When we first started to travel, I was not a camping fan. I dislike bugs, being cold and mud – so it was no surprise that I’d rather stay in a comfy, warm hotel. However, on our first trip to a National Park in the USA, I was persuaded to give it a go. I’m so glad that I did! It was the best part of our trip, with nights around the campfire firmly cemented in my memory.
One of the main reasons I was happy to give it a go was for the cost. Accommodation is one of the most expensive elements of travelling. Camping can help with that. With pitch costs of around $26 per night in Wawona, Yosemite, camping can cut your accommodation costs in half.
When we first travelled to Yosemite and Tahoe, we had no clue about what tent to get and we didn’t want to have to pay extra to fly the tent over to our destination. This meant that we visited Kmart on our first day in the USA and, after much deliberation, we ended up buying a tent that was probably more suited to a backyard sleep over than a week or so in a couple of National Parks. Our main selection criteria was that it was big enough for three of us and had a sewn-in ground sheet (I refused to camp of there was a chance that spiders could crawl into my bed – ugh). We also ended up with sleeping bags that were fairly thin, and in one person’s case – didn’t come up past their chest! To be fair, the tent and the sleeping bags did their job – they were cheep and cheerful (we were not going to pay to fly them back to England and so they would be given away at the end of our trip) and they kept us clean and dry, however, they weren’t really designed for the cold nights of Yosemite.
Learning from our first experience, the next time we camped, we purchased a huge four-man tent in the UK and counted this as one of our bags, splitting the rest of our gear between the baggage allowance for the remaining three people in our party. This actually worked out far cheaper and meant that we had a sturdy, well-made tent for our adventures. Although there was lots of room in this tent (we could fit in four large airbeds!), it took four people, a good thirty minutes and the tips of one of my fingers to put up.
The big tent is great, particularly for camping trips on the UK but it only works out cheaper to take abroad if there are a few of you with whom you can split the luggage. So what do we do if it’s just me and Wandering Beeb? We did a huge amount of research and purchased a much smaller tent. We ended up with a MSR Elixir 3 tent.
This little tent is a beauty! Firstly, it looks the business – it’s fairly low to the ground and has a curved design, giving you lots of head room whilst feeling really airy. The ground sheet is sewn-in and the two doors are well-sealed to prevent any unwanted visitors or rain getting in. Although there is a two-man version of the tent, we were sensible to go for the three-man option to get a little extra room as it’s a very snug inside. It’s small, geometric design made it really sturdy and it was unbelievably easy to put up. Usually there is a lot of swearing and sore fingers when we camp – not in this case as it’s easy enough for one person to put it up in about 10 minutes – winner!! Even better, as it’s so lightweight and can be split up into two small bags, we were able to fit it in with our usual luggage allowance, meaning that we didn’t incur any extra charges.
One of the best things about this tent had to be the option to remove the outer layer and look up through the mesh panels at the stars. The Yosemite night sky is one of the most beautiful sights we have ever seen and to be able to look up at the stars from the comfort of our sleeping bags was incredible – something you would absolutely miss out on in a hotel.
As well as incredible sights, camping brings you together as travellers like nothing else. There is something about a good campfire and nights huddled round a torch that bond you in a way nothing else can.
What tent do you use? Any good recommendations? Tell us in the comments!