This list of family festival camping essentials will help you plan what to pack for Camp Bestival and other family camping trips. Don't forget the toilet roll!
I'll admit it, I'm a bit nervous. We're going to Camp Bestival this year and will be camping with my kids. Dax is 6 and Polly is 4 and, gasp, they've never been camping before. I grew up in Canada and I remember so many camping trips with my parents and sisters. Whether under musty canvas or in our VW campervan, my family regularly hit the road to explore the wilds around British Columbia, staying in the forests, near salmon-filled whitewater rivers or on sweltering lakeside beaches in the Okanagan Valley.
We had a big metal blue cooler, a proper old-school one, and it always went with us. If it was being dragged out of the garage, then we knew a fun time was to be had. It's one of those unforgettable possessions that bring back such a rush of memories. My parents bought it for their honeymoon camping trip around Canada and America in the 1970s, where it got it's battle scars: the cooler had a dent in the top where a bear had wandered into their campsite and tried to get into it for food. Luckily the bear wandered off and ignored my parents, likely cowering in fear in the tent mere metres away. That dented cooler means so much to me.
Now that we've started camping with my kids, I wonder what equipment will mean a lot to them? Will they get that familiar excitement when we pull out the trolley, the tent, the sleeping bags? Maybe the smell of the camping stove or the clatter of mess tins will evoke their memories in the future. We'll wait and see, but meanwhile, we'll get busy making those memories.
So, for our trip to Camp Bestival this year, this is what we'll be taking.
My family camping essentials:
So, first you're going to need a tent. In the past you could rough it out under the stars or sleep in the car in the pre-kids days, but that can't be happening now. The kids wake up early enough without being woken by dew forming on their cherubic little faces. Plus, we're now responsible adults (I repeat that to myself regularly in the hopes that it will sink in).
I've gone for this Olpro Knightwick 3 berth tent. When you're camping at a festival you don't want a tent that's too big or you may struggle to find a spot to pitch it. This is a generous 3 berth tent so is good since my kids are still small. We can all snuggle up together and keep warm when the temperature drops at night.
We've put it up in the garden and it's straightforward to pitch, with a really useful awning at the front and porch bit to keep equipment, muddy wellies etc... The bedroom bit is separate from the porch and awning so there is plenty of space for our mattresses and belongings. It is a great quality tent.
One of the issues with festivals is how to get all of your equipment from the car to the camping area. Behold the Outwell Transporter. We can fill this with all of our belongings and wheel it set up the tent. Then we can either fold it up and keep it in the tent, or let the kids ride around in it if they're tired of walking between stages. They can even curl up in it and have a snooze. They were so thrilled with it that since it arrived they've been playing in it, wheeling each other about and sitting in it to have their breakfast. It costs around £100, but I think this is going to come in handy a lot, not just for camping and festivals.
As big as the festival trolley is, I'm sure we'll still have other equipment that we'll need to take to the site. It's so hard to travel light with kids, isn't it?! We're taking this Berghaus Trailhead 60L rucksack for all of our clothes and other camping essentials. It's a really sturdy bag with lots of compartments and straps. I backpacked around Europe from Canada when I was 19 and my rucksack was similar to this one. Oh, if only that rucksack could talk, the stories... The Berghaus one isn't too big, so you can fill it up and still carry it without falling over backwards with your legs sticking up in the air like an upturned wood louse (that's never happened to me, I swear. I SWEAR!). There are loads of compartments so everything isn't all in one space, and it has a big outer zip so you can lay it down and open it all up instead of rummaging from the top down.
My kids nearly cried with joy when they saw their new Vango Starwalker panda and dragon sleeping bags. To be fair, they still get pretty thrilled when I buy them new pants, but this was another level. These are obviously the most amazing kids sleeping bags ever invented. A panda and a dragon! But they're not just super-cool animal sleeping bags, they're genius with arm zips (perfect so they don't feel 'trapped' in the bag) and the entire bottom half zips off so they can run around in them if they're cold in the day. SUCH a great idea. My kids slept in these for the whole past week and lounged in the during the day. The bags are long enough that they'll be using them for years to come and they're fantastic quality. We love them.
