I remember the time we persuaded my sister-in-law (a determined non-camper) to experience a night under canvas at Lake Moogerah. No sooner had we set up a spectacular campsite, than a mini-tornado ripped across the water and smashed it to smithereens. We slept under the stars in the mud that night, and there was no going back EVER as far as Kathie was concerned.
We can’t control nature, but there are some aspects of camping that outdoor lovers can prepare for, if we want to entice a non-believer to give it a go. So here are my 6 tips:
A good night’s sleep
Nothing says togetherness like two hot, sticky bodies smooshed together in the middle of the night by a leaking air mattress. If you want to remain on speaking terms by morning, then invest in a sturdy self-inflating model. All the better if you can raise it off the ground to combat damp and chill factors.
Camping’s much more bearable if you have a dry bed and dry clothes. Sure it’s a hassle to include a tarpaulin, spreader bars, and added poles, pegs and ropes to your pack list, but it’s worth it. As someone who’s sat through many beachside summer torrents, there’s a comfort to watching the rain from under a sturdy tarp that’s been set on the right angle. I’d also recommend packing a small shovel, in case you need to dig channels to drain water away from your tent.
Portable battery power and the LED revolution have been a godsend to campers. Strip lighting over the kitchen, reading lights in the tent, and fairy lights (‘cause they’re pretty!) make our home away from home feel like … well home. But THE most important light in your kit will be a headlamp. Midnight trips to the loo (or any outdoor version of it) are so much more achievable when they can be performed hands-free.
Which brings me to the smallest room in the house. Porta potties have come a long way from the ‘toilet seat perched on a milk crate over a hole in the ground’ varieties of yesteryear. They’re comfy and self-contained and you can set up your own little ensuite in no time. Just be sure to confirm the rules of engagement on day one, because someone’s going to have to empty it. If you’re enjoying the amenities of a campground or tourist park, hang a lanyard somewhere prominent with the toilet passcode on it, ‘cause when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go!
We share the great outdoors with creatures great and small, and the smallest of them are usually the most annoying, so don’t forget to pack the bug spray. There’s a certain nostalgia to the scent of a mosquito coil burning all day. Get in the habit of zipping tent doors all the way shut, and you’ll avoid being pestered by that one over-exuberant mozzie in the night. It’ll also prevent raiders of the bird variety from attacking your portable pantry, and reptiles of the hissy variety snuggling up on your pillow.
An exhausted camper is a happy camper who sleeps through the night, so pack their day with outdoor activities and that should be guaranteed. Plan B is to ply them with beers or gin and tonics at sunset and bore them with after-dinner board games. And while you’re waiting to drift off, there’s always time to make shadow puppets on the tent wall… after all, you have the lights for it!