Gearing Up for Eurocamping (or “Hotel Room in a Bag”)

I won’t lie.  Flying to Europe with all the gear necessary for camping is not exactly convenient.  But it makes family travel a more affordable possibility and adds to the sense of adventure.  And it is possible.

We decided long ago that hotel rooms for a family of 5 were out of the question and investing time and money before you leave will mean that you are prepared and save quite a lot on food and lodging in Europe.  Our family has camped in France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary and The Czech Republic and have found that campgrounds are plentiful and easy to locate.  Websites like Eurocampings.co.uk include lists of amenities and customer reviews, and GPS coordinates make finding even out-of-the-way sites easy to locate.  Campgrounds range from adequate to luxurious, but almost all have the basics of sanitary, dishwashing and laundry facilities.  Campgrounds at the higher end are more like resorts and may include fresh baked goods, a store, cafe and recreational activities.  We certainly aren’t roughing it in most cases and see our tent as a place to stay – not the main attraction.  Days are spent exploring interesting sights and nearby cities.

More restrictive baggage allowances mean that we have to pack light, but we’ve found equipment that makes it easier.  Here are some of our more recent discoveries.

TENT

One word of advice – invest in a decent tent.  We started years ago with a cheap model from Target and were sorry when we had to deal with torrential rains that turned every stitch hole into a mini fountain.  Our tent is a North Face Mountain Manor 6 and although it’s not ultra-light it’s manageable and fits into a large duffel bag .  Remember, your tent is your home and the investment is about the same as a couple of nights in a hotel.  The Mountain Manor is roomy with standing room and includes many nice features such as vents at top and bottom, a waterproof rain fly and a good-sized vestibule.  The best thing is the easy setup!  Two people can easily set this tent up completely in less than 10 minutes thanks to a handy clip system and color-coded tent poles.  Check out this nice review from another satisfied customer.

North Face Mountain Manor

North Face Mountain Manor Tent

SLEEPING BAGS/PADS

Go for lightweight sleeping bags and pads, especially when you can only carry a few bags.  We have several different kinds and have been happy with the REI brand.  Ok, it’s not like sleeping in a luxury hotel with adjustable beds but you’ll live, and for us the rewards of travel are worth the sacrifice.

DUFFEL BAGS

You can’t beat this 32″ expandable rolling duffel bag for the money!  Found at Wal-Mart, this $14 bag is sturdy and fairly easy to maneuver.  Soft sided and easily collapsible, these bags are great for limited trunk space.

SPACE BAGS

This year we discovered Space Bags at Target and they were a revelation!  Using either a vacuum hose or the roll-up method, the handy valve really works and makes it easy to triple your space.  We even used one to compress a particularly fluffy sleeping bag.

CAMP KITCHEN

We have 2 micro camping stoves that are compatible with Campingaz, which can be found at campgrounds, supermarkets and hardware/garden stores across Europe.   Small and easy to use, a stove and a fuel canister will allow you to cook simple meals or reheat convenience foods.  We also brought along our trusty mocha pot espresso maker for morning coffee and a small saute pan and cooking pot.  Throw in a thin cutting surface, wooden spoon, spatula and a Swiss army knife (with can opener) and you’re all set.  Plastic cups, plates and silverware are easy to locate once you reach your destination.

CLOTHING

Pack light and take less than you think you need and remember that most campgrounds have sinks for handwashing laundry as well as washers and dryers.  This year I discovered lightweight Magellan Islander pants at Academy and think that these pants/roll-up capris are stylish, practical and a great buy at $19.   Eddie Bauer’s ultra-light First Ascent product line is ultra-light and quick dry with simple lines and a nice fit.  Bring just a few t-shirts and buy others as wearable souvenirs.  And think layers for cooler climates.

Breakfast at Langenwald

Camping Breakfast

Plan ahead, invest in a few good things, buy a few useful souvenirs and enjoy the trip!

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tom Simpson
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 09:28:59

    Wow — that’s very impressive. Not sure I could do it myself. 🙂

    Reply

    • puravida
      Aug 27, 2012 @ 19:23:16

      Let’s put it this way, Tom – the mishaps make great stories! It has definitely been a learning experience and gets easier each time.

      Reply

      • Tom Simpson
        Aug 27, 2012 @ 19:25:18

        Ha ha, well put. I’ll be camping about 30 miles away with my family this weekend. All I can handle thus far. 🙂

        Reply

  2. puravida
    Aug 27, 2012 @ 20:01:43

    Sounds like fun! And you won’t even need space bags! Enjoy your trip.

    Reply

  3. nutsfortreasure
    Sep 08, 2012 @ 15:17:11

    We will camp under the colored leaves with days cooler and evenings under the star lit night soon can’t wait Love camping along a river just like home away from home 🙂

    Reply

  4. pdjpix
    Oct 04, 2012 @ 08:05:49

    Great effort camping in Europe. We’ve been lucky enough to do a few campervan trips. Our first was in a vw Kombi – room for 2. I bought this in Holland whilst on a 9 month trip. Our next was a privately rented camper from owners in Holland – an 8 week odyssey with 2 teens. Our last was a 2 week trip to the south of France. All camping trips are awesome. Here in Australia I take school students into the wilderness to experience camping at it’s most basic. They love it! Thanks for checking out my photography blog.
    Peter de Jong, Sydney, Australia

    Reply

    • puravida
      Oct 04, 2012 @ 08:45:17

      It’s great that you take students camping! I’m sure that they love it. Wish we could do our European trips more often but we may need to explore the Texas Hill Country instead. Thanks for stopping by – I enjoy your blog.

      Reply

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