Super Simple Camping With An Urban Escape Quick Up Dome Tent

This week I took my girls camping. We’re not camping newbies, but we normally kick the camping year off with Feast in the Woods. This year we had some new kit to try out, however, so we grabbed a short midweek stay at Whitecliff Bay on the Isle of Wight.

The new kit in question was a four man tent made for people like me. It’s called the Urban Escape 4 Man Quick Up Dome Tent if you want to get all technical about it, and it pops up in under a minute. If you have a 7 and 5 year old hammering in the tent pegs it takes about 10 minutes from taking it out of the bag to moving your bedding in. Urban Escape

To set it up, you lay it out on the ground and unfold the corners. Grab the middle of the tent and pull it up – where the centre pole would have been – and it clicks up and into place.  There’s a cover square that you then lift over to make sure it’s all water proof, and then there are guy ropes and pegs to knock in around the tent to keep it in the ground.

It’s really that simple! (And if that doesn’t sound simple, don’t worry, there are pictorial instructions attached to the bag. )Read more: Super Simple Camping With An Urban Escape Quick Up Dome Tent

Ollie and Leila Pony Snuggle Sac {Review}

We’re officially in November, so I can without shame start talking about Christmas presents, because as a busy mama there’s nothing wrong with getting the gift-buying out of the way… but not before November, if my humble opinion matters! But we’re in November, and so I want to tell you about one of the best things we’ve been sent for review this year: Ollie and Leila’s Pony Snuggle Sac. It’s a sleeping bag, of sorts, and it’s gorgeous!

Ameli just loves everything horsey, so when I saw this Snuggle Sac sleeping bag for kids, I knew we had to have it. Her reaction to it was as expected, what with the gorgeous horse head poking up over the festive looking, bunting adorned, gold trimmed stable door.
Ollie and Leila Snuggle SacRead more: Ollie and Leila Pony Snuggle Sac {Review}

Vango Starwalker Junior Sleeping Bag {Review}

Summer is coming! As I write this, the sun is shining brightly, though there’s still a chill in the air. Soon though, soon, the weather will be balmy – or as balmy as it gets here in the UK – and we’ll be heading out to sleep under canvas. Read on to find out why the Vango Starwalker Junior Sleeping Bag is a must-have for young campers this summer.

The Vango Starwalker Junior Sleeping Bag for kids comes in either a panda or dragon design. We received the panda free in exchange for our review, and if you watch this video, you’ll see just how much the children loved it.

YouTube DirektRead more: Vango Starwalker Junior Sleeping Bag {Review}

Skandika Teepee Review

At the very end of last summer we were sent a Skandika Teepee tent to review, which we took out in the last week of the summer season at our local holiday park. We were offered a number of different tents, some very practical for families, some great for erecting single-handedly, and everything in between. I really had my heart set on the Teepee -style tent, and despite the warnings from Skandika that the tent didn’t have a sewn in groundsheet, I really wanted it, so they were kind enough to send it out.

Skandika Teepee Review

Things I loved about the Skandika Teepee:

I love the look of it, and the design. I love that I can stand up in it, and that there’s so much room, you can actually enjoy yourself, even on a rainy day – which let’s face it, if you’re camping in the UK, you’re bound to come across.

I love that it has two doors because it is a polyester tent, so when the sun is baking down on it, it can be really, really hot. Having the two doors open allows the wind to blow through, cooling everything down. This is a real winner!

I love how easy this tent is to put up. I put it up on my own with two little helpers and it took us less than 20 minutes, including having to move it as we realised that one side of our pitch was slush and the other was cement. The main thing is to make sure that you have the guide ropes in the centre laid out properly, otherwise it’s all skewed and takes forever to figure out.

I love how it looks on a field, with or without other tents around. It stands out as different from most other tents. There might be regular tents, or bell tents, but ours was the only teepee tent. I really liked that.

