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Sunday, 26 August 2012

Happy camping list... according to me!

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We are not regular campers. In fact, we only camp once every two years or so when we are courageous enough to embark on the seven hour driving trip to our wild piece of land somewhere north. It's every bit beautiful and secluded but there is no electricity, shower or toilet, just a small creek that fills up when it rains ... and no, we do not have an RV or a caravan; we roughing it!

The kids with the cousins: notice the hats!

I have learnt that in order to enjoy bush camping, one must be prepared. I'm not an organised type of person; I have to work hard to get results. So I've been digging deep to put together the Happy Camping List for 2 adults, 1 teenager, 2 children and one small pesky mutt. By happy list, I mean comfort, ease; all those little things that makes camping, well ... bearable! Remember a list is meant to be amended, adapted, transformed ... but for a hardcore survival camping know how, I suggest you visit specialised websites. I am by no mean a professional camper!

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We didn't spend too much time dwelling on which tent to choose. They're are plenty out there. We knew what we wanted and we were lucky enough to find it on ebay at a good price. We wanted a simple dome, with plenty of head room, reliable no matter the weather or condition. In a few words waterproof, windproof, snake proof, spider proof, mosquito proof ... you get the picture. So we got the Serengeti Safari Bow 3x3m, and it's fantastic. It stays dry even under torrential rain! (Heavy though, definitely not a hiking tent, quite bulky as well but top for comfort.). I love the look of it too; the kaki canvas blends in the surrounding. When we are going on the South Coast during summer, the tent works as  a spare room for guests.

We also have an old fashion canvas tent/gazebo that we picked up in a garage sale. I would say it is essential to have some sort of extension, gazebo, that will allow you to be outside in case of unfriendly camping weather. Nothing worse to be confined inside a tent with 3 children and a dog - no worse - 1 teenager, 2 children and a dog. Since our tent is one single dome, we also use the Gazebo to set up the kitchen area. We have a small foldaway table/bench to organise all the kitchen equipment. But more about that later.

It's a good idea to lay a shade cloth under the tent. A tarpaulin is not recommended because if it rains, water will collect between your tent and the tarp with nowhere to escape. A shade cloth type of material (I'm sure there is another name,but can;'t put my tongue on it)will let the moisture through but keep the mud of your tent.  Now, we don't have one. It's one of those things I'm meant to buy but that somehow always ends up at the bottom of the So many things I should buy list. 
So we do without but it does make cleaning easier when packing up. 

One thing I love to have under the awning though is a Recycled Plastic Rug. Being made of plastic, it doesn't matter if it gets wet or dirty.
They're cheap, light and beautiful. 

To set up camp properly, you'll also need:
-Chairs; make sure everyone gets their own; yes, the kids as well.
-Table: No secret recipe here. Plenty to choose from. We have the basic models, nothing fancy at all. We have 2; one for dinning, one small one under the extension to organise the kitchen
-Torches: one for each kid, if not there will be fights, and 1 good long lasting one for you.
-Lamps: 2 minimum, one for the tent, one for the table.

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We use air mattresses. I find them more comfortable than any stretchers. They come in a wide range of size, thickness and prices.
We have the basics models.
Check the mattresses are still ok before each trip.
Repair kit
1 pump
1 queen size
2 singles
It works well for the five of us. Mia squeezes between her brother and sister, or us.
However, now that Lucile is fifteen, she doesn't find sleeping all together being so much fun any more. So this year, she'll have her own, small (and cheap) tent, next to ours, that she will share with Lino. (the pesky dog) If it starts to pour down, she can always squeeze in with us. 
Therefore, this year, I'll need an extra mattress for the extra tent.

My tip for extra comfort:
During the day, I put the single mattresses on top of each other and cover them with a bedspread.(see below for the note on bedspread) The pillows become cushions and just like that, we have a couch and floor space in the tent. If anyone wants to lie down for a siesta, the queen size bed is always ready.

Bed linen:
Don't make the same mistake as I did once; choose sleeping bags over doona.(Unless you're camping in a warm climate  A doona will keep you warm on top but will be useless at stopping the cold coming from the ground, going right through your mattress.... Brrr!! Air mattresses will absorb the cold and you'll end up freezing. (Unless of course, you are camping in a very warm climate.)
Good sleeping bags will last you for years and will play a big part on your level of comfort.
I like to have a fitted sheet on my bed. But I don't bother for the kids.

Note on pillows; everyone likes to keep their pillow handy during the car trip. It does save some space in the car boot but what I find annoying is that at the end of the trip, the pillow cases aren't quite that fresh any more. First because we have a dog that will try his best to sit on each one of them, and two, yes, we do eat in our car. The kids will nibble on all sort of things; sticky, greasy, fuzzy ... So really up to you here. I just thought I’d mentioned it because I had to sleep once on a very grubby pillow—from day one— and it wasn't such a good feeling. I slip a spare case or two in the laundry bag, just in case.
Or you could make some Road Trip Pillow Cases:

Photo Source: amazing Mae
They are super easy to do. Visit Amazing Mae for instructions.

Photo Source: Amazing Mae


I always bring two. I know it sounds a bit peculiar on a camping trip. You can call them my luxury items if you want, but there are two good reasons why I’m adamant about bringing them; one the tent looks cosy and inviting (remember the couch) and two, a bedspread means keeping your beds clean and protected from all the bits and pieces dragged in from outside. (If you have children, you know what I mean.) I tuck the bedspread nicely under the mattress, that way I’m sure nothing has a chance to crawl inside the sleeping bags, in case someone leaves the tent opened.(if you have children, you know what I mean.)

