I don’t know when, but somewhere in the last six months I agreed to a tent! To be honest it has been something brewing for some time, but I really thought we had a few more years before venturing down this path and I never thought it would be a tent. I thought it would be a caravan!
So one day in early January my husband came home from visiting our local Go Outdoors store and told me about ‘air beam’ tents - basically tents that you blow up! My inner geek took an interest and I think this was the moment it all began. The research started, we watched a lot of You Tube videos of different tours around different types of tents and it was quite clear early on that we really liked the Vango range of Airbeam tents. Luckily for us we live very close to NEC and mid-February they were hosting the annual Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show and even more conveniently it was on while the kids were off school and we’re staying over at the Grandparents - that was our romantic day together sorted!!
So we went armed with a head full of knowledge and a brand we loved in mind. What was great about the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show is that there is no better place to visit and physically see so many tents under one roof and lets be honest, you need to be able to stand in them to appreciate size and how your family will all fit in! And boy was I glad we did go. The tent we had in mind and fell in love with on-line was the supreme, creme de la creme of tents - the Vango Anantara Air TC 600xl. Believe me, this is a beautiful tent and does not disappoint in real life, but what slowly dawned on us as we started to tot up the size of ALL the stuff we still needed to get, was that it just would not fit in our car! So we grabbed hold of one of the Vango staff and started to ask all the questions - they could not of been more helpful and knowledgable (and this is another reason to go to the show so you can speak to the people behind the brand). We wondered though all the tents, being shown all the functions and reasoning behind the designs and what I really appreciated was the honesty - when we talked about our worries of the actual size of the Anantara there was no hard sell, in fact they pointed us in the direction of the smaller (less expensive) tents. This to me speaks volumes of the quality of a product and the staff behind the brand.
After almost 8 hrs walking around the whole show making sure we hadn’t missed anything from all the other brands (you would think we were buying a house!) we chose the Vango Azura Air 600xl.
Six weeks pass and suddenly the delivery appears!! (You order and pay for everything at the show from a distributor PJ Outdoors - they send everything out together once they get everything in stock). It took less than 24hrs for my husband to try out the tent in the back garden! It was the right thing to do though; we made up the beds, set the table and kitchen area up, tried to work out what was and wasn’t needed, all before we tried to fit it all in the car like a game of Tetris!
So we have the tent, we have ALL the gear (and no idea) - time to book up our first camp site! This is a mind-field, it’s like a whole new world opens up before your eyes. Where do we want to go? What kind of campsite do we want to go to? We knew one thing for certain, we wanted to be a close to home for our first few nights so we could get home if we needed to in case something was to go wrong, not work or forgotten some kit! Luckily for us we live in beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon so we had a fair few campsites in the surrounding area to choose from that we liked - quiet, not too big, but had electric hook ups! We weren’t quite ready to go totally pro the first time!!
We chose Mousley House Farm, Caravan, Camping and Glamping Site, less than 20 minutes away from home, but still far enough away that it felt like we were away for a break. We had booked up over the Easter Holidays - in April. Now, when I mentioned this to friends the common response was a gasp followed by “good luck in April” - however, this did not deter us! We were excited and the girls were just happy to be able to use their new sleeping bags!!
The big day arrives and we promptly get to work to set up camp! We were so thankful that we had a dry run in the back garden - within 20 minutes it was up!! Don’t be deceived by the pump that comes with these tents - they may look like they would take hours to pump up a whole tent, but they are a work horse! Within the first hour we were making dinner for the girls and settling in to our new digs!
We arranged the tent like it was home! The Azura has three main sections, the front section reused for our kitchen. We had a Vango Gastro Kitchen. This for me helped camping life experience - as stupid as that sounds - I felt like we had a kitchen! We arranged it so we had two burners on the top, so we could boil a kettle and make dinner and still have enough room for prepping the food. Underneath there is a concealed section to store the food and utensils so it could all be kept tidy. It has a concealed sink too, but we chose to just use our own bucket and gain the space on top! And where we placed it in our tent, we also had a kitchen window to look out of!
