Disclaimer: I am no expert camper. In fact, I have only gone camping once, post boy scout days. But hey, we gotta start somewhere. As new as I am into this hobby, I have always loved camping since I was a kid and I was pretty competitive. I knew all the boy scout drills, knots, creed and whatnot. I walked around proudly with my hunting knife, green scarf, boy scout shirt, shorts and knee socks thinking I was cool. Those were the days!
Anyway, one Google search and you will find a gazillion lists of ‘Camping Essentials,’ ‘Things to bring on camping’ etc. All of which are helpful, but some are quite overwhelming. What I will share with you are the camping gear that I brought during my first camping escapade at the Wilson’s Promontory National Park. I will focus on specific gear that I have and how well they worked for me.
Surprise! You will need a tent. Let’s get a bit more specific. My tent is a 4-person Wanderer Magnitude 4V Dome Tent. I think it is just the right size for me, my wife and a toddler. Though it says it can fit 4 adults, I would not recommend that. Being packed in a relatively smaller tent has an advantage though – heat. Australia can be crazy hot but 90% of the time, nights are cold especially if you are born and raised in the tropics (I know a guy). In that sense, a small tent with more people means more heat and can certainly have an advantage.
To give you a bit more perspective, here’s the tent next to a 7-seat SUV for scale:
2) Air mattress and air pump
There are a few options out there but I went with the air mattress simply because it is the easiest to store when camping season is over. When choosing a mattress, consider having thicker ones. The ground gets cold so the higher you are from it, the better. Mine is a Queen Spinifex Dreamline. Dimensions are 203 x 152 x 22 cm.
The thickness or height itself is not what I would recommend. To be honest, I find it okay but I think thicker ones would be better as air mattresses tend to get deflated a bit overnight. At least you have a bit more leeway when you have a thicker mattress.
There are air mattresses that come with a built-in pump. Based on experience, air mattresses get punctured way before the pumps give out so I decided to have them separately so I can keep my pump way longer that the mattress.
On the other hand, I do have a sealant. In fact, you should always bring a sealant because air mattresses can get small punctures on their folds during storage. It is best to check your before the trip. I got my sealant from Bunnings. This one takes 24 hours to dry so it is not best for emergencies.
3) Sleeping bags
This is one thing I wouldn’t do without regardless of the season. It doesn’t matter if it is summer, Australia’s weather, particularly on the southern parts is as unpredictable as it gets. You can have a perfectly warm, sunny day, and have a freezing evening ahead. There are different ratings mine is a Spinfex Base Camper Sleeping bag. It was a little less than 10 degrees Celsius and this bag worked perfectly. I honestly had way better sleep than some nights in my own bedroom.
4) Stove, pan and kettle
Most camping sites have electric BBQs for public use so you can get away without this one. However, having your own gives you the comfort of cooking within your own campsite. A small butane stove is not only easy to bring along, butanes are a dime a dozen. Don’t forget to bring spare butanes.
My frying pan is a Coleman collapsible frying pan. You can always your everyday frying pan at home but this one is much lighter and doesn’t take much space.
The kettle is a Campfire stainless steel whistling kettle with a 2-litre capacity. Basic, light and just perfect for its purpose.
5) Proper clothing
This may seem like a no brainer but it is worth stressing out its importance. We get too focused on what shoe to wear for our hike, shirts and hats for fishing, which is good, but we may forget the most important activity of all – sleeping. Why is sleep the most important? Well, imagine yourself not being able to sleep because you’re cold or your clothes are not comfortable. That will be the longest night you’ll ever have. Not to mention you’ll be struggling to keep up with your activities for the next day.
As the comfort in a tent will never be as good as your bedroom, having good, comfortable clothing will be a great way to improve
I used the thickest PJs that I have, thermal long sleeved shirt from Uniqlo and thermal socks. Slept like a baby!
6) Food and water
My clan loves to eat so there wasn’t any shortage of food. It was a bit too much to be honest. Marinated meats that are ready for grilling or pan searing are perfect as they are easy to bring along, and quick to prepare. You can find heaps of recipes and ideas online. Heck, I’m happy with my salt and pepper. If you have kids like us, don’t forget to bring fruits for snacks. I am guilty of bringing too much junk food but I would not recommend it.
Water is another no brainer but what I would like to suggest is to bring a big container rather than a bunch of small bottled ones. The idea is to minimise waste. Small disposable bottles mean more plastic waste. Whether you are responsible enough to dispose it properly in recycling bins or not, it still leaves a footprint. It’s more to do with making little ways to minimise non-biodegradable waste.
7) Plates, Cups, Utensils
As much as possible, stay away from disposables. Bring reusable plates, cups and utensils. You bring the stuff that you use at home but again, dedicated camping utensils will have and advantage in size and weight. These factors do come in handy in loading up your boot.
Unfortunately, we used disposables on that first camp. You can do that, it is a bit more convenient as you do not have to wash every after meal. The important thing is to be responsible – sort out the recyclables and non recyclables, put them in their proper bins. If all the bins are full, be willing to bring home some trash with you – which has happened to us before.
Now go out and set up camp!