Extra Polar Fleece Blankets: always handy to have spare blankets. I usually bring 2.

Laundry bags: 

During the trip up, they carry the blankets, sheet, bedspreads, towels. Once camp is set up, they’re used for the dirty laundry. I always bring a spare one. 
I'm aiming to have a tutorial ready for you soon. Keep an eye.

In a nutshell:
5 sleeping bags. Well, 4 in our case because we have a double one. (Yes, very snuggy, very nice!)
5 pillows
1 queen fitted sheet
3 spare pillow cases
2 bedspreads (1 double, 1 single)
2 Polar fleece blankets (maybe three now that Lucile is sleeping solo)
3 laundry bags
1 dog blanket

You're still there? Good, let's get cooking.

Yabbies from the creek

Everyone is different when it comes to cooking. Eating well when camping is possible, providing you have the right tools.

-Gaz burner+ extra gaz
-A set of melamine crockery. 
Ours caters for 6; 6 plates, 6 mugs, 6 flat bowls (perfect for cereal or pasta), 6 glasses and a large salad bowl. I like the fact that there is only one spare set. Dishes will never pile up excessively. Taking just what you need for the crockery usually works well.

-A set of cutlery; I like the sets sold with a stand simply because it’s easy for storage and it doubles as a drier too.
-Plastic containers. I like to keep the food in hermetic containers. Whether for the dry food (sugar, tea, crackers, biscuits ...) or all the stuff that must go into the esky. I hate wet, soggy packaging.
-Kitchen knives.
-Kitchen scissors
-Serving spoons/tongs (for soup, spaghetti, salad ... it sound a bit over the top but it’s actually quite handy and nice to have them.)
-Can opener
-Bottle opener
-BBQ tools
-Chopping board. For the obvious need but also, chances are your table space will be restricted, a chopping board means you can chop, slice, wherever you like. It can double as a serving tray too (bread, cheese, cake and so on ...)
-Cooking pots, frying pans. We mostly cook on the fire, so we have heavy pans and pots. You know what you cook on what, so bring what you need accordingly.

Healthy Breakfast ...

-Oven mitt (to grab these heavy pots from the fire—ok, you could use tea towels)
-Water Fountain
- Bowls for the dog
-2 flat square buckets. That’s for the washing up.
-A dish rack; that will save you from having to hand dry and doubles as storage too. Not essential, but handy.
-Sponges, scourer, brush.
-Tea towels. As many as you wish.
-Paper towel. A generous amount.
-Dishwashing liquid (biodegradable)

I also love to bring a bottle of  Vanilla Fridge spray. It smells wonderful and it’s safe around food. I use it everywhere!
-A few doses of laundry powder.
-Rubbish bags.

I know. The list is big. Huge. I realise it makes me sound like a very fussy type of camper, but really, I'm not. I've just learnt over the years that being picky on what to bring means you can relax more when you camp. And yes, I'll admit that, I like to have a "nice" camp. I mean who has never dreamt of camping like this:

My type of camping...
Photo source: Pinterest
or this,
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or perhaps like that;
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Well I do! But in the meanwhile I keep my expectations to a reasonable level!

Antibacterial hand gel. 

- Wipes. Plenty of them. The easiest way for a quick wash.

- Basic toiletry (Toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, hair brush, hair ties, lotion and so on ...)

- Toilet paper
- Towels

-Also in the bag:

-First aid kit; checked and complete

-Basic Medication

-Insect repellent


-lip balm

For the tent:

- A door mat. Again it sounds over the top, but unless you're going to take off your shoes each time to get inside the tent, it's quite handy.

-A small dust pan & brush (to get rid off the sand, grass, dirt that inevitably gets inside the tent (if you have kids, you'll know what I mean).

-Clotheline and pegs. A string and a few pegs will do, but this is essential to have to hang all the wet stuff.

Just a short, non exhaustive list here. I have no miracle item that would keep children busy/happy no matter what. Without electricity, all the electronic devices are short lived since we can't recharge the batteries. (Well, we could, in the car, but since we tend not to use it much during our stay, it's not really an option.)So it's back to the basics and it feels good! 

They will pack a small bag with their favourite things:

Papo Figurines (Mia's princesses, Louis' knights), Farm animals (because it's fun to build a farm, paddocks and all straight on the ground outside)

- A fresh new packet of markers. It's almost a tradition in our family whenever we're going on a special trip. We've got markers, at home but nothing is more enticing than a new packet. I have tested a few brands over the years but in the end, the Crayola Super Tips are our favourite. It's smooth, never goes dry and the tip works well both for fine details and large areas. I bought a pack of 50 yummy colours.

- Colouring books. Finally the world of colouring books has evolved and there are now fabulous books to choose from: Yippee! I was getting so desperate for decent images to colour that I had started making my own books for the kids.

In the Usborne range, we love the Doodling and Colouring. It's great for both boys and girls.

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Mia and I love the Rosie Flo range.

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And also all the books from La Marelle (French Publisher):
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Paint and Brushes: what better place to go mad and wild with paint than camping? Where we are, we've got all the room in the world and the inspiration too. They want to build a tepee this year so I'll pack an old white sheet (collected in an Op shop) and they'll be able to paint straight on it for a cool design-and lots of fun.

Also in my Art pack: glue, scissors, tape, glitter, popsicles sticks (to make puppets).

Games for everyone: (Uno, Yatzee, Memory, Scrabble ...)
Books, because what beats a good read?
Finska, Soccer Ball, Badmington, Bocce ... Oh my, can we really handle so much fun!

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