What do we need?

Submitted: Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 21:56
ThreadID: 21337 Views:3914 Replies:16 FollowUps:9
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Hi All,

My husband & I have decided to take up camping as our new family 'interest'. Growing up, my parents were never into camping, but I am really excited after looking at a few camp shops and after reading a few posts here. My husband has grown up as a camper but hasn't been in years (when he was a single man...teenager. lol).

Now we are a family of 5 (3 kidlets under 5)....we would like to know....what do we 'need' to get started? and any hints on good brands etc. Obviously we need a tent...but what brands do you guys suggest? Air mattresses/self inflateable mattresses? Cooking facilites? Things we may need for the kids? etc...etc....etc....

Any help much appreciated,
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Reply By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 22:08

Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 22:08
Hi kellie, Tents and gear is really something that needs to be aligned with budget, a couple of cheap dome tents may suit you budget or you can go all out and buy two good quality 3metre by 3 metre touring tents, put the kids in one and you big kids in the other. Sometimes better to buy some cheap gear, just enough to get you through the first couple of camps, if you all enjoy, slowly build up your kit with a little quality gear. Years ago when we started camping again, each time we went camping , we would buy another piece of gear, only one, obviously the most important thing you needed, It kept our interest in getting out there every few weeks. If you find its not for you, then the few hundred dollars you initially spent is not such a big deal, just run it throught Ebay .. hope you really get into it, the kids ,even really young just fall into it.. ours did.. but is sometimes is hard work if you stress out over the kids, relax and its FUN!!!!! Michael
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Follow Up By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 22:28

Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 22:28
Forgot to mention, ,i personally wouldn't buy a 2 or 3 room tent, they are really practical once erected but are really hard work to get to that stage. Many a weekend has been ruined by arguments between "so called grown ups", they are very frustrating to set up, especially when you have small kids at your heels with demands when you finally get to your camp spot. Michael
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Reply By: Truckster (Vic) - Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 22:26

Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 22:26
Don't spend up big until you find out if you like it. I know a bloke who did, and he bought all top line gear, and then his family hated camping. He lost thousands of $ in the firesale of his gear.

To setup fully with stove, tents, sleepin gear, etc etc aint cheap, but you also dont need to spend $10grand.
AnswerID: 102996

Reply By: Member -Dodger - Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 22:42

Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 22:42
Go around the garage sales and buy up some gear to get you started then if you are liking camping start to get good gear.
Camping is an evolution thing you gradually start to realise what you want.
Alternativly join a 4wd club and have a few weekends away with them and you will see lots of different gear and will sort out what's best for you.
I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

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Reply By: Big Woody - Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 23:29

Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 23:29
Hi Kellie,
We have 3 kids also and find camping with them no problem at all. If you are relaxed and enjoying it, then so will they.
We used to load up car, roofrack, and trailer to the hilt with camping gear, cooking gear, lights, kitchen sink, etc... and set up a small city wherever we went. Slowly saw the light and reduced size and weight of items and simplify the whole process that we have ended up much more relaxed just with swags, a single gas burner or fire, a fridge and a tarp to set up for shade. Also carry a fairly cheap large dome tent just in case, but it is small and light and no problem to carry. A light table and some folding chairs make life more comfy but we often go away without them.
I would advise to stay away from airbeds as they can be hot, sweaty, and very annoying when they have gone down in the middle of the night. I have some good self inflating mattresses which are very comfortable, but our favourites are a swag with a fairly thick mattress, for kids as well, these are the most practical and the quickest to set up as all the beds are already made. They also work wherever you want to sleep, in the tent, under the stars, in the car, anywhere.
Since simplifying the whole process, I think this has made us more aware of being in the bush and taught the kids to feel comfortable in an environment without luxuries.
Some basic items to remember if you plan to camp without facilities are water, shovel, bucket, repellent, tarps (you can never have too many when the weather turns bad), heaps of different size pegs and spare ropes, toilet paper, torches, bushsaw, matches.
I Hope you have many happy trips away as a family.

