There’s an ailment that’s easy to catch when testing out a new sport or hobby, particularly one that requires specific gear. Take snow skiing, for example. If you shudder at the thought of loaner boots and sweat-soaked jackets, all too quickly you find yourself with half a garage full of stuff and not so much as one inch of powder in the last 12 months of your diary.
But if you’ve been hesitating about camping, purely because you think you’ll have to forgo that overseas holiday to get kitted out, you’re missing the point of the game. The secret is this: The more 'bare-bones' your set-up, the more epic your adventure.
It doesn’t take much (a month or two worth of coffees) to be well equipped to camp this weekend in one of Queensland’s parks and forests.
Just use this guide, get onto Gumtree and stalk your local outdoor gear store like an A Current Affair producer on a deadline.
Gum Hole camping area, Diamantina National Park | © Chris Whitelaw
Myth #1. You need all the gear. Including the kitchen sink.
You might know some ‘outdoorsy camping types’, who can flip out the contents of their entire family home with German precision at a campground, but that doesn’t mean you need to keep up with the Joneses.
The more you have, the more you have to cart along! And, if you really want to get into nature, minimise! Who needs camping chairs when you have a picnic rug? And who needs a sink when you have a plastic bucket from the $2 shop?
Start by camping at sites that offer facilities to ’give it a go’ before committing to any serious get-up.
Invest in the basics: Tent, ground sheet (tarp), tent pegs, sleeping bags, inflatable mattresses, a gas cooker, esky, shovel and a lantern/headlamp and you’ll already be more comfortable than Bear Grylls on 95% of his adventures. And, bring your cooking utensils straight from the kitchen—the old ones, not the new knives or matching cutlery set!
Myth #1: Busted. Less is more!
Castle Rock camping area, Girraween National Park | © Hannah Beaumont
Myth #2. You need to buy it all
Aussies love camping. Aussies also love buying camping gear. So before you dash out to the shops, think ‘share economy’.
Lean on your friends to see if you can borrow some gear for the weekend. Chances are, it’s doing nothing but gathering dust in the garage or shed. Who knows, you might even inspire them to get back out into the great outdoors, too.
If you can’t borrow, start your search for second-hand camping gear at local op shops and garage sales before stepping foot into the outdoor gear shop. And let’s face it—you don’t need that much!
Myth #2: Busted. Try before you buy.
Burrows Waterhole camping area, Sundown National Park | © MJL Photography
Myth #3. You need a 4WD
You start out with a tent, then graduate to a portable barbecue, and before you know it, you’re whacking down a deposit on a car loan for a brand-new set of 4WD wheels to carry all the gear. Pump the brakes!
Most of Queensland’s parks and forests are accessible by 2WDs, especially in the state’s south east and around major centres. Of course, there are some parks and forests that have 4WD-only access, such as those where roads become rough and slippery after seasonal rains. Then, there are the more remote parks, such as those on Cape York Peninsula and in the Outback, where needing a 4WD is a ‘no-brainer’.
If you do decide to head to one of our parks and forests with 4WD-only access, there are a few options before you pick out the fluffy dice. Borrow from a friend, or consider a test-drive in a rental vehicle to see if it’s for you. Car hire companies in major towns offer 4WDs for rent. (Make sure you check the hire company's restrictions on where you can go before you rent your 4WD).
Myth #3: Busted. Choose a park with 2WD access for starters.
Cooloola beach drive | Robert Ashdown © Queensland Government
Myth #4. You need to eat weird dehydrated food
Before you go filling your shopping basket with NASA-certified packets of freeze-dried who-knows-what, think about what you’d really like to eat by lantern light or around the camp fire.
Many park and forest camping areas have barbecue facilities so, with a little planning, you can be as much of a MasterChef as you like, without dropping a wad of cash. Even better, with a little foresight (preparing and freezing meals before you go), you’ll save your ‘hard-earned’, and avoid slaving over a reluctant fire or, worse, spilling the contents of the camp oven into the ashes.
Of course, you could always try your hand at catching a fresh fish for dinner instead. Sometimes the best things in life really are free.
Myth #4: Busted. Camp food is normal food eaten in the great outdoors!
Camp fire cooking | © Tourism Events Queensland
Convinced to give it a go?
Check out the camping options on offer in Queensland’s parks and forests and select the camping area features (toilets, showers, barbecues and so on) that you need.