Camping with Finesse


5 Tips to Enjoy Camping in the Great Outdoors

I can’t tell you how many people I know who say, “No, I don’t do camping”.

Some used to, many years ago. Others prefer the luxury of five star resorts.

One bad experience or poor preparation can ruin any option to go camping for some people, ever again.

But camping doesn’t have to be about “roughing it” or going feral for a few days. Those of you who are seasoned campers will know this.

Camping can be incredibly comfortable, immensely satisfying and deliciously rewarding. Getting closer to nature does not mean you have to sacrifice the things you love about the creature comforts of home.

Take the time to plan, get organised, acquire or update your equipment and pack your gear so it’s easy to find what you need. The difference between a good camping trip and a great one, is preparation.

But with so many amazing places to camp across Australia, taking time to pack and plan is well worth the time.

Here’s a few tips to get you thinking about how to make your next camping experience the best one yet.

1. Think through your day on-site

Once you have your tent set up, what do you need to keep it clean and tidy? Pack a floor mat, door mat and small broom or brush – this will help keep the sand, dirt, mud or leaf litter under control.

I’m sure you’ll be smart enough to take a good and comfortable bed, chairs and table. To make your bed even more comfortable, don’t hesitate to take your favourite pillows, a good quilt or blanket and make your bed like you enjoy it at home.

Good camp lights, an effective gas cooker or stable cook top plate for your fireplace, and importantly mozzie repellent, will help you manage simple tasks like finding clean socks and cooking your breakfast without too much trouble. Keeping separate storage tubs or containers for your food, your cookware and utensils, your tools and camping accessories will help keep you sane as you try to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner, access camp gear as you need it and keep your site tidy. It also helps to have storage options to keep your camp gear locked in your car or kept inside your tent at night. This is especially true for food, as any food left out over night will of course attract animal interest.

And remember to bring a good bucket or water canister so you can wash your face, clean your feet and get into bed at night feeling fresh. Depending on the facilities you have on site, you may also want to have anything you need during the night located with ready access, such as water, a torch, shoes, phone and whatever you need should you need to visit the bathroom.

2. Food & wine, coffee & treats

Many people think camping is about keeping things simple. This often translates to ideas about simple food.

My advice is to make your food flavourful. Just because you don’t have the convenience of your fridge and pantry in reach, doesn’t mean you can’t make great food at your campsite.

Coffee and good tea helps you get your day started so don’t skimp on these items. And who doesn’t love a sweet treat with a cup of tea or after dinner. Remember to pack a block of your favourite chocolate or pack of cookies.

Some of your camp cooking essentials are garlic, mustard, chilli, herbs, and of course salt and pepper. Remember your lemons and limes and don’t hesitate to pack any condiments you love with cheeses, olives, good crackers or baguette.

Catering can be made easy with a one-pot approach – casseroles, curries, stews or steamed mussels make easy cooking over a campfire. A roll of al-foil for spuds, fish, or baking marinated meats in the coals, or season your grill with good oil to char-grill you prime cuts will deliver some of the tastiest meals you’ll remember.

I always take an esky for food, a fridge bag for vegetables and an icy cold cooler box for drinks. And drinks are sometimes the most important. Take some easy drinking wines, your favourite afternoon tipple such as beer, gin and tonic or cider, and a bottle or two of the wine you want to savour. For me there’s no better time to drink good wine than when you are away and have the time to enjoy them.

Arrange your menu, your drinks and leave some surprises or wriggle room for changes and you’ll have a fantastic holiday.

3. Know your destination

What do you have in walking distance of your camp site? Hiking trails, swimming holes, good beaches, cafés or other attractions? Would it be good to take your bike so you can explore the area? Or how far are you prepared to head out in the car away from your site to explore the region?

Doing a bit of research before you go, will give you options to enjoy each day the best way you can.

Also be aware of local laws or expectations about flora and fauna, such as fishing conditions, options to forage or any wildlife you are likely to encounter.

Many places in Australia can have both cuddly and deadly wildlife living in the vicinity of your camp site. But if where you are going is good for trout fishing, beach fishing or other types of fishing, you may want to bring a line. We recently camped by a river and quickly caught a few brown trout after we set up, which brought us much joy at dinner that night.

Preparing to make the most of where you are going; understanding all the natural benefits of your destination, will help you enjoy your camping experience all the more.

4. Entertain yourself

Enjoying your camping experience, can often come down to how you prefer to spend your time but never have the time to spend it how you choose.

Reading a best seller, taking time with a cross word, playing cards or kicking the footy around with the kids are simple ways to spend your time camping. These are the things we used to do before iPads and online streaming services. But if these ideas sound a little boring, there are some great games out there you might want to invest in and bring along.

Many people may have heard of Finska, but have you played Kubb? Or things can get even more hilarious with Throw Throw Burrito.

Catching up on all the things you wish you could do, getting active or learning brand new games, skills or activities can be really fun ways to enjoy your trip away.

5. Relax into it

The main reason for camping I find, is to relax. Turning off all your devices, reducing any access to news or media and throwing any idea of routine out the window, can be the biggest benefit to getting outside and pitching a tent.

If your preference is for a couch and a cushion, there’s no reason why you can’t take a beanbag. If you love to relax at the day spa, ask your partner to take time to rub your feet or wash your hair outside under the stars.

But the best way I like to relax is after dinner, with my feet up sitting close to the camp fire and a delicious glass of red wine in hand. Add a chunk of cheese, great company and lots of laughter recalling fun stories and telling jokes not quite fit for print.