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Sluban bricks

Here’s something we think is going to catch on fast!

Sluban is a new brand of building blocks that are compatible with other well-known brick brands – but way cooler! Sluban bricks are approximately 60% cheaper than other building blocks. They are made of high quality materials and all products are CE, ROHS and ISO 9001:2008 certified.

Jake had a go at building the Sluban Army Soldier – here’s how he got on!

The Sluban Fire Engine is the perfect gift for the kids, whether for a birthday or Christmas, they’ll have hours of fun. The Sluban sets are compatible with other well-known brick brands so you can mix and match sets to make your own designs.

Jake shows you how this one goes together! 

Take a look at our full range of Sluban bricks here

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Packing your camping gear away for winter

Are you done camping for this year? To get the best life from your equipment, it’s important to make sure you store it well over the winter months.

MAKE SURE IT’S DRY…
Mould and mildew will make your tent very smelly when you bring it out again next Spring and eventually it can make the fabric rot away.

Avoid mould with a few easy actions:

  • Take your tent down when it is as dry as possible. If it is wet at packing up time, shake off as much water as possible and wipe more off with a clean dry cloth or a towel.
  • If the tent is damp and you have room in the car, drape it loose over the luggage in the boot rather than putting it in the bag
  • When you get home unpack it and leave it out to dry as soon as possible. If the weather is still causing a problem, spreading it out in a garage or shed is better than leaving it in the bag while its wet. Even waiting a few days can cause damage.

ADDRESS ANY TEARS OR REPAIRS
Once you’ve arrived home and the tent is nice and dry, look and address any repairs that are needed.

  • Replace broken poles, damaged zips and worn guylines. Also check for tears in the groundsheet and flysheet. Some rips on seams can be simply sewn back together, either by hand or with a sewing machine, then coated on both sides with seam sealant. For ragged tears and seams it makes sense to add a patch. Gluing as well as sewing the patch on will make the repair more durable, and again, apply a seam sealant. 
  • Sewn-in groundsheets can easily be damaged by stones on your pitch. A small tear or hole can easily be fixed with a patch, but the best way to avoid this happening is to use a groundsheet footprint from the start. This protects the groundsheet from any sharp objects on the pitch and is much easier to clean when you get home.

WATERPROOF YOUR TENT

You’ll know your tent needs waterproofing if the rain starts to darken the flysheet.  Thoroughly clean the tent fabric before applying the proofer. Large tents will have to be pitched and washed/proofed by hand, but smaller tents can be washed in the bath or large sink.  Don’t be tempted to use washing up liquid or detergent of any kind, as these products will destroy the waterproofing on your tent.  We stock cleaning and reproofing materials from Nikwax and Grangers Fabsil.

STORE YOUR EQUIPMENT WELL

  • Make a check list and check your gear as you store it, looking out for anything that is missing, broken or damaged
  • Pack the tent loosely and store it somewhere dry and cool, like a loft, garage or shed, and out of direct sunlight.  If you’re lucky enough to have the luxury of a spare room, then this is the best place, as the temperature is kept more even
  • Storing gear high helps keep it away from rodents and insects but remember tents can be very heavy, so be very careful not to put it somewhere that it could fall on your head!
  • Food smells attract rodents and they will cause irreparable damage to gear by chewing through it on the hunt for something tasty to eat. Make sure you air out or wash all gear that smells of food and sweep out any crumbs before you pack it away
  • Air out sleeping bags and store them loosely in a mesh bag rather than leaving them in stuff sacks
  • Self-inflating mats fair better if stored unrolled – perhaps leave under a bed if you can
  • Remove the batteries from any gadgets and store them separately. This will stop the batteries running out and will avoid the danger of corrosion damage.
  • Unpack your stove, check the burners and give it a good clean
  • Wipe down tent furniture like wardrobes, kitchens, tables and chairs and check for any damage
  • Clean out food storage containers thoroughly

Take the time to pack away your camping gear properly, and you’ll be sure of making the best start to next year’s adventures.

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Advice on camping in Europe

If you’ve been going camping for a few years, you might think you know everything there is to know.

