The big problem with your fold-up camp chair
The comfort of your chair and how well your fridge runs are frequent topics up for discussion around campsites. Barbecue tips are another hot favourite, whether you want them or not, along with how long it takes you to set up. To help you keep up with the Joneses, here’s our guide to picking the right gear for your style of adventuring.
YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Your first consideration should be what kind of camper you want to be. City slickers who’ve never been camping before may want to start out small with a tent. But the trick is not to opt for the cheapest brand. Although you may only use it once a year, a quality tent will make all the difference when it comes to keeping you dry and warm.
If you love hiking and want to stay in a remote location you’ll want a tent that’s light enough to carry on your back. Brands such as Kathmandu and MacPac specialise in hiking tents, or you can show how trendy you are by setting up a cool Tentsile tent that hangs between trees like a hammock.
The traditional Aussie swag is a top choice for nights when you simply need to pull the car over and roll out your bedding — and they make for an awesome option if you’re dune camping. Couples note, they come in doubles, too.
If you’re new to the touring world and want more than a tent, motorhomes are great investments. Although they’re large, they’re a relatively easy option as you won’t need to worry about pitching, towing or chocking wheels. Just stock up the pantry and fridge, and hit the road.
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Travellers who get a thrill out of venturing down dirt roads or over sand dunes will be best suited to an off-road camper trailer. There are a tonne of brands and sizes on the market, and one of your biggest considerations will be the towing capacity of your vehicle; it will determine the size and weight of the trailer you get. Trailers also come in various configurations, such as separate “wings” for children.
The last option is a caravan, and here it’s easy to be overwhelmed. The first thing to consider is size: how many beds do you need for your family and do you want a shower and toilet or are you happy to stay in holiday parks? Then you’ll want to think about the ease of setting up. Do you want a van that has expandable beds or a pop-top, or are you happy with a small set-up you can climb into on a last-minute stop?
THE CAMP KITCHEN
No matter what your set-up, it’s always nice to have an outdoor camp kitchen and by this I mean a table, chairs, barbecue and extra refrigeration. If you’re camping, you’ll want an Esky and, as a general rule, the more you pay the better quality the cooler will be and the longer your food (and ice) will stay cold.
If you’re a car camper, it’s worth splurging on a 4WD fridge, such as a Waeco. These run on 12-volt power sockets in the car and are a fantastic option for ensuring your spinach won’t wilt and your sausages will be kept frozen until it’s barbie time. A 4WD fridge is a fantastic back-up for caravanners, too. Although most modern caravans have three-way fridges (12V, 240V and gas), unless you’re travelling in a large van, you’ll find you may struggle to fit all your fresh groceries in. Plus, if you journey through Australia’s extreme heat, the caravan fridge may strain to keep cool and you’ll be thankful you have a second option.
When it comes to cooking outdoors, there are plenty of options, from small barbecues (the Weber Baby Q is a popular choice) to butane gas cookers that are great to take to the beach for a seaside cook-up. Hikers will appreciate the compact size and light weight of a one-burner stove, while many caravanners like to carry cast iron camp ovens so they can swap the van kitchen for a campfire every now and then.
Leading the pack when it comes to camp kitchens are camper trailers with nifty slide-out benches. Expect plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs” when you spot a fellow camper easily pulling out a bench that’s ready to go with a gas stove and wash basin.
As for comfort in the outdoors, a small card table is a necessity for easy meals. Pick one with adjustable legs so you’re not struggling to reach your dinner plate and can make the table level on bumpy campsites.
Camp-chair envy is a real thing, too, and the best way to avoid looking longingly at your buddies around the camp kitchen is to test them out in a store before buying. Prices for chairs vary from $30 to $200, and you’ll find the more expensive styles have more padding and support, as well as novelty features, such as mini coolers in the armrests, drink holders and foot stools. Don’t get caught up in all the awesome extras though — the bulkier your chair is the harder it will be to squeeze it into your vehicle.
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GETTING YOUR POWER RIGHT
Headlamps are a staple and vary hugely in price. If you’re starting out, opt for a mid-range model for about $60. It will give out a strong beam of light, so you don’t get lost on your way to the loo in the night. Headlamps are also great accessories to get young children excited about their first camping trip, and there are plenty of fun animal shapes.
For the campsite, you can buy everything from battery-powered lights that hang from your awning to LED vintage-look lanterns. Some lights even come with a USB socket, so you can charge your mobile phone while reading in your tent. A good torch, such as a reliable Maglite, is also a must, while #vanlife lovers may want to add a string of fairy lights to their kit for extra sparkle.
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Get more camping and caravanning tips and inspiration in the Escape Camp & Caravan special issue, on sale in Coles, Woolworths and newsagents nationally from Monday, September 24, 2018. RRP $9.99.
Originally published as The big problem with your fold-up camp chair