We are about to burst full steam into the height of camping season. Whatever you have planned and whatever you do we’d love you to record your road trip and share your story and photographs with us. The good, the bad, the funny and the warmhearted… we’d love to hear it all. Partly because we love to share great stories, but also because it will help to inspire us all through the darker months of the year when camping trips aren’t quite so easy or as frequent.
So to start us off Sarah will be sharing her story and hopes that you will do the same. So don’t be shy… we know it’s like dropping your pants in public but we’d love you to tell us your story and inspire us too. Just say hello and in return you’ll get a big, squishy, virtual hug from us all.
It started as a conversation between a few friends at the beach after a winter surf session. Everyone was tired of the short days and biting cold, and needed to get some heat on their bones. The UK winter had been a long one and the draw of a camping road trip was proving to be very tempting.
Once the suggestion was out the plan began to roll down the hill like a snowball getting bigger and bigger until there was no way anyone was going to stand in its way. Finally it was agreed that our convoy of three camper vans would head for the west coast of France in a few months to catch some well deserved surf in the Spring sunshine.
We were a motley crew made up of friends and their children in a retro Mercedes camper van, an old red London bus converted into a camper van and a Bongo.
For our family there was plenty to arrange. Our van is over 24 years old… and in ‘van-years’ that’s old! It’s a comfortable van to drive, ride and sleep in and has become a valuable member of the family that everyone’s keen to jump in to go to the beach or on camping trips.
Our list of things to do was beginning to grow longer by the minute. There was the vans service and MOT to sort out, ferry tickets to find, travel and breakdown cover to negotiate, hazard triangles to source, headlight beam and GB stickers, as well as the usual packing for small children and adults, including emergency medication. However, the most important thing for us was to make sure we could pack it all safely into the van while leaving us with plenty of room to move about when we needed to take refreshment breaks.
We decided that for most of the trip we would try to wild camp, but for the first few nights we would head towards a campsite in a town near our destination. This would give the families with children time to recover with showers, toilets and a swimming pool before moving on to more basic wild camping.
It turned out to be a marathon journey. We took the overnight ferry, which we thought would give the drivers time to snooze ready for the trek through France, but it only caused us to toss and turn in beds that were too small, in a room that was too hot, with children who were too excited to sleep. Our van is also exceedingly retro, and therefore very heavy and slow so it took us a lot longer to reach our destination than we planned. So long in fact that the campsite had closed its gates and we were forced to seek refuge for the night somewhere else.
Luckily one of our friends knew a secret camping spot through a small forest right next to the beach. We arrived with just enough time to sort out a campfire in a pit that had already been dug by previous campers, and cook some food for the tired travellers. It was only when we fell into bed we realised just how tired we all were, but it felt great to be at the beginning of our road trip.
Waking up in the morning with the sound of birds in the forest and waves crashing on the shore was heavenly. It wasn’t long before everyone in our improvised campsite was awake and preparing for the day ahead and there was lots of talk of plans for the trip.
We did make it to the official campsite for a few days, but we definitely enjoyed the wild camping more. Our best campsite being a clearing in a forest far away from anyone and a stones throw from a small surfing spot. The only bathing facility we had was an improvised bath in a bucket, but the kids loved it.
Later that evening we enjoyed watching the sun touch the horizon and throw bright orange and red hues across the sky as some of us surfed. Then when it got really dark we went stargazing with the kids who thought it was magical. It was a great evening.
The worst bit of our trip was the weather for the first week. We hit a surprisingly cold few days for the time of year which resulted in us using every blanket and hot water bottle we had as we didn’t have any heating with us.
The best bit was all of us sitting on the beach in the sun during the second week enjoying a gorgeous steak and salad picnic with fresh baguette after a long surf on clean waves in a bay we found around the corner from a wild camping spot. Our vans were parked up just behind us and looked satisfied that they’d travelled so far and deposited us safely in that spot. As the kids played in the sand and the adults continued to surf and sunbathe I realised it was definitely a moment I was going to remember.
One of the reasons why I love our camper van is our ability to wild camp in it. We have all the facilities we need to go off grid with a family for a while, especially when it’s fitted with solar panels. For us this is the most rewarding type of camping, but sadly all too rare these days. However we will be exploring some more options for less official camping this year and we’ll share ideas here over the coming weeks. For now though here’s a few of our tips for wild camping that we’ve learnt over the years.
- Only light a fire if you have permission or there’s a fire pit already in use.
- As an alternative to a campfire you could use a portable campfire kit;
- Always clear up your rubbish and never pollute;
- Be careful and respectful of livestock and crops as any damage affects someone’s livelihood;
- Be especially considerate about any noise as you will have neighbours in trees and houses nearby;
- If you don’t have toilet facilities make sure you dig a deep hole and cover it before you leave your camping site;
- When you leave give yourself the challenge of making it look like you were never there. That’s the true evidence of a really successful wild camp.
Photo Credit: Inspired Camping