But taking your tent overseas on a holiday in Europe is a totally different experience. If, like us you’ve taken advantage of some of the great offers on channel crossings in September, here are some top tips to help you have a great time camping abroad, courtesy of Camping Magazine.

1 PLAN YOUR FULL ROUTE
If you’ve got a long drive to your chosen destination ahead of you, make sure you plan your route in detail. It’s important this… not only do you need to know where you’re going, obviously, but also how long the drive will take, roads you might want to avoid and where you might make overnight stops. Check where any tolls are as well, so you don’t get any nasty surprises. For countries like Switzerland and Austria you need a motorway pass, which can be bought online in advance or at the border.

2 GET YOUR CAR ROAD-READY
Once you’ve got your route sorted, you’re good to hit the road. Well, almost… because before setting off you need to make sure your car is ready to drive abroad. As usual before any long trip, check tyre pressure and the oil, coolant and windscreen wash levels. Fit deflector stickers to your headlights so you don’t dazzle oncoming cars at night. Your car will also need GB sign – either a sticker or a logo on the number plate, although how this will apply post-Brexit isn’t yet clear. Other important equipment needed includes high-viz vests, warning triangles and breathalysers, but check the local requirements in all the countries you’re passing through, even if you’ll only be on their roads for a short distance.

3 PACK A SEPARATE BAG FOR OVERNIGHT STOPS
Rather than drag your main bag out the car every time you make an overnight stop – whether on a ferry or at a campsite or hotel – it’s a good idea to pack a separate overnight bag with a change of clothes and toiletries. You should also take a large shoulder bag or daypack for essential documents, camera, money etc.

4 USE MOTORWAY REST AREAS
If you’re used to UK motorway services, this might not sound like great advice, but think again. Most on the continent are a joy to use – some are simply picnic areas, but others have petrol stations, shops and excellent food outlets. Do bear in mind though you’ll need some local currency to use the loos at some stops.

5 BRING STRONG PEGS
When the ground on your tent pitch is baked hard and dry by the summer sun, you’ll need pegs capable of being driven into the ground without bending. Flimsy metal or plastic anchors just won’t cut it in these conditions. To secure your tent use heavy duty steel pegs that you can hammer firmly into the ground. And a footprint to go under the groundsheet will help protect it from damage.

6 CREATE SHADE
They say only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, but if you insist make sure you’ve got plenty of shade. If your tent has a built-in shelter, try to set it up so it provides protection from the sun at the hottest time of the day. If it doesn’t, consider investing in an extension or canopy.

7 PACK AN ELECTRIC ADAPTOR
Your blue UK electric hook-up cable will work on many sites in Europe but there are some, especially in France, where you’ll need an adaptor to plug in your electric gadgets. A mains tester is worth taking to check the mains polarity. If the tester shows reversed polarity, you’ll need another adaptor to correct it before using British appliances. Check the situation in advance – you can buy adaptors at camping shops at home and some sites will lend you one if you pay a deposit.

8 BRING THE RIGHT GAS
Calor Gas is not available in mainland Europe, so if that’s what you use for your cooker or barbecue make sure you bring enough from home to last for the length of your trip. Alternatively, use Campingaz, which is readily available across the Continent. Be aware of restrictions on taking gas onto ferries and Eurotunnel.

9 TAKE A WASH BOWL
For some reason, sink plugs seem to go missing on sites abroad all the time, so it makes sense to take your own washing up bowl. A collapsible bowl, like the one below from Kampa, are probably the best option for space-saving reasons. Bringing your own loo roll is also advisable.

Kampa Collapsible Washing Bowl with Straining Plug

10 PACK YOUR BUDGIE SMUGGLERS
When it’s hot, cooling off in the pool is bliss, but for reasons best known to themselves, many campsites on the continent insist that men must wear tight, budgie-smuggler style trunks rather than Bermuda shorts. So, make sure you take a pair with you or risk having to traipse round the shops looking for a pair. At some sites you also need to wear a swimming cap – you canusually pick these up locallyfor a couple of Euros.

11 HIRE A FRIDGE
Having a full-on fridge in your tent might sound crazy, but even the most powerful coolboxes struggle to work in extreme temperatures so it’s actually a very good idea if you want to store food and drink. And many sites will rent you a fridge during your stay so luckily you don’t have to lug your own across the continent! We’ve even seen sites where campers return every year and leave their fridge-freezer (and barbecue) in storage on the site ready for their next visit.