AnswerID: 103015

Reply By: Member - Jeff M (WA) - Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 23:36

Friday, Mar 18, 2005 at 23:36
What you need. food and water. What you want is a totally different kettle of fish! LOL

Don't make the same mistake we did and go by "everything you'll ever need" in the first hit. As you'll find a lot of it you leave at home and then need to go an buy MORE stuff that is actually usful! ;-)

Just buy the bare essentials, then collect more as you go along. It's almost as much fun aquiring the gear and working out better easier ways of doing things as it is actually going camping! IMHO.
AnswerID: 103019

Reply By: Member - muzzgit - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 00:23

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 00:23
Apart from what everyone else has stated above, a few things that make our life easier when camping are....
(by the way, we don't have kids.... but we go camping all the time).

Wet ones (huggies are best) and paper towels.

Snaplock bags. Put pre prepared meat (marinated if you like). this keeps the fridge clean. Also good for vege's.

A sturdy table. When you go to buy one, shake it, HARD !! Many camping tables are simply rubbish when you put them to practical use. It needs to be stable.

Plastic bags, just normal shopping bags. Because you are going to create rubbish, and there's nothing worse than people who don't take their rubbish home !!

A headlight for dad. One of those on your head battery operated LED thingo's. I'm stuffed without mine around the camp at night, trying to set up a tarp or wash the dishes. It's a pain in the neck holding a torch when you need two hands. (this also is a godsend when fishing at night)

A brush for getting sand off little feet before they get into bed. Also good for getting beach sand off boxes and things before you put them back in the car.

A single burner to go on top of a gas bottle (with a pietzo ignition). Once you have been away a few times, the need to put the kettle on, or make 2minute noodles, becomes a drag when you have a great big three burner stove, and you can put the gas bottle in the sand, it doesn't require a big space.

Talcom powder. Keeps ants away from tent doors and swags.

Stingoes. Airoguard. Sunscreen (LOTS). Rope. Gaffa tape. And last but not least !!!

Forget about dirty feet and clothes. You will drive yourself mad trying to keep everyone clean. Just have fun.

AnswerID: 103028

Follow Up By: Member - muzzgit - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 00:59

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 00:59
One more thing I forgot.

A heavy skillet frypan. They cost about 10 bucks at a camping store, and once "burnt in" they are great. You can get them as hot as you like, you can't hurt em. And not getting too fussy when cleaning them actually helps keep them rust free and just the way a good frypan should be. Keep it wrapped in a bag.
FollowupID: 360637

Reply By: Member - Mozza (NSW) - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 07:48

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 07:48
Kel.. there is a great page on this website.. got to TRIP PLANNING... then select Camping Items,.. gives you a good 'list' to start off collecting gear!
also.. there are a fiar few websites which have some good lists on them in regards to 'stuff to take'!... google it!
AnswerID: 103037

Reply By: Bob of KAOS - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 08:36

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 08:36

it depends on where you will be going, but the critical things to avoid are being wet, cold, hungry, and unable to sleep. Whatever you decide, try it out in the back yard first.

Little kids don't need a flash bed - a roll of foam under a sleeping bag will do.

Every one needs a chair to call there own.
AnswerID: 103042

Reply By: Mike Harding - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 09:08

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 09:08
Hi Kellie

If I still had 3 under 5s and was camping I think a Porta Potti would be close to the top of my list of requirements :) Mind you, it does get better, these days my children are big enough to go and dig the latrine and take the chainsaw to get firewood whilst I stay in camp doing all the hard work of testing if the wine is correctly chilled :)

I would probably have 2 medium size dome tents and put 2 or 3 children in one tent and ourselves in the other.

I would also buy two stand-alone battery powered passive infra-red detectors (Dick Smith or Jaycar) and set them up to cover the door to the children's tent so that if one of the little dears decides to go walk-about in the middle of the night you'll be alerted to the problem.

Mike Harding

AnswerID: 103048

Reply By: John - Qld - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 09:37

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 09:37
If you're in Brisbane I've got everything you need at half price or less. Have been meaning to sell it all since buying a camper.

Tent - as new - good one
Air mattress & 12v pump
Poles / Pegs / Ropes
Stove & table stand
Gas bottles x 3
Gas lights x 2
Shower tent
12v Shower
.....+ bits & pieces

Obviously open to anyone else that may be interested.

AnswerID: 103052

Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 10:09

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 10:09
Oh dear - another forum member who'll be going off me :)

Air mattresses I wouldn't use (again!) if you paid me - no insulation from the ground and they go down on you in the night (hmmmm - maybe a re-phrase would be in order :).

