We've learned a lot since we rolled into our first campsite with our old van three years ago. We're still by no means experts, but we're pretty adept at putting up our little camp, keeping it going for a couple of weeks and breaking it down against the clock when there's a boat to catch 300km up the road.
But practiced as we are in some respects, I don't think we have it quite right, so as well as soaking up all the culture on our road trips, I also love the opportunities they afford us to have a good old nose at how other campers do it.
And I have decided that I'm a little bit in love with Dutch campers. They are so SORTED and I am extremely envious. They seem to get it just right, from their ever so practical and good looking tents to their outdoor cooking arrangements, it all looks completely effortless. If I had to fit four sit-up-and-beg bikes alongside a tent, two gangly boys and all the other stuff that you need for two weeks of camping into a small family car, I'd still be on my drive weeping, surrounded by broken bungee cords and upturned tent poles.
AND if I had to drive for ten straight hours just to get to my first campsite, I'd be unravelled to the point of uselessness on arrival and certainly not able to rustle up a fabulous looking supper, at the same time as putting up the perfect camp and conversing confidently in another language to my neighbours. But then I'm a distinctly un-leggy English girl with hair that frizzes in the slightest humidity, I have a slight fear of exercise and I ride a bike only on high days. Dutch I am not.
So here are the top four things I have learned from admiring my Dutch camper neighbours in recent years which I think I'd like to emulate:
- Shunning the beautiful yet largely impractical bell tent for a well-constructed tunnel tent in a soothing beige canvas and adding a porch area large enough for sheltered alfresco dining
- Laying out a peggable outdoor rug to denote the aforementioned alfresco dining area - so simple yet so pleasing.
- Making everything work harder. Converting the back end of a car trailer into a full cooking station for example (yes, really - I almost wept tears of envy) or using the basket on the sit-up-and-beg bike as a convenient multi-baguette storage area.
- And finally, breakfasting on cheese. CHEESE. I'm not a fan of cheese per se but even I can see the wisdom of a protein-packed breakfast taken leisurely in a field after a 30 minute morning swim. Well, almost....