The ultimate campsite, so desired by so many, doesn’t just happen – well not very often anyway! Mostly it’s luck of the draw that might see you set up in a prime location if you don’t put some thought into it. It’s great to just pack up and head off into the bush, but some planning is usually necessary when it comes to selecting and setting up in a spot that’s best for you.
I’ve compiled 10 tips that may transform your next camp set-up into the best ever.
Everybody loves a majestic landscape – be it mountains, oceans, or bushland. Sunrise and sunsets are especially desirable and an elevated location can help here. Just be sure that as king of the castle you don’t expose your campsite to excessive wind and weather when searching out the highest elevation. Regardless of altitude, look for a spot with a view that can’t be obstructed by other campers. When searching for the best location, always remember to keep well back from rivers, as flash floods can and do sweep some prime real estate away!
Beaches, rivers and lakes are overwhelmingly the most popular camp spots in Australia. This attraction is easy to understand – waterside camps generally offer fishing and swimming possibilities, with a ready supply of water for routine camp use such as washing up or dousing a campfire. Boats, canoes and stand up paddleboards offer an additional dimension to camping trips. Oceans and nearby rivers also provide a soothing sound to send you to sleep.
Midday shade is generally a welcome feature in a good camp location, as it keeps the sun at bay during the hottest part of the day. Tree cover offers great shade, but don’t camp under dead trees or tree species such as redgums that notoriously drop their limbs. Vehicle and caravan awnings are a convenient option, especially in outback settings where trees are often few and far between. Some folk set up the universal blue plastic tarp as ad hoc shade, but take care if you tether it with Occy Straps, as these can become dangerous flying objects in strong winds. Standalone shade shelters offer great, ready-made shade for erecting wherever you like. These shelters often come with detachable side walls and sometimes insect screens.
Wind is a feature of many campsites, particularly near the ocean. Look for rock faces and tree groves to baffle and deflect the direct blasts of wind. Alternatively use your vehicle or boat as a windbreak, and face the tent or caravan doors away from the prevailing wind direction. Shelter from rain is more problematic, but some camping areas have a central roofed structure as a visitor retreat or eating area. An angled tarp may be of use in a bush setting, but it will need to be anchored securely and kept taut to prevent water collecting overhead and collapsing. Again, specially designed shades with walls and anchor points often make a great external shelter.
Most campers look for a secluded campsite to escape the rat race. Bush camping offers more scope here than most commercial campgrounds while national parks often allow plenty of space between defined sites. Some destinations limit numbers with pre-booking of sites, while 4WD destinations restrict numbers simply with more difficult access. Consider travelling outside of the peak tourist season and midweek camping is also a better option.
Campers should look for grassy tent sites, gravelled vehicle parking, and toilets just a short walk away. A supplied water source is very handy, although river water is better than nothing at all, and can usually be boiled or treated for human consumption. Fireplaces are a welcome feature, as is a ready supply of firewood. Self-contained groups often set up toilet and shower tents nearby. A self-made fire pit (if permitted) is an ideal centrepiece for the ultimate campsite.
The range of camping gear available these days means that every camp can be well equipped. A gas or battery powered fridge is almost essential, along with a good stove (campfire cooking while fun and tasty is a rather demanding process). Solid, yet comfortable seats and tables along with good lighting provides a comfortable home away from home, while more dedicated campers often travel with a generator and even a portable hot water service.
Bush activities are part of the camping scene and much, or little activity will often depend on where you are camping. Water-side camps may allow for boating, fishing, surfing or swimming while national parks usually offer bushwalks and nature study type activities, often with 4WD tracks meandering through the local area. Regardless of location, look for a site with a broad, clear area nearby that is suitable for ball games such as footy and cricket.
Unlike your home, where climate control is at your fingertips, campers must ride out what nature dishes up. While camping out in ‘not-so-pleasant’ weather can be character building at times, it’s usually smarter to plan ahead and go camping during seasonally compatible times of the year.
Look for level campsites with easy vehicle access. Use any natural slope to your advantage by setting up your tent or swag adjacent to it so that any rainfall will drain away from your living quarters. Locate your fire central to the tents and gather firewood in daylight, in preparation for the evening, so that you’re not stumbling around in the bush after dark.
There you go, my ten commandments when it comes to selecting your ultimate campsite. Feel free to add, subtract or alter to suit your own camping ‘must-haves’, after all, that’s one of the best things about heading out bush, everybody can have their own little piece of paradise, even if it is only for a weekend!
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