Camping in the Outback isn’t a walk in the park. Obviously. You’ll have to deal with scalding heat during the day, freezing temperatures at night and one or two creepy crawlies that may decide to move into your tent. They’re probably not going to pay you any rent, either, the little horrors.
However, if you’re planning a camping trip, you’ll be pleased to know you’re not the first - and you definitely won’t be the last. We asked around the Columbus Direct office (and trawled the internet) for the best Outback camping tips.
Avoid treading dirt into your tent by laying out a ground sheet in front of your tent, and make sure it’s a ‘no footwear’ zone. Alternatively, lay out a rubber mat and use it to wipe your feet before you enter your tent. Always head in head first, and kick any remaining dirt off your feet.
Before you set up your camp, check that there are no insect nests nearby. You’ll soon know about it if you pitch your home on top of theirs.
It will take you a few hours to set up, so make sure you leave plenty of time to pitch up and get your camp sorted. One of the first things you should do is make sure your firewood supplies are sorted - that way, if you’re still not sorted by the time the sun goes down, you’ll be able to see - and cook. You can always bring solar lights to dot around your camp if the fire won’t be enough. It’s important that you only start a fire where it’s safe to do so and you take every precaution to avoid bushfires - here’s some more information for you.
In case you’re new to campfires, here are the basics:
- Always check the fire safety regulations for the area you are in
- Listen to local radio stations for advice, and only light fires when allowed and where fireplaces are provided
- During a Total Fire Ban no fire may be lit in the open, but you may be able to use a gas or electric barbecue. It must be controlled by an adult, and the ground within two metres of the barbecue must be cleared of anything which could burn
- Make sure you have plenty of water available in case the fire gets out of control
- Never leave a fire unattended and keep the fire under control at all times. Completely extinguish all fires before leaving an area or going to bed. An ember can start a bushfire.
If the temperature drops, tie an extra tarp over your tent. It’ll act as an insulator. Don’t forget to pack extra ropes - not only to give your tent some extra stability, but they can also be used as washing lines. Tie high visibility tape to them to avoid tripping over any ropes at night.
Make sure that everyone has a pair of flip flops for showering - trying to get clean while standing in a mudbath somewhat defeats the purpose. If water is scarce, make sure you bring plenty of wet wipes and hand sanitiser.
Find the largest garden spray bottle you can and attach a thicker hose and a larger nozzle. Fill it with warm water, and hey presto - you’ve created a pressurised hot shower. A 9 litre bottle should be enough for a single person shower.
Food and drink hacks:
Freeze several bottles of water before you leave. They’ll thaw on the journey and can be held against your wrists to cool you down. You’ll also have a ready supply of ice-cold water; never a bad thing.
Take an old shelf from an oven and place it over your campfire - instant grill. They can also be used as food warmers if you lay the shelf over some hot coals on some rocks.
The next time you’re in a hotel or a fast food restaurant, take a handful of single-serving condiments - salt, pepper, jam, spread and honey are especially useful. Tubes of food also work well for camping - tomato paste, Vegemite and honey are failsafe camping foods.
You can camp with eggs, but make sure that you eat them within the first few days. A great way of enjoying them without the mess is to cut an orange in half, then eat the pulp. Crack the egg into the orange skin and pop it in the campfire embers until it’s cooked.
Freeze soups, stews and sauces in zip-lock bags. They’ll be easier to carry, will act as ice bricks until they thaw and you’ve saved on the washing up. On the subject of that most arduous of camping tasks, if you have a badly burned pan, add a few drops of washing up liquid and some water, and boil it on the fire. Use a steel scourer to get rid of the remaining residue.