Tales from an adult camper

Patonga Caravan Park is nestled along Ettalong beach and Patonga Creek – just 5min from Umina and 90mins from Sydney. It has clean and modern amenities, and the front office comes complete with a kiosk that serves snacks, milk, bread, bait for fishing and refreshments.

As a newbie when it comes to camping, it could not have been more perfect as a way to transition this self-confessed lover of creature comforts to the world of outdoor activities.

But first I needed to be kitted out. I headed to Kmart and invested in a Jackeroo 5 person tent (I like my space), camping stove, cutlery and pots – all for under $200. That way if I decided camping is not for me I will not have to take out a loan to pay for my newly founded hobby.

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We arrived at the caravan park and set up camp. Things to consider before pitching your tent – or so I have learned is:

  • keep away from overhanging branches
  • aim for as flat ground as possible
  • try to keep out of the wind if possible

After setting up camp, we called the local Kayaking company to organise kayaks for rental and then headed down for a walk along Ettalong beach. It is good to keep active during the day so you are not too cold once the sun goes down. Or take a stroll with as many layers as possible!

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Fire pits are permitted in Winter at the caravan park – firewood is BYO. When you are camping in cold temperatures, this is your best friend for the night:

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It was that night when my sleeping bag failed me. The temperature dropped to 8 degrees and i had three layers of clothes on but my sleeping bag was a hand-me-down from my brother that was from the 80s. Lesson learned – try a sleeping bag that was designed for colder temperatures, and better yet, stuff your sleeping bag with your spare clothes to keep you warm. As a novice,  I brought an air mattress to sleep on which stops the cold coming up from the ground, however I have been told that a self inflating mattress is a must-have.

Failing that, you can always sleep in the car, and learn from your mistakes for the next camping trip.

How to survive your first camping trip as an adult

Camping for the first time as an adult is daunting. Especially if your idea of hiking is usually something that gets you back to your hotel room by the afternoon so you can nap. (OK I don’t nap, but watching TV doesn’t have the same ring to it) And so I found myself going camping with the girls on New Years Day. This meant I was facing the wild whilst nursing a slight hangover, it was the perfect storm. My only request was that I sleep in the back of the car rather than a tent – baby steps folks, I need steel between me and any potential wild animals. But I survived and found most of it quite pleasant. For any first timers out there, try campaign for one night and ease yourself into it. So here are my top three lessons learned.

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1. Pack the right food.

Whoops. I didn’t even know I was going on this trip until a couple of days prior, then New Years Eve happened. Plus I was working. So I found myself having little to no time to prepare. After a frenzied 1hr trying to pack everything I realised I should have given this the same excrutiating research that any Virgo would do when in a ‘fish out of water’ scenario. However being short of time I tried the ‘go with the flow’ strategy. This meant that I didn’t have my gluten-free food apart from GF bread and was not equipped with certain condiments that are necessary for basic camping. Thankfully our mates had already camped the night before and had the basics. But best to pack bread, butter and jam, salt and pepper, biscuits, sandwiches that you can prepare before you leave, lighter and marshmallows for the camp fire, cutlery, garbage bags and of course plenty of vodka. I mean water.

2. Pack your comforts.

I brought lots of tech including:

  • iPad – no matter what the hard core campers say – this device has all my ebooks on it which means I have something to read just before bed.
  • Selfie stick – great for group picks when you are in the bush or don’t have space.
  • Ipad/Iphone and portable speaker. Listening to nature is great – but occasionally Taylor Swift is a nice alternative. It may also scare off the wolves. If there are wolves….
  • Air mattress – this is something I should have brought along – easy to set up and makes sleeping in a tent/van more comfortable. You don’t want to wake up with a stiff back and neck.
  • Something to help you relax – wine, beer etc
  • Wear decent walking shoes in case of hikes or walking on uneven trails.

3. Bring the necessities.

Bring Aeroguard (insect repellant), sunscreen, a torch, a lantern if you have it for the campsite, a head lamp for when you are walking back to the van/tent/toilet, toilet paper – the long drop toilet is an experience, warm socks, a lightweight but warm jacket, towel, swimming costume in case you are near a creek or stream, and coffee!

So how did I go on my first camping trip as an adult? I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next one nighter – apart from the leeches, they are frightening which is why decent shoes are important – and I will be more prepared next time with my gluten free food!