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Last Updated: Monday, 17 April 2006, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Why the British carry on camping
Airstream trailer in Isle of Wight
Camping 1960s-style (PIC: Cool Camping)
More and more Britons are packing their tents and heading for the countryside. So how did camping become cool?

Boy scouts, hippies and soggy tents.

Camping used to have a bit of an image problem. But no longer.

Mintel recently reported a "surge" in short-break camping holidays while membership of the Camping and Caravanning Club has increased by 10% in the past three years.

Camping has become more palatable to people who like the principle of enjoying the great outdoors but want to retain some home comforts.

Purists may shudder at the thought but tents have become more hi-tech and fashionable while some campsites have embraced luxury unashamedly.

Jonathan Knight
It's so different from the old soggy tent scenario
Jonathan Knight
Travel writer

Campers can show off their Ted Baker blow-up mattresses, Cath Kidston sleeping bags or Mongolian-style yurts, which are round, domed tents.

Jonathan Knight, author of Cool Camping: England, said the intervention into the market by top designers had introduced an element of style to the traditional camping weekend.

Although his research suggested many campsites were still below par, with primitive toilets, an adjacent motorway or noisy bars, some have pushed up the standards.

The toilets at Ayr Holiday Park in St Ives, Cornwall, for example, have mosaic floors, heating and piped music.

Mr Knight said: "It's so different from the old soggy tent scenario and it's introduced camping to a whole new audience.

Pete Doherty (left), Kate Moss (right) and friend at Glastonbury
Kate Moss
Jodie Kidd
Sienna Miller
Jamie Oliver
Kim Wilde

"The designers have made it cool but the popularity is because more and more people are living in towns and cities, many without a garden or outdoor space, and camping offers them an antidote to urban life."

He said the increased number of summer festivals meant more young people were camping, and for people who may have said goodbye to Glastonbury, the tent was being taken down from the loft and dusted off.

But is the camping concept moving too quickly away from its fundamental principles?

Mr Knight said: "I'm sure some camping purists would be aghast at floral print tents and the option to stay in luxury yurts.

"But if you go out and see all different kinds of people camping happily side by side, then people who appreciate the great outdoors would be happy for others to get the bug too."

Music ban

Traditionalists would applaud his choice for coolest campsite in England. Blackberry Wood in Sussex gives each camper a clearing in the wood for the tent, logs to sit on and space for a campfire. Radios are banned.

Why a tent beats a room... (PIC: Cool Camping)

One camper enjoying the silence, Tim Johnson, said: "The campfire has been a central part of our lives for thousands of years.

"Now we're missing out on that, living in double-glazed houses with central heating systems and air-conditioned cars.

"You can gather round a campfire with smoke in our faces and there's something very relaxing about that."

But the changes to the camping experience are not all about modernising or back-to-basics.

A campsite in the Isle of Wight run by Vintage Vacations promises an authentic 1960s experience, with original American Airstream trailers and vintage radios.

See inside the 'cool' caravans and tents

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