Blog : Camping at car shows

Ian Nicholls

Mini IMM Camping (2)

For the past dozen years I have camped in my tent at car shows. I have camped at the Norfolk Mini Owners Club show at Fakenham Racecourse, the BMC/BL day at Peterborough and the 2011 International Mini Meeting in Switzerland. Part of this experience invariably involves rain.

The final straw was the 2013 International Mini Meeting at the Mugello race circuit in Italy in May. I had looked forward to this event for months. Taking a 1990 Mini Cooper all the way down to sunny Italy and experiencing glorious driving conditions and weather. I packed two pairs of shorts, numerous T-shirts, two pairs of lightweight canvas shoes, three pairs of trousers and a coat. I took along my best shoes for eating out on the journey to and from the Mugello site.

On the Thursday we were due to arrive at Mugello, I was part of a six Mini convoy, we encountered torrential rain on the autostrade. In fact it was so bad that stopping would have been a saner option, the conditions were positively dangerous and I had a nasty moment aquaplaning in a tunnel. We arrived at the circuit to be told that the pre-planned camping for the various Mini clubs was all up in the air. The ground was so waterlogged that it was every man or woman for himself. The clubs that had got in first had seized the solid ground.

We entered the site and selected an area to camp, all this in driving rain. We erected our tents, while our repeated walking on the same patches of grass turned it into a muddy, slippery quagmire. The rain continued well into the Friday. My jeans were caked in mud, the rain got in everywhere. I had to use my best shoes to walk the Mugello site.

A change of trousers followed, but it was not long before they were muddy too. On Saturday my colleagues went to Pisa, but I spent the day showing our own Keith Adams around the Mugello site as the rain had abated for a while. Keith had wisely stayed in a hotel where he was able to enjoy such luxuries as dry clothes and warm showers.

In contrast I was living in a mud infested environment where damp and I were intimate acquaintances. After spending Sunday morning with Keith, we packed up ready for our journey to Milan and a hotel. As an act of resolve, I put my tent in a bin at the circuit. Never again would I camp at a car show. If we had stayed any longer we would have contracted trenchfoot.

I said goodbye to Keith, who himself was threatening to camp, I never found out if he did, and we drove to Milan. In the hotel I put my best shoes under a hot shower to get the mud off and they are still drying off. I had to wear my canvas shoes instead and they soon became damp because of the intermittent rain. I did not have dry feet for five days.

The weekend after we returned to the UK, the Norfolk Mini Owners Club had a camping weekend at Fakenham, including two long car runs. The weather was glorious. But I drove too and from the event. Camping is not for me. As soon as I erect a tent, the heavens open. Fresh air and the outdoor life might sound like a good idea, but for me the reality is dampness everywhere, mud and squalor, of never having the right clothing available. The next time I want to stay overnight somewhere I will book into a hotel. It might cost more, but I think it is a price well worth paying to be warm and dry and clean.

The best place for a tent is a rubbish bin.

Mini IMM Camping (1)

Keith Adams


  1. That monster mini was backstage at Glastonbury in 2010, albeit with a slightly different paint job!

  2. Ian, I can feel with you – although my personal camping experiences are only very few… Only the thought of trying to put a wet tent (and everything else wet) back into the car… So the last time I went “camping” on my own, I took the Maxi, some blankets, pillows and a nice sleeping bag. And while everyone else was trying to squeeze the soggy stuff back into car boots, I flipped the seats back up, wiped the droplets from the nightly, torrential rain from the paintwork and was ready to set off 🙂

  3. Keith would’ve had plenty room in the Clubvan to fire a sleeping bag in, surely 🙂

    Had plenty good times camping in a van or camper. Soon as I put a tent up though, the heavens open. Boiling some food and the saucepan ends up with more water than when it started.
    Then, at 6 foot 3, my feet hit the condensation at the bottom of the tent, my hair gets soaked by the other end.

  4. Well, you can’t have a celebration of a British icon without the appropriate British weather?

    Experienced festival goers always take waterproofs,wellies and foot powder (trench foot can and does occur in such conditions). That said, waterproofs tend not to be at all comfortable for all-day wear (unless they are the very expensive breathable variety).

    I think Glastonbury would have been an appropriate place for that Mini camper- now there’s someone who goes prepared!

  5. Last music festival I went to, the wellies gave me blisters so I could barely walk!

    The other half had a good idea though, and managed to rent a ‘pod’, which were like little sheds to live in for the duration.

  6. I camp at Le Mans every year (27 years now) and have a great time. You just need to be hyper organised and take everything that you own – it’s the only way of doing it !!!

  7. I live 20 miles from Kelso , I remember seeing all the 2CVs going round back then…

  8. Ian if I was an evil man, I’d mention the sunburn I got over the weekend at a car show last weekend – it was in Italy by the way….

  9. Oh I couldn’t agree more!
    I’m a veteran of camping and yet I keep coming back for more!
    When it is good the sun is shining, the BBQ is on the go, you and your friends are conversing around the BBQ, guitars and music are on the go, a few drinks, beautiful countyside, great company, bliss!
    When it is bad its a mud bath, rain, tents blown away, water everywhere! mud everywhere! You cannot get dry or warm.
    I once got septicemia at a small festival and ended up in Hospital. It started as mild tonsillitis but after 3 days in the cold, mud, wet and rain I was feverish and unconscious in Bristol Hospital!
    These days if i’m going to a car event (or other) and camping is on the cards, I will thoroughly check the weather forecasts. Even then I may just book that hotel.
    Oh I camp 5 or 6 times a year, I have all the gear, but to be honest I hate it!
    And Tomorrow I’m going camping in the Yorkshire Dales with friends! (I never learn)

  10. I don’t have a problem with camping at shows except that I’m too tall for it.

    Oh wait, you mean sleeping on the back seat of the car doesn’t count?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.