Last Updated on December 28, 2020
Easy Camping Set Up – Keeping it simple
If you are new to camping and want to buy the minimum of equipment for your first trip, this list will hopefully help you to decide on the basic items you will need. I like to be able to pack the car with a minimum of fuss, without piles of items spilling out all over the floor when getting ready to go. Having all our camping gear in bags and boxes ready to grab is ideal.
Camping is something that you love or not. I won’t say hate as that seems too harsh. But, yes, ok, some people do hate camping and that is fine as not everyone wants to do the same things in life.
I do feel that every child ought to have the experience of camping in a tent and sitting around a campfire getting grubby, smelling of smoke, eating damper and roasting marshmallows. And if you missed out as a kid, fear not as it is never too late to have a go.
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Tents – Which tent is the best for you?
Our tents for a quick getaway and even for 5 weeks when touring Tasmania with the kids are the little Speedy Pop-up tents made by Explore Planet Earth.
If you are new to camping and want to make it as easy as possible, look for tents that are quick to set up and have enough room without being massive and hard to pack. The bigger the tent often means the more gear you might be tempted to take.
It is seriously not necessary to pack the kitchen sink for an easy camping experience.
eBay is an ideal place to look for tents as you may be able to pick up a used tent as well as other camping gear to find out if you enjoy the experience without spending a fortune. Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace are also great places to browse.
Ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you want to be able to stand up in your tent?
- How many people will go camping with you?
- Is space limited in your car for packing gear?
What we pack for a quick camping getaway
One thing that I try to avoid is having too much gear if we are only going away for a few nights, or anytime at all really. If packing the car and setting up camp takes too long it can spoil the adventure somewhat. Unpacking the car and cleaning gear, drying out tents if required, can be time consuming and tiring after a trip away.
For anyone new to camping, please keep it simple, be comfortable, but try not to over think what you need unless you are heading to a remote location where you cannot easily buy items.
Go big or go small. Keep it as easy as possible. We love packing the little pop-up tents and also our Kombi tent. Everyone is different and budgets vary.
Go into a local camping store and look at displays, take your time to decide which one is best for you.
Rubber mallet and strong tent pegs, groundsheet for under the tent.
Self-inflating Hiking Mats and Camping Mattresses
We have Thermarest self-inflating hiking mats as well as a couple of basic self-inflating mats we bought from Anaconda. The Thermarest ones are better for insulation when sleeping on the cold ground but the ones from Anaconda which were half the price are ideal for the kids.
Browse hiking and camping shops to see all the different camping mats on offer as they vary hugely. Ask to lay down on some samples. Buy the best you can afford, they are great for kids to use at sleep overs too.
Sleeping Bags (and pillows)
Sleeping bags vary in warmth, just like doonas. eBay results come up with dozens of different offers from bags that are suitable for well under 0 degrees to bags that are best for summer trips. Browse the listings to get an idea of what is available.
For around $60 you can buy a bag that will be suitable for winter, as long as you do not require a really compact sleeping bag. The ultra-compact sleeping bags are perfect if you are hiking somewhere remote to camp and want to reduce bulk and weight but if you are driving to your campsite, then size may not be an issue.
Pillows: I personally dislike sleeping without a decent pillow! You can buy little camping pillows that don’t take up much space and are ok to use but a good, comfy pillow can be the difference between a decent nights sleep and waking up feeling less than brilliant.
We put our pillows in the back of the car on top of the food and the car fridge/eski which keeps everything much cooler, so a double bonus.
Clothing and Toiletries
Less can be better, especially when you return home and do not want to wash loads of clothes! A few layers of clothing, good rain coat plus boots will usually see any camper through a few days away. Try not to over think it!
Toiletries… well, we all know what we need. Pack some first aid items too though, mozzie repellant etc.
Towels are a necessity when camping and I have had a Tesalate towel in the car for over a year. It comes out to be used on a regular basis and is really quick to dry when camping.
Another addition to our towels when travelling is the Tesalate Workout Towel. These great little towels dry fast and are small enough to pack in day packs. They are made from an anti-bacterial and odour free fabric that does exactly as it says.
I recently did a test with another travel towel we have had for years. Both the towels were used by the kids to dry off and then placed in a bag and deliberately forgotten about for a few days, as can happen. The older towel was really stinky and yet the Tesalate Workout towel was smelling as fresh as the day we got it!
These towels make awesome gifts for travellers as well as for people working out or doing yoga etc.
Chairs and Tables
This is where it is really easy to pack the kitchen sink!
We pack some good comfy camp chairs if we have space and want to really chill by the fire. But, if it’s a quick and easy getaway we pack little three-legged stools that we’ve been using for over 12 years plus a simple camping table.
In the back of the Prado I always have a Helinox camp chair and table, ready for impromptu picnics or just chilling randomly!
Camp Cooking Gear
Cooking over the campfire, or at least roasting marshmallows, is definitely the best fun to be had when camping. We have a cast iron camp oven and love to make damper bread in it but our go-to item for an easy meal when we set up camp is to make a meal beforehand in a thermal cooker. They are awesome. Having a delicious, ready-made meal to feed the tribe is a sanity saver.
