Everything you need to know to kickstart your first camping adventure
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.”
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!
From Victoria’s Mount Feathertop (main) to Queensland’s Moreton Island (above) and Mission Beach (below left), camping is cool.