Camping in Australia can be an incredible experience and with the right equipment and preparation your can enjoy the freedom of camping to the fullest. After reading our blog about buying a vehicle you are now ready for the next step… buying camping gear!
What kind of gear you need depends on your way of transportation and camping in Australia. Are you traveling by car or van or maybe public transport?
In this blog we assume you have your own transportation. So then a new question pops up, will you sleep in a tent or in your car?
We bought a Ford Territory, a big MPV and with the backseat flat it perfectly fits a thick comfy mattress we bought at Ikea.
We bought our car in Cairns, but the nearest Ikea was in Brisbane. Fortunately there was an Ikea pick-up point or collection center so we had to pay some extra delivery costs but it was definitely worth it for an excellent 5 month trip.
At the first campground we borrowed some pliers from the camp keeper, zipped open the mattress (yes Ikea mattresses have zippers!) and took out some of the springs to make it fit even better between the wheels. A super luxurious hotelroom on wheels!
Together with the mattress we ordered some other stuff too!
We also bought a tent that fitted exactly over the back door, we thought it would be easy to have a large extended bedroom, but in practice it took a lot of time to set it up and wasn’t as comfy as we’d hoped. We ended up using it only twice and selling it on Gumtree. I have to add, we were extremely lucky with the weather. Days or rain were countable on one hand and we didn’t need it for extra space or shade. So, I would advice to leave that tent in the store and go for the full outdoorsy!
Where to buy cheap
Gumtree is a marketplace where you can buy nearly anything. Some backpackers even sell their whole gear in one go to get you ready to go camping in Australia.
We’ve found a lot of cheap stuff at the huge warehouse Kmart, Bunnings is a big do it yourself warehouse with outdoor gear too and at Target you can shop for cheap kitchen stuff.
Our full list of items:
- two flame gas stove or two separates (Gumtree)
- windscreen cover (Kmart)
- foldable table (Kmart)
- two foldable chairs (Kmart)
- gas bottle (Gumtree)
- mesh window covers for a lot of airconditioned mozzie free nights (Kmart)
- sheets and a warm blanket (Ikea)
- pillows and covers (Ikea)
- a bigger cooking pan (Ikea)
- a smal cooking pan (Ikea)
- a frying pan (Ikea)
- cutlery for eating (Ikea)
- cutlery for cooking, sharp knife, stirring spoon (Ikea)
- plates and coffeecups (Ikea)
- percolator or press coffee maker, very important if you like your cuppa in the morning (Ikea)
- closable plastic containers to put all your kitchen stuff and groceries in (Ikea)
- Esky or other portable cooler (also useful as footbath on hot days)
- Ice packs, or use a water-bottle and squish it flat before freezing
Keep in mind
When you buy a gas cylinder check the expiration date and keep in mind that there are certain rules for keeping a gas cylinder in your car when you are going somewhere by boat. This can differ per destination, but the main rule is that the cylinder needs to be secured in your car, not loose. We’ve had some sweaty times going to Tasmania by ferry, eventually we were lucky but others in front of us had their bottle confiscated by security.
Occasionally it could happen that you pick up a hitchhiker, an with this I do not mean the human kind. Keeping your groceries in your car can attract all kinds of animals with a much better sense of smell than us peeps.
We picked up mouse somewhere while leaving the doors open to get the het out. We could hear it nibbling on our pastas at night and it took a while before we could find it. After this we bought some closable plastic containers.
There are many MANY sites for camping in Australia, either expensive and luxurious, for free or something in between.
Here’s what can you expect:
On most free campsites, staying overnight is officially only allowed if you have a self containing vehicle, you’ll have to have a tank to collect all your waste water from dishes, shower and toilet. With a self containing vehicle you can camp anywhere you want. These vehicles are usually the big campers or caravans and this is probably not your way of traveling. If it is, go for it the world is at your feet!!
But… don’t weep… there are a LOT of super charming free campsites where you can camp with any vehicle! Mind that some have a maximum of 24 or 48 hours, this is stated at the campsite. There is usually a male and female toilet, mostly long drop (bio tank underneath) with an actual toiletpot. They can be smelly but from what we’ve seen they are usually quite clean. Sometimes your can even find a (cold) shower.
In most free campsites there is a picnic table and sometimes you’ll find some shade under a tree or there can be a shelter to park under.
Some of these free campsites are close to the road as a rest stop but there are some real gems there too. A little further away from the traffic noise, where you can enjoy a breathtaking sunset and a sky full of stars together with the birds.
Often there is some kind of memorial nearby or a sign with background information about the area which of course is very interesting free information as long as you are there anyway 😉
If you can’t find a free campsite or you just want a little bit extra you can find a loot of Budget Campgrounds. Usually these campsites have a caretaker, are maintained by the government or are on private grounds. For these usually unpowered campsites you pay fee of A$5.00 to A$10.00 per night, usually this is a donation that you are expected to pay.
You can expect a toilet and a cold or if you’re lucky a hot shower. Sometimes a basic kitchen with or without a fridge and/or BBQ area. Frequently you’ll find a fireplace but that depends on the location. Of course making an open fire is not always prohibited in every season for risk of bushfires.
