First-time campers

For ex­pe­ri­enced out­door-types, pack­ing up ev­ery­thing a fam­ily may need for a break in the bush is a breeze. But for a first-timer it’s hard to even know where to be­gin so we’ve loaded up a swag of tips to turn clue­less campers into camp­ground con­querors.

Caravan, Camping and Holiday Parks with Kids - - Contents -

Rookie campers, have no fear! We’ve put to­gether a sum­mary of all the ba­sics just for you

Afam­ily camp­ing hol­i­day con­jures im­ages of the kids run­ning around wild and free, marsh­mal­lows roast­ing over a fire, and lit­tle ones co­cooned in their sleep­ing bags, all snug­gled to­gether in a cosy tent. But there’s more to plan­ning a suc­cess­ful first-time camp­ing adventure than pack­ing a tent, some marsh­mal­lows and hit­ting the road.

Where to camp

Whether you want to go hard­core or are a sucker for com­fort, fam­i­lies are spoilt for choice when it comes to choos­ing a camp­site in Aus­tralia. For those who’d pre­fer to get back to ba­sics, there are more than 500 na­tional parks around the coun­try with ex­cel­lent camp­ing grounds that range from pow­ered car­a­van sites to re­mote fa­cil­ity-free clear­ings.

There are also hun­dreds of hol­i­day parks that of­fer pools, play­grounds and other ac­tiv­i­ties for kids, which can make life eas­ier for ten­ta­tive be­gin­ners. Here you’ll also en­joy the added con­ve­nience of bar­be­cues, camp kitchens and laun­dries.

Which­ever you choose, you’ll dis­cover the same rules ap­ply when it comes to pre­par­ing for your camp­ing trip.

The tent

Make sure your tent fits your fam­ily! As a gen­eral rule, if a tent is de­signed to sleep four, it will do that, and only that. For a fam­ily of four, we’d sug­gest look­ing at a min­i­mum of a fiveor six-man tent to en­sure a more com­fort­able, and far less stress­ful, stay. A tent with an an­nex or sep­a­rate rooms is a great idea, as you can al­lo­cate one space for stor­ing gear and the other as a clean space for sleep­ing. Be­fore in­vest­ing in a lot of gear we sug­gest bor­row­ing or hir­ing gear for a first foray into the out­doors to see if it’s for you. And be sure to prac­tise erect­ing the tent in the backyard at home at least once – it will be so much harder once the kids are try­ing to ‘help’ on site.

Don’t let the bed bugs bite

Choos­ing the right sleep­ing bag is vi­tal. It should be rated to the cli­mate you’ll be camp­ing in or you’ll end up too cold or too hot and very un­com­fort­able. You also need to keep in mind that the ground is not as soft as your reg­u­lar bed and sleep­ing mats, air mat­tresses or stretch­ers are wise in­vest­ments. Just make sure you have what you need to in­flate an air mat­tress… no one wants to spend their evening puck­ered up to in­flate a mat­tress man­u­ally.

Be pre­pared

Like with any new ex­pe­ri­ence, first-time campers need to ex­pect the un­ex­pected and be pre­pared for it. It’s not enough to have a tent and a sleep­ing bag; you’re go­ing to need other equip­ment to en­hance your over­all ex­pe­ri­ence – from lanterns to first-aid kits to the right cook­ing equip­ment (see our check­list on the next page). Oh, and make sure you pack enough food to keep the fam­ily fed!

Camp cook­ing

Most camp­sites have bar­be­cues and com­mu­nal kitchens avail­able but it is a good idea to bring along a gas stove just in case. You’ll also need an esky to keep your food fresh. When plan­ning your camp menu keep it sim­ple. This is not the time to wow them with com­pli­cated dishes that re­quire loads of in­gre­di­ents or hours of prepa­ra­tion. Think bar­be­cued meat and salad, sand­wiches, fruit and plenty of wa­ter (and wine, for when the kids go to bed). Def­i­nitely don’t for­get the marsh­mal­lows, and al­ways clean up af­ter your­self! Dis­pos­ing of food scraps prop­erly will de­ter ras­cally vis­i­tors of the an­i­mal kind.


If you like the idea of sleep­ing un­der the stars, but aren’t so keen on lug­ging or set­ting up all that gear, many camp­grounds now in­clude pre- erected tents fur­nished with beds and blan­kets aimed at novices want­ing to get back to na­ture with­out all the hard work. All you need is to rock up and your tent awaits.

Appy campers

There are some great apps avail­able to help you stay con­nected and safe on your camp­ing adventure. Wik­iCamps Aus­tralia is a great user-gen­er­ated camp­ing app with all the lat­est tips and in­for­ma­tion on car­a­van and camp­ing sites across Aus­tralia. The of­fi­cial Aus­tralian Red Cross First Aid app is def­i­nitely es­sen­tial for all fam­i­lies, with in­stant ac­cess to step-bystep ad­vice on han­dling com­mon emer­gen­cies. The NSW Na­tional Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice’s free app, WilderQuest, is also a great ini­tia­tive for en­cour­ag­ing kids to learn more about Aus­tralian plants and an­i­mals.

01 Three happy campers 02 Set­ting up camp 03 A prime spot at Mer­im­bula Beach Hol­i­day Park Hot Tip Don’t for­get gaffer tape! It’ll come in handy for all quick-fix jobs.

04 04 Ocean Beach Hol­i­day Park’s Sa­fari Palm Tent ac­com­mo­da­tion helps you camp in com­fort

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