Maybe you, like me, have considered the idea of becoming a ‘Camping family’. The idea sounds great but I get stuck with the details of how, what and where.
So I asked one of my dear friends who is a ‘camping mum’ if she could share some of her wisdom and insights with us. From equipment, mum hacks and destinations inspiration. I hope this helps some of you.
BENEFITS OF CAMPING AS A FAMILY:
Why should families consider this as an option and what has been the best part of being a camping family for you?
Camping is about adventure and doing something different from your usual routine. Whether you ‘go bush’ or go to a caravan park with all the amenities, camping has a certain freedom and rawness about it that you rarely regret going.
You can go to some amazing places when you go camping, places that are often inaccessible if you were go any other way. Once you have your gear, it is a very inexpensive way to travel so you have less barriers to going on holidays which is really important when we are all so busy.
Our best memories as a family are from our many camping holidays. The kids are wild, free and messy. Meals are simple and easy. You often rise and go to sleep with the sun which is so restorative and because you are away from your endless to-do-list the time you spend as a family doesn’t feel rushed.
If starting out what are the best basics to start with, should you spend much?
My biggest tip when buying camping gear is that cheap gear usually has a cost further down the line. For example; a huge cheap tent may look appealing with it’s multiple rooms and awnings but it will often take you hours to set up and the instructions will be so hard to follow. I always recommend a tent that is as easy to set up as possible. Usually, the easier to set up, the more expensive it will be however, from experience, if your camping gear is too elaborate or hard to assemble you simply won’t want to use it and even the small amount of money you have spent will be wasted. Camping is about simplicity, so you need to keep this in mind when purchasing gear.
In terms of basics; you will need:
- A good quality tent that is easy to set up (I recommend watching You Tube videos to make sure the brand you are buying looks simple to assemble) If you have babies, one parent will often be left to set up the tent on their own because the other parent needs to watch the baby. Again, an easy tent that can be assembled by one person will be so important if you have very young kids.
- Good quality sleeping bags (take notice of the temperature limits noted on the tag, there’s nothing worse than being cold when you’re in a tent).
- Blow up mattresses
- Enough seating for everyone
- A camping table (you don’t need anything huge but we’ve found that having a slightly larger table has been good because you don’t have to constantly move things around)
- A picnic set including a sharp cutting knife.
- A picnic rug
Anything you have learned over the years that you think is wisdom to be handed down.
We’ve camped in many locations but we’ve found that the best way to entertain the kids is to be near a river or beach. Similarly, we’ve been to places with the most spectacular scenery but it was always the kangaroos that our kids remember so having animals nearby is always a winner.
It may not happen at home but I’ve noticed that the kids love helping out around the camp site so make sure you get them involved with the washing up or even the cooking. The novelty of being outside and being given responsibility will mean that you won’t have to nag.
Start dinner at least 60-45mins before sundown. It always surprises me how quickly it gets dark when you can’t just flick a light on easily. Once the sun goes down, it can get cold so you may want to get everyone into bed for a family movie but if you start cooking too late everyone will be hungry and cold before dinner is ready.
Water shoes are always helpful. They are made out of wetsuit material so they dry easily but they have a hard bottom to protect against rocks and bindies.
Head torches are great. It means your hands are free but you can still do things. The kids love them too.
If possible, putting the kids to bed to watch a movie will give you a chance to relax under the stars or around the fire. Doing this will ensure that you feel like you’ve had a break and allow you to enjoy the joy that is camping; being in the great outdoors.
Where are some great destinations to try that set you up for success with children? What makes them good?
Local Blue Mountains Destinations:
- Glenbrook National Park – it has lovely flat areas and lots of kangaroos around. It also has easy access to a lot of bush walking and to Jelly Bean Pools.
- Lake Lyell at Lithgow – this is managed park so there are more amenities. Playing on the lake is great and they also have a park and an inflatable obstacle course in the water which looks like fun.
Destinations worth travelling to:
- Lake Conjola – This is a managed campsite with all the amenities including playgrounds, jumping pillows and BBQ areas. This is a great way to ease into camping because everything you need, in terms of facilities, are there. There are a lot of flat paved roads for the kids to ride on the and the lake is so much fun to play in.
- Point Plomer – This a managed camp site down a dirt road about 45mins from Port Macquarie (the road is well maintained so you don’t necessarily need a 4WD). It has an incredible beach and good toilets and showers (cold water only!). The beach will entertain the kids all day and there is a beautiful walk you can take up to the top of the cliff to spot whales at sunset.
- Fraser Island was incredible. It was so wild and raw, it felt like you were so close to nature. There is a lot of accommodation options from fancy beach houses to cabins and camping in fenced off caravan parks. You can also do bush camping which is essentially camping in the middle of nowhere with no amenities including toilets. The only thing to be careful of on Fraser Island is the dingos; I wouldn’t go to this spot unless your kids were a bit older. (Note: the island is accessible by 4WD only).
For the more experienced campers:
- Uluru has always been a favourite of ours. It takes a long time to get there and you will need to camp along the way at various locations (this is where an easy tent will be invaluable because depending on time you may be setting up and packing down every day) but it is absolutely worth the journey! It is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced and I highly recommend it.
- Tasmania has some incredible scenery and beautiful camp sites. Taking the cruise ship over is a lot of fun and once you’re there, there are some amazing things to see including Wine Glass Bay and Cradle Mountain. Just remember to pack for all seasons, Tassie can get very cold very suddenly.
- The Great Ocean Road is another amazing destination with many places to stay along the way.
I don’t know about you but I am feeling freshly inspired to consider camping. The beautiful weather we are getting is certainly making the enticement stronger.
I hope this has helped you weigh up options, answered some questions you may have and inspired you to consider camping as a family.
Happy Holidaying, however you spend it.