There seems to be a notion amongst many people that in order to go camping, you must rough it and live uncomfortably. Suggest the word 'camping' and you are sure to be met with some disapproving looks! I've been camping for years in various setups, and have to completely disagree. Sure, with the wrong setup, camping can be uncomfortable, and downright unpleasant in some cases.
Get your setup correct though, and you'll be warm, comfortable and itching to spend another night away from home. Looking back, I've learnt a fair bit over the years, and some of that comes from experiences camping that I'd rather not have happen again. I've woken up to a tent full of water, had tents collapse on me, had to visit chiropractors after sleeping on a terrible air bed and shivered my way through some freezing nights in the past with poor sleeping bags, and its not pleasant. The good news though, is you can avoid being uncomfortable when camping, and in this post we look into it further.
In my mind, there are 7 reasons why camping can be uncomfortable:
If you are shivering away when camping, you aren't going to have a fun time. In Australia, even when its snowing people enjoy camping; its all about having a good idea of what the weather is going to do, having the right clothes and other gear to keep you warm.
Nothing is a substitute for a warm fire. If you are allowed a camp fire, its one of the best parts about camping. Sit around with your mates and family, enjoy a drink and have a yarn.
Clothes need to be warm enough that you are comfortable, and you need enough should you get wet or dirty! Take the time to check the weather before you head off, and ensure you have the right gear to keep you warm! Avoid sleeping directly on the ground when its cold; the cool dirt will take any warmth you have very quickly. A decent mattress with a blanket is a good start, or a stretcher bed often works wonders.
Adversely, being hot when camping can also be very unpleasant. As above, check the weather, and pack accordingly. If its going to be hot and sunny, you need shade, and somewhere to swim is always appreciated. Clothes need to breath well, but protect you from the sun.
Bad nights sleep
Nothing ruins a great camping trip more than a terrible nights sleep. I started camping using the yoga style mats that people use for hiking, and progressed to a very average air mattress, then a thin foam mattress, two cheap self inflating mattresses, and finally bought one of the best self inflating mattresses on the market - the Blackwolf Mega Deluxe. Expensive, and even more so because I tried to be cheap and get away with products that cost less money. A poor man buys twice; so they say. In my case, several times more than twice!
I remember coming back from two weeks of camping at Coral Bay, and having to go and see the chiropractor. The air beds were that bad that my back had gone out, and I felt terrible. Since getting the new self inflating mattresses (which are generally considered to be the best style of mattress for camping) I've never looked back. I never wake with a sore back, and rarely wake up from being uncomfortable.
We've since moved into a Camper trailer, and now have the luxury of sleeping on a queen size innerspring mattress, like what most would have at home! I'm telling you; the right gear for sleeping makes a massive difference to your camping trip. This includes a good sleeping bag or quilt that will keep you warm when its cold outside, a decent pillow and a quality tent to protect you from the elements.
There's nothing like waking up in a pool of water to make you wish you'd stayed at home for the weekend!
Lets be honest here. Camping is not as 'easy' as if you were at home. Of course, this varies greatly depending on how you camp, but in general, unless you have a caravan with all the bells and whistles, there are going to be some adjustments in your day to day living. Meals take longer with a limited number of burners and lack of light, water is harder to get and everything takes longer.
However, your setup, mindset and knowledge greatly affects how difficult living is when camping, and there are plenty of things you can do to make it easier. Some things cost money to do, and others are just simply DIY mods, or changes to the way you camp. Either way, human nature tends to be lazy, and you'll soon identify things that can be done quicker, easier and better. Don't throw the towel in when you are met with a few challenges; the rewards of camping far outweigh anything that's going to come your way.
Here's a few things to make your camping life easier:
These days, your options for camping lighting is absolutely insane. LED technology has changed the way we camp forever, and whether you have access to a 4WD vehicle for 12V power, or you are completely off the grid, there's no reason why you can't have quality lighting to make doing what needs to be done at night easy. LED head lamps are an absolute must for anyone camping, as are a couple of LED flood lights and LED strip lighting if you have access to your 4WD's secondary battery.
Fast set up tent and other gear
If you are moving regularly, the first thing that's going to annoy you to no end is setting up a tent that takes more than 10 minutes to do. I've seen people spend over an hour erecting complicated tents, and its a sure way to end up never camping again, or divorcing your partner! We've been running an Oztent RV5, which is a '30 second tent', and absolutely love it.
If it takes you 2 hours to set your camp site up, things aren't fun. Whenever you add to your camping gear, have a think about how long its going to take to setup, and pack away!
Finding epic camp sites
We live in a country with more incredible camp sites than you could explore in a lifetime. Where you go to camp will take your camping experience from great to mind blowing. The internet today has so much information to guide you to great campsites, and then you have apps like Wikicamps which are absolutely essential. I prefer camp sites that are quiet, away from other people and next to amazing natural beauties.
Camp with others
Camping by yourself, or with your family is amazing, and I'd highly recommend it, but camping with others can make your life much easier. You can share the cooking, cleaning and setting up/packing away duties. Of course, be selective of how you do this, as it can work against you, but if you've got great mates and family its a perfect solution.
Don't set expectations
Go with the flow. I've learned that by setting expectations of camp grounds, tours and places you have to visit results in something different. Arrive at a campsite without expectations, and take it in as it is. If you are flexible, you'll have an amazing trip.
Camping and cooking go hand in hand. Often people over complicate it though, and end up stressed about cooking difficult meals. Food tastes better when you are camping; you don't have to cook 3 course meals to enjoy yourselves. Keep it simple, prepare what you can at home and you'll be just fine.
Having a kitchen that is easy to use, with plenty of bench space will make your lives much easier. Limit the number of dishes you use, so the washing up is faster!
Get access to water easier
Water is pretty essential stuff, and you need to be able to access it easily. If you have to fill your kettle up from a 20L jerry can each time, you'll end up with a broken back as well as a cranky attitude. Taps that can be turned on and off are fantastic, or hand pumps, like in our Camper trailer. If you have a water tank, a little electric pump is an amazing touch of luxury. Either way, make sure you can get water quickly, easily and safely.
Poor choice of camp site setup
When you've found an epic camp site, you need to set up in the right location, with everything in a place that makes sense. Face your tent the wrong way and you'll suffer the brunt of the wind, or get woken with a beam of sun in your face!
Consider what will happen if it rains; are you going to end up in a flood? If its windy, what are the chances of a tree branch breaking off and hurting you, or damaging your gear? Wind can be terrible on the coast especially, and you need to know where its going to come from in order to set up best. If you can block it with a vehicle or tarp, its a great start to a good setup.
Just because you are camping doesn't mean you don't wash for a week straight. Going to the toilet is going to be different, but again not impossible and certainly shouldn't be an unpleasant exercise. If you are camping near water, you can wash fairly easily (just don't put soap into freshwater systems). Baby wipes are fantastic for a clean down, as is a bucket of warm water from the fire or gas burner and a flannel.
There are a myriad of portable toilets on the market today, which make doing your business in the bush much easier. If you haven't got one, dig a hole and bury it well away from any water source. You can get seats to sit on with a hole in the middle, or you've got to squat. Either way works fine with a bit of practice!
The more you know, the easier and more comfortable camping is going to be. Knowing what to take, and how to use it will make a massive difference to your camping trip. Things like setting your tent up in a smart location, building a fire that doesn't smoke, cooking meals that are tasty, simple and quick and preparing for bad weather will improve your comfort level dramatically.
The more you camp, the more you learn, and like they say, practice makes perfect. Camp lots and you'll be a master of what you need to know in no time.
What else have I missed? Leave a comment below and let me know!