the quality of your sleep.

Even in the middle of summer, temperature can drop in the early hours of the morning, so it pays to have a better sleeping bag – you can always unzip it if you get too hot.

Prices start from £30 to £40 for a decent, synthetic fibre bag – with down filled bags from £100 upwards. Alternatively, you could just bring pillows and duvets from home.

Camping mats and air beds

Whether you favour an inflatable mattress or a thinner camping mat, it makes sense to have some form of cushioning under you when you sleep – not just for comfort, but also for warmth.

Inflatable air beds are readily available from around £10 upwards – we would strongly recommend a double air bed per adult for a decent night’s sleep.

Self-inflating camping mats are an easier alternative to air beds – they are much lighter and generally take up less space, making them ideal for backpacking. Expect to pay upwards of £30 for a single, entry level mat.

Bbq, stoves, chairs and that inflatable sofa

On top of the tent and sleeping equipment, it’s highly likely that you will want to do some of your own cooking whilst you are camping, which requires an investment in a decent camping stove. Plus, plates, cups, and cutlery.

And then, whilst not an essential, you might also prefer to set up an event shelter as well as your tent, so that you can gather together, as a large family, for cooking and eating – whatever the weather throws at you. Oh – and chairs. Or that inflatable sofa…

Is glamping a cheaper alternative to camping?

In short yes. Because whilst glamping can be more expensive on paper when contrasted with the cost of a camping pitch per night, there is no need to bring anything else with you – apart from perhaps some towels.

There are therefore a good number of reasons why this form of luxury camping holds such attraction throughout the UK:

No need to pitch – or strike – a tent

Glamping means you have access to a wonderful variety of outdoor, overnight accommodation, without the hassle of pitching a tent. Or having to fight it all back into a bag (damp) the next morning.

A wide variety of quirky glamping accommodation

At YHA, you can choose from luxurious glamping in tipis, complete with mattresses and bedding for four people, eco-friendly lighting and wood burners. Or a night or two in bell tents, sleeping up to five people.  

Camping pods offer a more solid structure, whilst Landpods give you the chance to roll back the canvas covers and look up at the stars from your bed.

All the bedding is provided

What’s more, when you book a YHA glamping pod, you don’t need to worry about bringing duvets, sleeping bags, pillows or mattresses. They’re all supplied.

YHA camping and glamping in England and Wales

As well as being a leading provider of hostel accommodation (including the option to hire whole hostels if you prefer), YHA also operates several camping and glamping locations in the grounds of its hostels in England and Wales.

With all the benefits of being outdoors, these YHA Camping & Cabins sites are often situated in some of the most stunning locations the UK has to offer.

Written by Ruby Higton

Here is Ruby and she is a digital marketer at YHA. She looks after all things social media, as well as content writing for livemore.yha.org.uk and SEO. Her favourite YHA is YHA Perranporth.

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