I’m not a natural camper

I’ll be upfront about it. The thought of camping in a festival tent does not fill me with joy.I’m not a seasoned camper. I don’t adore the sound of flapping canvas or early morning zips. I’m not a lover of near-divorce confrontations as we battle over whether to read instructions or wing it, how to insert the poles and in which direction. I’m not a massive fan of portaloos or wet midnight runs across the field with a half asleep small person who is holding her nose and whingeing about the ‘smell getting stuck in her nose’ (although I know exactly how she feels!).

Getting the tent out

Having received our tickets for Camp Bestival however, the most hotly anticipated event in our family calendar, I knew that we needed to haul our trusty family tent out of the garage. My husband lugged the huge bag out of the garage with a huge grin. He does love flapping canvas and presumably portaloos too, judging by the blissful look on his face. Had I known the happiness it would bring I would have sent him to sleep in it in the garden on a regular basis – win-win. His smile quickly disintegrated as the smell of mouldy tent escaped from the bag.

A family tent with plenty of room

We are a family of five, one of those is a near teenager with a need for more space than the rest of us put together. I have a bad back and need the camping equivalent of a four poster bed to be able to sleep. A tiny tent was not going to cut it. Also, we naively believed, we wanted a festival tent that would be a great option in hot and sunny weather, given the heatwave sweeping the UK.


A tent for all weathers

Turns out what we needed was a large tent (yes to accommodate my ridiculous camp bed and a mardy pre-teen) but more importantly one that would withstand gale force winds, horizontal rain and gusts of up to 65 mph. Camp Bestival 2018 will be remembered as the year of the storm. The year when the festival had to close its doors on the Sunday for safety reasons. The year not to pitch a tent right on the top of a hill when you haven’t been camping for seven years!

Camping sign camp bestival

We had the right festival tent.

Our Vango Longleat 800Xl was a breeze to pitch (even though seasoned-camper husband wouldn’t read the instructions and put the poles in the wrong way round at first), roomy enough to give us all breathing space and to chill out with a glass off wine when the kids passed out asleep but best of all – it was pretty much the last tent standing after the gale force winds battered us for hours on end.

All those smug-faced posh campers with their air-pole tents who had looked at us with barely disguised superiority when pitching their tents, fell off their high horses when the air poles collapsed. We still helped them put their guy ropes in properly in the middle of the night when their tents fell down but it was probably too late by then.

The miracle festival tent?

Our tent also seemed to have been impregnated with a miracle sleeping potion. In winds that rocked the tent, flattened our neighbours less sturdy shelters, and rocked campervans on their pitches – my kids slept. They slept like angels. For 14 hours straight. I’m still in shock. My kids don’t sleep. They do in a Vango Longleat 800XL.

Child asleep camping

So if you want a tent that holds its own, even when set against far more expensive models, a tent that is easy to pitch and simple to pack away when the winds and rain are so fierce that you can’t see what you are doing – this is the tent you need.

And if, like many parents, you are searching for the miracle cure for kids who defy sleep like little ninjas – this could be the answer to your prayers.


We were offered the chance to review the Vango 800XL longleat in exchange for an honest review. I promise that had it collapsed around our ears and been the canvas equivalent of ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’ you wouldn’t be reading such a glowing review.