Which type of camper are you?
Whether you prefer to glamp it up or go wild, seasoned camper Ed Douglas has advice for the perfect UK holiday under canvas
With the economy in the toilet, people who ordinarily rent a riad in Marrakech or a palazzo in Tuscany are rushing to book a patch of grass in the UK. Any patch of grass. It's getting crowded out there. Sales of camping equipment were up 40% last summer. This year, camping retailer Go Outdoors announced it would be creating 1,000 new jobs in the next two years. There's going to be an awful lot of new tents being erected for the first time this year.
For those who grew up camping and never really gave it much thought, this rush of interest causes mixed feelings. There's the temptation to smile sagely at the enthusiastic arrivistes who will insist on telling the world about their new discovery. Mostly, however, there's just relief and not being thought sad or weird anymore.
The interesting change is how the British love of class has spread through the camping world. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was something innocently déclassé about life under canvas. Other campers might talk posh, but they had the same sort of tents and ate beans or tinned ravioli and their kids did the same kinds of things as everyone else, just more nicely.
Now the stratification of camping is firmly established, and there's no such thing as a typical camper. Some are doing it to save cash, others actually like the experience of waking up in nature. Huge ranch-style tents with more rooms than a semi in Woking and a 4WD parked outside overlook tiny one-person jobs with no room to sit-up in.
Whatever style suits you, there are a few tips I've picked up along the way that are worth knowing. First, take a pillow. It's not very Ray Mears, but stuff it, cricked necks ruin moods. Whatever makes you comfortable is fine with me. Second, after three days of rain, you're allowed to quit. Not before. That's the rule. Anyway, lying in a heap with your people listening to rain on the flysheet is fun and good for you. And what's more, it won't cost the earth.
So, what kind of camper are you? Looking for a cheap holiday for the kids? Want the ultimate festival experience? Or do you need a soulful commune with mother nature?
Just because you're living in a tent, doesn't mean you have to abandon your sense of style. This is not to my taste, but fashion-conscious camping spots are springing up all over Britain for people who want to experience the great outdoors while still looking good. There's even a word for it – glamping. Britain's glitziest glampers head for Camp Kerala at Glastonbury, where a long weekend for two, including VIP passes and umbrellas, will set you back a cool £7,000. Slightly cheaper (but still much more expensive than the camping norm) are a number of yurt and tipi camps around the British isles, such as these:
• Deepdale Farm, Norfolk has four ready-assembled tipis with wood-burners inside, so you can just show up and throw your sleeping bag down. Deepdalefarm.co.uk, +44 (0)1485 210256. £40 a night if two people are staying, £72 for three to six.
• The Camping Book by Ed and Kate Douglas is published by Dorling Kindersley on 1 May at £12.99
The Guardian - Journalist: Ed Douglas