12 STOCK UP ON MOSQUITO REPELLENT/CREAM/CANDLES
Mosquito bites can ruin a foreign holiday, especially if they get infected, so you can never have too much spray and cream with you. Citronella candles can help keep the bugs at bay. If you do get bitten make sure you’ve got something to relieve the symptoms stashed in your first aid box.   

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Campsite cooking recipes and tips

Cooking can be an afterthought when you’re on a camping holiday or you might think it’s just too much of an effort to cook under canvas and head for the local chippy.

But there are few things more satisfying than cooking a hearty, healthy meal for the family to enjoy using an outdoor camping stove or barbecue. With just a little organisation and planning, you can eat like a king and avoid overpriced and often not-so-tasty take aways.

Let’s get cooking…

A camp stove is an essential. Bring a coffee pot, two lightweight pans – one for liquids the other for frying – and bring the lids too. We stock plates and mugs that are perfect for camping. 

Remember to pack cutlery, a small chopping board, a sharp knife, a spatula and a large spoon

Don’t forget matches or a lighter, and a plastic bag for rubbish. Pack everything in a plastic container, throw in a few tea towels and some cleaning equipment and you’re all set.

Keeping cool…

You’ll need a cool box to store your frozen and refrigerated items, try to open it as little as possible. 

Another top tip is to freeze a few things in advance: a pint of milk or orange juice for example. As it gradually defrosts it will help to keep your other food items cold. 

Plan your meals…

Plan your meals efficiently and only bring what you need. Reusable silicone bags and Tupperware containers of pre-measured and prepped ingredients will make your life a lot easier.

A couple of weekends ago we had a visit from Jo Dunbavin from the Two Tarts Cookery School. She gave some live demos of meals that are perfect for camping (or cooking up in the garden at home). 

Jo gave us some fantastic campsite cooking ideas so follow the links below for downloadable recipe cards with ingredients and instructions for each meal:
• Camping Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya
• Camping Chicken Noodle Pots
• Camping Crispy Pork with Coriander Rice
• Camping Lamb Kofta Kebabs
• Camping Sweet Potato Dahl
• Camping Summer Fruit Fool with Crunchy Oats

So, if you are trying to find food your kids will eat while camping and caravanning, planning a solo backpacking or festival trip or just looking for ideas to cook and eat alfresco at home, we have everything you need to eat like a king (except of course, the ingredients!)

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How to enjoy wet weather camping

A camping holiday is a fantastic escape from the stresses and strains of real life. Hanging out altogether, as a family and exhausted at night from all the fresh air and fun!

The reality can be a little bit different, however. Make sure that if the rain doesn’t stop play with our top ideas for wet weather camping 

1. Invest in proper rain gear

Where would we all be without wellies and waterproofs? Rather than take shower-proof jackets on your trip invest in proper waterproof gear, including trousers, for the whole family. Tucked into boots they’ll keep kids warm and completely dry, opening up a world of outdoor fun in the downpour. 

2. Book a campsite with a good laundry facilities

No one wants to put on damp clothes or soggy footwear. You’ll have a bunch of unhappy campers on your hands if they’re pulling on wet gear. Drying out clothing can be a challenge for wet weather campers. Make sure you do your research and book a campsite with decent laundry facilities and covered drying areas. 

3. Pack plenty of newspaper to help dry footwear

Footwear always dries out best when toes are stuffed with newspapers. Help boots along by having an old newspaper or two stashed in the car. Be sure to pack extra socks too. There’s nothing like cold, wet feet to put everyone in a bad mood.

4. Shine a light on things

Rainy weather can bring dark skies and poor light, even in the middle of the day. Pack extra batteries for torches which may get lots of use. 

5. Make sure you don’t get cabin fever

Whether you’re staying in a caravan, mobile home, campervan or tent, rainy weather can bring cabin fever. You may need to hide out temporarily, but if the rain looks set to be a long-term prospect you really will need to get everyone on a trip outdoors. If you’ve packed the right gear you can set off exploring knowing everyone will remain relatively dry. 

