FEVER PITCH

Ev­ery­thing you need to know to kick­start your first camp­ing ad­ven­ture

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - TRAVEL WISDOM | OUTDOORS - DANI WRIGHT

Aus­tralians are more con­nected than ever be­fore but the need to dis­con­nect is also be­com­ing greater than ever as more of us are look­ing for the sim­ple plea­sure of let­ting na­ture in­spire and re­ju­ve­nate. So, if you’re crav­ing a camp­ing ex­pe­ri­ence but aren’t sure where to start, here’s our begin­ner’s guide to camp­ing.

A ROOF UN­DER THE STARS

First things first: what kind of tent will you need?

It can be daunt­ing con­sid­er­ing all the op­tions, but the best place to start is de­cid­ing how many peo­ple will use the tent, what your bud­get is and what the tent will be used for be­fore you head into a store and get swayed by the sales pitch.

Lucy Gra­ham from Tent World says if you’re just start­ing out, it’s best to con­sider a con­ve­nient in­stant-up tent, be­cause it re­duces set-up time and there’s no need to fig­ure out how to thread poles through frames.

“Peo­ple are of­ten sur­prised how easy an in­stant-up is, but make sure you get a tent that’s big enough to be roomy,” Lucy says. “If you have two peo­ple camp­ing, I’d rec­om­mend a four-per­son tent to add a bit of space.”

She says the most com­mon mis­take begin­ner campers make is not us­ing their guy ropes, but she ad­vises on putting them up – es­pe­cially in bad weather and windy con­di­tions.

“If you’re plan­ning to use the tent a lot, you might want a can­vas style rather than polyester,” Lucy says.

“Can­vas is a lot thicker and more weather proof, with less like­li­hood of a hole be­ing put in it.”

New to the mar­ket are dark room tents where the fly (the outer layer of the tent) is darker to keep out sun­light and keep the tent cooler and darker, mak­ing it eas­ier to sleep.

Her ad­vice for new­bie campers is: “Take ex­tra pegs with you! Also look for guy ropes that glow in the dark, so you won’t trip over them at night and bring a ham­mer for tent pegs.

“It’s also good to buy re­pair tape, just in case there’s a hole and the rain comes in.”

SLEEP TIGHT

All that fresh air doesn’t al­ways guar­an­tee a good night’s sleep, par­tic­u­larly if your sleep­ing bag is mak­ing you too hot or too cold to sleep. But there are hun­dreds of sleep­ing bags to choose from, so how do you know which will be the per­fect one for you?

Tara Macrow of spe­cial­ist camp­ing store Snowys Out­doors says you need to fol­low three rules when choos­ing a sleep­ing bag:

1. De­cide on the warmth rat­ing you’ll need (for ex­am­ple, if you are camp­ing out­doors in win­ter, you’ll need a higher warmth rat­ing than camp­ing dur­ing sum­mer).

2. De­cide what price you’re pre­pared to pay, and

3. Get the small­est packed-down sleep­ing bag you can af­ford for ease of trans­port.

“Peo­ple get over­whelmed by the choice and what they do/don’t need out of a sleep­ing bag, so know­ing what you want and how much you are will­ing to pay be­fore you en­ter a store is a good idea,” Tara says.

The choices also in­clude whether it’s made with pre­mium, ul­tra-dry duck down or syn­thetic, can­vas or 100 per cent cot­ton.

For ex­tra com­fort, she says, self­in­flat­ing mats rather than air mat­tresses are the big­gest move­ment in camp­ing.

“Ev­ery­one’s also lov­ing pop-ups – such as tubs, and even ket­tles,” she says. “Other must-haves for peo­ple who are new to camp­ing in­clude lights, spare ex­ten­sion cords and ex­tra blan­kets.”

NEW LO­CA­TION OR SAME LO­CA­TION, WITH FRIENDS OR WITH­OUT?

For a small fee, you can buy your­self a camp­site with amaz­ing views and in re­mote lo­ca­tions, but who do you want to share it with?

For some, camp­ing with other fam­i­lies and friends is what true camp­ing is all about, for oth­ers it’s about be­ing with a part­ner or friend and en­joy­ing a qui­eter camp­ing hol­i­day to­gether.

Dene Far­row, who camped at Lorne on the Vic­to­rian coast ev­ery Christ­mas un­til she was 18, then for the past eight years with her sis­ter, a close fam­ily friend and their fam­i­lies to carry on the tra­di­tion says both op­tions have their ben­e­fits.