The middle section of our tent was the living area. We had it set out with a collapsible picnic table and two Vango Titan chairs. There was so much room in this section, it really didn’t feel like we were on top of each other at all. This was tested to the limit on our second day when we had a proper English rainy day and decided to stay in the tent as we had Dillon our dog with us and were limited to where we could go. And funnily enough this is what we all needed, no rushing about, just time to chill out and enjoy some down time together. The girls loved watching the storms brewing in the distance before blowing over us.
The last section of the tent is the sleeping area. This area has room divides that hook into position and our original plan was to have the kids in one section, us in another and the last one for over flow of ‘stuff’ - which in my mind would help keep it tidy. Now this is where trying out the tent for a few nights really helps - we actually ended up keeping it as an open area - us on one side and the girls on the other with our clothes arranged (somehow - we still need something for this) in the middle.
The most extravagant thing we have bought for camping so far is probably the mattresses. We were totally won over by the Vango Shangri-La Mattresses when we got to try them out at the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show. For me, sleep is everything! I don’t cope well without it, so this was an investment I was willing to take and probably my main worry about the whole camping experience. Let’s face it, a nights sleep can determine what kind of day you have! We bought two doubles, one for us and one for the kids to share.
The Vango Shangri-La mattresses self inflates and you feel like you are sleeping on a memory foam mattress - they were everything!! So how did our first nights sleep go? Well the kids slept through!! But remember when I said that a lot of friends ‘wished us luck’ for camping in April? Well I that first night we realised why! It was cold! Very cold!! We had a great electric heater (one for camping that switches off when it is knocked over) but we couldn’t keep it running while we slept and boy did it get chilly!! We were all fine while we were wrapped up in our warm sleeping bags, but somehow Emily (our 3 year old) managed to fall out of hers (I mean honestly, how do you fall out of a sleeping bag?). We poured her back into her sleeping bag, while our dog Dillon tried to get into ours - all fun and games huh?! While it was a slightly broken night sleep it was super comfy and really made us feel outdoors with the nature. Seeing the stars outside the town is incredible and worth it alone!
Our second night we had already learned from our first night! We were on a very slight slope and thought this may of been the reason why Emily fell out, so we shifted them to lie down the slope! We also wore hats to help keep warm. The kids took a bit of time to actually nod off due to the tent being a little lighter than what they are used to sleeping in at home, but this is part of the fun and they were asleep by 8.30pm…..and slept through! We also had a better nights sleep too, even though we still kept waking up to check they hadn’t fallen out again!!
After the rainy day, the sun came out and gave us the best last evening; the kids released a bit of energy running around the field and playing - it felt perfect! We were sad it was our last night. Who knew that only being 20 minutes away from home could give us the break from reality and rest that we needed. This was why we wanted to try camping. It won’t be our main form of holiday every year, but it gives us an affordable way to take the girls away for the school holidays and I have found some beautiful campsites I can’t wait to visit (I’ll try and post a blog about them soon and link them here!)
Our last night was cold, but we were so much better prepared for it. The girls were in their sleeping bags, hats on and extra blankets on top of them. We had done it, we had survived three nights away in our new tent and we loved it!! The only thing left to do was to take the tent down!! Could we do it in one go without getting a divorce…….?!??!
…….. of course we could!! All I’m going to say is that I am glad we didn’t film us taking it down the first time in the garden!! Practice is key!!
We have already booked up another week in the May Half Term down by Lynton and Lynmouth and considering I am sat here jut weeks away from going, still wearing a thick winter jumper and socks whilst in my warm home, it could be an interesting week!!
Hope you all enjoyed the story of our first camping experience as much as we did!! If you have any camping tips let me know and leave a comment! So until next time!
Thank you for reading,
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Hi I’m Claire and welcome to my travel blog! A journal of all our adventures as a family of 4 at home and abroad, sharing our tips and tricks along the way!
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