THERE’S A lot more to setting up a campsite than just the tent – storage of foodstuffs, preparation of the sleeping area and, of course what to use for preparing, cooking and cleaning up after meals.
The kitchen that you left at home had hot and cold running water over the sink and the stove was fitted in the correct place, not far from preparation areas and the fridge. There was also plenty of bench space to prepare and serve meals.
The camp, on the other hand, has to be set up so that all these chores can be accomplished with a minimum of fuss. Remember, you are on holidays, so the meal area needs to be user-friendly to minimise work time and maximise recreation time.
Most camp grounds these days do not allow open fires, so the best option is usually a fuel stove. These come in many shapes and sizes and use quite a range of different fuels. It doesn’t really matter which style you have – the real issue is that it is used safely.
Cooking generates a lot of heat so the stove needs to be free from the confines of the tent walls. We usually set up an area in front of the tent outside under the fly.
The cooking area needs to be stable. There are a number of stove stands on the market, ranging from a basic wire rack to the sophisticated Coleman cooking station. All of these stands will do the job, with the choice of style depending on personal preferences and budget.
The other thing to be considered will always be how much room there is for gear in the vehicle. We always like to have at least two tables and a solid stove stand that can double as a wash-up area.
The Coleman Kitchen and the Cooking Station are probably the best on the market at the moment. They are also the most expensive, but these products should give years of service.
Food preparation is also another area where a table is needed. After a long day out on the water, it is nice to have somewhere to relax while peeling spuds for chips and making the batter for the fish that you have caught.
When looking to make these purchases, have a good idea in mind of the height of the chairs that you take camping, so that the table is not too high. Most foldaway camping stools and chairs are lower than the average household chair, so tables need to be at a comfortable height. If the budget allows, a combination table and separate stool pack is ideal, as the stools can be used anywhere around camp and the table is at the right height.
Some tables on the market also combine storage with a work surface so that food supplies can be at hand. These storage cupboards usually hang from the table supports and are made from canvas with lightweight shelves. If space allows, these storage units are great, giving an enclosed area that is usually insect-proof. They will also protect your food from prowling possums and rats.
The down side of this type of cupboard is that there is no leg room once the cupboard is installed, so the table has to be relegated to food preparation only and another table will be required for sitting down to meals.
The Sportiva company, under its brand name Oz Trail, manufactures several tables, ranging from family-sized to tiny, compact fabric tables. The larger tables are made from polyethylene –stronger than wood. Their table tops are combined with a featherweight steel frame.
The Versalite multi-use tables are available in 1.2 metres (4’), 1.5 metres (5’), 1.8 metres (6’) and 1.8 metres bi-fold, which packs down to a convenient carry size to fit into the boot of most small cars.
Sportiva also make aluminium-framed, timber-topped tables in two sizes, both with folding legs and the larger size is also bi-fold for easy storage.
There is also a number of brands of aluminium slat table which assemble in seconds and fold into carry bags.
A variant of the polyester folding chair is the folding table. Made from the same style of frame and materials, the camp table has two-cup holders and a zippered, insulated cooler compartment in the top. The camping table also packs away into its own polyester carry bag and is quite light.
The old steel original are still available from most camping stores and are very sturdy for washing up and food preparation. Most of these have a cut-out for the wash-up dish and the remaining surface can be used as a drainer. I have found that a good-fitting cutting board can be held in the recess to add extra bench space and a good chopping area.
All of these tables and more are available at Belmont Camping Country Superstore.Reads: 432