Gas lights - make a noise, use a lot of gas, break mantles and could be dangerous with 3 under 5s around.

Shower tent? Suppose it depends if you'll be in public camping areas or not?

Mike Harding
FollowupID: 360656

Follow Up By: John - Qld - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 11:17

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 11:17
" no insulation from the ground and they go down on you in the night (hmmmm - maybe a re-phrase would be in order :). "

I think you're the one who is off ;-)

I think some MODERATION is required here - like DELETION!
FollowupID: 360659

Follow Up By: Member - gimme (QLD) - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 16:41

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 16:41
Could you send me some details about the tent please, I am looking for a good second hand one. thanxs
FollowupID: 360683

Reply By: Lone Wolf - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 09:49

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 09:49
No REAL definitive answer....

Tracy & I bought what we thought would be the essentials. Went on a few runs, and studied the form at camping sites, talked to fellow campers, and then went out and bought THOSE things.
Did the same all over again, ( and looked the part, mind you ) and then had fellow campers ask US on what they should get.
After quite a few more trips, we have pared it down somewhat, especially my going away alone kit.
I find that my recovery gear, and camera gear takes MORE room than my camping gear. After all, I am not going away to merely sit in a tent, I want my toys, like the REASON I'm going away.

There is SO MUCH stuff you can buy for camping now. After a few runs, you will KNOW, what works, and what doesn't, what is easy to erect, and what is hard to stow away.

Be prepared, you WILL buy things, which at the time, seemed like a good idea, and they will never get used again.... live with it.....

Over the years, I have seen some magnificent set-ups, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to what works for you. You will have a more enjoyable time if you can manage to set up. and break up camp with the minimum of fuss.

Try to work your camping trips around specific activities, like bikes, boats, walks, etc.... Then tailor your proposed arrangements based upon what your expectations are.

Eg: Summer, I go away on my own a lot, so I only take a swag, and small cooking gear.

Winter, same as above, but a small tunnel tent to keep dry.

If Tracy and kids ( 19 & 21 y/o ) come, then bigger tent, bigger stove, and extra fridge.

Not showing off, this is an accumulation which was amassed over 7 years, so we can pick & choose what we want. Just don't go out buying top shelf straight up, go say... mid range, and then let your experience & personal tastes dictate your following purchases.

The ONE THING you WILL need..........

An open mind. Not all campsites are going to be nice. Home is where you hang your hat, and if you can make it out in the crappiest of spots, then you've got it made!


AnswerID: 103054

Reply By: greydemon - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 12:45

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 12:45
Hi Kel_74 (sounds like a robot),

There is heaps of good advice here, it's now down to you to pick and choose!

My two bob's worth ... we felt happier keeping our three kids in our tent until they were a fair bit older than yours - though we didn't think of the infra-red devices mentioned above. (patrolling possums, dingoes, bandicoots would presumably also set those off if not carefully positioned).

If you go for a frame type tent with the metal poles, erect the frame work then colour code every join with insulating tape so that it is easy to put up next time - we bought about four colours and used two stripes on each join, that gives you plenty of combinations. Next, having coded everything, as you take it apart make sure that all the spring loaded joints are ok, and with spare springs from the camping shop spring load whatever else you can. (Don't join everything or you will never pack it away!)

Another thing that we used to do with ours (pre-camper trailer) was to collapse the tent into a rectangle, leaving the roof poles in place (these are the ones that take longest to install) then place all the other straight poles (not broken down) at one end and roll everything up into a sausage. Wrap in a tarp (very useful when camping) and tie the whole sausage on your roof rack. When you get to your next spot just unroll the sausage, peg out the corners and most of the work has been done - very quick to erect. We then stored the sausage slung from two loops under the car port roof ready for the next trip.

Have fun!
AnswerID: 103070

Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 14:30

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 14:30
>My two bob's worth ... we felt happier keeping our three kids
>in our tent until they were a fair bit older than yours

Yep, if I still had under 5s I guess, in reality, I'd probably want them in our tent too. The PIRs could still be handy to cover then tent doors during the dark of the evening between when the children go to bed and you do. It can be hard to keep an eye on everything around camp.

