Camping With 3 Young Children - Our 2020 Adventure

I don’t think we will ever be hardcore campers, but for a couple of nights away it makes a great break for our family. It doesn’t even matter if the campsite is only 5 minutes down the road like our recent trip. Although we are looking to buy a larger tent now we have 3 children, we have most of the kit we need so it doesn’t cost us much. It wasn’t really that different camping in the COVID-19 world either; everyone kept a little further apart from normal and there was a lot more hand washing and applying of hand gel, but it felt almost normal.

3 children in rain coats and wellies on a muddy campsite
Why is it always raining when I go camping with the children?

Rain Rain Go Away

We were originally due to go camping with some friends from school on the weekend after they broke up for the summer. As school finished in March rather than July and the country was only just creeping out of lockdown on the original date it didn’t happen as planned. Once the local campsite reopened and we managed to agree a new date I started weather watch. 

I read somewhere that we had one of the most heatwavey heatwaves ever this August (the longest consecutive days of ridiculous weather or something) so it amuses me that once again we managed to go camping and get lots of rain. I checked my weather app regularly in the run up to our holiday and the weather went from good to a high likelihood of non-stop rain and thunderstorms. Excellent.

As it happened the weather forecast was wrong and it wasn’t as bad as I feared. We not only managed to pitch the tent in the dry, but it didn’t really rain until about 9.00pm on Friday night. The girls (8 and 4 years old) had a great afternoon running around and it was only in the evening as we were heading back from the campfire to our tent that it really rained. Little and Baby Boy were exhausted and we were glad we were inside as the rain got progressively heavier, but my eldest was still outside playing with friends without a waterproof. It was nearly another hour before we could persuade her into the tent and her siblings were fast asleep by then.

First Night

Does anyone else find that on the first night of camping no one sleeps very well? Little slept ok, but despite the late bedtime she woke up around 6am and tried her hardest to wake everyone else up. Eventually we managed to persuade her to sit quietly and watch DangerMouse on the iPad (electronics were bought solely for trying to keep any early risers quiet until a slightly less painful time). Baby Boy woke up numerous times in the night, but wasn’t worse than normal. It was M who caused the most trouble.

Around 1am M woke up in pain. Anyone who knows her wont be surprised that she doesn’t do being in pain quietly. Even doctors have been fooled into believing she is experiencing a much more serious ailment than she is due to her dramatics. I managed to persuade her to walk to the toilet block with me in an attempt to shut her up slightly and to distract her. Unfortunately Baby Boy wasn’t prepared to be abandoned by me so I had to take him as well, but at least it had stopped raining. 

The walk and wee didn’t help much so I spent another 5 minutes waiting for my phone to load the internet sufficiently to Google the dose of paracetamol for an 8 year old as I foolishly hadn’t bought Calpol, only my pain meds and Piriton. It turns out it was about 3/4s of a tablet so I felt comfortable giving her half of one and telling her to try to keep the whimpering down. Sorry, but I am more sympathetic when my children don’t wake me up in the night and are ill in a quieter fashion. She eventually slept and woke up well after the rest of us.

A young girl in a sleeping bag in a tent asleep
Sleeping soundly (after having me up in the night)

Packing Fail

After our standard camping breakfast of Frosties (or the Aldi cheap rip off version) which we like because they can be munched without milk, the children were released into the wild again. My one year old with the supervision of his father. I took the opportunity to set the camp stove up and make G and I some strong coffee. I had made G spend the night on a gap between two air mattresses which was narrower than his body so he hadn’t slept great either. 

Unfortunately on pulling out the coffee from my super organised food box I discovered I had picked up the decaf coffee! I nearly cried. Instead I turned to Instagram stories to share my devastation, and reignited my love for many of my friends on the app as I received regular messages of dismay throughout the day at my misfortune.

It wasn’t a disaster though because camping with other groups meant that I went on the scrounge for granules of caffeine. The first people I found only had actual proper coffee and offered to make me some, but given I was covered in mud and hadn’t even brushed my hair (or teeth) it felt a little too sophisticated. Soon after I found someone with instant coffee granules so I heaped 4 spoonfuls into a travel mug and was on my way. The world started to feel a lot better after that.

