Camping trips in the Highlands are always a great source of excitement for me. I’m far from an authority on the topic, but I sure do know how to keep comfortable sleeping outdoors. You are much more likely to find the glam in glamping if you’re well prepared, and this means kitting out.
I find that most people who hate camping were traumatised in childhood; it’s no fun indeed to sleep on hard ground in pouring rain, hungry, way too cold and scared to fall asleep, counting down the hours to dawn when you can finally pack up camp and head home.
I only have fond memories of camping, but this is mostly thanks to gearing up over the years so I am comfortable wherever we go. There was no need to buy everything at once either – in the beginning we joined friends who already had a good stash built up already, and we just shared everything. They brought the airbed pump, and we bought the sausages and booze. It always worked a treat.
Being cramped into a small space in bad weather, freezing cold at night and living on stale bread & cheese (or worse Pringles and coke) are the three biggest downers I could imagine on any camping trip. So from my experience the below are three must-dos that make all the difference between wishing you could go home already and wishing you could stay for another week.
Get the right tent
The first purchase of course has to be a tent. Make sure you choose a sturdy one that will hold up to Highland winds and rain. :)
If you’re in the Edinburgh area, there are cracking camping sales at GoOutdoors pretty much any time of the year. We own a 5-berth HiGear model (that I can’t find on the website today) and probably scored it for something in the range of £50, knocking off a good 70% with the discount card (worth £5) at the time.
This is my favourite setup at campsites, but always carry camp chairs in any case.
This model is quite spacious, which is something I can thoroughly recommend paying extra for. Having enough room for an airbed, and perhaps a separate “communal” area that’s tall enough to stand in makes a huge difference in wet weather. Of course there’s always the local pub you could camp out at, but walking back in the middle of the night in the pouring rain can be a bit of a downer too. I’d much rather cozy up in good company under the canvas, with booze and card games and flickering lamplight.
Get an airbed
An inflatable bed is another non-negotiable. This, along with taking proper bedding with you will make the biggest difference. I picked mine up from Argos, just any old double air mattress that looked sturdy enough, nothing fancy. Make sure you get one with a built-in pump, this way you’ll always be able to inflate it even if your pump isn’t charged (or you don’t have one). Besides, it can double up as emergency guest accommodation too.
Sleep like a king (or at least like a boss) on your next camping adventure.
Also, in case you were wondering, yes, by proper bedding I meant just that: duvets, pillows, the lot. Up in the Highlands temperatures frequently dip under 10ºC overnight even in the summertime, so you want to make sure you stay nice and cozy.
In fact, pro tip: best take two duvets. You’ll want one on top of you, and one to go on top of the mattress for insulation. Airbeds pick up outside temperature, which can result in the worst heat-sink, so take this one seriously. I even take some old fitted bedsheets, just to keep the under-duvet in place.
With your bed made up like this, I promise you’ll stay toasty and comfortable all night.
Get the BBQ out and learn to make a fire
Aussies jokingly call campfires “bush TV” and it’s easy to see why. Nothing beats staring into the embers past sunset. Either way, camp cooking is by far my favourite thing to do when I go away. Heck, I would be happy to cook all three meals every day on a campfire, if it wasn’t for the Boy insisting to go to the pub every so often.
As it turns out, while it was an initial investment (it probably cost more than the tent itself), the now battered Weber Smokey Joe is worth its weight in gold. The countless burgers, sausages, chicken satay and drumsticks that came off it fed not only us but so many of our friends too, it’s great for spontaneous flat barbecues.
And of course let’s not forget the pinnacle of campfire cooking… Those meals entirely consisting of s’mores and vodka-OJs.
Off to the next adventure
I’m a simple creature, easy to please. Give me these three things: a spacious tent, a warm comfy bed and a campfire and I’ll be happy. I doubt that these tips will turn any camping sceptic around, but if your mind isn’t made up yet, give them a try and go camping. You might find you’ll like it!