>though we didn't think of the infra-red devices mentioned above.
>(patrolling possums, dingoes, bandicoots would presumably also
>set those off if not carefully positioned).

Possums and bandicoots would probably be too low to the ground. Dingoes? Probably but I'd want to know if a dingo was that close to my children anyway.

PIRs can also be useful in camp if you _have_ to camp near other people you're unsure of - happens from time-to-time. Also I use mine as croc. detectors in the Top End but I have never had the opportunity to find out how well they would work on a croc :)

Mike Harding
FollowupID: 360673

Follow Up By: greydemon - Sunday, Mar 20, 2005 at 15:50

Sunday, Mar 20, 2005 at 15:50
Don't get me wrong Mike, I think that the PIRs are a great idea and will be going to have a look at them. Perhaps I'll be able to rig one to a camera and find out what is continually breaking into my chook run - it's not a fox, the chooks are untouched, I think it's something after their food not them. (When it WAS a fox we lost 11 chooks!)
FollowupID: 360754

Follow Up By: Mike Harding - Sunday, Mar 20, 2005 at 18:04

Sunday, Mar 20, 2005 at 18:04
Oh no I wasn't taking any kind of offence - it's just that it's 20 years since mine were babies and one tends to forget the degree of protectiveness one feels for small children. So even though, professionally, I design all sort of electronic stuff I'm not sure, emotionally, I'd trust it to look after the very little ones in the bush. However it would make an excellent addition for those times when your attention is elsewhere

You're right: it's not a fox - otherwise, as you suggest, you'd have lost a lot of chooks. Wombat? Probably wouldn't go for chook food though. If you have basic electrical knowledge it wouldn't be very difficult to rig up a camera to a PIR and with an infra red lamp you could find out what's going on. All the CCD cameras can see into the infra red region. If the camera is not possible just connect the PIR to an alarm to wake you up?

Mike Harding
FollowupID: 360775

Reply By: Al & Mrs Al (Vic) - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 15:35

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 15:35
Hi Kellie,

We've got two kids 3 & 5, and they have a ball camping, we have a camper trailer so I can' comment on tents though if you want ones that are easy to errect then I know many here would reccommend Oz tents or Southern Cross tents [the SC's are the centre pole type] and there are many threads on here about tents, I agree with what Trucky said that you need to go out a few times and see if you like it - perhaps somewhere that's not too far from where you live - make it short trips first. I think with kids as young as yours you will want them in with you so make sure you look for a tent with space.

I also agree with what Mike said with kids that a porta potti is great, and also remember that not all campsites have facilities so you may want to take your own rather than a dig a latrine - that's up to you and you'll find other threads on here discuss the merits of porta pottis - we have one, and think it's great especially for night time.

Cooking, I use a butane - [or a couple depending if it's a one pan meal or two] stove, I'm sure you've seen them, they use butane cans rather than LPG, infact we don't carry LPG at all, we have decided we don't need it, the butane stoves are quick igniting - though if the cans get cold apparently it's hard to start - I've never had that problem so can't comment, we have also discovered the delights of campoven cooking for roasts etc so pack a cast iron camp oven when we go away.

Lights, you can buy gas lights or battery, I've got a couple of battery lanterns and torches and so far they've worked fine for us.

When we were away at Christmas - camping for 10 days in a camp ground with no facilities but beside a river, we would heat water in a drum on the fire and use it for showers and baths - I have a large baby bath that even my five year old can sit in and have a reasonable bath. If you think you're keen and you'll go bush, then perhaps a shower system - there are a few about from gas cannister ones such as the Coleman to heat exchangers for cars, and also a shower tent...but again, go away a few times to see if you like it before outlaying the money, you can buy a 12volt shower that you use with a bucket of warm water that's available for about $30 in various places or perhaps a solar shower that is available at camping shops and retail stores in the camping sections before trying more expensive options.

For the kids, games to play are important, they don't have to be expensive just stuff they can do including ball games where everyone can join in to colouring stuff to keep them amused.

A sturdy table is important, chairs - we have the fold up type that go in a bag as we find them easy to pack and carry, a bucket to rinse clothes is a good idea too.

