Packing Smart: The Top Ten Essentials of Camping Gear

Gearing up for an Aussie camping trip? We’ve got you covered! From the outback to the bush, having the right essentials can make or break your adventure. Whether it’s a sturdy tent, a reliable sleeping bag, or the perfect camp cooking setup, our top ten must-haves ensure you’re ready for anything. Dive into our guide and get prepped for an unforgettable experience in the wild beauty of Australia.

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ESSENTIALS OF CAMPING #1: SHELTER

Selecting the right camping gear, including tents and swags, is crucial for a comfortable experience. Good quality camping accommodation is key – you want something that will be easy to put up and protect you from the elements, depending on the time of year. We’ve learned (the hard way) that even with the best forecasts, you can’t always predict what the weather conditions will bring. There are two excellent types of camping accommodation for beginners – tents and swags.

A camping tent and traditional Australian swag set up in the outback with a campfire and eucalyptus trees at sunset.

Tents have the advantage of being roomier, while swags are a great option if you’re looking for a compact, fuss-free option. This advice is especially helpful for those planning their first camping trip, ensuring they select the appropriate shelter for their adventure. Personally, we use both for our family. When going camping, ask yourself a few questions:

  • How long you’re staying out camping
  • How many setups you’ll be doing on the camp trip
  • Number of people you’re setting up for

No matter what type of accommodation you choose, it’s essential to make sure your tent or swag represents good value for your budget. We love Colman tents, they’re quick to set up, and built to last.

Camping tip: don’t forget the tent pegs!

 

When it comes to swags, we own Darche swags. We love our swags so much you’ll often see them set up in the backyard for the kids to ‘camp out’ between trips.

Too tired to pitch the swag or tent after a long road trip? Easy, just roll out a sleeping mat or air mattress in the back of the wagon – all you need is a good sleeping bag and you’re set for a night of car camping. See, that’s the beauty of camping, you don’t need all the creature comforts to be happy campers.

Want the ultimate in shelter and comfort? Check out the article we’ve written on gazebos.

ESSENTIALS OF CAMPING#2: SLEEPING BAGS

There’s nothing that’ll dampen a camp trip quite like a night spent freezing your butt off. We’ve learnt the lesson already, so take our word for it. If you’re a beginner at camping, you may not know that sleeping bags come with ratings – it’s super important to pay attention when purchasing one. If you’re planning a camping trip in Australia during winter, ensure you’ve got a good-quality sleeping bag rated -5 to -10°C. We love Coleman Pilbara C-5 Sleeping Bags

While we’re on the subject of warmth, let’s discuss clothing…of course, flannos are essential, as is a waterproof jacket for cooler weather or heavy rain. Everything else is optional. Nudie runs are more than acceptable at the campsite (just mind the neighbours, if you have any!).

Want to do some more research into jackets? You’re in luck, we’ve written an entire blog on the best fleecy jackets for Oz.

Another way to stay warm on those cold nights (or mornings), is to have a fire burning. It’s important that you know how to build and maintain a campfire before heading out, so do some research or ask a friend who’s an experienced camper (or pyromaniac).

Once you’ve got the hang of it, a campfire soon becomes one of the most satisfying aspects of camping – not only does it keep you warm and provide light, it’s hands down the best way to unwind and relax in the evening with a cup of tea or beer. Just make sure to put out your campfire (properly) when you leave. It sounds obvious, but it’s a step many campers miss, and it has disastrous implications!

Hot tip: never leave for camping without a good supply of your own (dry) firewood! You’ll thank us later.

Colourful sleeping bags inside a tent set up in a forest with tall gum trees, view of the Australian bushland.

ESSENTIALS OF CAMPING #3: WATER

Water is arguably the most important thing you need to consider when packing for your trip – don’t rely on running water being available at your campsite. Make sure you have enough water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and the morning coffee. We like to take at least three litres per person, per day – more if it’s hot or we’re doing a lot of physical activity.

Collapsible water storage containers and portable filtration systems at a campsite in the Australian outback.

ESSENTIALS OF CAMPING #4: SUSTENANCE

Cooking: camping stove or open fire? Again, there are pros and cons to both options. Camp stoves give you more control over the cooking process, but there’s nothing quite like cooking over an open fire. If you’re new to camping, we recommend starting with a camp stove – that way if things get a little hectic you can always heat up a can of baked beans. We have a Coleman Camping Stove and it’s stood the test of many camping adventures.

Hot tip: don’t forget the gas bottle if you’re taking a camping stove.

Let’s talk cooking utensils. A couple of frypans, a billy, and some tongs, and a sharp knife are all you need when you want to keep it easy. Throw in a set of enamel cups and plates, and some cutlery to eat with. Simples. 

Now onto food – this is where things can start to get really fun. Camping meals don’t have to be boring, in fact, they can be pretty gourmet if you put your mind to it (oysters on the beach, anyone?). Planning is key when it comes to camp cooking. Here are some things to take into account:

  • What cooking equipment you’ll have available
  • How many people you’ll be feeding
  • How long you’re going camping for
  • Ensuring you have the necessary food prep supplies for a seamless meal experience

If you’re camping close to civilisation eg. in a caravan park, you can always pop into town for supplies. But if you’re venturing further afield into National Parks, make sure you’ve got enough food to last the duration of your trip. We plan all our meals before a trip to know exactly what we need, because even though we love the ‘unplanned-ness’ of camping, we also love to enjoy our time in the bush without the stress of running out of supplies – for that reason, we always have a good camping checklist on hand for all our camping trips.

