Having just come back from a weekend's camping in Dorset, I thought I would share some helpful tips - more for myself if I ever decide to do it again than for anyone else! (Yes, I'm a total novice when it comes to camping - or at least I was. Now that I have spent 2 nights in a tent, I am of course a pro that can dish out advice to all and sundry):
1) Don't attempt your first camping trip alone. It certainly helps to go with seasoned campers. That way you can steal half their equipment, have them cook all the food, and generally look a bit less clueless about the whole thing as you simply copy what they do.
2) Borrow as much equipment as possible. It certainly helps if you have lovely friends that are willing to lend you a tent!
3) Make sure you have enough alcohol. Without fail, every person I mentioned our camping trip to said pretty much the same thing: Drink Your Way Through It. (This was after they had initially stopped laughing and looked at me with a dubious face, saying: "I didn't really have you down as a camper..."). These were our supplies for the first night:
4) Avoid the weekend of your 10th wedding anniversary if possible. A weekend in a 5-star hotel with spa facilities is generally more appropriate.
5) Check the state of all equipment before leaving. Do not laugh at the distress of one of your tent mates when their camping chair collapses the week before you go. You are guaranteed that this will happen to you on your first evening.
6) Camping chairs do not tend to stay together very well with cable ties
7) Book good weather. This is crucial. The thought of setting up and dismantling a tent in the rain fills me with horror. Thankfully it's not something I had to experience, as the weather was absolutely glorious!
8) No matter how warm it is in the day, you will still need an arctic sleeping bag. This is the countryside - all those open spaces and clear skies make for cold nights. Brrr....
9) If one of your party brings with them a brand new, still in the box, state of the art Vango Airbeam tent, make sure they do not inflate to more than 3psi, otherwise the tent that impressed everyone so much by inflating in 5 minutes will look a little less impressive when one of the beams pops and the tent deflates in the middle...
10) Most important of all - relax and have a good time. Oh, and try to drown out the cries of "I don't want to go home" from the kids. Otherwise, who knows, you might even have to do it again...and that would never do...