I come from a camping family: my parents camped on their honeymoon and my childhood holidays were spent getting dusty in France and wet in Scotland. Now I relish the chance to get out of London and set up camp for a weekend away from the tyranny of mirrors and mobile phones. These are the pieces of kit that I've found indispensable over the years for making your pitch as efficient, comfortable and practical as possible.
1. Hi Gear 1L Whistling Kettle: £4.99, Go Outdoors
Whether it's for washing up, rounds of tea or a hot water bottle (alternatively, just hug the recently-boiled kettle, as my mother used to do), a camping kettle is essential. This aluminium one, is for use with a gas portable stove, is pretty compact (with a decent one-litre capacity) and has the old-fashioned whistle that lets you know when the water is ready.
2. Vango Galaxy Eco Rechargeable 60 Lantern: £25, Blacks
This lantern has enough power to light a tent (60 lumens) and can be set on the ground or a table or hung from the ceiling of your tent. But its greatest selling point is its charging options: it's solar-powered but you can also wind it up if it runs out during the night, or, for a slightly less eco option, it has a rechargeable battery (car adaptor included).
3. Blue Mountain Expandable Water Carrier: £11.50, Cotswold Outdoor
Unless you're pitched right next to the tap, it's likely that you'll want a supply of water immediately to hand, rather than having to trek across the field every time you want a drink or have to brush your teeth. This concertina water carrier packs down flat when it's empty for easy packing but expands to take 15 litres when full.
4. Halfords Collapsible Washing Up Bowl: £8, Halfords
Like the water carrier, this clever washing up bowl folds down for compactness, its 12cm height collapsing down to 5cm. Even if you're lucky enough to be staying at a campsite with washing-up facilities, you'll need something to collect and carry the dirty dishes in. And if not, put that kettle and water carrier to work (its relatively small size makes it easy to fill to a decent level). It’s also free from the potentially harmful BPA chemical, often found in similar products.
5. Mountain Warehouse Microfibre Travel Towel: £5.99, Mountain Warehouse
A towel can easily be the biggest item in your luggage. Not so with a microfibre number, which is highly absorbent (up to four times its own weight) and yet thin, its 120cm x 60cm size packing down into a bag about the size of your hand. It may not have the luxurious feel of your usual towel, but you'll be grateful of the jumper-packing space it frees up in your bag. Available in a number of colours.
6. Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow: £23, Cotswold Outdoor
Again a great choice for space-saving, a compressible pillow saves valuable packing space. The stuff sack is built into the design, so no bag to lose; simply roll it into the lip and pull the drawstring tight to compress it after use. It is a little larger than other inflatable camping pillows on offer, but the comfort it provides is more than worth it, plus it's machine washable.
7. Outwell Bamboo Dinner Set for 4: £48.99, World of Camping
This one is a slight vanity as it doesn't have the garish prints and colours of most (cheaper) melamine camping dinner sets, but this bamboo set is also eco (if buried, they will break down within three months), durable and dishwasher safe, as well as being chic. Features four mugs, four bowls and four plates.
8. Hario V60 Plastic Dripper 02: £6, Hario
If there's one luxury I'll allow on a camping trip, it's good coffee. Brew filter straight into your mug to save on packing space with the Hario dripper. Simply place it over your mug, add a filter (sold separately), add ground coffee (it comes with a scoop) and pour the water over it in continuous circles until the mug is full. This version is plastic, rather than the classic ceramic, so doesn't retain heat quite as well, but it's hard-wearing and – bonus – much cheaper.
9. Alpkit AliPots Cook Set: £25, Alpkit
This clever set of aluminium pans contains two saucepans (with 1L and 1.7L capacity) and two frying pans, which also double as lids, and detachable handles, so you can mix and match as required. When not in use, they pack down inside each other to – you've guessed it – save space.
10. Coleman Cool Box 28QT Xtreme Cooler: £51.99, Halfords
Unlike most, this cool box keeps food cold for up to three days on just one round of ice packs, ideal if your campsite doesn't have a freezer available. For longer trips, you may want to consider investing in an electric one, but for the casual long-weekend camper, the Coleman is all you need. Ice packs sold separately.
The Verdict: Camping accessories
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