Little Miss Independent

Shortly before lunch the other people we knew went on a walk. We declined because our younger 2 were pretty tired and we didn’t know how long the walk would be, but soon after Little changed her mind so we decided we would go on a short stroll. I went to fetch M from where she was playing on a rope swing with some new friends she had made, but she refused to come with us. 

She didn’t understand why, at 8 years old, we wouldn’t leave her on her own on a campsite with no adults we knew around. Despite her not seeing us for hours on end we had been regularly spying on her to make sure she was safe so I can appreciate some level of confusion, but still didn’t appreciate the epic meltdown we encountered as we insisted she had no choice.

I put Baby Boy in the carrier and we headed off, but M only got just beyond the perimeter of the site when she refused to walk any further. G, Little and I walked on a short distance and round a corner, but she didn’t seem to be following. I walked on in the hopes I could get Baby Boy to nap with my constant motion and G waited a few minutes before heading back and discovering M was gone and nowhere to be seen. 

I walked about 5 minutes up the path to a deer sanctuary, watched the deer in the distance and then turned back to the campsite. On my way back I found a distraught M. We aren’t entirely sure how she got there as she hadn’t passed G on the path. I also don’t really understand why she thought she was lost when we had walked to the same place the day before and when going back she had insisted on walking some distance ahead of me without needing directions. Anyway, she was upset, but no longer in a mood… if only I could say the same for G who was pretty pissed off with her behaviour.

A one year old hugging a tree with mud on his nose from falling over while camping
Face first in the mud


After some lunch everyone was calm again and we spent the afternoon in much the same way as the day before: chasing the little people around, but this time with a few showers of rain. I suggested G popped home to pick up some extra shorts for the children as they were getting through clothing faster than anticipated. He took 2 hours! Apparently he accidentally fell asleep, but I’m not really sure how that happened. Was it while he was walking up the stairs or when he was looking in the girls' wardrobe that he was overcome by sleep? I imagine the extended absence really had something to do with M’s behaviour and the break was good for him.

After G came back and I had stopped glaring at him for abandoning me with 3 children intent on charging around in different directions we agreed that we wouldn’t sleep in the tent again that night due to the general discomfort. We decided to stay until the younger two wanted bed and then somehow persuade M to leave before heading back the next morning to pack everything away. This turned out to be an excellent plan.

Around 8:30pm the girls were finally getting to toast marshmallows on the campfire thanks to a friend sharing with us (my second biggest fail, after the coffee, was forgetting marshmallows) when it started to rain. Big fat heavy rain. Everything was getting soaked quickly and the girls were more than happy to run to the car and head home. We stumbled into the house, stripped off the soggy clothes, scraped off the mud and by 9:15pm the children were all in bed in PJs (if not actually asleep just yet). Camping so close to home definitely has benefits.

My bed that night felt luxurious and I was very grateful that I wasn’t woken by anyone other than Baby Boy. The rain was loud initially, even with a proper roof over our heads, but there was no random music, no loud drunken chats and no acorns falling periodically on the tent scaring the life out of me (our pitch was under a few oak trees). I woke at 6am feeling rather refreshed and successfully forced my family out of the house and back to the campsite by 8am.

A 4 year old pulling on a guy rope to try and get the peg out of the ground
I briefly had help packing the tent away

Packing Up

Packing up a tent in the rain is horrible, but fortunately the morning was dry so despite the tent being soaked and the trees constantly dripping on me I actually enjoyed packing the tent up. The girls got a bit more time to play while G endured Baby Boy running around, falling over and trying to eat a whole range of random items he found in the field.

I, on the other hand, had the tent to myself and packed everything up with minimal interference (despite having cereal before we left home the girls visited the tent multiple times each for more food). I had managed a coffee before leaving home that morning using the wonder of an electric kettle which may account for my positive mood.

Waving goodbye to everyone we headed home with a full and muddy car via a supermarket to get some bacon. Why does everyone on a campsite seem to have bacon for breakfast? Why does it smell so good? And why do I never bring any?

Our house is still covered with various camping paraphernalia and I can barely move in my kitchen thanks to the tent being hung out to dry, but I feel much better for our break away from normality and I’m looking forward to our next one. G however is claiming “never again”. We’ll see.

If you are going camping for the first time then you might these tips for camping with children helpful.

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