15 questions with a student camper
Where do you live?
Milton Keynes, UK.
What’s your age bracket?
Have you always been a camper?
No! I’ve always loved my creature comforts and didn’t like the idea of sleeping outdoors or in a tent. 4 years ago, however, I was peer pressured into going camping for the first time with some friends in Southampton. Even though the weather was horrible and wet (and we ended up sleeping in cars rather than our tents) I really enjoyed it! I think good company definitely changes your perspective. At the end of the day, being with your friends for a weekend is going to be fun and the whole thing felt like a holiday! I think I particularly liked the sense of freedom that you feel when camping. I’ve since converted to camping!
When and where was your last trip?
Cheddar, Somerset in August 2020.
Why did you choose this place?
We wanted to see Cheddar Gorge as it’s well known and something many of us have been eager to visit since a friend recommended it to us. Also, we liked the fact that our campsite there, Petruth Paddocks, allowed 12 of us to camp in 2 groups in line with Covid-19 restrictions.
Who did you travel with?
11 friends from university.
Can you share a memorable highlight from this trip?
On the second day we woke up early and hiked up to Cheddar Gorge. It was a welcome change of scenery after being stuck at home for the past few months! One thing I loved was getting to chat with some people I have not seen in a while because of the lockdown. At lunchtime, we stopped in a meadow to eat. There were some cows around and we had a laugh as one tried to chase us. Overall, the day was really exciting and spontaneous. We had challenged ourselves to not use Google maps or any technology and just follow the path, so not knowing where we were going was quite thrilling and made the trip feel more adventurous. It was fun to go with the flow and enjoy time with my friends, especially after all the craziness of the past few months.
How do you go about organising a trip?
We elected 3 people as a sort of ‘organising committee’ to find the location and site. They did the groundwork and short-listed 3 options for everyone to choose from. We all voted for our favourite – it was very democratic! This method worked smoothly and I’d recommend it for other fellow students – totally took the stress away. Everyone was tested for Covid-19 the week before we went, and each household had their own tent to be extra cautious – otherwise we would normally all share tents. As there were 12 of us, we had 2 pitchers with 6 people each and we would meet up in the middle to spend time together.
What do you look for in a campsite?
Showers and toilets are a big thing. We always check if they have a lot of them and what condition they are in. Also, any time you look at a campsite, you should definitely check their reviews on as many websites as you can! Another thing that was important to us was how family friendly the location is. A lot of campsites are for families. So, if you are a group of students travelling, following family rules such as no noise after a set time, might be something you want to avoid. Lastly, we always check to make sure the campsite is happy for us to make a fire. This is important as in the evening it starts to get cold and a fire is a way to warm everyone up and is a lovely place to talk about the day’s events.
Do you have any travelling top tips?
1. Always go with at least one person who has camped before. They will have knowledge that proves invaluable, like how to put up a tent.
2. Arrive during the day (learned that the hard way) as it is so much harder to put up a tent in the dark!
3. Make sure you secure your tent well enough and use a lot of pegs. What people worry about is the rain but the real concern is wind. If you’re travelling by car, park it next to the tent so it can be a wind breaker.
4. Always clean up your rubbish the night before. One time, we left our rubbish from the evening out and woke up to a load of wasps in our area!
What are your camping kit essentials?
1. An umbrella is an absolute must, even if the forecast disagrees.
2. Bring a portable charger for your phone.
3. If you can, bring extra duvets and pillows. Camping does not have to be an uncomfortable experience.
4. Always bring twice as many socks and underwear!
How would you rate your overall experience?
10/10. Even though it rained and the weather that weekend was not great, it was nice that in 2020, I could get together with a group of friends outdoors and still feel safe. Being in lockdown and isolating meant that I really valued our time together on this trip.
How do you feel about camping during Covid-19?
I think it is definitely doable as long as you plan ahead and are prepared. It may be more expensive because you might have to buy more tents and take more cars, so be prepared for that. Also expect to spend more time at the campsite as other local attractions may be closed for safety measures.
Are you planning any new trips?
We do a trip annually, so we’re planning one for next summer. Currently, we’re thinking of somewhere in France, depending on the Covid-19 situation of course.
What advice would you give to yourself before you went camping for the first time?
Try not to worry too much and focus on the positives. The weekend will end before you know it and you will miss the time you had. Pack warm pyjamas and do not let other people use your portable charger!
Sanam Mehli is currently studying English Language and Linguistics at the University of Kent. In her free-time she enjoys writing and travelling with friends.
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