9 camping tips for a newbie camper
Ever seen pictures of someone effortlessly camping on a mountain top under the stars and wondered how they did it?
Do you want to try your hand at camping but see yourself cowering in a collapsed tent, in the rain, covered in bugs, eating only a muesli bar, and questioning your life choices? I did too, but I decided to round up a group of mates who have never been camping and give it a go anyway.
Here are 9 tips I can share from my first time camping.
1. Choose Your Campsite Wisely
For your first time, you want to pick somewhere that’s going to make it really easy on you. Official campsites range from the fully equipped to the bare and basic plot of land for you to pitch a tent.
We chose the Lake Moogerah Caravan Park in the Scenic Rim because of their awesome facilities. They have a communal cooking area with BBQ’s and a toilet/shower block – we weren’t ready to really rough it on our first time! Also, Lake Moogerah is just over an hour west of Brisbane, so if we got it really wrong, we weren’t that far from home.
Just remember that well-equipped locations tend to be popular, so if you’re going on a weekend or during school holidays, get there early to secure a prime spot.
2. Sleeping Essentials
You’re going to need a few things to get through the night. A tent is a good start! You can pick up an average tent from various department and outdoor stores without spending a fortune. My two-person tent did the trick for less than $100.
When choosing a tent, think about how many people will be sharing it and also the layers. A simple pop-up tent is great, but an extra layer of cover over the top will really help keep you dry.
Pick up a pillow, sleeping bag and maybe a foam mat to smooth out those bumps. Not quite ready to sleep on the ground? Invest in an inflatable mattress and be the envy of your camp mates.
3. Cooking Up A Storm
Usually when I finish lunch, I am immediately worrying about what’s for dinner, so packing food for a weekend with multiple meals was not an easy task. The trick is to keep it simple. Don’t try and be gourmet on your first time.
Pick up some disposable items such as plates, cutlery, paper towels, cooking oil, spatula/tongs and cups. For your perishables, you’ll need an Esky with ice.
We packed bread rolls and butter for each meal, and for breakfast added bacon, eggs and sausages. For lunch and dinner we had steak and pre-packed salads to keep it simple.
4. Setting Up Your Palace In The Park
If you’ve just purchased a new tent, I recommend having a practice run putting it up in your backyard or your local park, so when you get to the campsite you have a better idea of what you’re doing. This will help if you turn up to your campsite after dark or if it’s raining, plus you’ll look like a pro while you exude total confidence.
5. The Campfire
First thing’s first, check the local restrictions and only use designated campfire spots. Lake Moogerah Caravan Park has some nifty fire pits so your fire will stay contained, and you can focus on relaxing, sharing stories and toasting some marshmallows. We picked up a bag of firewood and some clever little fire starters that came with instructions. Get yourself a flex neck utility lighter (fancy name for a lighter with a long bendy neck on it) so you can light the fire without burning your fingers.
No matter where you sit around the fire, the breeze will probably change at one point and you’ll get a face full of smoke. Don’t worry, though, that smoky smell that goes through everything you brought with you comes out with some airing or washing.
6. Everybody Needs Good Neighbours
Don’t feel inferior by the professional set ups of serial campers, even if they have a full kitchen, a separate tent for getting changed and a portable flushing toilet. It’s your first time so be proud you’re out there giving it a go. Don’t be afraid to wander around and chat to others in the campsite, most people are very welcoming and love sharing their stories and camping tips.
I made friends with a lovely family who visit Lake Moogerah Caravan Park every set of school holidays. After getting to know them, I found they were part of an extended ‘Camping Family’ that consisted of five families including sixteen children! They welcomed us into their Camping Family, inviting us to join them for dinner at their campsite on our second night. We got a taste of what it’s like to be a professional camper rather than a newbie camper.
Speaking of good neighbours, keep in mind that wild birds, koalas, kangaroos and wallabies are probably also enjoying your campsite, so be sure to share the space respectfully.
7. Leave It As You Found It
Be conscious of the environment and take your rubbish with you. I took a garbage bag and thought that should be enough for the four of us over a weekend. Well, I don’t know where all that rubbish came from, but that bag filled up pretty quickly, so it’s a good idea to have a couple of spares and only leave them at designated waste stations or take them home with you.
8. Epic Fails
I’d like to think we did pretty well for our first time camping, but there were a few fails I can report!
- The tent pegs – if you followed tip #4 and did a trial tent set up at home, remember to pack everything back in it’s bag. A single missing tent peg could be the difference between a peaceful night or the corner of the tent flapping loudly in the wind all night.
- Coffee – yes I said keep it simple for your first time, but seriously… no coffee? What were we thinking! All it takes is a billycan to boil some water on the campfire and some instant coffee. It’s a no brainer and quite frankly, an essential. If all else fails, refer to tip #1 and choose your location wisely. Luckily for us, Aratula was just 20 minutes drive down the road and I could pick up coffees for the troops while they prepared breakfast.
- Stay hydrated – so you’ve packed the soft drink and the beers, but have you stocked up on water? A large bottle of water per person per day at a minimum, even if you take one and refill it at drinking taps.
- Something to sit on – sounds obvious, but we only brought one chair between four of us. At night, the grass can get dewy and damp so you’re going to need a campfire chair.
- Marshmallows – they’re amazing when toasted on the campfire, but you need some sort of prong to roast them. A stick is not an acceptable backup as the pointy end is probably brittle and you’ll lose your marshmallow to the fire when the stick snaps or catches fire.
9. Enjoy the Serenity
In the end, the point of camping is to escape from the city life, relax and have fun with your friends while enjoying a dose of the outdoors. Depending on your location, try your hand at kayaking, hiking or horse riding. After the sun goes down, enjoy the lack of city lights and take in some serious star gazing.
It’s a given that you’re probably going to forget something. But that’s ok! Camping is like being on island time, so go easy on yourself and remember it’s your first time and you’re allowed to make mistakes. That is unless you’ve forgotten the tent, then you’re an idiot and your mates should have free range to tell you so.
But really, don’t be scared to give camping a go, it’s actually super easy and I’m sure my second trip will involve a lot less fails. Let us know how you go by tagging your camping pics on Instagram or Twitter to @queensland #thisisqueensland.
Check out a video of our camping experience below!