What is your style of camping?
Camping falls broadly into two styles: Car-to-campsite and backpacking. The first allows for a large heavier-weight tent and as much kit as your boot will take, while the latter requires lightweight tent and equipment. I like both types of camping for different reasons.
This style of camping offers more home-from-home comforts. If you are planning on a longer trip with the family a roomier family tent with bedrooms for all and a living area-cum-galley kitchen will makes it easier to get along for an extended period. Luxuries in a tent such as head height for standing up, a cooking area, larder, space for all your crockery and cutlery etc adds to the enjoyable experience.
Some people even add carpet, fridges, solar panels for charging up iPads and phones and a toilet tent. I can still recall a camping trip to South Wales with good friends. While we arrived with the basic equipment they had the full works of camping items. I watched in wonder as they produced glasses for G&Ts, a stove that toasted bread, a fridge and also a toilet tent that could be used after dark when a walk to the campsite toilet block often seemed like a stroll too far.
The essence of a car to campsite camping trip is a comfortable yet affordable holiday and no need to scrimp on your personal luxuries. A campsite also offers a good base for a family holiday and usually provides toilets and showers as well as children’s playgrounds, a shop and sometimes a restaurant.
At the opposite end of the spectrum a backpacking camping trip allows you to escape from the crowds and enjoy wild or remote camping. To make this kind of trip as comfortable as possible you need lightweight equipment. The heavier your kit the heavier your backpack so a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, crockery, stove etc will make the trip a whole lot easier on the walker.
Many couples who go backpack camping will buy a lightweight two-man tent and split the weight between rucksacks. So one person might carry the tent and pegs while the other takes the poles. Remember that lightweight doesn’t always mean robust, so if you are heading somewhere that has fickly weather it’s best to choose a tent that can weather a storm. You might need to carry a little more weight for peace of mind. If you know the weather will be good, a pop-up tent could be a good option.
Balancing weight and warmth is also important in a sleeping bag. I remember taking part in a two-day adventure race that required every participant to carry their overnight kit in a rucksack. Borrowing a super lightweight sleeping bag from a friend I happily set off to do the event. It was only when temperature dropped at night and I found myself shivering inside a half down sleeping bag that I realised I should have added a heavier weight bag for warmth. A sleepless night is not worth the weight reduction in a rucksack.
Forget luxuries such as pillows, plates, decent cutlery etc on a backpack trip. Most people make do with the minimum and enjoy getting back to nature. Eating out of a cooking pan with a spork can actually be a wonderful experience!
For a good range of tents and kit toilet see Jackson Camping