My journey from one to five-star camping started in 1986. My husband is an ex-scout so he was used to roughing it while camping, whereas I had never camped in my life. We went camping with friends in an old-fashioned canvas tent. We had hardly any equipment apart from the tent and sleeping bags: I wasn’t impressed. The next time we went away with the same friends, we rented an on-site caravan. Which was fine except they had the bedroom and we had the makeshift bed at the other end of the caravan. We couldn’t sleep for the sound of bottles chinking in the cupboard and ornaments falling off the shelves and onto our heads. Lesson learned: never share a caravan with a frisky couple. I give my first camping experiences one star.

In 1988 we left our frisky friends in the UK and emigrated to Australia. This time we went camping with relatives, again we spent the night in a canvas tent. It leaked, and I didn’t sleep a wink. After that we decided to stay away from canvas and my husband rigged up a false floor in our Liteace van. Simple: mattress on top and storage underneath. This, although cramped, was dry and a step up from sleeping on the ground. Two stars.

In 1990 we started to grow our own small humans and the van was not practical for a growing family. So we stopped camping for a few years. Then came the second-hand camper-trailer, very generously given to us by the rellies. We used it with tarps to protect the canvas from rain and give us an undercover area. This was a huge step up, (literally, a ladder was needed as the bed was on top of the trailer). As our children grew up, they graduated to erecting their own small, dome tents outside of the main trailer tent. With three overlapping tarps to cover everything it was an ace set up. Over the years the list of essentials grew, including a bar fridge and a small portable TV. This configuration evolved from three to four star camping. One star deducted for lengthy set-up and pack down times.

Later on, during the ‘naughties’ our teenage children no longer thought it was cool to camp, and wanted to do their own thing. My husband had a brief dalliance with the idea of renovating a decrepit old caravan, the hideous thing sat in our garden with its insides gutted for a couple of years before we gave it away.

As our children became adults, we decided to go camping as a couple. The trailer tent seemed too big, and putting up tarps too tiresome for quick weekend getaways. Our budget put buying a motor home out of the picture, so we decided to go smaller, my very clever husband built a Teardrop Camper. We now tow it behind our trike or my small car and pop an Event 14 canopy over the top for an undercover area if it’s needed. It only takes about 15 minutes to put up the canopy. Advances in Technology have given us a plug-in that can turn our laptop into a TV, and a stick that gives us mobile Internet. ‘Roughing it’ now means taking an Esky instead of a fridge. Delicate flower that I am, this set up makes me a happy camper. I give it five stars.

Easter at Tawonga 2011. We had a 'lean-to garage' added on to the dome to protect DACAT from the rain.

Whether you want a few weekends away outback with your 4WD, or you plan to cycle around Australia with a swag, there’s something out there to suit your needs. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. It took me 25 years to get to five-star camping but if you want to rough it by bathing in rivers, and digging your own toilet, then that’s fine. If you can’t survive without your hair straightener, that’s fine too. Personally I think it makes no difference whether your hair is straight or frizzy when marveling at the milky way on your way back from the toilet block. In camping there is room for everyone: except Winnebagos and converted coaches. And I mean that literally. Often they have to book ahead as most sites are too small. The only thing funnier than watching someone trying to back a huge vehicle into an awkwardly small site, is watching someone put up a tent for the first time. I highly recommend having a practice run in your garden first. Make it the front garden if you like to entertain your neighbours.

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