In this guest post, Sam Doove busts the myths of family camping and encourages others to get out and try camping with their kids.
I will just come out and say it. I am a nature addict and a lover of simple things. Less is more. Less noise, less visual clutter, less stuff. I love nothing more than watching my kids run in open space, climb trees, rock hop, play fantasy games with nothing more than sticks and rocks and just have some freedom to be kids that we don’t often afford to them.
So naturally, camping is my thing. Come spring (I am a warm weather camper only!), our family is off having mini weekend camping adventures every few weeks. Sometimes it’s bush camping, sometimes a music festival or a Big 4 caravan park. Each is different and fun in its own way, and it is these mini adventures that are, more often than not, the highlight of our family time together. So, I thought it was time to bust some of those myths around family camping and convince all those families who claim to just ‘not be campers’ to give it a go!
Myth 1 – You need a lot of gear to go camping
Often the first thing that pops into someone’s head when you mention the word camping, is mega tents and campervans, generators, gas lights, car fridges, camp kitchens and stretcher beds. Sure that’s some people’s idea of camping, but it definitely doesn’t need to be as complicated as that.
There really is only two ‘specialist’ items you will need for camping – a tent, and some form of mattress (plus a pump if it’s an inflatable mattress). Try borrowing them to try it out and see if camping is for you. The rest you can just gather from home.
Unless you are bush camping, the caravan park or camping ground will have picnic tables and chairs, BBQs and a camp kitchen (often complete with hotplates, kettle, fridge and microwave). And if you don’t want to use communal fridges, a cooler bag works fine (though with a little planning it is fairly easy to survive a weekend without refrigeration).
Use your bedding and towels from home – no need to buy sleeping bags. You will need a few torches to get around at night, plates, cups and cutlery, and a few kitchen items like a knife and tongs (if you are planning to cook). And bring a bag or small box of food. Plus your clothes of course.
That is the bare essentials of camping – and the bonus of minimalist camping…. Less set up and pack down time.
Myth 2 – You need a 4WD to go camping
For our last camping trip, I took my Ford Focus! Everything I mentioned above will fit in a small car, AND I even managed to squeeze two kids bikes in. All the caravan parks around our region are accessible with a 2WD vehicle.
Myth 3 – You need to travel hours to get there
We are so lucky here in Newcastle and the Hunter. There are so many brilliant camping spots, close by, some as little as ten minutes away. I’m going to share some with you over the coming months, but remember – you don’t need to travel for hours to have an adventure. There are loads of places to discover and explore right on our front door.
Myth 4 – You need to be an experienced camper
Sure, if you are heading out to do some remote camping, a little bit of experience is probably handy! But if you are visiting a caravan park or camping ground, all you will need to do is set up the tent (who cares if it takes a little longer than it should!), and blow up the mattresses. Then sit back and enjoy. Worst case – go home early!
Myth 5 – Caravan parks are crowded / icky / not really camping
Firstly, let’s not get into semantics. Yes, die-hard campers will often argue that camping in a caravan park is not real camping. But who cares! This is about getting out and having adventures with your family. There are caravan parks that make you feel like you are submerged in nature and there are those that feel more like a kid’s adventure playland. Choose what suits you.
Certain times of the year will be crowded in certain caravan parks and campgrounds. If this isn’t your thing, choose a smaller establishment, or a place with lovely big camp sites and lots of greenery (yes, they will still have nice bathrooms!)
Myth 6 – There are no toilets (and I’m a fan of toilets)!
Yes, there are some bush camp sites without toilets, but all the caravan parks and a lot of the National Park camp sites do have toilets, and often showers. If this is something that is a show stopper for you, consider starting out your camping journey at a caravan park with nice amenities.
Myth 7 – There will be bugs everywhere
Well you are camping outside! But I have never had an experience in a caravan or camping ground where I have been overrun by bugs – apart from the occasional fly, ant or mozzie problem (but that’s much like home right?)
Myth 8 – It’s too hot / it’s too cold / it’s raining
Choose your season. Spring and autumn are ideal for mild weather. And as for the rain – well that’s a part of the experience. There is nothing like falling asleep to the sound of the rain on a tent, or playing cards huddled together undercover. And yes, sometimes it can be the pits! But those form some of the most memorable family experiences. Worst case – if you choose a camping spot close to home, you can always pack up early and head home. This isn’t Survivor… just fun local, family camping
Myth 9 – It takes too long to pack and get ready. I don’t have the time
Less gear means less packing time. Stick to a minimalist camping checklist and you should be packed in an hour or so. Unpacking will be much the same. Yes – there is a bit of preparation required. But as a friend and I say, when we are packing up the car before a camping adventure “we are creating memories”. Trust me – it’s worth it!
Camping does not have to be epic. You don’t need a trailer full of equipment and a 4WD. You don’t have to go without a toilet, and come home coated in mud. It’s about connecting with nature, having loads of unstructured time (particularly for the kids) and experiencing fun family adventures together. Get out and give it a go!
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Sam Doove is a mum of 2 mini adventurers, a nature devotee and a lover of the simple things in life. She is the creator of The Rich Life, where she helps her readers to adopt a mindful approach to their money, so that they can live their version of a rich, purposeful life. She is also involved in the Warners Bay Sustainable Neighbourhood Group, who run quarterly Nature Play events for children around Lake Macquarie.