Rediscover quality time in the outdoors

EVEN camping experts can forget vital equipment for a bush holiday. Tony Tanner, who has owned or managed camping shops for 10 years, said he had that sinking feeling at a camp site when he realised he had remembered everything – except the tent.

He said double-checking equipment, before leaving, was important. Mr Tanner also said three camping vitals were fresh water, a stove (the type depends on the type of camping) and sunscreen.

“Check that your water container is clean and has been sterilised, otherwise everyone gets sick,” he said.

The expert camper said anyone travelling remotely, or even overseas, should also invest in a LifeStraw. It works by sterilising the water at the source with no boiling required and could be a life-saver if a vehicle broke down.

He also said a good sleeping bag, a good mattress, and a good waterproof tent was also important, along with kits for first-aid and snake bite.

For those who cannot live without their devices, there are solar-power battery charging options.

“I tend to go somewhere where there’s no service,” he said.

“Otherwise my other half sits on her phone, and my daughter plays with her iPod. No service, no phones, no Facebook.”

Many parents attest that an inability to turn on devices is one of the biggest pluses of modern-day camping. And the experts agree.

The Federal Government Australia’s Physical Activity Recommendations suggest that children aged 5-18 accumulate no more than two hours of screen time per day and children under the age of two do not spend any time viewing television or other electronic media.

Child psychologist Nicole Pierotti said in a press release that most children spent many more hours than this in front of screens, sometimes up to 12 hours per day. Parents sometimes struggled to limit their child’s screen time because of their own busy schedules.

Destination NSW chief executive officer Sandra Chipchase said a device-free camping trip was the perfect chance to get the family talking to each other, and spending quality time together in the great outdoors.

“The simplicity of a caravan and camping holiday is that it gives you the freedom to enjoy the very best of New South Wales, with our holiday parks located in stunning natural surroundings by the beach, in the bush, on a lake or by a river,” she said.

So families arrive at their camp site, and the devices are off or no longer in service, but how does one keep the kids entertained? Although hard for a new generation of littlies to imagine, there once was a world without the internet and online games.

Mum-of-three Karen Wren turns to her own childhood as inspiration when camping with her children. She revives old favourites like card games, spotlight (played with torches in the dark) and roasting marshmallows over the fire.

“Bikes are always a hit,” she said.

“They also love to bust out old school toys like hula hoops, yoyos, sparklers, glow sticks etc.”

Fellow mum Sabrina Clair makes her children a “treasure hunt page” before they left.

“When we get up and are setting up, if they aren’t being helpful, they take the page and start discovering where everything is,” she said.

She also said mini UHF radios often proved a big hit.

And for those with an adventurous spirit, and older kids not as reliant on fixed amenities, Queensland and New South Wales has more national park camp sites to choose from than the always-popular-at-Easter Fraser Island.

A Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service representative said there were many lesser-known but beautiful camp sites throughout the state (see sidebar).

“Some less-used camping areas do have fewer facilities, but their lower usage often relates more to accessibility – whether you need a four-wheel drive, and how long it takes to get there,” they said.

The representative said campers should make dependable communication and a first-aid kit top of their priority list if travelling to remote places.

“You may need everything to be totally self-sufficient so the list could be long. Water and a portable toilet might also be needed,” they said.

The representative also said it was important to book camp sites, and check park alerts and the weather forecast.

If campers were considering going to north Queensland camp sites following Cyclone Debbie, it was important to check the latest information about the areas online.