How to introduce your friends to camping
'The oblivious is copious amounts of alcohol but, seriously, try to go with newcomers for the first outings. Visit campsites that are fairly near to their home so if things go pear shaped they can escape without too much stress. It helps to choose a site that you know and have gone to before.
Lend them as much equipment as you can. Try to make meals simple, fun and not too strenuous. Think about things to do – especially if they have children (geo-caching works well) – and make sure you have enough things with you to keep them warm.
Don’t be too ‘techie’ – reassure people that camping equipment is built up over time. If they are going on their own then write a list of the obvious things that they will need (mallets, tea towels, washing-up liquid are easily forgotten). We also like to go with them to look at tents, to point out any good and bad point from your experience, encouraging them to pitch the tent before they go, and to arrive on site in day light so they can put the tent up before it gets dark.' Mark and Janette Songhurst
'The promise of lots of ale usually helps. Having an electric hook-up is essential if wives and daughters cannot do without hair straighteners and hairdryer.' Martin Higham
'We introduced my brother-in-law and his partner to camping a couple of years ago. We found that by advising them to buy just the basics to start off with (small tent, air bed and sleeping bags) we tempted them with a cheap weekend away with us. We were able to cater for them with our cooking equipment and other essentials. They didn't need to go out and buy fancy chairs – they just took what they had. After a very successful trip they have then gone on to buy their own equipment.' Sam Spence
'Unfortunately we haven't managed to talk any of our friends round to the camping way of life but we keep trying. We have found that inviting people over to the site for the day for a walk and barbecue does get them more interested.' Becky Harris
'When we introduced friends to camping we let them stay with us in our tent for a couple of nights. We supplied all the equipment so they had no outlay. We then made sure their stay was enjoyable by going for walks from the campsite and ensuring all other activities like games, eating and drinking were done from the tent to show them how enjoyable it is.
They were hooked and they asked us to help them with a list of equipment to buy and the tent to choose. They enjoyed a few weekends away but decided to pack camping in when they went one weekend in miserable weather. Obviously fair weather campers – you win some and lose some!' Pete Shaw
'As regular campers, we have lots of chats with our friends about our lifestyle. Most of them claim lack of home comforts put them off camping. I explain the joys of glamping and the equipment that is now available to make camping as comfy as possible, and invite them to join us for a night.
What a fantastic time we had. When they got there and saw my set up kitted out with electric hook-up, fitted carpet, inflatable settee and arm chairs, plasma TV with satellite, king-size bed with pillows, side tables and table lights, they could not believe it. That, along with the fantastic sites and scenery and the easy way we managed to sleep extra people thanks to pod tents, converted them there and then. Two of them have been busy collecting there own gear ready for camping this year. So next time I go camping I always invite a few friends along with us for a night to try it out. Well worth it.' Elsie Welburn
'I suggest you invite friends and family considering camping to visit you on site for the day and perhaps lay on a barbecue. My wife, Angela's parents quite often visit if we are local enough.
My sister has been hooked on camping ever since we introduced her to it in 2009. A group of our camping friends had organised a camping weekend for my 40th birthday. Determined not to miss out on her brother's celebrations, Joanne (my sister), borrowed a tent from a friend and came camping for the weekend along with her young son. They were totally hooked from that point on. She spent the winter getting some camping gear of her own together and we took her tent shopping. Whilst Joanne was camping, my parents (both pensioners) visited her for the day. My mother decided to stay with her for a night or two. Now my parents are hooked too! You’re never too old to start camping.' Dave Halsall
'Camp with experienced campers who can show you the ropes and camping etiquette! And choose somewhere with good facilities, checking on-line reviews. Try to get the good weather and make sure you go somewhere fairly local, in case you need to come home.
Crocs or flip-flops for the shower room are a must. Also, try to put the tent up at home a few times before you go so that you know what you are doing before you get to the campsite.
