Truly professional campers.

I camped as a girl guide and of course during basic Naval training, but after a couple of days on Dartmoor in the middle of winter I was put off spending time under canvass.  A few years after my Dartmoor experience, I was briefly reintroduced to camping when I camped at Brothers Water in the Lake District with my friends, the Darnell family.  Some reading this blog may associate camping British style from this 1970’s movie “Carry on Camping”…

 

Brothers Water wasn’t too far from Carry on Camping – the site was full of characters and I remember laughing at what I referred to as the “professional campers”, sitting on their camp chairs outside their perfect tents, immaculate camp kitchens, white picket fences to stake out their pitch (yes, real white portable picket fences) and table lamps in their plastic windows.  Now I take it all back.  Australians are the only professional campers on this planet – sans picket fences of course. My first introduction to Australian camping was back in 2009 during a visit to Darwin for my friend Julie’s 50th birthday party.  The week of celebrations included a couple of nights camping at her in-laws beach house at Dundee, a local weekend retreat.  Here we are setting up camp, which included harvesting the hazardous coconuts off the tree…

In case you were wondering, the sea here is off limits for swimming because of the crocodiles.  The day after this was taken, we witnessed a dolphin being attacked by one. Crocodiles were there alright. The dangerous wildlife doesn’t put Aussies off camping though. Camping in Australia is very much part of the culture and Aussies really have it off to a t… t for tent peg of course. The reason for this is simple – Australia is such a vast wilderness and if you either need or want to explore it, the only way is to camp.  In the more remote and unspoilt areas, there is often absolutely no infrastructure for sometimes hundreds of miles, so campers need to be fully self sufficient.  Given that Western Australia is the size of India, the biggest of all Australian states and the most isolated, many West Australians holiday and explore their own back yard which extends for thousands of kilometres.  Camping is big business in Western Australia, so when I heard there was a camping and caravanning show on in Perth this weekend, I had to find out more about how Australians have evolved ingenuity and practicality into an essential part of their culture. After an initial walk around, I found the vast array of equipment mind boggling. What was obvious though is that camping needs broadly falls into the most basic of all needs – shelter and “personal” needs plus food and water. Here are the highlights of what caught my eye…

Shelter
 
The most basic shelter I saw was a covered sleeping bag, closely followed by a covered camp bed at around $199 I seem to recall…
Next up is this simple yet effective solution to bunking down for the night when out in the bush.  Just pop the Dingo Doza open and stick it on the roof of your car or trailer…keeps those dingos at bay! 
Many Australian campers have trailers that pop open to reveal an instant abode that for me, epitomises how ingenious and effortless Australians have made camping under canvass.  Trailers are popular for those going to the more remote and inaccessible areas as they are better for off road. This one was fairly basic, with an optional awning to cover the camp kitchen and provide an extra “room”.  This was around $18,000…
All varieties of caravans were on show for those that perhaps a bit less adventurous, although their tyres and undercarriage seemed a bit more rugged than European Models.  This one caught my attention, “The Commando”, complete with eye catching stickers boasting the “extras”…
…and here is that washing machine, as advertised…
The interior – nothing like the Commando field conditions I remember from my Commando Training Centre Royal Marines Lympstone days…
Personal needs
 
For when there are no Billabongs, your very own bush shower…
And essential daily business.  One up from the “behind the bush” loo…

Pity Karl Pilkington didn’t have this for his Peru trip in an Idiot abroad, although he had the right idea…

Food One of the advertised show attractions was a Bush Cookery demonstration.   I instantly thought of “I’m a Celebrity get me out of here” and had images of being shown how to cook creepie crawlies and how to safely identify and cook bush vegetation. According to the show website, I was expecting Ranger Nick to “combine simple local produce and ingredients with unique aromatics, herbs and spices”.  In a thermal pot he was flogging, he made a basic beef stew with carrots, pumpkin and Gravox, Australia’s’ leading gravy powder.  A bit disappointing, but he was a nice enough chap…

As many know, the Barbie, or BBQ, is pretty much essential kit when camping, and even portable ones come in all shapes and sizes.  Here was a rather Gucci looking one I spotted…

And to cook with, those essential Billy cans, if you’re not tempted to buy Ranger Nick’s thermal cooker.  You can see this lady was clearly spoilt for choice…

Another big part of Australian culture which also extends beyond camping is the “Esky” or cool box. You see it on the beach, at the footie – well, pretty much anywhere there is outdoor eating and drinking…

You can’t go anywhere in Australia without a means of chilling your food and beer! They come in all shapes and sizes…

…with solar panels too!

And celebrity endorsed…

Vacuum packing food is also something Australian campers are big on.  There were a number of stalls selling this type of packaging..

Keeping a good supply of water was also covered at the show.  I once learnt on a survival course  that you can live for up to a month without food, but only a couple of days without water, depending on the temperature.  This was a cool little piece of kit to save carting bottled water everywhere – and yes, I did notice the water cooler behind…

When camping in the most remote outback locations, I imagined most campers would just want to sit around the camp-fire admiring the clear starry skies and listening to the silence of the wilderness.  Not all though – there is even a market for solar powered satellite dishes!

From my observations at the show, other popular activities when camping seems to be fishing, canoeing, bush walking and … err… prospecting.  Hardly surprising in Western Australia I suppose, given its rich natural resources…

To keep in touch and find your way around Western Australia, satellite phones, GPS, UHF radios and tables groaning with maps were available…

I know camping is a bit of an effort, and I have still to get right into it. Western Australia looks like it is absolutely stunning and camping seems to be the best way to see it.  The driving distances in Western Australia however has to be a major factor when planning a camping trip – it is such a vast state extending 1000’s of kilometres. Fortunately as well as the outback, there seems to be plenty of camp sites and parks to cater for everyone, including scores of National Parks.   You also might be inspired to camp in Western Australia after watching the 2008 film “Australia”.  Some of it was filmed at the “Top End” around Kununurra, close to the border with the Northern Territories.  You can see some of the jaw dropping landscape in the movie trailer…

Whenever I have the time, I will plan to get up there, and after the camping show I at least know how to plan a bit better.  I am a far cry from being a professional camper Aussie style, but at least I have found a tent suits my current levels of capability…

 

3 thoughts on “Truly professional campers.

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  1. Pingback: An expat for 10 years – part 3 | The Coconut Times

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