6.Have a Plan B for barbecuing

Take a stash of non-perishable food that can tide you over if barbecuing is a no-no. Pack plenty of snacks too which can re-energise water-weary children. If bad weather prevents any outdoor cooking at all make sure you a bit of an emergency budget set aside for a dash to the local chippy!

7. Make fun of the rain

A wet weather walk can be great fun, so long as you don’t make it too long for younger members of the family. Forests, beaches, lakes and villages all change in the rain. Encourage splashing in puddles and games of poo sticks off bridges. By making the rain a feature of your games it becomes a fun thing rather than an annoyance. 

8. Plan a rainy-day bag

Camping is all about travelling light, no matter whether you’re pitching a tent or enjoying a fully furnished mobile home. However, it would be foolish to leave home without a rainy-day bag. This can be your survival kit for days when you’re stuck indoors. Depending on the kids’ ages include colouring books, paper, pens, puzzle books and card games. A favourite family board game is always a winner but avoid one with lots of little pieces which may get lost. 

9. Bring a laptop, for emergencies only!

As a last resort a fully charged portable DVD player or laptop can be used for movie time. Camping allows kids to escape the technology that increasingly dominates their lives, so only fall back on this one as a last resort. 

10. Try swimming in the rain

Swimming in the rain is a wonderful experience – find an outdoor pool and give it a try! 

You can’t predict the weather for your next camping trip, but you can adopt the Scout’s motto and ‘be prepared’. Rain doesn’t mean your holiday is a wash-out. 

Do be sensible and stay safe though and avoid camping in storm force winds!

We’d love to hear your top rainy camping tips!

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Pep up your campsite cookery

Jo Dunbavin from Two Tarts Cookery School will be cooking up a storm in our Devon store on Sunday 11th August showing you new ways to pep up your campsite cooking game.

Have you ever wondered what kinds of food for camping are easy to prepare but still taste good? Whether you are trying to find food your kids will eat while camping and caravanning, or planning a solo backpacking trip, this demonstration will inspire your inner culinary artist. You will even get a taste of the delicious meals that Jo cooks up!

Jo will give you some tips, tricks and menu ideas that you can take away and cook up a hearty, healthy meal on a small outdoor camping stove.

Live demonstrations and tasters between 11:00 and 14:00.

Recipes including:
Camping Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya
Camping Chicken Noodle Pots
Camping Crispy Pork with Coriander Rice
Camping Lamb Kofta Kebabs
Camping Sweet Potato Dahl
Camping Summer Fruit Fool with Crunchy Oats

Click the links above for downloadable recipe cards

Campsite Cooking with Devon Outdoor and the Two Tarts Cookery School
Sunday 11th August
11:00 until 14:00
Devon Outdoor is on the lower landscaping level at St John’s Garden Centre, Ashford, Barnstaple

FREE ADMISSION
FREE PARKING

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Your personal camping checklist

When it comes to a checklist for camping, outside of a few essentials it really depends on you how much or how little you take. We can help you whatever type of camper you are: from a light, back to basics type camper looking for a stripped-back approach right through to the large family group whose camping trip is their main summer holiday.

We’ve put together this checklist for a camping holiday. It’s a useful starting point for everyone planning any kind of camping trip to work out what gear you want/need to take on your trip.

Tent Checklist

  • Your tent – always choose a larger berth than the number of people camping, this gives you extra space for all your bits and pieces.
  • Tent Accessories – these can include tent porch, tent carpet and tent footprint (depending on your tent)
  • Spare Tent Pegs – nothing worse than bent tent pegs
  • Mallet – ideal for knocking tent pegs into the ground
  • Torch and/or Lantern
  • Duct Tape – you’d be surprised what can be fixed with tape
  • Brush
  • Electric Hook up

Sleeping Checklist

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Mat/Airbed – whether roll mat or double airbed, this can add comfort and extra insulation during the night
  • Camp bed – a camp bed gets you off of the ground and helps you to feel at home
  • Pillow 
  • Extra clothing – the temperature does drop at night, layer up and you can remove layers as you get warmer during the night
  • Ear plugs – other campers can be loud; whether after you’ve gone to bed, or before you want to wake up. 

