Camping trips

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Camping is awesome. When I was a boy I lived in Darwin and our family use to go camping a lot around the Northern Territory. Sadly after moving to Cairns I went camping much less (we mostly took day trips) and since I moved to Brisbane I've barely done any camping at all! This is a terrible shame... because there are a surprising number of good camping spots near Brisbane see here.... although these days you have to book at most camping sites, which is something we never needed to do in the NT where you could pretty much camp anywhere you wanted.

Sadly I don't go camping very often, but hopefully it's something I'll do more once I finish my PhD. It's pretty easy to forget something when you're camping, and packing can be pretty difficult too unless you own a big car, so below is a list of everything I can think to take on your average camping trip.

What to Take

Picnic Gear

  • plates + cutlery
  • cups + bowls (mugs for coffee)
  • paper towels
  • dish towels
  • zip lock bags + alfoil + glad wrap
  • esky
  • coffee flask
  • picnic bag

Cooking Utensils

  • cooking utensils (spatula, tongs, can opener, sharp knife, cutting board, etc)
  • pots + frying pans
  • cooking spray
  • portable stove
  • newspaper (good for starting fires & cleaning bbqs)
  • matches + bbq lighter *
  • fire lighters and/or fuel ** (for fires in wet)


  • breakfast: orange juice, milk^ (long life), cereal, bacon^, eggs, yogurt^
  • lunch: bread, butter^, cheese^, tomatoes^, spam^, pickles, olives
  • dinner: sausages^, steak^, pre-cooked chicken^, pasta, salad, peas, corn, mashed potatoes
  • snacks: biscuits, muesli bars, apricots, apples, oranges, car sweets, marshmallows**
  • other: tomato sauce, bbq sauce*, canned baked beans, canned soup, canned fruit, tea & coffee
  • great ideas: assorted jams, canned potatoes, veggie sausages*
  • ^ = keep in esky - might not last long, so eat early


  • tent
  • pegs + hammer
  • sleeping mattress
  • pillow case
  • air beds + pump
  • sleeping bags
  • sheets + pillows
  • tarpaulin and/or picnic rug *
  • extra rope (for clothes line or tarp etc)
  • clothes pegs


  • shorts and shirts, undies, towel, swimmers, jumper, pjs, hat, etc ..... (see "Packing for a trip - clothes")
  • jumper
  • walking shoes (will likely get dirty, so maybe an older pair)
  • thongs (for short walks and communal showers)
  • raincoat
  • sunglasses
  • watch

Walking/Day Trips

  • backpack
  • sunscreen *
  • insect repellent *
  • water bottles *
  • snacks (see above)
  • camera *
  • maps + compass (useful on difficult walks)


  • print out of any reservations + pen and paper
  • mobile phone + car charger *
  • camping chairs
  • mosquito coils + insect repellent **
  • travel alarm clock
  • umbrellas
  • mag torch *
  • first aid kit (in car)
  • reading material + cards *
  • CDs for the car trip
  • swiss army knife
  • toilet paper
  • toiletries bag:
    • toothbrush, toothpaste, soap *, comb, razor, nail scissors, dry wipes **
    • panadol, vics inhaler, lip balm, cough lollies, ear buds, sunscreen, bandaids, tweezers, ear liquid **

Optional Items

  • snorkelling gear *
  • spotlights *
  • board games
  • puzzle magazine
  • balls and a frisbee
  • boogie boards or water tyres
  • fishing gear
  • freshwater fishing nets
  • binoculars
  • telescope
  • table + fold up chairs
  • table cloth

Important Tips

Planning the trip

Before any trip it is very important to know exactly where your camp sites are. Use Google earth or maps to find the location of campsites and print directions. Better yet, if you have a GPS program all your way-points BEFORE leaving. On a recent trip I had a GPS and assumed it would guide us to our campsite... but then discovered "scrub road" was a dirt track and not on the GPS system.... we needed coordinates instead. Also keep in mind that during rain waterways can often flood and make some roads inaccessible... which could potentially ruin a trip.

Lighting fires

Lighting a campfire or BBQ is not necessarily easy. In damp conditions it can be almost impossible to get a fire going... hence it's important to bring plenty of fire-lighting equipment: newspaper, matches, BBQ lighters, fire-lighter cubes and fuel as an absolute last resort. Wood can be scarce in some areas, but never use rotten wood, or branches/leaves from living trees - they won't burn. In dry conditions worry about the fire spreading, so make sure you build a good fire ring (circle of rocks).

To make a good fire start with a layer of scrunched newspaper, then kindling, larger sticks, and a few larger pieces of wood, but not too thick or large until the fire gets going. I found a good page here which suggests the perfect fire is a "ball" of kindling, then "tepee" of small sticks over that, a "square cabin" of larger sticks over that, and small logs on the side.


Most important: have a GOOD backpack and pack only essentials. Water is heavy, but you should have at LEAST 2 liters of water per person per day. If hiking you can fill an empty pillow case with towels and clothes to make a pillow.

Other Tips

  • Night time can get very cold, so make sure you have a good sleeping bag and tracksuit.
  • Bring a rain poncho and (assuming you have room in the car) pack plenty of clothes and towels in case it rains.
  • Before leaving check your spare tire and car's vitals... and obviously fill the tank + maybe spare fuel.
  • Bring lots of plastic bags of all sizes.
  • It's good to separate dirty clothes into a plastic bag, but even better to give them air when possible (so they don't get yucky).