I also love the golden colour of the sunshine through it on a bright morning.Skandika Teepee Review

Things I didn’t love about this tent:

Okay, so the fact that the groundsheet isn’t fitted bothered me a lot more than I thought it would, and I was warned about it, so it’s not fair really to put it in things I didn’t like, but at night, it did feel that the lack of sewn in groundsheet (combined with the really soft ground) caused the tent to billow above our heads. I did find that unsettling!

The only things I thought were actual ‘flaws’ in the tent though, were the windows. Some of them were windows that you tie up, and some are the pretty plastic diamonds. The problem is, there’s no way of closing the diamonds, so anyone walking past can see in. We put suitcases and backpacks in front of them. The other thing is that the ones you could cover you could only cover from the outside, so you had to head out of the tent in your pyjamas to do them up in the middle of the night. Not really ideal.

So for me, this isn’t really an overnight tent, which is unfortunate as they are a few design issues that could be changed to make this a superb tent. That said, if you’re camping in a group this could very easily be your central, communal area between your tents, giving you a covered space to be together away from the elements. It is certainly spacious enough!

So what is the Skandika Teepee good for?

We used it for Aviya’s birthday party in March, decorating the inside and put all the food inside too, so the kids could run around in the marshy field we were in, but have a dry floor to sit on to eat and play party games. If we had a big garden I’d put it up without the groundsheet all summer long too, as it would make a perfect summer house, of sorts. It’s a fantastic event tent, able to hold at least 15 seated people, which is what we had in it for Aviya’s birthday party.

I have to say, despite the windows and the groundsheet, I still love this tent. If I knew we’d have good weather the whole trip, I’d love to sleep under this tent without the groundsheet. Couldn’t get much closer to nature than that.

In terms of Skandika as a brand, however, I have nothing but good things to say about this tent. It held it’s own in the wind, the pole is sturdy, the stitching is good on the tent, and I would happily try another Skandika tent, because I can’t complain about the quality!

Eco Camp UK – Real Family Camping

I love camping. There’s something about sleeping under canvas that just works for me. Sure, I get home dirty, exhausted, and with a sore back, but the peace of being outdoors, effectively, is well worth it. Except in most camp sites in the UK, camping doesn’t even begin to hit the spot. A field with more people per square meter than my overpopulated street? Nope, that’s not camping. 

I miss the trees, the  secluded spots, the open fires, things that just aren’t synonymous with the UK camping experiences I’ve had. Till we discovered Eco Camp UK.

Based in East Sussex, they are very secretive about their location. Almost annoyingly so. They’ll give you GPS co-ordinates to get you there, but if your satnav doesn’t take coordinates and your phone doesn’t have data signal in the area (there’s not much 3G cover in the surrounding area), you’re a little screwed. But never fear, a phone call to the ranger and he’ll give you directions, if you didn’t get that part sussed before leaving home.

On arrival at Eco Camp UK, you will park your car in an alcove in the trees, before being met by the warden and walked – walked – to your tent. If you’ve brought your own supplies, there are wheel barrows in the car park for you to carry your things to the camp site. It’s a lovely walk down to the camp site, only about five minutes for most people. For a mama with two smalls about 10 minutes.

We stayed at the Eco Camp UK for four days, and over the course of that time, discovered spots with already set up Yurts all around. They’re so nicely hidden, it’s lovely.

The rest of this post has been moved. Please find it here

 See the rough location on the Mamaventurers map





Mamatography Week 24: Camping And Crafting

I’ve been exceptionally busy over the last few weeks, and while that should technically give me loads of things to take photos of it just hasn’t happened that way. In fact, some days the camera hasn’t left my bag.  The days it has seen the light, it’s mainly photographed arty bits with Ameli. 160/366 – Montessori Dancers MobileI made these Dancers for Aviya and she absolutely loves them. I’ll share the ‘how to’ soon. They twirl and twinkle in the wind, and they keep her entertained for ages.

