How to have the perfect family camping trip

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The ultimate checklist of essential items to pack on your next camping adventure.


From creature comforts such as camp chairs to first-aid kits, here is our checklist of essential items to pack on your next camping adventure. 

A quick search of Instagram using the #familycamping hashtag reveals about 34,000 images of families holidaying in tents and campervans. And while a family camping trip might look like an idyllic way to indulge one's wanderlust, the picture is not always so rosy when you have children in tow. But as seasoned campers will tell you, a bit of organisation, forward planning and flexibility can help save your sanity and make that camp trip a lot of fun.

For Moruya farmer Fraser Bayley, 46, and partner Kirstie Wilkinson, 43, who recently returned from a two-week East Coast adventure with their children Marlinspike, 11 and Piccola, 10, camping trips are about "keeping things simple".

Less is more with small-space living

Bayley says the biggest challenge he faced on the 1214 kilometre trip north to Brisbane was juggling the disparate needs of each family member. Bayley and Wilkinson, who run the Old Mill Road farm, a family enterprise selling vegetables, eggs and meat, recently did a quick custom conversion on their van – with some plywood and milk crates – in order to make living in a small space together more bearable.

"Everyone in my family has a different notion of what 'fun camping' is. It's a challenge to find that balance. Kirstie wants a decent bed, comfy camp chair and cooking equipment. Me? I just love setting up tents. Give me a few ropes, a shovel and an axe and I'm happy. Marlin needs a creek, trees to climb and a fire and he's good. Pickles [Piccola] wants a place to sit in the sunshine and read books while we bring food to her," he laughs.

"Kirstie and I are of a generation that did a lot of free camping, so we appreciate having our own space and don't want to hear a neighbour snoring in the tent next door. In Moruya, we have no neighbours. So, for us to get away from it all, we use to try and connect with other farms and farmers and find a bit of space," Bayley says.

Creature comforts are key

Bayley says his mental checklist includes key items such as a tent, tent pegs, matches, newspaper, tarp, ropes, shovel, dishwashing liquid, newspapers, a fuel stove, reusable plates, bowls and cutlery, bottle opener, can opener, toilet paper and cooking equipment.  He adds that organisation is key to a successful camping trip.

"We are minimalist campers. Everyone is limited to one milk crate of stuff and only allowed to take whatever fits into their milk crate. In addition to this, we have fishing rods and surfboards on the roof," Bayley says.


"Having the milk crates in the van really helped. We also had our own space. Kirstie and Marlin slept in the double bed, Pickles curls up on the rear bench seat and I get the swag," he says.

Leave digital devices at home

Trish Cashmere, 46, and husband Steve Cunningham, 49, of The Healthy Body Company, have been holidaying with extended family at the Big4 Narooma East's Caravan Park for more than a decade. The Caringbah couple, who have four sons, Henry, 16, Angus, 14, Noah, 12 and Darcy, 9, have come to know five other families during that time, which helps keep the kids happy.

"The fact the kids have friends to play with gives all the parents the time and space to relax," Cashmere says.

"A successful camp trip can sometimes come down to what you don't bring. We leave our devices at home, too. If the kids had their devices, they would sit inside the tent and play on them. Instead they swim, ride bikes and stay active," she says.

Simple eating

Cashmere says raincoats, a first-aid kit, thongs, good books, a bat and ball and red wine are all essential items. She says they like to keep it simple on the food front, preparing potatoes in their jackets, healthy salads and fresh seafood from the nearby co-op. She also argues that being a happy camper is a state of mind.

"My No.1 tip is to take a relaxed attitude camping. It's like a sport watching other families fight during the camp set-up. If that happens, just stop, have a game of cricket, and continue when the mood has lifted," she says.

Camping checklist – as voted by us!

We asked Essential Kids readers for their ultimate family camping tips. Here's what they tolds us:

●     Tent pegs and a mallet

●     A tarp and a tent

●     Dustpan and brush

●     Front-door mat

●     Tea bags and a kettle

●     Ropes

●     Bag of toiletries 

●     Bug repellent and sunscreen

●     Newspaper and matches

●     Marshmallows

●     Frozen bottles of water for the Esky

●     Old clothes made of quick-drying fabrics

●     Non-perishable food

●     Tarp for shelter/shade

●     Blankets and pillows

●     Books

●     First-aid kit 

●     Paper towels

●     Reusable cups, plates and cutlery

●     A torch

●     Toilet paper

●     Bottle opener

●     Sharp knives and a chopping board

●     Two good pots and pans

●     An axe

●     Walking shoes and a rain jacket

●     Plastic possum-proof storage containers

●     Emergency whistles

●     Sleeping mats and sleeping bags

●     Washing powder

●     Bat and ball

●     Thongs

●     Wine glasses

●     Hoodie towels

●     A pack of cards

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