Camping disclaimer: we are not professional bloggers or travellers. Anything we post or write is an expression of our opinion based on our experiences. We dont claim that our way of seeing things, camping, travelling with kids etc is the ultimate way. Its just our way and we share it with you all.
We got that out of the way so lets take the mystery out of the word camping and do some straight talking.There is so much misconceptions about this simple activity these days right from the meaning behind the word “camping” straight through to the money side of it and also how to get started if you want to introduce your kids to this lifestyle, what you really need, how much you should spend etc.. I decided to have a bit of a dig and give you my opinion based on our experiences.Lets dissect camping and what it actually is to start with. I spoke to loads of people who say they have done camping or they are going camping and it was very clear that there are so many meanings behind it.Camping used to mean cheap getaway for a whole family, freedom, being close to nature in uncrowded sites, putting up with the elements and having great yarns by the evening campfire. Today “camping” is a huge money spinning industry where people are brainwashed in my opinion to think of it differently . It has a huge financial component to it that is driven by a corporate marketing strategy influencing you and everyone. The purpose of going camping has changed and the smart marketers slowly achieved a total confusion in peoples heads where the “wants” and “needs” are totally mixed up. From what I hear a lot of families dont get into camping because they cant afford to acquire their mean of camping in the shape of an expensive camper trailer for example or accessories such as satellite dish or they really dont know where to start.Lets break it up. People go “camping”, “cavaning” or “carping” in my opinion so you need to decide what you are planning to do in the future. After that set yourself up accordingly so the family can get the most out of the experience.
Lets start from the back.(disclaimer:if you have heaps of money and really dont care this post may not be useful to you)CARPING- is short for “caravan parking”. Maybe this is your style. You book a week or two holiday lets say at Exmouth or Kalbarri every year in a caravan park. Usually on the “main drag” where everyone goes to. Its a safe option but not really cheap or adventueous. You have toilets, shower, water, electricity. You are in a mini transient suburb where you get a small plot of lets say 30 sqm squeezed in right between 2 or 3 exactly the same little plots. You are never more than 3 meters away from the next CARPER. You can have an awesome family holiday but if you spent big on your rig you have wasted your money and I explain why. Lets say you spent $30000 on a cool camper trailer and accessories that you were told you need. Our campsite here in Broome is $64 a night but generally powered sites are around $50 to $65.Lets work on two weeks of camping a year in that style. Its between 700 to 900 in accommodation alone so lets calculate on $800. You use your camper for ten years than sell it for $5000. Add on registration, insurance, maintanance...probably $3000 is spent in 10 years (if nothing went wrong)$25000+3000+$8000 (10x800)= $36000 . So each year you spent $3600 to spend two weeks in a tent which in a crowded caravan park..that is $257 a day. Imagine what sort of accomodation you can get for $257 a day. We rented beautiful houses on the beach in WA for a lot less than that a nightand a lot cheaper places down south and in the Pemberton area.I cant really comment on CARPING as we dont do that but just looking at the numbers you are better off with a simple cheap setup or just go the Airbnb way instead of CARPING (I dont even want to mention the B(ali) word where we usually get a stunning private villa with pool and butlers for less than half that price as this post is about camping)
CAVANING-its short for “caravaning” . This style is super popular with the grey nomads. They have done the hard work, raised their families, paid their taxes and its their time to relax and enjoy our beautiful country. They pretty much downsize their houses and stick some wheels on it and off they go on their well deserved journey with toasters, microwaves, satellite dishes, flat screen tvs, air-conditioning and so forth. Caravan parks and petrol stations love them but most businesses in towns really wish they didnt exist as they fill up the sites but they are not really tourists. They are on the road for a long time so beside the odd treats they dont spend big on much. Some places and roadside stops you see over 30 or 40 of them pulling up for the night and they are all hunkered down before sunset with tvs on. (ok, I know not all of them are like that..and my in-laws who are parked right next to us here are the minority of exceptions as they are quite adventurous but a huge percentage are like the above described). Its definiteley not camping in my books.