161/366 – I Haz Neck Muscles What a star. Look at that neck holding upping. She’s awesome. 162/366 – Camping We took Aviya on her first camping trip for the weekend (she’s 12 weeks now). We took Ameli when she was 8 months old, and all had a fantastic time. We were pretty unprepared for the cold, unfortunately, and ended up driving home (about a mile down the road!)  in the middle of the night and returning again in the morning for breakfast and breaking down the camp.  Amazingly, our peaceful and content Aviya slept through it all, but it was Ameli that cried fiercely from the cold. I was shivering and shaking too, so yeah, lesson learned.   But that’s why we camped down the road – sort of test driving the experience with two babies. We had a fantastic day with friends though, and hope to do it again soon. 163/366 – Camping and Crafting I’d brought a whole lot of crafting equipment along for the children to have some fun with. By the time we got there after spending a few hours in our very warm and cozy beds, everyone else had been up for hours, had breakfast and were breaking up the tents. I’d promised Ameli some leaf-printing crafts, so she picked some leaves and did some painting. Piglet got in on the action too, and Aviya? Well, she slept through the whole lot! 166/366 – Many Hands Make Light Work I showed Ameli how to hold two pencils together to get two colours at the same time. A minute later she had all her pencils in her hands and was colouring the bird glider from the bird-themed Toucan Box.

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// Thanks for joining us for our week in pictures.  Please visit the other Mamatography participants and see what they’ve been up to!

Flexibath Review And Competition

When Ameli was eight months old we spent a few weeks travelling around Europe, camping. It was incredible and we had a really awesome time, and I can’t wait to get Aviya out in a tent (if this insipid rain would end!) The one problem we faced on that trip was campsite showers.

Balancing yourself, your dry clothes, your towel, your toiletries, your eight month old and all her clothes, towel and so on, on a wet floor with a single – often broken – towel hook is a pain in the proverbial, quite frankly. And then when you’re in the shower and she takes off under the cubicle door in a unisex bathroom? Yeah – that’s really fun.Read more: Flexibath Review And Competition

10 Ways to Stretch Your Holiday Money

My husband, nine-month old daughter and I have been travelling around for nine weeks all told this summer. We have camped, stayed in hotels and cabins and for one week, with family. Here are some of the top things we have done to stretch our budget as far as possible:

Read more: 10 Ways to Stretch Your Holiday Money

365-189 to 365-195 A Week in Pictures

We’ve spent this week going from one beautiful place to the next. We are so blessed in this time of our lives.

Day 189 – Zucchini Flowers

We made some of these beautiful zucchini flowers that we bought in Italy on our camping stove in Switzerland today. Just their colour makes me feel warm and happy. Then comes the taste…

Day 190 – Sleeping Under the Heavens

Ameli having a nap while Martin and I prepare lunch. The campsite had this lovely outdoor kitchen area, complete with Aga which I wished I could take home with me and pop in my own non-existant garden.

Day 191 – Aunty D

As we drove in to the little town of Sreser we saw my sister there, standing talking to someone. I pulled Ameli in to the front seat and she saw her aunty and let out a squeel of delight. They walked back to where we were staying and Ameli smiled all the way.  My sister was with me when Ameli was born, and they have had a very special bond ever since, but I think this is the first time Ameli visibly and outwardly recognised her.

Day 192 – Soccer/Football World Cup Final

Quite a tough match to watch with an overtired little one, and honestly the only reason I watched was because I know it’s one of key moments in history people always refer back to. “So where were you during the 2010 World Cup?” I know the 1996 Rugby World Cup is still referred to often enough! Anyway, so here’s some of me, watching the game in a tiny little Konoba (pretty much a bar on a corner) in Sreser, Croatia.

Day 193 – Water Baby

Ameli loves the water. It’s been great. Born in water, never cried during a bath, splashes the whole bathroom during bath time, loves swimming and now loves the ocean. Every time we leave the house and walk toward the sea, she squeels with delight at the first glimpse of the ocean. When we let her walk, she walks right to it. It’s fantastic. My mother always said I should have been a fish, and I believe I can now say the same about my little girl.

