A weekend camping in your back garden is an experience not to be missed. We’ve all done it, some of us more times than others, but it is a classic memory that everyone needs to have. Being a nature-enthusiastic teenager who’s done this many times, I arrogantly call myself a connoisseur of weekend camping, to the point where I’ve figured out three key stages that any teen camping experience needs to have.
They’re the three stage rite of passage, the bread in a sandwich, the very air we breathe. They’re simply crucial, I say, adjusting my glasses, and they are as follows:
Phase One: Good Intent
The first phase of a camping sleepover is naturally the first three hours of goodwill and prosperity of the night. A scandalously early bed time is set – perhaps 12:30 – and the tent is set up.
Mattresses, fitted together like jigsaw pieces, indicate the complex social hierarchy of the teenagers involved. Some campfire songs are pulled out, dusted off and then promptly massacred by tone-deaf teens who shouldn’t be let into karaoke bars. Finally, eye masks are pulled on and, in something reminiscent of a scene from Snow White, the seven dwarves drift off to sleep.
Phase Two: Sugar
The second phase of the night is perhaps the worst: the seven bags of sweets, demolished only thirty minutes ago, make a comeback. Yes, the sugar has kicked in. It manifests itself in strange ways: To begin with, a multitude of little white screens filled the tent like fireflies, as we checked feeds or replied to whatsapp texts. Funny text-posts and horror stories are traded down the tent like prison inmates sharing contraband, and jokes are purchased with old, slightly furry sweets found on the tent floor.
Someone bravely finds an unopened bag of winegums under a pile of junk, and their exploits are greeted with muffled applause and cheering.
Phase Three: Nature late to the party
The third and final phase occurs at roughly 4:03 AM. At this point, everyone is finally quiet, their body clocks trying to salvage the situation as much as possible. It’s almost as if, Mother Nature, arriving late to the party and seeing everyone asleep, feels left out and throws a tantrum: The sun comes up with the speed and ferocity of an angry spotlight.
The haunting tawny owl is swiftly replaced by squabbling crows, and a pigeon perches on the tent to relieve itself. And, like toast being forcefully ejected from the toaster, the teens are up.
However, as if to make up for her earlier blunder, Nature quickly bestows upon the bleary campers a treasure trove of beauty: The morning air is breathtakingly fresh, the grass is speckled with crystal droplets of dew, and the sun sits like an amber jewel on the horizon. And the birdsong, well, the birdsong makes the past seven hours worth it.
It doesn't matter whether you camp in your back garden or out in the wilderness, it's a totally different way to experience nature.
Big Wild Sleepout takes place for one weekend every summer (this year it was 28-30 July). If you took part, be sure to tell them via their online award scheme, Wild Challenge.
Even if you missed the big weekend, there's still time for you to have a Wild Sleepout of your own this summer.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654