For experienced campers, preparing for a family camping holiday is a breeze. Then there are the rest of us. If your family needs a little camping coaching here’s Out & About With Kids' starter’s guide to quality camping.
Where to go
More than 500 national parks around Australia have campgrounds. But, if you’re a sucker for comfort, you can ditch the wilderness and head to one of the hundreds of Holidays Parks in the country. Holiday parks offer pools, playgrounds and other activities for kids, which can make life easier the first time around.
When to go
School holidays are the most obvious time to head off on a camping break. But remember campsites are likely to be packed out. You’ll need to book well in advance. The weather is another factor to consider. If it’s too hot you might struggle to sleep. Too cold and you’ll be uncomfortable too. Choosing a random weekend (i.e. not the holidays) during spring or autumn is a great way to ease yourself into the camping lifestyle.
A family of four should look at purchasing a five or six-man tent – at a minimum – to ensure a comfortable break. Tents with separate rooms or an annexe are great for families. You can allocate space for storage as well as maintaining a clean space for sleeping.
Another top tip is to choose a tent that has a shelter over the entryway. This will make a handy spot to sit in the shade or out of the wet if the weather takes a turn. However, tents don’t come cheap – so consider hiring before buying to make sure camping is right for your family.
In the bag
Choose sleeping bags that are rated to the climate you’ll be camping in or you’ll end up with frostbite or be sweating up a storm. For a good night’s sleep, it’s also worth investing in a sleeping pad or an air mattress. Another top tip is to use a sleeping bag liner, as it will keep the inside of the sleeping bag clean for longer and adds an extra few degrees to your sleeping bag when needed. On balmy nights, a liner can act as a comfy alternative when you don’t need the full down cocoon.
It’s not enough to just have a tent and a sleeping bag. You will need a bunch of other stuff to make your camping experience a memorable one… for the right reasons. The usual suspects (torch, food prep equipment, foldable chairs to sit by the campfire and so on) are obvious. But a few tricks will make life a little bit more comfortable. An extra piece of rope can create a ‘washing line’ for wet swimmers in the summer. A pack of cards is essential for long evenings at your campsite. A citronella lantern will keep the bugs at bay and also provide ambient light to your site.
If you like the idea of sleeping under the stars, but that all sounds like too much effort, some campgrounds include pre-erected ‘glamping’ tents complete with camp beds and blankets – so you can get back to nature in comfort without lifting a finger.