So if you’re eager to do more camping, here are my tips for how to choose your camping gear and 15 items I have found to make my camping weekends away more comfortable.
Choosing your camping gear
Think about how bulky it is
A full camping set up with a few home comforts thrown in can really mount up and all of sudden you have a lot of gear to transport each time you camp. So when it comes to buying any new item, think about how much space it’s going to take up and look for alternatives to save space. This is where collapsible items really come into their own. I have a collapsible kettle, Tupperware and bucket, and the firepit collapses down to a single pole-shaped bag.
Consider how easy it is to set up
When buying something new ask yourself, can it be packed away easily and quickly? The more time it takes to unpack or pack things away, detracts from your overall camping experience. Plus, it can seriously limit your options on say a camping road trip when you want to avoid staying less than two nights somewhere because of the time it takes to set up and dismantle your camp setup. Instead, wherever you can, save time for enjoying where you are. This will mean compromising on some level of comfort but if having a giant tent (with separate sleeping and living quarters) means it takes an hour to put up and pack away, it’s probably not worth it.
When to fork out
One lesson I have learnt from camping all these years is not all camping items are created equal. It’s worth paying more for certain items over others. Thinking about it, the items I recommend spending more on are those that will help you get a good night’s sleep. Because not sleeping well is a real deal-breaker for future trips. Which means missing out on some ridiculously good experiences. And that’s not an option in my opinion.
When to save money
For items you don’t need to spend a lot on, don’t. Especially items that are going to get dirty and used. They don’t need to look pretty, they just need to do a job. Save your money for more camping trips instead.
5 items to make your camping experience more comfortable
Many of these items are not required for surviving a night camping (unlike my list of 5 camping essentials) but I’ve included items I think are still important nonetheless. Because I’m a big fan of making the whole camping experience comfortable and enjoyable so some home comforts and fairy lights still have a place.
1. A chair
My partner and I differ on what style of camping chair is best but it’s ok, we just have our own chairs. Problem solved. To help work out what camping chair suits your needs, here are two options:
- OzTrail Sovereign with cooler: The benefits of this type of chair is that it’s easier to collapse and pack away. However, they are bulkier and not as comfortable (in my opinion) without a high back.
- FBSPORT from Amazon.com.au is my preference. It does take longer to set up but I’m still talking 2 minutes! It’s light, packs down to half the length of other fold-out chairs and takes up less space. It’s a winner in my eyes.
2. A head torch
Any will do. It makes doing anything after sunset a lot easier, trust me.
3. A table
The Lifetime 4ft table I use has been really good. It’s sturdy and the blow mould material on top means it stays relatively clean and unscratched compared to say the foldable, aluminium topped tables. I also think it’s a good length for placing a stove on one end and still having room to prepare food (and have a drink) at the other end. I have no idea why the price ranges so much but you’ll find the cheapest price is from Bunnings Warehouse. If you are looking for something smaller, there are plenty of other options to choose from.
4. A battery power pack
Over the course of a weekend away your phone will inevitably die. And whilst having a USB charging port is a must for charging your phone whilst driving (especially if you have directions up); unless you plan to do a lot of driving, you’ll need a backup source of power. Plus, not all powered camping sites have a standard power socket to plug standard plugs into (and if you do use these, you’ll need either a long extension cable or be comfortable leaving your phone by the communal power supply).
Investing in a good battery power pack is worth it to have your phone constantly charged up. I have the Cygnett ChargeUp Explorer 8K Portable Power Bank with Solar Panels but I would recommend researching the latest well-reviewed product on the market. You can get 2-3 phone charges out of mine but the solar panels do practically nothing so I always have to charge it up at home before each camping trip and it doesn’t last longer than 2 days.
5. Some form of shade
It was never a problem when camping in the UK but in Australia, being able to get some respite from the sun will make a big difference to your camping experience. Another benefit of having some form of cover which I didn’t recognise before having it, is the added sense of privacy you get under cover.
I bought an add on wing shelter which attaches to the front of my tent. Alternatively, you could consider a stand-alone gazebo – one like the Coleman Event 14 Sun Shelter + Sunwall my friends have, which provides a large shaded area (great for groups). Or, a structured gazebo like the Coleman 2.4m Ultra Compact Portable Gazebo which is bulkier and heavier but takes less time to set up. I also now have an awning attached to my car, which is very easy to set up. However, it does mean you need to pack it away each time you want to drive somewhere.
10 items to enhance your camping experience
If you’ve already been on a few camping trips, have caught the bug, and are looking to expand your camp set up then I’d recommend the following to help really enhance your camping experience.
1. A camping stove
Cooking your own food on your own stove gives you a lot of freedom – either to cook next to your camp or even breakfast or lunch down at the beach.
