If you've tried to book onto a campsite in the UK recently, you'll be aware that many are sold out far in advance, or work on a 'first come, first served' basis. Especially in the school holidays, its common to find that sites are full, especially the ones with the best facilities and Trip Advisor reviews. Gone are the days of rocking up to a field with a rickety shower and toilet block, paying a few quid and enjoying the peace and quiet for a few nights. My most recent trip was on a term-time weekend, and the site (pre-booked online weeks in advance) was absolutely rammed. Camping forums online are all the rage, with people sharing and comparing photographs of their set-ups, complete with inflatable sofas, TV and microwave, and tents large enough to shelter half of Glastonbury. Many larger sites have tipis, safari tents, treehouses, or glamping pods - so even those who 'hate camping' can have an outdoor break for half the price of a hotel stay or a flight to Barcelona.
So - why the seemingly sudden upsurge in the popularity of camping?
I took it upon myself to undertake some research to answer that very question. I posted in a campervan forum and a camping forum, and began by asking:
Why do you camp?
The answers (266 of them) came thick and fast, and the majority of people had more than one reason for their love of camping.
Kathryn covered several reasons in her response: "With 2 adults and 3 children it is very expensive to go abroad so we tend to do the odd city break then loads of camping - camping has allowed us to have fun together without breaking the bank and we can take the dogs" Cost was the most commonly occurring theme, with 29% of respondents citing cost as a major factor in their choice. With holidays abroad now costing 34% - 46% more than pre-Referendum, its clear that finances factor massively in the rise of the staycation. Especially when parents are fined for taking their children out of school in term-time, and many holiday lets or trips abroad can double their prices during school holidays - as Geoff says, "Schools fine you now. Camping lets us holiday when the kids are off".
Children were another major consideration for many people, with 21% of respondents agreeing that it is great for kids to be outdoors, with the freedom and ability to make new friends, better sleep, fresh air and exercise all hugely beneficial. Add to that the 6% who appreciated the fact that camping is often off-grid, and you've got a recipe for some wholesome outdoor fun.
However - as well as the human babies, fur babies came pretty high on the list of reasons for staying UK-side. The freedom to take their dogs on holiday with them, avoiding separation and expensive kennel fees, was a factor for 14% of dog owning respondents (and one cat).
A sense of freedom is the reason that 18% of people love camping (especially amongst the campervan community). The ability to get up and head off into the wilderness at a moment's notice, holds a great appeal for many, as Becky says: "I can take the dogs. Nice walks in the countryside. Freedom to go where ever takes your fancy. You can be spontaneous. If the weathers good you can nip off after work on a Friday for a few nights. And its cheap. And you meet lovely people."
Getting closer to nature and spending more time seeing the UK countryside is really important for 12% of people. Juliette says it best:
"Should it be a night or two or a week away it doesn't matter because getting away from stressful lives and constant spinning wheel life is so important. The chance to switch off your phone/computer/any other conformist communication is a blessing. Watching the sunrise or indeed it setting, the simplicity of reading a book and knowing you are not going to get interrupted is priceless. The opportunity to listen to just the birds around you or the chattering of little children playing in a distant tent make me smile. I love the rain lashing down when I know my wellies are in the boot or the Mac is hung up ready to throw on. I love the sunshine even melting the chocolate for my marshmallows before I even decide that they are my pudding....I love sitting with my toes outstretched at the end of my reclining chair and smile as they twinkle with sand from the beach. I love seeing my children enjoy it even more than I do to the point that now they bring their children too"
So, there you have it. We camp because of the freedom of getting up and going, because of the love of our countryside. Because we love to see children running free, because we want to spend our holidays with our families and pets, and because it's affordable, fun, and simple.
Are there any reasons you'd add?