Another item that I love to use is our solo Stove. These are certainly not cheap to buy, but they are simple to use and so well made that they will last a lifetime. All you need to use these brilliant little stoves is a small bundle of sticks. Have a look at Solo Stoves on eBay to learn more.
My first ‘cook up’ on the Solo Stove was to heat up Mulled wine on a chilly winter’s day in 2020.
Gas Camp stoves are perfect for cooking up a meal onsite, they are reasonably priced and will last for years.
Plates, bowls, cups, cutlery etc. are all kept in a clear a couple of plastic tubs ready to toss in the car quickly. The tubs also contain a mixing bowl, paper towel, oil, tongs etc.
Car Fridge or Eski?
Car fridges that can run off a car battery or solar are fantastic but expensive. We have one that costs around $500 and it holds enough food for a few days out in the mountains. It runs off a second battery that is permanently secured in the back of the car.
But, will a good eski do the trick? Yes, for a quick camping trip it should do perfectly well. Freeze your meats, vacuum seal foods, and pack long-life milk perhaps. A really decent eski can keep ice frozen and food safe for a couple of days, often longer.
The Family Dog!
Pack the dog. Who wants to leave their friend at home? Australia is full of National Parks so it can be very limiting to take a dog along but we also have hundreds of awesome camp grounds, both free and paid, that allow dogs.
Our dog comes along camping and sleeps in the tent with the kids, in the swag, the caravan, and even in the hammock with me once.
Packing the Bedding
Years ago, I decided to make it really easy to grab the bedding and kids stuff and go. Laying it all out on the bed mat, rolling it up and packing in swag bags was one of those ideas that just worked. When we’d get to the campground, everyone had their own bundle to toss in their tent.
Swag bags or duffle bags can be bought quite cheaply on eBay, a water-resistant one with the gear wrapped in a large rubbish bag inside to make sure it stays dry and then packed out of the way on top of the car keeps the car free of bulky sleeping gear.
- We bought two single canvas swag bags. One was a Kings Brand from 4WD Supa Centre and the other one was a Darche Single Swag Bag which was purchased and delivered super fast from Snowy’s Outdoors.
The Process: Self-inflating camp mattress, lay the sleeping bag on top, have a large packing cube with essential clothing, small packing cube or toiletries bag with a dedicated toothbrush and toothpaste, etc. always ready to grab – roll them all up and pack in a single swag bag ( 2 lots of gear can be stored this way easily).
Pack on top or in the car and go!
Free Camping or Caravan Parks?
If the idea of free camping and dealing with long drop loos and no showers sounds frightening to you – don’t do it to start with! We are so lucky to have a wide range of awesome caravan and camping parks all around Australia.
WikiCamps AU is a brilliant app to download, you can find free, low cost and upmarket campgrounds through the app as well as loads of other useful info. Another fantastic way to find camping spots is to use hipcamp.com This is the Air BnB of camping, private landowners offer unique spots to camp for a fee, which is usually very reasonable.
Free camping is awesome fun, we love the hunt for a great campsite and the freedom of not being allocated a spot. Sometimes it can be hard to find the perfect pitch of course, especially in peak times and at really popular locations. It’s still a great way to camp though.
Bikes and kids entertainment on the road
Happy kids on the road is a resource we put together based on our years of travelling with our own kids.
We did not stress about keeping the kids entertained, whenever we camped they soon made new friends to romp with and the best thing in the car was always a sketch pad and pens… when they were little anyway… then, yes, iPads did come into car life at times. Not a big deal to us, they need to be happy too.
Sometimes we took the bikes along but they were often not used enough to justify the effort. One thing that was handy when we had bikes on a trip was to jump on to go to the amenities block if it was a bit of a hike away. We took them to the Flinders Ranges and on another trip to Uluru for a two-week drive from Melbourne, both times we took the 6×4 trailer too.
Camera Gear for Family Selfies and such
Along with a smartphone that can take really decent photos and videos, we have an Insta 360 Camera. This amazing little action camera takes, well, 360-degree photos and video. We have the Insta One R model, but they are all pretty good.
To mount the camera on the car for some wicked footage, I use a Pedco Magnetic Ulta Mount. It can be attached to any metal object, car roof rack, signs, lamp posts etc.
The Pedco 50-Pound Pull Magnetic UltraMount with 1/4-20 Tripod Mount can also be bought through Amazon or bought online through Camzilla in N.S.W
The second really awesome photography item that we use is a Joby Grip Tight Pro 2 Gorilla Pod for the mobile phone. It is so well built that it’ll last for years and all sizes of phones will fit in the holder. The bendy legs wrap around so many things to keep it super steady or they stand up to use as a regular tripod on the ground, tables, desk, wherever you want.
I have had ours attached to trees, the roof rack of the car, signposts, furniture, and all sorts of things. Perfect for steady night shots, family selfies, etc. It goes everywhere with us.