Camping tips for those who aren't afraid to call themselves newbies

Campfires, hiking, stunning scenery, curious lizards, arguments about how to put up the tent. They are memories of our childhood that we hold dearly, and so want to pass on to our kids.

This is why, according to Tourism Research Australia, the country's caravan and camping visitor economy reached record numbers in 2018, increasing by 3.5 per cent from the previous year. 

Camping isn't just popular in Australia or New Zealand. Over in the U.S., the 2019 North American Camping Report found that 78.8 million households engaged in camping. That's around 62 per cent of the country's households grappling with a tent pole at least once a year. 

There is no doubt that there is a shift going on in the world in our attitudes towards the natural environment and our relationship with it. As cities grow larger and busier, more people are seeking periodic escapes to benefit both their mental and physical health. 

If you haven't experienced the peace and quiet of a night or two outdoors, here are some camping tips for beginners. 

What should I do before I leave?

Australia is such a diverse country and has a variety of options to explore, and camping is a great, cost-effective way to take it all in. Before you set off on your adventure however, it is essential to do your research. Some important factors to consider:

  • Determine your best time to go. Depending on the time of year, you might find some camping grounds either closed or way too busy. Be proactive by calling ahead or booking online so you have peace of mind.
  • Look up nearby towns and amenitiesCamping where there are nearby shops means you can pack lighter and buy the essentials if you need them. If you’re camping on your own for the first time, having a backup plan will make the experience easier.
  • Check out the facilities. If you are travelling with children or dogs, it is important to check that the campsite is child- and pet-friendly. Check if your campsite has on-site facilities, as well as access to clean drinking water and shade options - this will greatly influence what you pack, and what you don’t need to.
  • Read up on natural surroundings and weather conditions. Changing weather conditions at your destination affects what you bring along as well. While light rain is a minor inconvenience, knowing that you’re expecting it means you’ll bring along protective rainwear. Similarly, if the area you’re camping in could have natural elements that affect your holiday (such as poisonous plants or small critters), you may want to pad out your first-aid kit a bit.

What are the camping essentials I shouldn’t forget?

For every camping trip, there are some absolute essentials that you need to ensure you pack, or at the very least, can have access to once you arrive:

  • Protect against the elements. Most people tend to forget that insects are attracted to light and water and will end up getting inundated by insect bites on their trip – making it a lot less fun. Be prepared for such scenarios by packing some insect repellent and bug-spray. Also, as you will be spending most of your time outdoors, don’t forget to put on plenty of sunscreen, and always carry a travel-sized bottle with you.
  • Don’t forget your good hygiene kit. Even though you are away from general civilisation, it is generally a good idea to keep up with your regular hygiene habits. To that end, don’t forget the usual essentials - toothpaste, spare toilet paper, soap, shampoo and conditioner.
  • Make sure you have enough lighting. Apart from having flattering lighting for amazing photos from your trip, it is important to have some good lighting to keep you company – both within your tent and for outside, when using the facilities after dark. Ideally, a solar-powered torch and/or lantern allows you to recharge easily and removes the need for carrying additional batteries or battery packs.
Kathmandu portable camping lantern

What camp-friendly clothes should I pack?

When travelling, packing smart goes a long way. Part of this is knowing what kind of clothing you need for your trip. If you are going somewhere in winter, but it doesn’t get too cold, thick winter clothing might not be the best option. But if you get there and it’s raining, you also want to be prepared:

  • Start with the basics – socks and underwear. Always remember to have spare underwear (two extra ones at a minimum) and wear comfortable socks (with two pairs extra) so that you can walk comfortably for hours. If you get new shoes that need breaking in, remember to do so well before you plan to go camping, to avoid being uncomfortable and in pain.
  • For cold weather, remember to layer up. Warm coats and thermal jumpers are a great way to stay warm without carrying too much with you. You can wear your thermals under your clothes and unless it is very cold, you could probably get away with just that. A product made from Core Spun Merino is versatile – it works in cold weather, but is also great for cooler evenings or when you might need fewer layers. They not only keep you warm but are odour-resistant and require less washing. Merino is also used to make gloves, beanies and scarves that are compact and easy to pack so that they’re there if you need them. Sunglasses made for the elements are also a great addition to carry along, especially if you’re going to be walking in wide-open areas with no shade.

Want some inspiration?

Bec and Justin Lorrimer sold their home in 2015, piled their three kids in a camper van, and have been travelling around Australia ever since. Their and other people's incredible travels were featured as part of World Ready here! If this doesn't inspire you to go camping on the weekend, nothing will. 

What camping gear should I bring?

One of the key factors that makes for a successful camping trip is equipping yourself with high quality, durable camping gear. Apart from your tent, there are a few other things to keep in mind:

  •  Sleep well, with the right sleeping gear. Just because you are away from home, doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your comfort. Invest in a good sleeping bag (check out how to choose the right one for you), or get yourself a camping bed, and bring your favourite pillow along, or a comfortable camping travel pillow.
  • Invest in a great camping asset – your tent. If you are ready to make camping an integral part of your lifestyle, it is essential you get yourself a strong, sturdy tent with enough room to accommodate your needs. Remember to try setting up your tent in your backyard or a park, and check you have all the accessories,
  • Don’t forget creature comforts – kitchen essentials and seating options. Most campers take meals along with them, or source their own food options at the place they are camping at (more on that just below). Remember to pack kitchen essentials, food coolers, and furniture to sit outside and take in the view. 
A large green tent at dusk in Australian bushland

What food should I take with me when camping?

Going camping equipped with a basic meal plan and as much of, if not all, the things you need is always a good idea and a great way to ensure you don’t go hungry.

  • Portability is key, and a whole lot easier. Consider boxed or canned food that requires little to no prep time, so that you can eat as soon as you come back from your adventure to your campsite. If you want to take the effort out of planning a nutritious meal, try portable outdoor meals.
  • Remember to pack snacks and drinks. Pack healthy snacks that require small amounts of storage space, such as dried fruit, nuts, trail mix, and muesli bars. In winter and cooler months, you’ll also be glad if you pack tea, coffee, hot chocolate and instant soups.