CAMPING So now we have arrived to camping. The real deal. Lets talk about budget, equipment, experience, campsites and compare different options. Anyone who ever uses budget or lack of gear as a reason for not taking their family, their children camping are actually using it as a cheap excuse. Deep down they really are not prepared to go camping or they are just really influenced by the advertising and marketing campaigns or even by the wrong people who they talk to. Why??? Lets start with the budget. You can kit yourself out for under $200 easily to start with. We actually have a “quick setup” option that we use for short stays such as 1 or 2 night stops. We bought a small dome tent from Kmart for $20 and the 4 of us can easily sleep in it. Quite often you only use the tent to sleep in it especially when its warm so it serves a purpose. 4 camping chairs from Bunnings lets say all up are $48. You can pick up a new table for $30 but on FB markets there are great bargains too. A small gas stove with 4 bottles is about $25. You can spend the rest on a couple of mattresses. As I said..this is all new but FB markets is great for picking up good stuff for peanuts. No, you dont need expensive “camping cutlery set” or “specially designed camping mugs” or plates or anything else as you already have everything at home to take even an esky. You need a tent to sleep in, you need a table to eat at and to cook on, you need a chair to sit on and a mattress to sleep on and off you go. If you are not super comfortable to go off the grid you head straight to a national park and they are pretty good to start with and to flatten the learning curve out a bit.There are all sorts of different options to set yourself up with..tents, camper trailer, swags and they all come in different sizes, shapes and price tags. Don't be afraid to start off with simple setups and work your way up as you gather experience. If you have never done boating it would be pretty hard to buy the perfect and ideal boat for yourself. You always start with basics and focus on the experience rather than how many usb ports does the camper come with. Lets talk about about experience. How much experience do you need to start with? I tell you..zero!If you can stick two poles through two holes than you can erect a tent. If you can light a gas stove at home than you can light a gas stove while camping. Is camp cooking different from home cooking? No. Do you need a fridge? No. Dont believe anyone who says you need it. I travelled around Australia for 3 years with only an esky in the back. You freeze a couple of bottles rock solid at home before you leave and chances are you wont need to buy ice for days. You go to “Hammerbarn” as Bluey calls it and get a couple of torches for a few dollars but I didnt include that in the budget as everybody has torches already. So there you go, kitted out and ready to go for your first camping trip with confidence now that we have covered the “needs” of the start.
Spend a bit more and you start to increase the comfort level but you really dont need to go all out. Dont forget....sales people in stores, advertising can not and will not tell you what you actually need as you will work it out yourself with each trip a bit more. We constantly change and improve on things. Sales people and advertising will only awaken the“wants” in you and its a slippery slope.How log should you go for? The worst cliched sentence I hear from parents is either “ I will take little Johnny out for a one night camping to see if he likes it” or I will set up the tent in the backyard for a night and sleep there with little Johnny to see if he can handle it” . It really makes the hair stand up on my back when I hear it. What would you think if I tried to introduce my 4 year old to spicy food by “ I will give Bianca a chilly to suck on to see if she likes a bit of spice” There are two different “camping trips” One- when you go away with the family for a week or two. Pick a perfect spot as your destination and you spend most if not all of the time there. We love this. Its usually pretty chilled and you you enjoy that you dont “need to” do things. Two- when you actually go on a road trip. You stay for a few days and move on. This is usually a lot longer as you need time to enjoy each place. We have done trips o QLD from Perth, up to Broome and of course we are on one now to explore the East of the North West WA. The two “campings” are different in the core. You prepare differently, you pack differently, you take different equipment, you live your days differently etc. Probably I would suggest you start off with the first option if you have never done it before.When you are camping you change your lifestyle totally for that period. If you have never camped before you need to learn a new lifestyle. You need to learn the rhythm not just individually but as a family. Even for us seasoned campers every single