Carry on camping? I doubt it

I tried to go back to basics this holiday, but we seem to have booked a canvas castle

By Miriam Shaviv, August 13, 2009

By the time you read this, I will have spent a week in a tent.

That is a sentence I never thought I would write. Given the choice between a five-star hotel and a camp site with portaloos, I would definitely plump for the hotel. But in the spirit of these austere times — when cheap is chic — this year, we are joining two other families in a muddy field somewhere in the New Forest.

The irony, of course, is that it has not turned out to be a cheap holiday at all. For the general population, camping might mean back-to-basics, but Jewish camping is a different business altogether.

The food alone is costing us the price of a return ticket to Tel Aviv (on easyJet, anyway). Because we are kosher, we can’t just improvise; a whole range of foodstuffs has to be bought ahead.

This includes barbecue meat and fish (although it is a little unclear how we are going to keep it frozen); hundreds (or so it seems) of rolls, pittot and bread loaves; pasta sauce, hummus and other essentials; and an endless variety of tinned foods — how can we not bring pickles?

Jewish camping is a different business altogether

Just to make sure our children do not starve, I spent my evenings last week assiduously baking muffins and oatmeal jam bars; my friend is in charge of biscuits and cake.

Meanwhile, our entire schedule revolves around the fact that sometime mid-week (ie after two days), we will have to restock. The rest of the country goes to Bournemouth for a day by the seaside, but we are planning to raid the local supermarket, which apparently sells kosher food, and stuff ourselves silly in the local kosher restaurant. It has all been planned in painstaking detail.

All this means shlepping kitchen equipment in triplicate —milchig, fleishig and pareve. I suppose we could have skipped the meat, but the men wouldn’t allow it.

Then there is the camping equipment. As it happens, I can build a tent out of nothing more than a blanket, some rope and a few stones — a skill acquired over many summers camping, as a teenager, with my youth group in Israel. This year, however, my contribution will not be necessary. We are sleeping in a four-bedroom, 12-person, five-star tent, which is actually larger than my house (and, thanks to falling property prices, possibly more expensive).

This canvas castle will come equipped with a table and chairs, travel beds for the kids (yes, such things exist), clothes for every turn of the weather, board games and books, iPods and iPhones, and even a doormat. It’s all there — for the purposes of this trip, our homes have been stripped of everything but the paintings on the wall. Is there a way of removing the kitchen sink?

The big dilemma, of course, has been how to fit all this into the car. My husband refused to buy a roof-rack — he is traumatised by childhood memories of his father chasing down the highway after his clothes. We toyed with the idea of taking two cars, but soon realised we would actually need two caravans; then, a removal van. In the event, I think we will have to hope that our Jewish car will take after the Jewish Temple, which, according to the Ethics of Our Fathers, expanded to allow worshippers to bow with ample space, no matter how many of them stood crowded together.

Tent, food, chairs, table, clothes, kitchen sink (if we can get it off) — it will all be fitting into our little Honda, even if the kids have to hold the tuna cans and I have to sit on Monopoly.

And, next year, if I show any signs of wanting to go camping, remind me I can’t afford it — and send me on a cruise.

Miriam Shaviv blogs at

Last updated: 3:05pm, August 13 2009