What about the grown ups? We need our comfort. When we went to Glastonbury festival (pre-kids) we once slept on the hard ground with light sleeping bags. Fools. Such fools. We ended up having queue up to buy wooly blankets that looked like they had been knitted by old ladies, from a stall set up to rescue wretched souls such as ourselves. This time we're going to be prepared. Air mattresses will be our friends. Except, you know, that problem where one person moves on a slippery double air mattress and sends the other person, PING!, flying off the mattress? Problem solved: this Coleman Comfort Double Bed has a velvety top so sleeping bags won't slip off and it has two chambers so it's far less disrupting if one person deigns to turn over. We're going to take one other air mattress for the kids and all snuggle up on them all. For sleeping bags we've got the Mountain Warehouse Summit 250, a 3-4 season mummy-shaped sleeping bag that should be plenty warm for the cold nights. My husband is taking the Vango Latitude 300 Sleeping Bag in blue, which is also a 3-4 season mummy bag. They're both super-snuggy and warm, with soft interiors and good zips that won't split when you move. We shall be toasty in them! We've also got a Eurohike Fusion pump from Millets that's battery operated to inflate the mattresses.
Now, how about eating? We're taking this lightweight, collapsible Coleman Packaway Table for Four. It's made of aluminium and only takes a minute to set up. The benches fold into the table, which folds in half with handles like a briefcase. It will give us a workspace to cook for ourselves, a place to sit and we can just fold it and stow it in the tent during the day while we're out enjoying the festival.
Centre: We'll be cooking on this classic camping stove: the Campingaz Bistro Stove from Millets. It's really light and easy to carry in it's own hard case. It's a very easy-to-use stove and gets a good heat.
Clockwise from top left: This Vango Hard Anodised Adventure Cook Set is light and packs away. The three-person set comes with a frying pan, large pot and small pan, and all have a hard anodised, non-stick finish so they're tough and easy to clean.
The Outwell Ragley Picnic Cutlery set has everything we need as a family of four, in a handy travel case. Not only is there cutlery, but also a little cutting board, sharp knife, corkscrew and tea towel. I'm sure we'll be using this a lot, not just for camping but also for picnics.
The Mountain Warehouse Camping Kettle is light, so heats up really quickly, but it's made of tough materials and is super-lightweight. This is going to save my mornings as I'll be able to make a coffee before we even leave the tent!
This Thermos Food Flask is a great size for storing leftovers and taking warm food out with us so the kids can have a quick snack. It even has a handy spoon so we don't need to take anything else out with us.
Mountain Warehouse's Family Camping Cookset is made of hard anodised aluminium with two pans and a lid, with folding silicone handles. They stack together and even have a carry bag. It's a lovely design and perfect for cooking for the family. It's also easy to clean - necessary when we're in the great outdoors!
We're taking this brilliant Paella Pan camping. It's a fantastic size to cook stews and one-pot pasta meals for the family and saves on washing up!
For a real camping feel, we eat out of mess tins! They remind me of Brownie camp when I was little. These Vango ones are non-stick so easy to clean. Win-win!
These are some essentials that will make camping a lot easier! Centre: The Varta LED lantern will be indispensable for night-time trips to the loos, finding the tent at night and getting the kids ready for bed.
Clockwise from top left: Well, it's a festival, so we're pretty much guaranteed rain. We've got these GO Travel Ponchos in pouches for both adults and kids. They fold up super-tiny so we can take them out with us every day in case of showers or rain.
I'll be blogging from Camp Bestival so I'll need my iPhone battery to last. I've got a Varta powerpack to give me that much-needed extra juice to last the whole long weekend. And in case it does rain, I have a Go Travel dry phone pouch on a lanyard so it will stay dry and I won't lose it! For extra phone backup we also have a Go Travel Mobile Slim Power Bank that comes pre-charged and ready to use.
