What I have learnt about camping…

I recently attended a camp with my daughter. Now, I have limited experience with camping. There was the time I went to Kangaroo Valley, and our tent collapsed in the middle of the night, and the wombat population decided to climb on top of me, laying under the flattened canvas. The less said about that the better! I have some handy hints, learnt from my limited experience.

  • Buy a popup tent. Our campsite got flooded, and the people who fared better all seemed to have popup tents.
  • As we struggled to get our tent up, we noticed the ease of which the pop-up people had erected theirs. Within minutes they were done!
  • Buy a tent that has a decent height. I am under 5 feet tall, but still had to crouch every time I went in and out of the tent. It was hard to do with a fused spine! My next tent will be of such a dimension that I can just walk in.
  • Buy self-inflating mats. We brought along air beds, which went down constantly. We had to keep lugging them over to the air pump. The first night, we slept on the ground whilst rain water ran underneath the floor of our tent. Self-inflating mats are easy and surprisingly comfortable.
  • Buy mini-toiletries to take along. Nobody needs big bottles of shampoo or body wash when camping!
  • Bring a first aid kit, with painkillers, Band-Aids, bandages and disinfectant for the inevitable scrapes.
  • We had to attend several functions, and those ironed clothes that we had neatly folded, were in no shape to be worn after being retrieved from our case. Only bring clothing which doesn’t crease.
  • Bring fairy lights to decorate your tent. Okay, normal lighting will do (you can buy magnetic lighting for inside your tent), but hey, fairy lights are pretty!
  • All of the stuff you were going to bring; go through it before leaving for camp, and halve it. You only need a pair of thongs to get to the bathroom, and a decent pair of walking shoes.
  • Bring an air dryer. Dirty clothes can be washed when you are in the shower (body wash makes an excellent detergent as it turns out).
  • Bring at least one camping chair and a table to stack all your belongings on, particularly if you have a spinal injury and find getting down difficult.
  • Stretcher beds to put your self-inflating mattresses on are a great idea, so you don’t have to get up and down.
  • Microfibre towels dry 6 times faster than ordinary towels, and are a great inclusion!
  • Make sure you keep hydrated and pack sunscreen and hats, even if the weather is mild.

I had a wonderful time on our latest adventure. The above are lessons I learnt, so as to make the next camp even better. We woke at dawn, the neighbourhood kookaburras laughing at our efforts to sleep in. There was camaraderie, hugs, dancing and singing. There were shared meals and kindness. You revaluate what you actually need in way of possessions. All you require can be accommodated in a tiny space, as it turns out. It is freeing, to get back to basics.  I can’t wait for the next camp. Next time, I am going to do it right!



Our Tent.
In our tent, a little alert and alarmed!

Little miss and I were invited to spend the long weekend camping with friends. As a child, I joined the GFS (Girls Friendly Society). I didn’t last long. Those chicks participated in sedentary activities, mostly indoors. I quit, and enlisted in CEBS (Church of England Boys Society). There was concern about having a girl along at the camp’s, but they couldn’t find an actual rule that forbade my becoming involved. The boys were mostly wounded soldiers, involved in familial wars via conscription. One young boy came from such a fractious family that they were featured on 60 Minutes. We were comrades. From nine years of age through to adolescence, I would join the boys on camps. We camped in the Australian outback, didn’t wash for a week and dug our own toilets. I would pitch my little tent besides the boy’s large canopy shelter, and raid the supply tent in the middle of the night. After my back was snapped, I never went on another camp.
I tossed up my friend’s invitation, and was indecisive for a while. I was concerned about my spine. Would I be so crippled with pain that I wouldn’t be able to move? There wouldn’t be reception where we were headed. There are other health issues going on, that need attending to in the next few weeks. I felt anxiety about being away from my comforts, and wondered how I would cope. I was surprised that the idea of going bush conjured up so much fear, where it once provided such joy. The deciding factor’s were the people I was going to join, and the enthusiasm of my little girl. My friends would look out for us, and my daughter was excited about sleeping in a tent, her first experience! A part of my life which had been comatose since my fall, was awakened, and I felt freedom and wildness and trust that I hadn’t felt in such a long time.

The generator was turned off, and we retreated to our tents. My little girl and I cuddled down and relayed stories, then she fell asleep. I read for a bit then drifted off. We woke with a start by the feel of possums pressing on us through the roof of the tent. A whole family of them were twittering. “What is that mummy?!” little miss asked. “Just possums,” I hoped. I had never seen Wolf Creek, and was very glad that I am not into horror movies. When you are laying in a camping ground in the pitch black, your imagination is active enough. We both needed the loo, and unable to stand it any longer, we crept out to the port-a-loo. “Look up!” my companion gasped, and I had my breath pulled from my lungs. The stars were incredible, as though the angels had poked delicate fingers through the navy crepe paper of the sky and allowed us a tease of heaven’s sparkle. We stood there for several minutes, looking up. Finding our way back via a fading torch proved fun, and we both giggled. I am so glad that we ticked a goal off our bucket list. I am so glad that the fear of pain; of being in agony far away from home was quashed. If you have never heard the cacophony of birds waking at the break of dawn in the Australian Bush, you need to. It was the purest and sweetest sound I can recall. I came home tired, grubby, in pain but replenished. I learnt never to limit myself, nor talk myself out of doing something that is unfamiliar or out of my comfort zone. That is often where the best experiences lay in wait.