Tent in the outback

First Time Camping? Here’s Our Essential Guide

If you really want to get up close and personal with this great brown land, a camping trip is one of the best ways to do it.

By Shell on Sep. 14, 2020

But what if you’ve never attempted an ‘off-grid’ escape before? What do you need to make sure you stay comfortable, well-fed and safe?

Here’s what you should be slinging into your boot before setting off for the bush.


Life gets miserable quickly if you don’t have a comfortable place to sleep or shelter from the elements. Even if you plan on sleeping under the stars, you should pack a back-up for the unexpected.

The obvious solution is a tent. When it comes to choosing your canvas, sizing should be considered just a rough guide – a four-person summer tent might sleep four but if you want extra space for gear or moving about, or sufficient weather protection for year-round camping, you’ll want to go up a size or two and choose an all-season product. Talk to the person at the camping store, tell them what you’re planning and let them guide your decision.

Modern tents are much simpler to assemble than those earlier generations grappled with, but larger ones can still be tricky or require more than one pair of hands to do the job efficiently. Don’t wait until you arrive at a dark campsite to try it for the first time – practice at home before you leave and get it down to a fine art.

Food preparation and storage

You’ll need somewhere to store food safely. The very best coolers today can keep food safe for up to three days on a single load of ice. If you have a power source (ie your car) and some money to spend, make it a portable camping fridge.

You’ll also need something to cook your food with. That could be anything from a simple, wood fire grill to a portable multi-burner gas cooker. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s reliable.

Unless you want to be preparing food on your lap and with only your hands, you’ll need a fold-up table and a basic supply of cooking and eating utensils. To avoid coming home with dirty dishes, add a small tub for dishwashing to the list.


The big one – bedding. Don’t skimp on this unless you want to be tired and cranky.

Roll-up foam mats are cheap, easy to store and take up minimum space in a tent but can be tough on the body. Stretchers are super-comfy but bulky in the tent and to store, making an inflatable mattress or self-inflating mattress a good middle ground.

Sleeping bags, like tents, are season-specific and should be purchased appropriately – a summer bag can be uncomfortably chilly at the height of winter. Don’t forget you’ll need a pillow, too.

Having nowhere to sit for many hours isn’t much fun either, so also grab some folding camping chairs.

Camp preparation and safety

It gets properly dark in the bush at night, making a good portable campsite lantern a must for general campsite and in-tent illumination. For toilet trips and other times when it’s good to have light but your hands free, you’ll want a head torch.

When it comes to camp toilets, make sure you bring your own stash of toilet paper and a small shovel for scenarios when proper facilities aren’t available; the latter will also come in handy for fire-building (if permitted) and other common campsite preparation.

Finally, make sure you have a good first-aid kit. This will contain not just the essential items that could save your skin in an emergency, but generous supplies of sun protection and insect repellent – two items you don’t want to be without in the great outdoors. Throw in a hammer for driving in tent pegs, a multi-tool for unexpected fix-it scenarios and some matches or fire-starters for fire/cooker lighting.

Don’t forget to have fun! The great outdoors are waiting for you.


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