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Thinking location, location, location
We’re blessed across this sunburnt country to have a wealth of camp grounds, holiday parks and wide open spaces speckling our soil. Choosing a camping haunt is half the mission... and can also be half the fun. If your kids are old enough, encourage them to research some Aussie destinations they’ll enjoy. The more involved they are in the planning process, the more excited they’ll get. Think about whether you’re a clan that prefers access to sun and sand, or maybe you’d prefer bush-based fun. Or do you want the best of both worlds? A national park by the sea could be the way to go.
The essence of any camping trip is the tent setup – and for beginners, knowing what to look for in a tent is tricky. First consider how many people it needs to fit. Are you looking for one big family tent, or would older kids enjoy the freedom of their own ‘room’? Also don’t take the term ‘ four-person tent’ literally. They’ll fit lying down... but only just. That’s not even considering the bags and sleeping equipment you’ll need to squeeze in. You also need to make sure you can stand up inside the tent comfortably. Our advice? Minus two people from the suggested capacity. All tents are also given a water head rating to show weatherproof credentials. If it’s likely to be bad weather, aim for a rating of around 3000 and definitely try to steer away from anything below 2000.
You don’t have to rough it just because you’ve gone bush. If you pack little luxuries like a fan for the tent, eye masks and ear plugs, citronella candles, MP3 speakers, seasonings (even just basic salt and pepper) and moisturiser, you’ll be surprised at how clean, calm and comfortable camping can feel. Also, investing in a good airbed, pump and soft sleeping bag can be all it takes for families to be wide- eyed adventurers and not a hoard of zombies. Or even pack the doonas – vacuum-pack bags are great space-savers if you go for this option. You can even upgrade to stretchers with airbeds on top – raised and padded is a simple joy. Don’t forget your pillows!
Speaking of comforts, there are few commodities that scream ‘glamping’ better than a Weber Q (RRP start from $289). You’ll be able to whip up everything from bacon and eggs for breakfast to roast dinners in the evening. Regular barbecues are the popular way to go – just make sure you don’t forget your gas supply. If you want to get more rustic and resourceful but don’t want to cook everything in billy cans, look into buying items like an ever-faithful Trangia stove. They’re small and simple to use, and the kids can even learn some bush kitchen tricks. Also, consider taking a pressure cooker, they make boiling rice and veggies a whole lot easier. If you do choose to go somewhere more remote and you’re not sure of the water situation, a portable SteriPen can make any water safe to drink.
Camping is a golden opportunity to encourage teched- out kids to get ‘back to nature’. Leave iPads at home... or at least in the boot for unexpected downpours. Many holiday parks offer a kids’ program, especially over the summer holidays. If not, there’s probably equipment, jumping pillows, pools or the ocean on hand – it will amaze you just how easily kids make friends in such an environment. They’ll be swapping snack packs and campfire stories in no time!
If camping solo or your children are a little shy, have a stash of ideas up your sleeve to get them interacting with their surroundings. Teach them ‘camp cooking’ by toasting marshmallows or baking bananas over the campfire, or create a pre-departure scavenger hunt and see how many things they discover. If they’re crafty, get them a scrapbook, scissors and some glue to document their memories, or help them make ‘bush sculptures’ out of found objects.
Little jobs like fetching water, gathering firewood, even washing dishes will be great fun for kids and will give them a feeling of accomplishment. Oh – and family board games, cards and billy tea at night around the lantern is a must.
01 Camping is fun for all ages 02 Dunns Swamp camping ground at Wollemi National Park 03 Edward River in Mathoura 04 Royal National Park in NSW is a great spot for camping 02
05 05 Get the kids away from the computer and involved in all kinds of activities