Why do people camp?
When we had our first long-distance walking and camping trip (here and here), we carried our tent, thin mats and sleeping bags, and basic cooking kit on our backs (well most of them were on my husband’s back). There was a true spirit of being free of modern transport and technology as we moved along the ancient path of the Ridgeway step by step, picking juicy blackberries and chatting with the cheerful trail keeper. But with a car, it feels a bit different. I was definitely grateful for having a car especially seeing hitch-hikers standing in the ever-changing rain and sunshine on the Isle of Skye. But somehow camping becomes just an affordable type of accommodation, losing much of its romantic and adventurous hues.
First thing I want to mention about this camping trip was the scale of packing. I can now fully understand the reason for “not wanting to move campsite every day” which I couldn’t understand just a year ago. There were two small suitcases of clothes, a bag of shoes of sorts, a 65-litre rucksack of cooking ingredients and equipment, tent and sleeping stuff (including airbeds, mats and blankets). Plus a few pieces of tarpaulins of different sizes.
We read extensively on the topic of making rain shelters with tarps in preparation to the weather forecast. However, we came to realisation within the first half an hour or so after arriving at the wind-whipped campsite on the Isle of Skye that it would not in a million years work. The tarp was torn instantly by the gale. I cooked a lamb stew under a temporary shelter like a refugee while my husband faffed around in vain to find a solution in the increasing speed and strength of wind and rain. A Swedish couple from a nearby campervan took pity on us and lent us a small folding table to shield the pathetic stove. At this point campsite staff informed us there was a camper’s shelter for hostile weather like this – we retreated to the little stone hut and stayed there most of the following days.
The first night was too painful to remember. But with such a memorable experience, it would be a shame if I didn’t share it here. Following the advice from campsite staff, we arranged our tent and the car in a T shape to use the car as a windbreak. I’m sure the car helped but it didn’t feel like it in the tent that night. The tent sheet flapped loudly and the structure shook violently. The fat raindrops sounded like bullets. I was worried, first of all, the car would get blown over and squash us; secondly, a campervan would miss our tent and drive into us in the dark; thirdly, my husband would catch a bad cold and not be able to drive back to Newcastle. In a dreamy state, I thought about poor shipmen on the sea just off the coast that night and RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain when the air bases were bombed at night.
Neither I nor my husband closed our eyes much, but eventually the morning came (oh I forgot to mention, unforunately I had to make a trip to the loo in the middle of the night as well). We emerged from our tent stiff and exhausted, but thankfully and miraculously, dry. The sun was shining. A man walked past and told us we just survived a night of 45 miles per hour wind and rain with a sense of typical British humour. We looked at our tiny tent with gratitude, thanked God for the protection and retreated to the camper’s shelter to cook breakfast yawning from ear to ear.
Thus we officially started our first day on the Isle of Skye.
P.S I thoroughly recommend this brand and model of the tent. It’s Vaude Taurus 3p. The cross-shape is very strong. This trip was actually the second time we suffered this hostile weather. The first time was in Eskdale in the Lakes. I was worried about similar things as mentioned above, plus the rising river flooding and washing us down to the sea (see that trip here). Why we always encounter stormy weather on camping trips I don’t know. The cross-shaped structure also means it’s very quick to put up – something we are very proud to be able to do. The porch has plenty space for bags and shoes. Just remember a 3p tent is usually for two people! I couldn’t see how this 3p tent could fit three people.