We’ve done a huge amount of travel and camping over the years, to the point that its probably getting up around the 600 nights or so. This comprises of short, weekend trips away from Perth and longer trips, like our 3 month trip to the Northern Territory. In this post, we look at some of the facets of camping on your own (as in with your partner, or family), compared to camping with other friends and family.
I’ll start off by saying that which ever way you go about it, there are pro’s and con’s. We love to do both, but there is a big difference between the two, and they will suit different people at different ages, and walks of life.
I also want to put a disclaimer in here; if you’ve camped with us, please don’t take any of these comments the wrong way. I can’t recall a camping trip that we haven’t enjoyed with anyone that we’ve been with, but there are differences and in this post I want to try and iterate what you might expect, and the differences between travelling solo or in a group.
Kids or no kids
Maybe we’ll start here, as it’s a game changer for life in general, but also for camping. If you are kid free, your style of camping is likely to be very different than if you have little ones, especially if they are young and require more regular attention.
Our trips used to be quite busy, and full of adventure. We’d happily eat around whatever we wanted to do, and would do long days in the car, and move often. On the odd occasion we’d do 1200km in a day, and whilst its not enjoyable, you’d struggle to do that with kids (although we have come close!)
The pace changes dramatically when you have kids, and I’ve been through this first hand. In our family, we were the first to have children, and most of our friends didn’t have kids at this stage either. That meant when we headed off camping, we were always the ones that were being waited on, or were delaying the trip. It didn’t help that we had a slow soft floor camper, but I always felt a bit under pressure to try and keep up a normal pace of travel, when it just wasn’t possible.
We had to stop often when our kids were very young to feed them and change nappies, and that meant others would usually stop too.
I recall a moment where a good mate of mine who was single at the time quite clearly articulated the fact that things were going too slow, and I fully understood what he was saying, but we couldn’t go any faster, and that’s really hard to explain to someone who has never experienced what its like with young ones.
What style of trip is it?
I guess the next major thing to consider is the type of trip you are doing. We often do camping weekends away from Perth where we’ll head away within 3 hours to a destination, set up camp and do very little after that. We’re happy sitting around camp, going for walks and exploring the local region, and don’t have to be out adventuring for every moment of every day.
When you go with others, its important that you understand each other and travel accordingly. If one party thinks you are going on an adventure packed trip and the other expects to sit around and do nothing, you are going to have a problem.
Travelling in a group is always a compromise
It doesn’t matter who you go with, every trip with others will be a compromise in one way or another. The amount of driving you do each day, where you camp, what tracks you do, what attractions you stop and enjoy, when you stop for lunch and the list goes on and on.
Inevitably people will want to do things difficult, and that means if you want to travel as a group you either have to comply, or leave the group.
To give you a personal example, my parents often come camping with us, and we always have a good time. They love the time they get with the grandkids, we appreciate some peace and quiet and we’re generally happy enough to do our own thing as needed too. They tow a single axle off road caravan, which whilst is no where near as big on the market, it has its limitations of where you can physically take it.
As a result, when we travel with mum and dad we pick places we know that they’ll get their van into, and if it is took risky or doesn’t fit, we find somewhere else. Dad’s pretty great behind the wheel and will take his 4WD and Caravan where a lot of people would never consider, but you can’t beat physics. Small, tight tracks and ones with sharp entries and departures rule a van out, as does any soft sand.
Another perfect example is a caravan park; some people in the group might want a powered site, and others might not need one. You can be split up, but generally we’ll just pay the extra to stay with others.
We travel with others with flexibility
Our usual stance for trips that we organise when we travel and camp is that you are welcome to come along for the bits that you want to, and if you want to do something different that is absolutely fine too.
It means that most nights we camp together, but we can separate for the day and do whatever we choose to do, without upsetting anyone else or making others feel like they have to do what we are doing too.
Some people have seen a lot more than others, and that means they might not want to go to a certain attraction again as they’ve done it before, and this gives you a bit more flexibility to keep everyone happy.
It can be more relaxing on your own
Since having our kids, who are 6 and 4, its been only a handful of trips where we’ve gone on our own. Our latest 3 weeks in the Pilbara though, we did the trip solo, with just my wife and I, and our two boys, and we had no schedule to follow.
We specifically did this to test what it would be like full time, on the road with our two boys, who receive a huge amount of love and attention when travelling with our folks, or with other families. I was concerned that the kids would be such a challenge on our own that we’d not enjoy the trip, and I was proven to be very wrong.
Yes, they are a challenge and can be a serious handful at times, but for the most part dealing with them has been more relaxing than travelling with a big group of people for an extended period of time.
Sarah and I suspect because they get less interaction with others, and have less people to entertain them and put up with their mucking around that they behave better, and it will be interesting to see how they go when our folks fly home to Perth after being with us for the better part of 3 months.
The bigger the group, the harder it is
There’s something to be said for travelling in a smaller group. Whilst catching up with a whole heap of people can be a lot of fun, just going with one other family can make for a more enjoyable trip.
We’ve done some trips where we’ve had 5 or more 4WD’s, and it does introduce a new challenge that you don’t have on your own, or with one other 4WD. It only takes one person, or one vehicle to go a different way, or want to do a different thing and then a bit of division starts, and its harder to manage.
We love camping with, or without others
I suppose I should end by saying any type of camping is good, as long as you are prepared for it. I mentioned earlier that I cant recall any time we’ve been camping and not had a good time as a result of the people we were with.