We spent the winter researching gear, tents and sites before our first camp, so that by the time we went we felt quite well prepared. We were so relieved our first day went well that we drank almost an entire box of wine on the first night. Now we stick to bottles so that we know how much we’ve had!
It is best not to spend too much money on equipment in case you don’t like it. Although I would make sure that you have a fairly decent tent and good sleeping bags. Also, pack for every type of weather. Do some research before you go, so you know where the nearest shop, pub, take-away, play park etc is in case you need them. We find that our kids eat really well when camping, so take plenty of snacks. Finally make sure you chill out, enjoy it and don’t take it too seriously.' Dan and Marie Morrison
'I think you have to make your own mind up about camping and only take part when you really want to. It's not for everyone. I think inviting friends for a day visit is a good way to introduce them to it. They are interested in looking in the tent. They then realise instead of driving home they could be having a beer and relaxing into a warm cosy bed.
I have a friend who refuses to go camping even though Dad and the children are begging to go. It's a shame because I think the children are really missing out on a big adventure. I have given them my Camping magazines and offered to take them to a site and help them. Mum is worried about her hair… Why worry about your hair when the kids are only young for such a short period of time? Haven camping is a brilliant starting point. It is cheap and you can use all the facilities free including the pool which has lovely hot showers, hair dryers etc.
Why not have a couple of nights in the tent and then let your friends stay for a couple of nights and leave them to it? That way they don't have the worry of putting the tent up they can just turn up and enjoy the experience.
Children also love taking a friend with them and feel a lot more confident going off to the games rooms to meet the other children. This also leaves you to enjoy the peace and quiet.' Janet and Craig Wignall
'I would always take newbie's to a local campsite – if they forget something or it goes pear shaped (usually weather related) it's not too far for them to get back home. Make sure this site has good facilities to keep the ladies happy, a decent hostelry near by, and that there is enough to keep everyone interested. It may cost a little more but, hey, we are trying to get them hooked. Taking a family to a field with a tap and one toilet would probably put them off camping for life!
As for gear, lend and share as best you can, but never impose they must have this and that. Just give advice if they ask and let them make an informed choice for all that gear, their budget is their own!' Gary Peet
'Our top tips really are to think about the children – everyone hates being cold so an extra blanket is always a must – better to have too many than not enough! Essentials are marshmallows and also glow-sticks. These are a huge hit with the kids – not only are they lots of fun but on a practical level Glow-sticks allow us to do a quick head-count after sunset when the grown ups are enjoying a lemonade or two around the campfire!
To be honest my girls have such fun camping that the stories they tell friends got lots of children asking their parents about camping. In June we took three other families to Bwch-Yn-Ichaf in Bala for a weekend and in October half term we had eight families at Trawsdir in Barmouth, which was a lot of fun – although hook-ups and heaters were needed.' Jude Bowler
'We have taken one or two of my son’s pals camping with us. After one or two misgivings (theirs I hasten to add) they have come with us and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. One thing we did try was to put a tent up on the back garden and let his pals stay for the odd night and, providing the weather is OK, they love it. If I can rediscover camping at 66 then there's hope for anyone.' Geoff Smeeton
My top tips…
- Lend equipment – you are familiar with tents etc and so can help put them up, rather than trying to grapple with unfamiliar stuff.
- Go near to home – they gain confidence and will soon go again on their own. One friend converted after many years' refusal by going to a nearby adult only site – something I would not have thought to do or suggest.
- Initially, go for short trips – it is always better to leave for home on a high!
- Pick a site that allows your group to pitch together. Even better if campfires are allowed – I defy anyone not to enjoy eating, drinking and socialising around a campfire.
- Try to time your trip for good weather and consider cancelling if extreme weather is forecast.
- Ensure you have enough chairs for everyone, some good wine and some fun activities – highlight whatever it is that makes camping enjoyable for you.
- Listen and try and accommodate wishes – my husband really hates pitching and striking a tent. This has influenced the kit we take, quick-pitch tents for example, but it means he has a better time and then so do I!