Camping as a Disabled Person

Are you a fan of camping, or have you always wanted to give it a try? It’s a great way to reduce the cost of your holidays and can be a fantastic experience in itself, getting you closer to the natural world. It does, however, mean that you will need to cope with some pretty limited facilities; so what do you need to take into account, and what sort of questions should you ask before you go?

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Accommodation

If you have a disability that affects your legs, trying to crawl in and out of a low-lying tent may not be a good plan. Should you decide that you do want to do this, it’s a good idea to get a single pole and hammer it into the ground beside the entrance to your tent when you set up (or have a helper do so). This will give you something to support yourself on as you lower yourself down or as you get back to your feet.

A better idea for many people are house tents, large rectangular tents with full-size doors that you can take a wheelchair through. Best of all are trailer tents, which fold out of a trailer you can tow behind your car. If you use a ramp to access the raised section, it’s relatively easy to get in and out of the raised beds without having to strain your legs. Taller tents can also accommodate raised portaloos.

If you have a disability that causes pain in your muscles or joints, it’s best not to sleep directly on top of your groundsheet (with or without a sleeping bag) even if you’re comfortable lowering yourself, because the ground can get very cold at night and make your problems worse. A folding camp bed or inflatable air bed can make all the difference.

If you want to go camping on your own and feel you can manage most things but may have difficulty putting up your tent, call and discuss this with the camp site owners in advance. Many will be happy to help you.

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Choosing a Camp Site

When choosing a camp site, there are several things you may need to take into account. The first is the accessibility of the site itself. How close can you take your car to the area where you can pitch your tent? Are any parts of the site terraced and separated by steps? Are there any steep slopes to consider?

The location of the site can also be important. Many camp sites are situated on hillsides or cliffs where strong winds can be an issue. This can be problematic if you have walking difficulties and it can also cause difficulties with house tents, which are vulnerable to collapse in windy conditions.

You may also need to think about site facilities. Few camp sites have disabled toilets, but in many the toilets blocks are spacious enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Check that they have level access, and don’t forget to ask about showers as well, as these may be separate.

If there is a swimming pool you would like to use, make sure there are suitable steps so that you can get in and out of it. Remember that many camp sites are small family-run places so there may not be a guard at the pool who can help you.

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The Local Area

When you’re camping you will usually need to take care of your own catering arrangements. This may mean that you need to do a bit of research about the local area to make sure there are accessible shops selling the things you need. If this seems likely to be a problem, talk to the camp site owners and see if they would be willing to pick up some groceries for you.

Camping stoves can be quite fiddly and can present problems for people with limited strength or movement in their hands. There are, however, many modern designs in which this is less of a problem. Check that you’re okay with your stove – and the lamp for your tent – before you go. You should also find out if there are accessible restaurants in the area for those days when you want to be lazy or enjoy a holiday treat.

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