Campsite Checklist

Your camp can be whatever you want to make it, and with so many furniture choices and other add-ons to think about, you can truly create a home away from home. Or, you can just take the necessary items like bin bags to make sure you can leave your camp space as clear as possible. Just remember to leave no trace! 

  • Furniture – camping chairs and tables can go a long way to creating a great social area outside the tent or in the living area
  • Portable Toilet – ideal for the middle of the night, or with young children
  • Windbreak – good for campsite privacy, and of course keeping the wind away
  • Torch/ Headtorch – very much needed for finding the loo during the night!
  • Bin Bags – leave nothing behind
  • String/Cord – can be used for binding, or an onsite washing line.

Camping Kitchen Checklist

Health and Safety Checklist

  • Personal medications (plus extra)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Sun Cream
  • Anti-bacterial handwash
  • Insect Repellent
  • Extra Batteries
  • Pocket Knife
  • Toilet Roll

Now it’s your turn..

Our checklist is just a guide for you to use to help plan your own camping trip.

Pop by and see us if you need any advice on any aspect of camping or caravanning – we’re always happy to help!

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Buying a driveway awning

WHAT IS A DRIVEAWAY AWNING?

Having that extra bit of space on your holiday is so important, but what if where you sleep is also how you get around? 

If you are lucky enough to own a campervan or motorhome, then there’s a fantastic solution!

Driveaway awnings are fantastic for adding extra space without taking away from your daily mobility.  

The drive away awning is a free-standing structure, just like a tent, that has a tunnel connecting your vehicle. This allows you to disconnect the awning from your van, drive away and come back to connect up your home away from home with ease after a day’s exploring.

WHY GET A DRIVEAWAY AWNING?

A bit of extra space in your holiday home can be incredibly versatile: a dining room, a bedroom to sleep extra guests, a play area for rainy days, somewhere to store bikes and boots and numerous other uses. 

The extra space provided can be used however you wish. Some awnings have an option to add a sleeping annexe to offer you even more space.

CHOOSING YOUR DRIVEAWAY AWNING

When choosing your driveaway awning the golden rule is to make sure it is within the correct height range for your vehicle.

You will need to measure from the ground to the awning rail/top of your vehicle, this measurement will determine what size awning you will need. 

Here’s two examples of different height vehicles and the awnings attached to the side.

This is the Vango Rhone Low Driveaway Awning 2019 attached to a standard height Volkswagen Transporter T5 panel van. 

The second image is Cayman Air XL (Highline) Driveaway Awning 2019 attached to a motorhome. 

Our experienced team can help you find the perfect awning for your camper van or motorhome. We have an extensive selection of driveaway awnings on display at both of our stores in Devon and Wales and we’re always happy to take time to discuss your requirements and show you around.

Take a look at our full range of awnings and buy a driveaway awning for your van or motorhome – Great prices, with many available on 0% finance.

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Top 10 tips for family camping

Children who camp outdoors at least once a year will go on to do better at school, as well as being healthier and happier, according to their parents. This is the finding of a research study carried out by the Institute of Education at Plymouth University and the Camping and Caravanning Club. 

With a fantastic forecast for sunshine throughout the summer, enjoy a fabulous family holiday in the great outdoors. Roger and Julie Wickham from Devon Outdoor and The Camping & Kite Centre have been camping with the family for over twenty years so they know all about the challenge of holidaying with kids of all ages! Here they share their top 10 tips for camping with the family…

Tip 1: Keep it close…

One of the very best tips for family trips is to camp near to home. For short weekend breaks you will be more willing to camp more often if there is not a long drive before or after each trip. We’re spoilt in North Devon and in Monmouthshire for some fantastic campsites close to our stores, so why go anywhere else!

Tip 2: Get an inflatable tent…

Air tents are an innovative design that means you don’t need to use tent poles. The ability to have a four man tent up in seconds means you don’t need to hesitate to go away even if only for one night.

Tip 3: Double up… 

It may sound expensive but having kitchen utensils just for camping (such as tin openers and graters) is so much easier than having the raid the kitchen drawers before each camping trip. And double up on your toiletries otherwise your toothpaste will be with the other half when you need it!

