Tactics for better summer camping
  |  First Published: December 2016

Summer’s with us and there’s hardly a better way of enjoying this great time of year than to camp next to lovely water with our fishy friends nearby. For those who haven’t done a lot of camping but want to give it a go, here’s a look at some things that can make camping as easy and unfussed as possible.

My definition of camping is a swag or two set up under a folding marquee, staying in the humble tent or living it up in the camper trailer or caravan – it’s a pretty broad view. Whatever style of camping you choose, a great holiday usually starts with the selection of just the right place to set up that home away from home, so we’ll explore this aspect first.

In the caravan or holiday park

In most camping grounds, different areas are allocated for the different styles of outdoor life, which works fine. Concrete pads for caravans and grassed areas for the rest is the norm. With competition for choice sites, it’s frankly so much easier to find that perfect camping site by making early enquiries regarding a booking, well before departure time. Most parks have site plans on the net and a browse of the layout is an easy matter prior to commitment or a deposit.

Keep well away from big dangerous eucalypts that sometimes offer tempting shade at inland lake or riverside camping grounds. These trees drop big branches just for the fun of it. With the right site organized, the next step should be to have a good hard look at the caravan or camper trailer and see that all is in good shape.

Caravans and camper trailers could do with a bearing check and at least a tyre pressure check. Elevate a wheel and give it a spin – if there are rumbles, it’s time to do some bearing changes. A quick full setup at home will ensure things are as you left them and not spoiled by unwelcome guests. If the trusty tent is the main accommodation, it’s wise to take it out of storage and give it a once over.

It’s also very smart to take a look at all poles, ropes and pegs that are going to be part of the setup. Poles that lock tight with small wing nuts and cross bolts can be assessed on effectiveness and refurbished if necessary. Ropes are usually okay, but the pegs might need some straightening. You definitely need confirmation that sufficient pegs are in the kit and the peg mallet or hammer is there as well.

The camping light (remembering that orange lighting can deter insects) should be given a test run on the battery terminals, to see it’s still in working order as well. On the topic of camping lights, try one of the ever-popular strip lights with a dimmer switch, so that once tea is over and things are quietening down, the main light can be reduced in output so it’s not illuminating a fair portion of other camps in the area.

With all the camping equipment given the once over and a tick of approval, it’s time to pack the fishing gear and other equipment, in an orderly manner. The idea is, what needs to come out first should definitely go in last. If a section of shade mat is going down as a handy floor, it should be one of the first things to hand, especially if some is going under the tent to keep the base as clean as possible.

At this time of year, most holiday parks will be well filled, so when you’re setting up camp, be conscious of the time and how it might affect those already on site and comfortable. Moving onto a campsite and setting up camp well after dark, noisily unloading vehicles, banging pegs into the ground or shining powerful lights all over the place is no way to win friends. It’s far better to arrange for an arrival at a more friendly time of day if possible.

That said, sometimes you just can’t arrive at a more civilized hour. That’s why I have really emphasized the need to organize the vehicle and trailer packing before you leave. If you’re making camp in difficult circumstances, such as rain or darkness, it’s vital to be able to find what’s needed promptly, so you can be set up as soon as possible.

Once you’re settled in, why not introduce the team to the neighbours when the opportunity arises? If they’re fishing as well, a bit of neighbourly networking can lead to some other network in the long run – landing net work that is. For mine, one of the great things about holiday parks and camping areas near the fishing action is the chance to talk about fishing with others – it’s surprising what gems of wisdom fall into place.

Camping off the beaten track

Holiday parks are great, but so is a camp off the beaten track, so long as self-suffiency is given priority. Beach camping is so popular that it needs first mention – you’ll need to consider extra items that can make it easier to get to just the right place to enjoy those never to be forgotten beach views.

For the car you might need a tyre gauge and air compressor pump, maybe some MAXTRAX if the budget allows for them, and definitely a shovel and snatch strap. A thorough service before you leave is a smart move. The order of your packing should be geared around setting up camp on arrival, so leave those tackle boxes in the back: you won’t need them straight off!

To improve the camping, some shade cloth or similar material on the ground around the tent will ensure that sand won’t be sneaking into all the bedding and other areas where it’s a true pest. Any metal pegs should be replaced by meaty sand pegs with extra ropes along, just in case a nasty blow develops – there’s not much cover or shelter on the beach front.

Water is vital and if there’s no chance of camping near any fresh water, the drinking water containers need to be allocated plenty of space in the packing. If there’s water on hand, the Glind Cape Yorker portable shower unit will be a gem. A shower at the end of a day’s beach fishing is brilliant and all it takes is to get some water close to the unit’s pressure pump and connect it to a car battery for operation. When not in use, the Glind Cape Yorker stows in a small Pelican case – very conveniently.

I’ve done a fair amount of beach camping and a couple of things I’ve found indispensable were insect repellent to keep away pesky march flies and Stingoes to treat insect bites or hits from jellyfish tentacles and soothing lotion if children are along. The use of solar panels is pretty standard today, but remember to ascertain how many are required for the battery charging tasks on hand. Do this before you leave and find where they might fit in the vehicle.

Rough camping

This is my thing. I love camping where it’s basic, a bit on the rough and ready side, but where the fishing makes it well worthwhile. This is the style of camping I’ve done at Cape York when we’ve towed the Bullshark up there, camped rough and launched off the beach. I sometimes take the car and camper trailer, or tent, and set up on a riverbank out west to catch cod and yellowbelly with lures, bait or bobbing gear.

This style of rough-it camping, whether it’s on an inland riverbank or near the beach in the far north, has shown me that along with the standard camping gear and plenty of water, you need to opt for extra shading and organize lots of poles and ropes to keep things steady, even if a storm rolls in. Naturally, fuel requirements should be considered and set in place well before leaving the driveway.

Sensible precautions

The further away from help you are, the more you need to consider possible precautions. A first aid kit should feature with medication for insect bites, burns, an upset tummy and the like. Betadine is a useful liquid to treat any spikings from fish or mishaps with hooks. Some backup dressings should also be in the kit. To avoid stomach upsets, I always take along Aquatabs or similar water treatment tablets to treat water that I’m not familiar with. Having once caught Giardiasis that ruined a trip to NZ, I’m very particular about water treatment.

Choosing a campsite on inland rivers, avoid those aforementioned eucalypts at all costs. If you’re heading above the Tropic of Capricorn on the coastal fringe, there’s another less dangerous but still quite annoying matter to consider –nasty, foraging, pesky green ants. These critters will move from any foliage touching the campsite straight into areas where they’re not wanted. So long as any part of the camp is near the tree they live in, they’ll continue to invade.

A good ant repellent pesticide spray is the hero. Spraying on the contact points where items touch the ground or where items are near foliage should keep the pests from intruding. Note that once a few scouts have made their way into the camp, 500 other ants will be there within the hour. Green ants are a serious nuisance.

Much has been written about the need to keep camps back from the water in croc country. Take this very seriously. Exceptions are risky and crocs can never be discounted just because they’re not seen. Likewise, the canine issues on fabulous Fraser Island, so beloved of many campers in summer, come down to common sense. Ensure that food isn’t left where it will encourage dogs to hang around the campsite.

Go for it and enjoy!

As most of us will be camping in organized and lovely campgrounds and holiday parks, which are perfect to get started with, make the best of the facilities on offer, think of others also wanting to do the same, and see the festive season and 2017 in with good times, tight lines and fun in the sun.

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