We're covered for cut, grazes and insect bites with this Natrasan First Aid spray. This stuff is pretty great - it also works as a hand sanitiser, toilet sanitiser and disinfectant. We'll take this out with us each day for emergencies.
We are also taking Mountain Warehouse's LED swivel lantern, which is bright but low energy and really light and easy to carry. You can flip the light parts out and shine them where you need them.
Where are we going to put everything? This strong festival box from the Plastic Box Shop isn't the prettiest of items, but definitely one of the most useful. It's big and strong so we can carry everything in it, then use it to store dry food, sit on or use as an extra surface for cooking.
See these chairs? That's where Marc and I will be relaxing in the late evenings when the kids are nestled in their sleeping bags. We've got a green Eurohike Peak Folding Chair that is very well made and sturdy - with the all-important lager/cider can hole for my husband. I'll be reclining with a tin mug of wine in this Coleman Kickback Breeze Chair. It's a great orange colour and has a super-comfy low back that lets you lean back and chill.
There are so many little camping essentials to remember to pack! We're taking a mini Maglite torch from the Natural History Museum shop, as it's really compact so easy to keep with us to make sure we can see in the evenings, without turning on a lantern that might wake up the kids. Maglites are really robust and durable so it's perfect to stow in our bag. This will definitely get a lot of use from the kids as well when they explore around the garden in the evenings.
We're also taking a few Bear Grylls items, because hey, if anyone knows how to survive the great outdoors, it's Bear Grylls! We've got a Gerber Greenhorn Tool, that's small but has seven compontents: fine edge blade, flat screwdriver, phillips screwdriver, can opener, bottle opener, tweezers and a toothpick. This is one of those things that is sooo useful, yet small, so we can make sure we always bring it in our bag. We're also taking a Gerber hands free torch. After living on a boat for quite a few years, we learned that a head torch is an invaluable tool in so many instances. Not just for rummaging in a bag at night, but have you ever gone to the loos at night at a festival? Yes, you'll know the only option is to put the torch in your mouth as you go about your business. A head torch is much better (and hygenic!).
Now don't judge me if you see me drinking cider out of this adorable enamel butterfly mug from the Natural History Museum! Tin mugs are definitely camping essentials, but instead of a plain one, we love these adorable printed ones.
Mr Tumble will be a 'highlight' (deep breath) for my kids at Camp Bestival, so we're bringing this Tumble-esque spotty picnic rug from Flying Tiger to sit on. It's bright and has a waterproof baking so we can sit on it even if the ground is a bit damp. Or do an anti-rain dance around it if necessary because, well, festivals tend to mean rain, don't they? *checks weather app on phone*
When we head out around the festival in the mornings, we'll load up bottles of water, snacks and essentials in this adorable Kissing Squirrels cooler bag by Anorak from Amara Living. It is so gorgeous and a large but slimline size so it's easy to tote around. It's insulated so we just pop in an ice pack and use it for day trips.
We can also put extra food in this Thermos cooler bag and fill up a Thermos Hydration Bottle. The bottle is large and BPA-free, plus it has a meter so you can keep track of how much you're drinking - quite important, particularly at a festival. We've used the cooler bag a few times now for picnics and it's a great size for snacks, plus it has handy mesh pockets and a top flap so you can reach in without unzipping it.
It's worrying taking the kids to a busy festival, so we've got some Koolio Bandz to use. They're silicone wristbands for the kids to wear and I just have to register my details on them online. Then, if the worst happens and one of my children gets separated from us, someone can log onto the website and it will text me a message of where to collect them. You can buy them at Boots and some of the proceeds go to Make-A-Wish.
For more inspiration about family camping essentials, take a look at this list from Tents and Festivals.
Disclosure: A huge thank you to all of the brands who sent these items as review samples for my post about family camping essentials. All opinions are my own. Images courtesy of each brand, lead image courtesy of Shutterstock/Youproduction