Tip 4: Plan your meals…

Work out a basic camping menu with food that is easily stored (tins etc) between trips. Pre-cook and freeze a few camping friendly meals such as spag bol or a chilli – they also be an ice pack in your coolbox.

Tip 5: Get some sensible storage…

Buy a selection of plastic crates or boxes – ideally with lids on, that you can store your camping items in. It makes packing easier and quicker and means you can prepack in the rain if you have to!

Tip 6: Pack lightly…

The less you pack the less time it will take. Sounds obvious but it’s very easy to over pack for a camping trip especially with regards to clothing. Just remember clothes can be layered, grime is part of the fun of camping and most sites have laundry facilities on site if things get really dirty. Do remember to take some footwear for wet conditions though – wellies and crocs are great for dewy grass.

Tip 7: Camp with friends…

Share jobs and responsibilities onsite but it’s also a great idea to take it in turns to plan and organise your camping trips – meaning all you have to do is pack the car and turn up, unless it’s your turn of course! And playmates = happier kids!

Tip 8: Keep the kids entertained… 

Pack a bag of toys suitable for camping that the kids won’t miss at home – such as cards, drawing and outdoor toys. Squeezing in a portable DVD player that can be used in the car or on rainy days when the kids are bored will also be a lifesaver.  

Tip 9: Stay warm and dry…

Everyone loves camping in the sunny summer weather but be prepared with extra layers for everyone. Avoid sleeping bags that are too cheap or too thin.On a chilly night put a hot water bottle in to warm them up before bedtime and you’ll stay warm all night (remove before children get in to avoid overheating). 

Tip 10: Clean as you go…

Take a dustpan and brush.  They’ll keep leaves, dirt and crumbs (and creepy crawlies!) at bay. 

For more advice or camping equipment visit Devon Outdoor on the lower landscaping level at St John’s Garden Centre in Ashford, near Barnstaple
or The Camping & Kite Centre at Raglan Garden Centre near Abergavenny.

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Where do you store your first aid kit and other essentials when you’re camping?

We hope that your camping trips and adventures will be without incident but having a first aid kit when you are camping is essential. If you should end up needing it, you’ll be glad you bought a kit suited to the outdoors and that you’ve got somewhere convenient, as well as quick and easy to access, to store it.

Trips, falls, stings and allergic reactions are all quite common but can be easily remedied with some medication. So, what do we take when we’re away camping? Our first aid kit contains:

  • Plasters of various sizes
  • Selection of bandages
  • Gauze pads of various sizes
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Sterile wipes
  • Painkillers and anti-inflammatories
  • Tweezers, scissors, safety pins
  • Sunburn relief spray
  • Anti-diarrhoea medicine
  • Antihistamine for allergic reactions
  • Hand sanitiser

If you’re looking for a kit all made up, we stock the Pro Force military first aid pack. Well, if it’s good enough for the military and it can be worn on your belt so perfect for trekking and hiking! 

As a final tip, be sure to check your first aid kit regularly and replenish any exhausted or outdated medicines and supplies.

We keep our camping first aid kit ready with the rest of our gear, so we don’t need to raid the bathroom cabinet before every trip. We think the Outwell Palmar M and the Palmar L storage boxes are perfect for storing first aid essentials 

We also like the Outwell Cana storage box. Again, it folds almost completely flat, is box is easy to transport and can be packed out the way when not in use. Ideal for clothes, books, games, toiletries or keeping torches and those all-important first aid kits safe. Perfect to keep everything from getting lost.

On longer camping trips the Vango Folding Organiser can be a lifesaver! It’s ideal for keeping living and sleeping areas clean and tidy – and it folds flat for easy transportation when not in use. It’s also a great bit of kit to take to the shops avoiding the need for carrier bags, it fits into most shopping trolleys and, with its compartments, keeps things organised.

Another great storage solution is the Outwell Cornillon. This versatile piece offers you a great combination between seating and storage. This soft top seat can be opened up to store anything you want whilst on holiday. It then flat packs to help save space when you are preparing for the holiday and simply opens out into a multi-functional ottoman.

If you’re away in the caravan, then the awning rail can be utilised for storage. These great organisers from Kampa really will help you find a home for everything you need.

If you take the time to give everything a place, you certainly won’t regret it!