A more expensive and luxurious (un)powered campsite can vary from WOW to totally overpriced. In a price range of A$ 25.00 to A$ 70.00 you can expect a camp kitchen with gas or plate cookers, a fridge, microwave and a laundry room with washing machine and sometimes dryer. These usually cost A$ 4.00 per wash. A good campsite has a pool too!
If you want a powered site, you can add about A$ 10.00 per night to the rate.
The top campgrounds aren’t always the best if you seek ambiance and shade. We’ve stayed in a top range campsite only a few times for use of pool and taking a good shower. But actually you don’t really need to be an official guest to use these facilities 😉 shhhh…
Where do you find these campsites?
We’ve used the free app CamperMate on our smartphone a lot. This was sufficient for a few weeks, but after a while we were curious about this other app called WikiCamps, it costs about €5 but is actually a bit more detailed.
On these apps you can see exactly where you can find free, budget or paid campsites and their reviews and some even have pictures. Find petrol stations, free toilets or showers and stores. This app lets you download different areas so you don’t need an internet connection to make it work. You can place and read comments and pictures and usually the prices are mentioned too.
Grocery wise Australia is the place to be. You can find almost any product, preferable made in Australia, in the often enormous supermarket. Country wide supermarkets are Woolworths, Coles, IGA and Aldi.
You are going to do some groceries for your first basics, what do you buy?
- coffee and/or tea
- pepper and salt
- drinkingwater supply (keep at least 2 x 10 liter)
- dry pasta and rice
- baking (olive) oil
- carton tomato sauce
- cans with beans and peas
- Smac (sausage in a can, you’ll learn to love it)
- Italian herbs and oriental spices always come in handy
- garlic and onions
- potatoes (the pink ones are the best!), pumpkin and carrots keep a while
- long lasting milk, only needs to be cooled after opening
- flour, if you like pancakes or stick bread by the campfire
- something on your bread, butter, Nutella, peanutbutter, Vegemite (Australian yuck yuck yuck!) and if you have a good cooler, some cheese and yoghurt!
- coconutmilk for a real nice rice dish
- wine! (lots of it, now is your chance!)
- and of course your favorite fresh fruits and veggies
Camping Australia recipeeeeees
Basic and easy or totally over the top, you can make camp cooking as difficult as you like, but herbs and spices usually do the job.
Here are some ideas:
Cook some rice in a cooking pan and meanwhile start baking bake some pieces of chicken/tofu in the frying pan with oil, onion and garlic, add some soy sauce and keep it hot when adding some eggplant, carrot and pepper/capsicum. Add some Oriental spices and coconut milk for that extra Asian touch… (and you can even add chickpeas at this moment). When the rice is done and dry, throw in the veggies and use the frying pan to bake an egg.
Hasta la Pasta
Cook some dry pasta in a cooking pan and bake some minced meat or cubed Smac in some oil with (of course) garlic and onions. Add some chopped up veggies like capsicum, spring onions, zucchini and fry as long as you like. Add the tomato sauce and and lots of Italian herbs (some capers and olives if you like), stir for a few minutes, then throw everything together and bon appetit! Serve with some lettuce and bread… yum!
Cut up a pumpkin in cubes of 1-2 centimeters, takes a while so start early, have some wine…
Cook some cubed potatoes and after 5 minutes add the pumpkin and some cut red onions. Cook for another 8-10 minutes while you fry some Smac cubes in oil with garlic. Cut a piece of white cheese or feta and mix everything together with some Italian herbs. If you have some gravy left mix it with a small squish of mustard!
This you can do! Mix 500ml milk with 250 grams of flour, 2 large eggs and some sugar and salt if you like. Really stir it up good so that there are no lumps. The trick is adding the flour slowly while stirring the milk.
If your batter is thick like sirup and lump free you heat up a frying pan and add some butter or oil before putting in the batter. Flip over after a few minutes for that equal tan en enjoy with some jelly, apple and cinnamon or cheese!
Bake some minced meat, tofu, chicken cubes or Smac cubes in oil with garlic and onion (yes again, this is a nice base) add any veggie you like, add a can of beans as well and some spices or herbs. When its all done add some chopped lettuce and some leftover yoghurt if you have any and wrap it into a tortilla or burrito wrap!
Apps and webs
We have some tips for useful apps and websites:
- Beer in Australia is expensive, find out where it’s happy hour today on thehappiesthour.com
- Keep track of your spendings with the app Trail Wallet
- Going on a citytrip? Plan your days with the app Visit A City
- You’ll notice that your gas cylinder is always empty at the wrong time. Check gasbottlerefills.com for the nearest refill location.
Camping in the Outback
When you’re planning to travel the outback, these extra rules apply:
- bring lots of drinking water (at least 20 liter). We’ve found that the Sawyer water filter is very useful in these areas where you cannot drink water from the tap!
- do not underestimate the temperatures, drink lots of water and use sunscreen, the UV radiation is a bitch!
- fill up your petrol at EVERY gas station. For more information about the prices and locations of petrol stations you can use the app Petrolspy or check CamperMate or WikiCamps.
For more information about traveling the outback, this website might be very useful: www.traveloutbackaustralia.com
Well now I think you are ready to go camping Down Undah! Enjoy!!