“I like camp­ing with other fam­i­lies as well as on our own, both have dif­fer­ent ben­e­fits,” Dene says.

“Camp­ing with other fam­i­lies means you have some­one you can do

FOR EX­TRA COM­FORT, SELF-IN­FLAT­ING MATS RATHER THAN AIR MAT­TRESSES ARE THE BIG­GEST MOVE­MENT IN CAMP­ING

things with like shop­ping (be­cause you may have a hus­band who doesn’t like to shop!) and the kids al­ways have mates to hang out with.

“As for camp­ing on our own, you get to spend qual­ity time to­gether, play board games and cards and sit around and chat about stuff – all the things you find you don’t do when ev­ery­day life gets too busy.”

Go­ing to the same camp­ground at the same time of year is also a nice tra­di­tion to start for begin­ner campers. “The best part about go­ing to the same camp­ground each year is the friends you make,” Dene says, “re­con­nect­ing each year as if no time has passed in be­tween.”

TAKE ONLY WHAT YOU NEED, AND LEAVE NO TRACE

Tracey Kerr has been camp­ing in north­ern New South Wales car­a­van parks over the Easter hol­i­days with hus­band Bill and their chil­dren Os­car, 9, and Mathilda, 6.

She could not live with­out mos­quito re­pel­lent, a sec­ond fridge in the back of the car or their foam mat­tress top­per. For Bill, it’s sim­ply surf­boards and a wave to ride that make the best camp­ing mem­o­ries.

“You don’t need ev­ery fancy piece of camp­ing equip­ment, just pick up what you need along the way,” Tracey says. “Go camp­ing and you’ll be sur­prised at how you com­pen­sate for things you don’t have – just be­cause you have it at home, doesn’t mean you need it on the road.”

She also ad­vises against buy­ing an aerial and a tele­vi­sion for your camper­van, es­pe­cially when you have chil­dren with you.

“The most sur­pris­ing thing when we go camp­ing is how well the kids get along,” Tracey says.

“Take lots of card games and board games in­stead, do plenty of ac­tiv­ity dur­ing the day and you’re guar­an­teed they’ll be want­ing to get to bed on time.”

When it’s time to go, pack ev­ery­thing up and leave no mark.

KEEP CAMP SAFE

It’s harder to think of safety when you’re re­lax­ing on hol­i­day, but there are dan­gers to camp­ing – an­i­mals may wan­der into your tent, snakes may slither past, as well as bush fire threats.

So be vig­i­lant and check your state fire au­thor­i­ties’ web­sites for fire dan­ger rat­ings and to see whether bar­be­cues and camp­fires are al­lowed while you’re camp­ing, as well as pack­ing a first-aid kit and learn­ing CPR skills.

If you are camp­ing near water, swim at a pa­trolled beach and only go be­tween the red and yel­low flags. Never swim alone, learn to spot rip cur­rents, and don’t drink al­co­hol be­fore en­ter­ing water. Web­sites such as beach­safe.org.au will have the lat­est safety warn­ings, in­clud­ing shark sightings, beach closures and bush­fire warn­ings.

ONCE YOU HAVE THE GEAR, JUST SIT BACK AND RE­LAX

Karen Sun­der­land started tak­ing camp­ing hol­i­days with hus­band Richard and chil­dren Camp­bell and Jo­hanna a decade ago when the kids were aged two and five.

“I wish I knew back then that ‘less is best’ when it comes to what to take,” Karen says. “You re­ally don’t need a heap of gear and you can quickly un­wind and re­lax, com­pared to other kinds of hol­i­days. The best thing about camp­ing is just spend­ing time out­doors with the fam­ily.”

Dene Far­row agrees: “We have been for­tu­nate enough to have some great hol­i­days, in­clud­ing trips to Bali and Thai­land. But any­time we ask our kids what their favourite hol­i­day has been they al­ways say: camp­ing trips!”

Now you’re all set, choose a lo­ca­tion, book the time off work and you’re away!

WATER VIEW

FAM­ILY FUN

PIC­TURES: VISIT VIC­TO­RIA, TOURISM AUS­TRALIA, TOURISM AND EVENTS QUEENS­LAND, IS­TOCK

From Vic­to­ria’s Mount Feather­top (main) to Queens­land’s More­ton Is­land (above) and Mis­sion Beach (be­low left), camp­ing is cool.

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