Day 194 – Tristenik, Croatia

This beautiful, tiny port is regular host to seafarers from all over. We come here for the pizza, and my sister and her boyfriend come for the beach parties when it is packed full of ships. The more vessels, the bigger the party, apparently (when the party only starts at 11pm, it’s tough to take your baby along, sadly, so we didn’t go). For me, I just love looking at the boats. It reminds me of my favourite poem Wanderthirst by Gerald Gould – “the old ships sail to home again, the young ships sail away”.

Day 195 – Family

Martin and I have travelled a lot in our seven or so years together, and this is the first vacation where we’ve stayed in the same spot for nine days. It’s really been lovely, waking up whenever, having a slow breakfast, going for a swim, having an ice cream, having lunch, then a nap followed by another swim, a bit of a walk, dinner either locally or at a neighbouring village, perhaps a little sightseeing, an evening swim and then to bed. It’s been wonderfully unusual.

Thank you so much for joining us for our week in pictures

The Camping Kitchen

As much as I love camping, little is more frustrating than trying to make food in the middle of nowhere only to find you don’t have the right equipment. It’s like cooking in someone else’s kitchen: it’s really hard and the food doesn’t taste as good. Unless you are prepared and comfortable with your equipment, that is.

We’ve taken about six years to build up our camping kit, so this isn’t a shopping list of must haves – rather, it’s a ‘nice to have’ list to give you an idea of how camping with a babe in arms can be made simpler.

This also varies depending on where you’re camping and for how long. A weekend music festival will have different needs to a month long touring holiday. This is our full kit, geared towards a longer, low budget (i.e. less restaurants) holiday.

  • Gas stove and gas cylinderCamping Kitchen
    • You don’t have to have these. You could build a fire each time you wanted to cook, but that is such hard work and it is quite time consuming. Also, not all camp sites allow open fires. We have a two ring stove with a grill, but a single burner will do the job just fine too.
  • Pots and pans
    • These are next on our shopping list – at the moment we bring a frying pan and a pot from home. We like pasta, so we also bring a colander. There are much more space efficient options like the mess tin sets.
    • Your camping kettle. I love the old fashioned ones that whistle when the water is boiling.
  • Matches
    • As a non-smoker, matches never enter my thoughts, until I have a pot of water and no way of heating it! I’ve had to beg around many a camp site for matches! Now we keep two boxes in our picnic basket so that we’ll never be without again.
  • Utensils
    • Depending on your food choices, this might vary, but to us the essentials are knives, forks, spoons, a heat resistant mixing/serving/salad/stirring spoon, spatula, bread knife and a sharp vegetable knife.
  • Crockery
    • A plate, bowl and cup for each person. We also have pyrex wine glasses which slot in to each other when the base is clipped off.
    • A mixing bowl is also quite useful. You can use the pot or one of the bowls, but that can b++e troublesome.
  • Miscellaneous
    • A roll of tinfoil lives in our picnic basket. It comes in so useful with outdoor cooking, either as a wind shield, or as an additional pot. For years we wrapped veggies and fish in tinfoil with a splash of olive oil and herbs and put it on the fire for our dinner.
    • A pair of scissors – otherwise you may find yourself hacking at packaging with your car keys.
    • A bottle opener, and a tin opener.
    • A wash cloth and small bottle of washing up liquid
    • Serviettes or wet wipes
  • Cool box
    • Useful, but not for long periods and not on especially hot days. Once the ice has melted, the cool box becomes as warm as everything else, unfortunately – although adding newspaper to your cool box will extend the life of the cold.
  • Food
    • Salt, pepper, sugar and a jar of mixed herbs all in leak-proof, ant-proof, sealed containers.

Is there anything else that is an essential in your kitchen camping kit, or do you think I’ve missed anything out? Please let me know in the comments below!