Recently, we ventured to the NEC Birmingham in order to attend the Caravan and Camping Show. I was pretty excited to see so many of my favourite outdoors brands under one roof, and we couldn’t miss the opportunity to try and find a nice new tent for us. Not many shops have their tents out on display just yet, so knowing that we’d be able to browse the very best offerings from a large range of suppliers at the show, inspect them properly and know exactly what we were buying made heading to the exhibition an absolute no-brainer – and guess what? Our hunt was a success! We bought a tent! Knowing that we’re now ready to pitch up at a camp site the moment the weather turns towards summer is so blooming exciting, and I have so many holiday ideas planned!

Pickle looking very cheeky on a camping holiday in a field

Our Family Tent Criteria

After borrowing our friends’ tent for our camping trips last year, we knew from experience what kind of thing we were looking for, and these were our criteria:

  • Tall enough for LPD to stand up in
  • Fairly large living space, big enough for Pickle to play in if the weather is rubbish
  • A bedroom space that can be split into smaller bedrooms or kept as one large space
  • Easy to pitch
  • High water resistance

I also liked the idea of having lots of window panels in the living space to let as much light in as possible as well as to enjoy the views different campsites have to offer, and we also liked the idea of having possible expansion options for the future.

Pickle playing with the tent camping poles

Royal Family Tents: Buckland

Initally, we made a beeline towards Royal tents. When we visited the show last year, we came very close to buying one of their tents: an 8 berth poled ‘Brisbane’ tent. We were impressed with the size of it, the price and the little extension which allowed us an extra little living area. If I remember rightly, they were offering the tent, carpet and extension for under £500 which seemed an amazing price for a tent that would be sure to last us for however big our family should grow.

This year, they were showcasing an updated model: the ‘Buckland’. One of the Royal team was fairly impressed by how well I’d spotted the differences between them. Buckland has the addition of roof windows, slightly more angled poles to allow for more headroom, and pitch black inner tents for the sleeping compartments. It was still an impressive tent, but this year, we didn’t quite feel it was the one for us. I think partly the reason for this was it’s sheer size – it felt massive, in a way that made me worry how long it’d take us to pitch it. With a toddler who is always on the go, speed of pitching needed to be high on our priority list as there’s only so long you can keep Pickle entertained with snacks before he starts to make life difficult. It felt too much for us, right now. Although, it’s still a style I think we’d reconsider in a few years.

Royal Family Tent: Welford

LPD and Pickle under the canopy of a four berth family tent from Royal

Blurry as anything photo snap, but Pickle’s face cracks me up here!

Royal did have another, smaller tent that we debated for a while too: the ‘Welford’ 4 berth tent. Again, this was a poled tent, that felt a better size for us but we weren’t particularly sold on most of the living space being under a porch canopy rather than being behind a door. Although it makes a lot of sense to have a nice open front to the tent, the added security of a zipped door was quite important to us. Although it was really budget friendly (they were offering a bundle show price of under £300), it still wasn’t quite right.

An unexpected Air Surprise

In an effort to stick within our budget (we didn’t have a strict figure in mind, but as I’ve only just gone back to work, we didn’t have a great deal of money at our disposal), we hadn’t really looked at many air tents as we just thought they’d all be out of our price range. It was fairly common to see air tents priced at over £1,000 and we definitely can’t stretch to that at the moment So imagine our surprise when we wandered into a Kampa Air tent, that offered us plenty of space, super-easy pitching, was within our price range and had the display model for sale at an even cheaper price.

It didn’t take us long to make our decision! We’d found the one for us.

Kampa Paloma 5 Air

Paloma 5 Air tent from Kampa (Stock image)

I couldn’t have designed a tent more perfect for us. The Kampa Paloma 5 tent itself is wonderfully spacious, giving us plenty of room for storage as well as for playing but the addition of the canopy extends it even further – and will be perfect when the weather is lovely, and give our entrance way a bit of shelter when it’s not. We learned the hard way last summer just how boggy and muddy a tent can become in the rain! And seeing as we have a lovely tent carpet, there’s no way I want to be traipsing lots of mud in and ruining that.

Paloma 5 Air tent from the sleeping compartment

For the time being, we’re likely to keep the sleeping inner tent as one big compartment – allowing for LPD and I to sleep on a double blow up, with Pickle in his travel cot next to us (similarly to how we slept last year) but as he gets older, we’ll be able to separate into two bedrooms using the divider. At the show, Pickle loved climbing in and out of the sleeping section, pushing his way through the divider and coming out the other side. In fact, I think a lot of our decision to go for this tent was made based on how much he obviously enjoyed himself playing in it!

And thanks to the crystal clear windows, I was treated to quite the beautiful sight when he got excited that he could see me inside. What a handsome boy.

Pickle's squished face seeing through the crystal clear Kampa tent windows

For the tent (which includes a manual pump for the air poles), the carpet and the canopy, we paid £400. I still can’t believe we picked up such a bargain. This goes to show how much you can save through attending the Caravan and Camping Show, as the RRP for the tent on its own without any extras is £750. I would still like to buy a footprint (an extra groundsheet which helps protect the sewn in groundsheet from dirt and pebbles) which will help ensure our tent has as long a life as possible, but you can pick one up for about £30.

Because we bought the display model, it meant hanging around until the end of the day to collect it. Is it weird that I felt so proud folding away the canopy? I still can’t quite believe it’s ours! The guys at Kampa expertly rolled the tent up – a top tip from them: you should always fold the tent to three-quarters the width of the storage bag to make sure it fits in once rolled up. And always keep a door unzipped so that there’s a way for air to escape. Two tips I wish I’d known for the past twenty years!

Pickle asleep in the carrier standing outside our new Kampa Paloma 5 Air tent

It still all manages to fold away into one big bag, which LPD carried like a hero all the way back to the car. Now all that’s left is to book some trips away… I wonder where we’ll go first?