With a lot of options to consider, here are some suited to a range of budgets and cooking preferences. For price, ease and portability, I would recommend starting with the single burner butane stove first.
Single burner butane stove
Two-burner gas stove
The cheapest, well-reviewed two-burner stove I found and bought, is the Gasmate 2 Burner Portable Camping Stove available at most online retailers for $55. They are advertised to be fuelled by a gas canister but it’s much more economical to buy a separate adapter and run the stove off a larger 4kg or 9kg gas bottle, also used to power a BBQ.
A portable BBQ
If you fancy upgrading to your own BBQ then I’d recommend the Weber Baby Q for its size and portability. Although a Weber is not the cheapest option, they are built to last and this particular model has been amazing for using at home on the balcony, taking to the local park for social get-togethers and fitting into the car easily for camping trips away.
Tip: Buy a 4kg or 9kg gas canister and enter the SWAP’n’GO scheme run by Elgas for easy refills at most petrol stations. This is where you simply swap your empty gas canister for a completely new one that’s already topped up. Prices do vary because they are set by the independent dealers (the Elgas website states prices from $20 to mid-$30 for 4kg and mid-$20 to low $40 for 9kg per refill) but the benefit is you don’t have to go out of your way to find somewhere that offers gas refills and wait for them to fill it up. Meaning you can top up on the road if you do happen to run out of gas mid-way through your weekend.
2. A frying pan
To cook with (unless using a BBQ).
3. A kettle
I highly recommended buying a collapsable, silicone kettle. So you don’t sacrifice bulky kettle-shaped space. The one I have was bought in a local camping shop which is also available tobuy online. There are other, similar options with the cheapest being from Kmart.
Tip: if you buy the single burner butane stove above then use the casing to shelter the kettle from the wind.
4. Plastic drawers
Buying a set of drawers to keep all my camp kitchen items in one place was one of the best purchases I made. Everything I need to prepare and cook food with lives in two drawers I bought from Bunnings Warehouse for $10 each. The drawers pull out for easy access to everything in them, are stackable and can easily be carried from car to table when preparing food.
10. Coffee filter
If you love your coffee like me then making a good coffee to enjoy by your camp or on the beach, is essential. Whilst it’s possible to plan where you go so you can be near a cafe serving up barista-made coffee (and is what I factor in), it’s not always guaranteed. Plus, sometimes it’s just better making your own and taking it straight down to the beach to enjoy.
I have a Bialetti Coffee Perculator which I used to take away but it’s bulky and a pain to clean so I now take a Sea To Summit X-Brew Coffee Dripper instead. The metal mesh part filters the coffee so you don’t need separate filters, it’s easy to clean and it’s collapsible, so packs away easily.
5. Water storage
Pick up a 10L bottle of water which has a tap on the front from any supermarket. I’ve had mine for over 3 years now and it’s very useful to make sure you always have water to hand in the back of the car.
Tip: Whilst most campsites provide drinking water, it can often taste very chlorinated so fill up at home before heading off for the weekend.
6. LED and solar-powered fairy lights
Buy a couple of LED spotlights to have around your camp at night. The ones with a magnet and a pop-out hook on the bottom are particularly good for attaching to the car or parts of the tent. Fairy lights can also make all the difference to the atmosphere in the evenings. I picked up mine from Bunnings Warehouse.
7. A Firepit
I decided to buy a collapsible steel mesh Rootless Portable Outdoor Firepit this year after a couple of camping trips during the colder winter months. I would recommend buying the large size.
Tip: Make sure you pick up a bag of firewood if campfires are allowed at the campsite (make sure you check if there is a fire-ban or not). Some campsites sell firewood themselves (check ahead so you don’t get there and miss out on a campfire). Alternatively, firewood is normally available to buy at petrol stations, or sometimes locals put signs out on the road with the price. The going rate seems to be about $15 per bag so if you see cheaper, you’re getting a good deal.
8. A Hachette
To chop up the firewood into kindling. It makes it much easier, you could even say, possible, to get a fire started this way.
9. A cast iron skillet
If you want to cook on the campfire, and I would highly recommend this, I have the Campfire 24cm Cast Iron Frying Pa which has done me well. The handle also folds inwards to save space when packing away.
This is by no means a comprehensive list but I’ve tried to keep it simple and focus on the main items I use every time I go camping. It’s all too easy to go crazy thinking you need everything in a camping shop with so many nifty gadgets available. But believe me, I’ve bought a lot of things that end up never getting used and just take up space in the car.
So consider first how much use you’ll get out of an item and how much it will enhance your experience, before you decide to buy it.
I hope this list helps enhance your future trips away, happy camping!