ESSENTIALS OF CAMPING #5: WASTE

Dude, don’t forget the rubbish bags. Ask any seasoned camper and they’ll tell you the number one camping rule is to leave your camping area cleaner than you found it. Put simply, take your crap with you – whether it’s in plastic bags, or beer boxes – just take your rubbish with you when you leave.

We love Outback Australia Cleanups bags, for a couple of reasons: OCA rubbish sacks are made, designed, and tested right here in Australia using 100% upcycled shade sail offcuts, and importantly, purchasing these bags supports a not-for-profit organisation that’s doing amazing things for Australia.

ESSENTIALS OF CAMPING #6: FURNITURE

Now we’ve got the big things sorted, let’s move on to the smaller details: the camp chair. Except, this ‘small detail’ should be classed as essential camping equipment, because let’s face it, you’ll be spending a lot of time sitting around the campfire.

As a family of eight, we’ve been through our fair share of camp chairs on our family camping trips. We have one important factor: don’t go for the fanciest one.

My wife has a fancy recliner camping chair in my garage. And you know what? That’s exactly where it stays. I mean, she says it’s super comfortable, which is great, but that comfort takes up space – as much space as four other camp chairs. When you’re packing for a camp trip, space is everything, and that fancy camp chair just doesn’t warrant the space it takes up – think of the extra beers and snacks that could fit!

Find a chair that will hold your weight and is comfortable. Bonus points if it has a drink holder. I have an Austent King Goanna Chair, and I love it.

ESSENTIALS OF CAMPING #7: FIRST AID KIT

I cannot emphasise how vital a first-aid kit is to your camping kit. Drop bears may not be coming to attack you, but a Red Belly snake may – you want to be prepared for that. We have first-aid kits in every car, and in the camper trailer – we’re always using them.

Make sure you have a first-aid kit packed and easily accessible, plus repellent for insect bites, and sunscreen (the Australian sun is no joke). We absolutely love Survival first aid kits – they’re Aussie-made, and have everything you need.

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ESSENTIALS OF CAMPING #8: TOOLS

Now, let’s talk tools and equipment – These can make or break your camping trip if you find yourself in a sticky situation. You never know when you need to put your MacGyverhat on, and for this reason, a multi-tool or pocket knife is always handy to have.

Being a mechanic by trade, I usually want to take my whole toolkit. If I keep it minimal, you won’t see me leave without a basic toolkit, rope, spare tent pegs, extra tarp, duct tape, WD40, and cable ties. I’ve created a little shopping list for you here.

On the subject of camping equipment, never forget the jerry cans…especially if you’re travelling long distances – the great thing about Australia is that it’s vast. The scary thing about Australia is that it’s vast. You never know where the next service stations are going to be. A good idea is to pop jerry can onto the roof racks, just in case.

 

ESSENTIALS OF CAMPING #9: LIGHTING

You can make it as basic or as extravagant as you like when it comes to lighting. At a minimum, you’ll need a torch. This will be your best friend for those toilet breaks at night (remember, local wildlife: Drop Bears and all that…), so don’t lose it! All eight of us sport head torches when we’re out camping, it’s possibly the most fashionable piece to our camp attire.

 

 

We always have a couple of lanterns to set up around camp, especially in the food preparation area. If I’m feeling industrious, you’ll sometimes catch me rolling out LED lighting in our camper trailer for the kiddos.

 

Our final thoughts for your camping

essentials list

If we were to give you our number one tip when packing to camp anywhere in Australia, it would be to create a packing list and stick to it You don’t want to be lugging around a ton of unnecessary gear. This doesn’t mean skimping on essentials like food and water – just be mindful of what you’re packing, and how much space it will take up.

You now have a list of the top ten essentials to plan an epic camping trip in our beautiful country – which shouldn’t be hard because every location in Australia is stunning. Go get ‘em!

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MEET THE WORD-SLINGER

G’day, I’m Stacey, CAW4D wifey, author of all our CA4WD blogs, and builder of all things website-ey. When I’m not writing about our family’s camping adventures, you’ll find me kicking around on social media with the incredible camping and 4wd community we’ve built.

Ohhh, and sometimes, you may find me doing ‘actual work’…which, ironically, is very similar to what I do ’round these parts – marketing. You can find more of my pen-pedalling atrocities here.

In the meantime, kick back, grab a coldie, and check out some more cool camping content I’ve put together for you here. Cheers.

Wanna hear about a tale about an emergency dunny roll and the Mundi Mundi Bash? Read it here.

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10 September 2022

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We’re Stacey and Lee, the creators of Camping and 4wd Downunder. We wanted to create a space to connect with other camping and 4wd enthusiasts who love nothing more than to leave the chaotic, noisy world behind and escape to the bush. If you’ve landed on this website, our guess is you’re one of those people. Our people. Welcome.

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