First aid kit is very important as there's bound to be at least one person who'll fall over and cut themselves - we take two, one lives in our car permanently and the other gets thrown in and stays inside the camper trailer for easy access.

Fridge we have two - a 50Lt and a 70Lt, at the moment one is used for food and the other for drinks but when we go away for an extended period one will be used as a freezer - esp as we will be travelling with others, ours are Weacos but it's up to you what brand you want to buy, and there's stacks of threads on here about fridges.

I'm sure there's other stuff to mention but can't think at the moment...hope you and the kids enjoy camping as much as your husband used to, it's a great way to spend time with friends and family and to see the many wonderful sights our country has to discover. Enjoy.


AnswerID: 103082

Follow Up By: greydemon - Sunday, Mar 20, 2005 at 16:01

Sunday, Mar 20, 2005 at 16:01
If you camp in the SW of WA in the summer ordinary potties are fine. I remember both my 5 year old twins using the potty at about 3.00am one night. In the morning when I emerged (eventually) to empty and clean them I found that the potty fairies had already done it for me and the potties were almost spotless .... except for one or two lingering dung beetles!
FollowupID: 360756

Reply By: Max - Sydney - Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 16:45

Saturday, Mar 19, 2005 at 16:45
Hi Kellie

We started out in circumstances like yours about 25 years ago, though the kids were a few years older. What we did first was rent some gear - a tent, stove and lilos I think - and went away for a weekend to a National Park camp site a couple of hours drive from Sydney.

We made some dumb mistakes, but all agreed it was great, and worth buying a bit of gear. The kids all have kids now, but we have forgotten to stop camping (though have gone via a camper trailer to a caravan; but planning a camping trip to the Simpson this year).

I'd agree with all the comments above, but especially:

1. Build up slowly
2. Never buy inflatable mattresses (lilo type) - self inflating ones are the go
3. Learn to love less than perfect camp site facilities, but perhaps try places that are a bit up market for starters. Our grandkids love Coolendel near Nowra for example.

Hope it comes together for you!

AnswerID: 103089

Reply By: AdrianLR - Sunday, Mar 20, 2005 at 22:42

Sunday, Mar 20, 2005 at 22:42
I agree with most of the others' suggestions. A few extra observations, particularly the changes in our gear over time (we camped before kids who are now almost 5 & 8 and now camp more than ever):

We've ditched the gas lanterns - great light but tend to last between 30 secs and one night before someone trips on them particularly if they are on an extension pole. Fluoro lantern and 12v Versalite/Narva lights and an LED headlamp each now.

The butane stove is indispensible.

A Bialetti coffee pot (this lives in the camper) starts the morning well. My wife puts up with the shame of my tube coffee and milk though.

The reject shop has double skinned steel cups which are great ($7 at the Reject Shop or $25 at camping shops for exactly the same thing). A cup of tea goes cold very quickly when camping (it's the combination of the temperature and the 6 cries for help from the kids before the cup is finished!) The plastic, china and enamel cups are gone now.

We have two tables - one with the attached seats and a plain one. The one with the seats is great for localising the kids during meals with no chairs to tip over. You'll need an extra chair at the end though. They only last about two years and are heavy but we think they're worth the hassle. The other table is for preparation, kettle and drinking water. It saves moving everything for meal times.

A couple of 30 x 40 cm plastic tubs for washing up and "face and hands".

For me, the hardest part is to just let the kids (and myself) get dirty, not eat at 6:30:00 and let things just happen. The more complex the gear the less likely it will work out this way. Less complex, however, does not mean minimalist - it means that the things you take can be used without having to be too precious about them.


AnswerID: 103231

Reply By: old-plodder - Monday, Mar 21, 2005 at 12:02

Monday, Mar 21, 2005 at 12:02
A lot of good suggestions above. Don;t think I can add much more.

Our 'kids' are now 19 & 22 men. Took them camping from 6 months old.

Once we got used to the idea that it was family time, and wife reckons she had 3 big children, it was great. The 3 'kids' would all go and play together.

Also that it was only important to get the boys clean once a day, and it was 'clean' country dirt on them anyway, no problems :-).

Keep it simple and enjoy yourself. Add things as you need them. Just try some long weekends first.

Final equipment will depend on whether you tour or sit in one spot for a holiday.

AnswerID: 103270

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