CAMPING ESCAPE: tips and recipes for a night under the stars
Break free from the hustle of life with our go-to guide of tips and campfire recipes for a cosy camping getaway.
If travel restrictions opened our eyes to the delights of UK holidays – and in particular, our wild and beautiful landscapes – this summer is when the gift keeps giving. Camping is one of the best ways to explore the countryside right on our doorstep, getting back to nature with campfires, cosy tent nooks and hot chocolate under the night sky. Perhaps the best aspect of the tradition lies in the sheer, loose-footed adventure of it all: you can rock up anywhere with your tent, with a pitch, and a view, to call your own.
I myself am a bit of a fair-weather camper. I love being under canvas, waking to the dawn chorus, cooking al fresco, and living at a slow, thoughtful pace. But at the same time, I do like my home comforts! So, I’ve decided to list some of my favourite items that always make it into the boot of my car, along with our bell tent, for a camping trip that strikes the balance between fun and snug. I’ve also shared three of my favourite go-to recipes for a supper round the campfire.
If camping isn't on the cards for you, you could always spend a night under the stars in your garden all the same, or mix things up with some campfire cooking. Happy adventuring…
Top tips for a cosy camping trip:
Take your pillows and duvet
A stack of pillows and your duvet cover offer the ultimate home comfort in camping. Squish them into an Ikea bag or pillowcase; they pack down smaller than you think.
Pack a sheepskin or two
Useful as a rug, tucked into a camping chair or bench, and as a warm layer in bed at night time.
Find some old apple crates
They're so easy to pick up on eBay and work as a sturdy and stackable way to pack your objects. Put them on their side to use as a little cupboard to store kitchen things underneath, and pop your stove on top. They can also become a comfy stool, too, with a cushion or sheepskin on top.
Bring lots and lots of blankets
You can never have enough. Dot them around your tent to make a kind of carpet, use them like a shawl on a chilly evening, pop on the bed for an extra later, or take them on a walk for a picnic blanket.
Invest in enamelware
Plates, mugs, tumblers, utensils, teapots. Enamelware is hardwearing, it stacks, cleans easily, it's light and undoubtedly pretty enough to use at home when you're not camping. Tumblers and mugs also make excellent toothbrush holders to take to the loo with you; or you can use them to store cutlery in.
Rig up the festoon lights
Nothing is more beautiful on a summer evening than the glow of a festoon light. They instantly make your camping spot that bit more magical and homely.
Stock up on baskets
Don’t hold back! Tents can become messy very quickly, but a basket can help in so many ways. Put dirty clothes in one, and toys or dried foods in another. They're easy to carry from place to place, and brilliant for wild swimming, picnics and shopping trips.
Bring the doormat
OK, this one sounds silly, but a doormat in the entrance to your tent is a reminder to take shoes off and keep the inside of your tent dry and clean.
Take lots of produce bags
One for toiletries, another for a first aid kit, or with a bin bag inside for rubbish. Produce bags are endlessly useful.
Don't scrimp on kitchen stuff
Cooking over the campfire and making a morning brew are the best bits of camping: so go ahead and dedicate an apple crate to kitchenware. Here's the (non-exhaustive) list: plates, bowls, mugs, tumblers, cutlery, serving spoons, napkins, tea towels, V60 Pourover (easier to clean than a cafetiere), teapot, chopping board, sharp knife, serving dishes, beeswax wraps, bowl covers, produce bags, gas stove, bottle opener, tin opener, wooden spoons, ladle, jam jars, carafe, colander, pans, dish brush and scourer. Phew.
Three recipes for a delicious campfire supper
Mussels & French bread
If you're by the sea, mussels are cheap to buy. Just fry some onions and garlic until soft, pour in a good lug of white wine, add the mussels, and stick the lid on. Once the muscles are all open, chuck in some parsley and season – serve with French bread. Just the quickest, most delicious camping supper. If you need a recipe, here's a simple one.
A big veggie chilli
I cook a big pot of this chilli the night before we leave for an easy supper that can be reinvented in multiple ways. Serve chilli with boiled rice, bread, jacket spuds cooked in the embers, an avocado and a grating of cheddar, or a dollop of sour cream. I cook enough for two nights, but we always end up making friends, inviting them for supper and eating it around the campfire on the first night. Last year, we shared our chilli with a family of circus performers. The next morning we found a bunch of foraged flowers in a jam jar on our doorstep, as they moved on to their next adventure.
A cheap, quick meal you can prepare and adapt easily. This is my favourite recipe, but use what you can get hold of. You can prepare the spices from home beforehand in a little jam jar, or take a jar of harissa and stir that in instead. Mop up with bread, and have two eggs each if you're feeling really hungry after a day of wild swimming or long walks.