Can you ever come out of a camping trip feeling refreshed? Here's what you need
I wasn’t meant to be sleeping in a tent.
When my friends and I got tickets to Reading Festival, being in our late 20s and early 30s, it felt like the natural thing to do to book an AirBnB. ‘We’re old’, we said. ‘Definitely too old to camp, surrounded by people celebrating their A-Level results’.
Feeling smug after securing some affordable accommodation, months in advance of the festival, we patted ourselves on the back and looked forward to being clean, sleeping in beds, and having access to actual flushing toilets.
Our AirBnB had other plans, and cancelled less than a month before the festival, leaving us in a state of panic.
Booking somewhere new would have bankrupt us, so the only option was to pitch up a tent.
I don’t sleep well at the best of times. My mate Remy has a 12-step beauty routine and needs access to a sink. My friend Onno takes the longest showers known to man and likes to belt out some Frank Sinatra while doing so. My boyfriend Jack is tall and not the biggest fan of crouching in and out of tents. None of us enjoy a drop toilet.
Determined not to let this last-minute change of plan ruin the weekend, I decided that we would be leaving the campsite feeling refreshed. If not refreshed, then at least without needing to take a sick day afterwards while we iced our joints.
First things first, we needed a tent. We managed to find a six person one in good nick on Facebook Marketplace. Aside from being bloody massive and unpleasant to carry, it gave us loads of breathing space.
It was also tall enough for us to stand up in, which our desk-job-bad-backs really appreciated. Surrounded by other campers with their crawl-in pop up tents, being able to walk straight in was a relief.
Still, a tent is never really the most private of spaces. So we got a separate one.
The Decathlon shower pop up cubicle, which doubles as a changing room, was really useful for this. It felt pretty luxurious to have a camping version of a walk in wardrobe.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a way to attach the accompanying camping shower without bringing down the tent under its weight. However, the cubicle was a great place to have a wet wipe shower – the next best thing.
The shower itself though, did prove useful. For the first three days of the festival, there were no working showers across the entire campsite. By the second day, we were starting to smell and feeling very grumpy about it.
So the boys took it down to next to the water station (it wasn’t fair to turn it on near other tents due to water run-off), filled it up, attached it to metal barriers, and let it rain.
We hadn’t had time to let it warm up, but it did an amazing job of cleaning us.
Afterwards, we were armed with an Animal Towelling Poncho and Micro Travel Towel. The former, while bulky to carry, proved to be the most valuable item of clothing I brought with me.
It was perfect for drying off, walking to and from the showers in, and I was able to get dressed underneath it while using it as a modesty shield. The travel towel was small enough to fit in a stuffed rucksack, was quick drying and a really decent size when unfurled.
We were clean, we had plenty of space – so far so good. But did we sleep? Mostly.
Having set up a massive tent in the pouring rain, I couldn’t face spending even longer pumping up blow-up beds. Thankfully, we had mattresses that would do the job for us – one single and self-inflating and one double with an inbuilt pump.
I was really impressed with the single. It was up and ready to use within minutes and Onno, who used it for the duration, said it maintained its inflation really well.
We had a bit more trouble getting the double inflated, and ended up borrowing a pump from our neighbours – something Jack says could be his fault for not reading instructions properly (men, eh?).
When it was pumped up, it was very comfy and of a quality material. Unlike other double mattresses, it didn’t take up too much space in the tent – or in our bags.
The Forclaz trekking sleeping bag I used was lovely. As soon as I got back to our tent after that first night, I was straight in it.
Thin, but still capable of keeping you warm (it’s designed for temperatures above 0 degrees), I felt snug. In the mornings, when the tent became a greenhouse, I didn’t overheat; and when the temperature dropped (except on one very cold night) it kept me toasty.
What I will say about this sleeping bag is that, even though I drifted in and out in the almost-arctic conditions of that night, I did sleep. My friends had to dry out their sleeping bags the next day due to rain coming through the tent, but I didn’t need to.
To help achieve that rested feeling, I also invested in some sleeping accessories. An eye mask was a must as the sun blared through our ‘walls’ in the mornings. Earbuds were also needed to blot out the sounds of drunk revellers setting things on fire.
Then there were the other essentials we bought to help make the whole experience slightly more pleasant.
As we all know, the toilets are the worst parts of festival camping. With this in mind, I made my best purchase: toilet seat covers.
That layer of separation between my butt and reality was enough to take the edge off.
Coming home on the Monday morning, I wouldn’t exactly say I felt as clean, relaxed and rested as I would have having stayed in an actual house, but I didn’t feel half bad.
I had definitely washed more regularly than the majority of other attendees; I was hydrated thanks to our water caddy; had had eight hours of good sleep most nights; and my body wasn’t crying out in pain in the way I expected it to.
That’s pretty good going for four days in a field.
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