How to go from Camping Zero to Camping Hero
Chaos – that’s how our first camping trip could be described. There was so much equipment we didn’t have and too much equipment we didn’t need. We got it all wrong. But over time, we’ve become camping heroes and we thought we’d share a few tips that can help you become a camp star too!
First Time Campers
Right now, next to the front door, our camping gear is stacked and packed neatly in storage containers holding everything we’ll need for our upcoming trip to the South Coast of New South Wales. It’s organised, it’s tidy and it’ll make our camping trip heaps easier. We’ve cut out the faffing, replacing it instead with just a bit of organised planning, leaving us to enjoy the great outdoors stress free. So from researching the area to packing your car and pre-planning your meal options in advance, these tips will bring the camping hero out of you in no time!
Research your Campsite & Surrounding Area
It makes sense to research not only the campsite you intend staying at, but also the surrounding areas for local amenities. Knowing in advance where you can get food/water/ice/firewood can save you a lot of time and hassle. You don’t want to be driving around aimlessly, hoping to stumble upon a butcher to get fresh steak for your Barbie (or a bottolo for some cold beer) with no phone reception! If you research before hand, you can spend less time searching and more time relaxing. Some points to consider:
- Does the campsite have fresh running water? Many National Parks or bush land campsites do not, which is only a problem if you don’t know in advance
- Where are the closest shops to stock up on supplies? If you are camping for a long weekend, you may need to buy some fresh produce during your stay. Finding out where you can get supplies before you leave, saves time and stress (especially if you have no phone reception to Google when in remote places)
- Cooking food – some places allow fire pits (but take your own wood) and some don’t. Others have BBQ facilities, while others may not. Regardless, we’d recommend taking a small gas camping stove anyway – just in case. It may rain or the site’s BBQ may break down. But you’ll prepared, besides, it’s perfect for making quick easy morning coffee, if nothing else!
- Local wildlife – possums are cute, but not when they’re raiding your food supplies! So ensure all your food is sealed and stored away. If you do need to store rubbish DON’T keep it in your tent. Either put it in a sealed container away from your camp spot, hide it in your car or hang it from a tree where it’s out of reach. This will also ensure you’ll have a peaceful night’s sleep without a noisy night time raid!
- Although most caravan parks have shower facilities, many bush land sites (we call this real camping) do not. Take a pack of wet wipes with you for a dry shower to help feel fresher over an extended stay (also, perfect for cleaning your feet up before bedding down – is it just me, but clean feet somehow make the rest of me feel clean too!?) Solar Shower
- Toilet, Long Drop or Bush?! Just be prepared and pretty much always take a roll of loo paper with you, just in case!
- Car camping or no cars on campsite – this will play a huge difference on how and what you pack, knowing you might have to carry things a distance to your campsite.
PACKING AND A STACKING
Not all people are lucky enough to have a great big 4×4 to pack all their camping gear into. We’re not! Yet our friends are always amazed when we pull all our equipment out from our tiny car as if it’s a Mary Poppins handbag! The key is strategic packing. Here are a few tips.
- Pack lightly – goes without saying. You probably don’t need as many clothes as you think, but do cover all bases. Something to cover up in hot days & cool nights with waterproof Pack-a-macs. Also, transferring your toiletries into travel sized containers will save heaps of space too.
- Pack smartly – it’s exciting to get all your gear shoved into the car so you can leave quicker, but taking a bit of time to strategically pack will save you time and plenty of ‘where the hell is the…’ type of arguments on the other side.
- Pack tightly – we recently purchased some stackable boxes for our camping gear and they have changed our camping lives! They’re easy to stack, easy to carry and because we opted for see-through, easy to see ‘what’s in where’. They are quite shallow, which means they’re never too heavy for us (and I mean ‘me’ being a girl) to carry if the campsite is away from the car park. We keep one for our cooking utensils (pots / small sieve / plastic cups / glasses / cutlery / utensils / washing up liquid / tea towels / fold away washing up bowl) The second for our Dry Goods food from our cupboards at home (coffee / sugar / salt / pepper / pasta / rice / snack bars /and non perishable foods) And the third for general camping stuff ( Foot pump for mattress / torches / lamps / lighter / etc)
- First Night Ease – after a long drive and pitching up, make life easier by bringing an already cooked meal. By cooking something simple like a chilli in the week and freezing it, not only will you have a satisfying and easy meal after a big day travelling and setting up, but it will also act as a cooling agent for your other perishables in your esky/cool box on route – too easy!
- Pre-chop your veg – What? I hear you say! Seriously, chop your onions, mushrooms and other bits of veg and place them in a sealable zip bag. It’s a double whammy. Not only does it save you time when camp cooking, it also saves you heaps space when packing – happy days!
- Know how long your Esky (Aussie for cool box) stays cool – if it only stays cool for a couple of days, make sure you don’t overload on perishables. The less effective your Esky, the more ‘ice runs’ you’ll have to do, so bear that in mind when choosing one.
Staying Cool – Staying Dry
A tarpaulin doubles as a great shade from the sun and great shelter from the rain. By covering your tent with the tarp in the sun, the heat will be reflected away (if it’s big enough you’ll also have a nice bit of shade to sit outside on a scorcher if there’s no tree shade). But you will need some tarp poles, some rope and a bit of common sense.
Camping kit can be as simple or as luxurious as you’d like, from sleeping in a Swag on the ground to setting up like a professional nomad. However, you don’t need all the gear to start with, so don’t be overwhelmed! Here’s what we started with on our first camping experience using Gumtree – we’ve added to the list and replaced with new each trip, but you can get by with these:
Pillows & Bedding
Pot for Cooking
Lighter / Matches
Marsh Mallows (a must!)
Washing Tub Liquid & Scrubber
Torches / Lantern
First Aid Kit
Wood (if site allows)
These are certainly not needed to begin with, but it’s amazing how much they enhance you camping experience!
- Axe for chopping wood (also useful for hammering tent pegs in hard ground!)
- Tarpaulin & poles for shade & shelter
- Billy Can for boiling water (we’re Sydney Siders, coffee is a must!)
- Rope for washing lines, hanging rubbish, tying up tarpaulins
- Dust Pan and brush to keep you camping palace clean & tidy
- Paper towels
- Solar heated shower bag