Camping is a traditional exercise, a final fling before the chilly season sets in. It can be a wonderful, relaxing, rejuvenating experience; or instead a fiasco of muddle and clutter, with badly organised gear in a badly chosen campsite.
1. PACK AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE
One of the joys of a camping trip is the freedom from formality and household responsibilities. If you take too much with you, you’ll spend all your time sorting things out. This must be avoided if everyone, including Mum, is to have a good time.
2. MAKE LISTS
Before you pack, make lists of what you want to take. Then cross off everything except essentials. Give each camper his own list and let him, or her, get things together. From the start, let everyone feel responsible for the exercise. Camping is a do-it-yourself holiday. It’s more fun when everyone gets involved.
3. VISIBLE CONFUSION
Give everyone a strong, large plastic bag in which to pack their clothes, which should be few. Put the least important items on the bottom. Tie each bag with a different-colored lace or strip of material, for easy identification.
Some things may be better packed in groups. One suitcase might be reserved for a “good” unwrinkled outfit for each member; with any luck, you won’t need these clothes anyway, so they can be packed deepest in the car-boot.
A bag of light rain-gear, shoved in a far, dark corner, is good insurance against passing storms.
Pack socks in shoes and make a place for footwear (bag or box) – thongs, hiking boots, sand shoes. Let everyone look after their own, but put them back in that one place.
Swimming-costumes are best packed in the one plastic bag-a clear one to make identification quick.
Pack sleeping-clothes, in the wearer’s sleeping-bag, or else in a central night bag.
5. SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY
Put each person in charge of his or her sweater, jacket, bathers, towel, etc. This is the secret of a camping holiday enjoyed by all, including Mum.
But it takes self-control. Having made a surreptitious check before departure to make sure everyone’s gear is IN, stand firm at the first wail of “Where’s mine?” A sweet but implacable: “Well, dear, that’s your responsibility, you’ll just have to find it yourself” is guaranteed to make kids (and even some fathers) keep a careful eye on their own things.
6. TO TENT or NOT TO TENT
Unless you own a caravan, you will need a tent for (a) privacy and (b) protection from wind, rain, insects, hot sun. Some people go tentless, and take their chances with weather and pests; more power to them! But most people want shelter of some kind.
There are many kinds of tents on the market. We believe the traditional cottage style is best. It is quickest and easiest to erect, sheds water quickly, is stable in high winds (important), and with front and rear flaps open provides a good breezeway.
Our own lightweight tent can be erected by one person in five minutes. It weighs only 11 lb, sleeps up to four comfortably, and can be rolled down small enough to fit into a standard plastic bucket.
One disadvantage of the cottage-style is lack of headroom inside. People with a big family might prefer a high walled auto tent or a square-rigged lean-to, especially if they plan to stop in only one place for the entire holiday. But touring campers want to pay particular attention to two things when choosing a tent: lack of bulkiness when being transported; simplicity of erection.
Any tent should be insect-proofed with snap-in fiberglass netting.
7. POSITION YOUR TENT
if possible on high ground onto which water won’t drain if it rains. If you have a choice, place it so that it is in the shade from about the middle of the day. Early morning sunshine streaming in through the flaps is fine, but tents can get mighty hot as the day progresses.
Make sure you try for level ground when positioning your tent, and remove stones, sticks, stinging nettles, etc.
NOTE: Make a point of seeing the sunrise and sunset. They’ll be smog free! Revive the custom of sing-songs and charades around the campfire. Take a book of bush ballads and read them aloud in the firelight. Simple stuff, but heady.