time we go it takes at least two days to slow down and pick up the rhythm so we never really go for less than 5 days. It doesn't mean you cant or you shouldnt ..I just dont think its the best way to introduce the family to camping. For the first time I definitely wouldnt recommend anything longer than two weeks and anything shorter than 5 days.Should you go alone or with other family?Camping is a gig where you need to be in sync and in harmony. We have got friends who we camped with and they are the best travel companions as we camped around New Zealand BC (before children) and camped together with children. The kids get on super well and everything just flows well (yes Kirsty and Garth..its you). We have also went camping with the worst ever couple before that ended a friendship ….. so there you go. Camping with someone can be very different from going to the pub with them. ..so you need to think about it. Also camping with someone who is very kitted out and setup can be a bit intimidating as you can be distracted by what you want instead of what you need. I think you have to walk your own path.I know..camping, travelling, touring in remote areas or even just in nearby national parks is not for everyone....and that is totally normal. If you want to give it a go though I think if you get the basics right to start with so everybody enjoys it and you want to do more.I always say that family camping trips are about balance. Each and every person -let it be a small one or a big one- must enjoy the trip as a whole. I didnt say “must enjoy it all” as that would be impossible. There will be times when the adults enjoy it more and times when the kids enjoy it more. Balance is the key. One thing our kids are learning slowly is that we adults enjoy sometimes different things than kids. They are learning to respect that..but it is a slow process. Sometimes nobody enjoys what we are doing...such as long drives here an there but they are learning to work with what they have and make the time we spend in the car fun. One big thing they are learning and we see the results is that we need to put hard work into simple existence. Everybody needs to pull their weight. In today's modern western society everything is so easy and right at our feet. You are cold, you press a button, you are warm you press a button, you want warm up something you press a button etc..I have to say it makes us all very very “lazy” in some ways. When you camp its back to basics. If you want to sleep somewhere ..you need to set it up, if you want to get warm you need to collect firewood, light a fire, keep it alive, if you want to cool off you need to set up shade, you cant waste water as it is very precious out in remote areas ….I have had a number of people saying “ I would like to go camping ..just dont want the hassle of packing, unpacking, setting etc” I usually have a little hidden smirk under my nose. Not because I cant relate to that or I dont understand them. Quite the opposite..Its beacause I have done it so many times and I can say that comfortably that those are the things that make camping camping. The reward of your hard work is priceless. It makes you feel good in a different way any time you set up your home for a couple of days, any time you light a fire, any time you cook a meal. You worked for it. You didnt work for money..you worked for the experience without the middle man where you work for the money, you give it to the 3rd party and they provide an experience in a way of a meal, or heating or water. The campsite we are at right now is the perfect example. We are up on the Dampier peninsula on the way to Cape Leveque. We got to this remote section of the beach at about 2pm yesterday in the middle of the tropical, humid, hot day. After some windy, corrugated dirt road driving we came across a magical campsite. Setup followed after a short discussion about the sun in the morning, shade, crocs (yep..its croc country), tide etc . I was drenched in sweat in the heat and pretty exhausted despite our pretty basic setup but we did put up a big shade cloth. Job wasnt finished as firewood had to be collected. I got the axe and got that sorted. Tam was doing the same , setting up, sorting out..making a home, getting the kitchen up and running. The kids whinged a bit but in minutes they were working hard with us holding poles, getting pegs as they know it by now..the quicker we set up the sooner we can enjoy the place. I tell you want..sitting down after all that and having a cold beer followed by an icey cold bottle of wine we shared with Tam with cheese, crackers and olives as the sun started to set, watching the tide running out, kids playing, sitting by the fire after sunset.... well..hard to put it into words. We worked hard not for luxury but purely for being able to exist in this remote , tropical location for a few days than we will do it again somewhere else. You feel alive.