Steve admits his first attempt at camping with three small children was a disorganised disaster: “It was all over the shop with kit, nappies and general carnage, but the sensation of waking up with my young son snoring next to me, the twins clambering all over my wife and the sound of breaking waves in our ears was unforgettable.
“The most important things you can pack are a sense of humour and a sense of perspective. The certainty is that discomfort is short-lived, but memories last forever.”
Steve’s trusted camping companion is the new seven-seat Highlander, the largest hybrid electric SUV model in the Toyota range. After two years with a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, the new vehicle is ideal for his growing family with its space for extra seats, luggage and kit.
Steve Backshall’s top tips for what to take on your family camping adventure
As soon as you start camping with babies, the amount of kit you have expands exponentially. It is essential to have a tent that packs small and light, goes up quickly, and has plenty of space. Critically, you want the tent to be big enough for the whole family to sleep together, while being sufficiently wind and weatherproof to avoid any nasty surprises in the middle of the night.
Travel cots are bulky and heavy, and rarely that comfortable. Alternatives like a travel pod or nest, that can be folded down into a tiny backpack can create a handy crib. Stick it inside your tent or even alongside you at the beach for an instant infant safe sleep zone.
It says something about their relationship that this is the present Steve asked Helen to give him for Christmas – a comfortable and light camping seat that is packable. Steve claims he would sit in it at home in front of the telly if he could.
Steve says before finding the perfect portable grille, cooking over an open fire was a lottery. Attempts using logs or bricks as supports would inevitably end up with burnt food spilling into the ashes. The one he uses is ready in seconds and turns the campfire into a stove. Always observe safety and etiquette when using an open fire in any outdoor setting.
A baby buggy can be the most expensive item you’ll need for a great family camping trip. It’s important to choose one that is good on rough terrain, that you can run with, and which gives the little ones a really good view. An unexpected advantage has been the seat on the back of the buggy, which Steve’s son loves riding on when he’s feeling lazy.
While the buggy is great, sometimes you want to cover some serious terrain on foot, and nothing on wheels will cut it. These packs are so well engineered that babies feel weightless. Steve has tested their quality on rocky paths and mountain routes.
Steve has three very fair children, so sun protection is vital. That means making sure sun hats are firmly in place and regularly applying high factor sun screen. Using sun suits means you can always spot where the kids are and they’re convenient because they dry out quickly
Camping is not just about the end location, but the journey along the way, and keeping spirits high before reaching the campsite relies on a good choice of vehicle.Stevehad a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid for two years and loved it, particularly for being economical, quiet and spacious – everything you need for a stress-free drive to the campsite. It served faithfully as his adventure wagon, kids’ climbing frame and mobile base-camp, and it never let him down. His new Toyota Highlander has an extra row of rear seats, which means Steve can comfortably load up all the children, Helen and even her mum.
These are a must if the children are on or near water. They fit snugly and Steve makes sure all his youngsters wear them whenever they are close to water.