Australia is one of the best places in the world to walk out of your door, find a quiet spot and pitch a tent. Just about every town in the land has a caravan and camping park, usually to a very high standard of facilities, friendliness and peace. There are also hundreds and hundreds of national parks, many where camping is allowed and is free so long as any park entry fees are paid. Running water, barbeque facilities and pit toilets are found at many of the camping areas, but occasionally you have to go without, so prepare well beforehand.
Another aspect that makes going camping in Australia so great is the vast coastline of the nation. Whilst many countries coastlines are sought after and fought over by developers and towns, in Australia there are many coastal national parks with fantastic beaches, great fishing and terrific surf, that only those hardy enough to rough it will find the choicest parts.
If you’ve a vehicle to hand at all times, then you can afford to expand your camping armoury a bit. The golden rule is still don’t overpack, as the chances are you’ll take tons of stuff you’ll never use and it’ll just get in the way, get dirty, lost or broken.
Obviously a tent is quite handy when camping, buy the best quality one you can comfortably afford, but even the cheap tents are made to a very high standard these days, particularly the small 2 and 3 man dome tents as they are small, light and strong. If you need a bigger tent then the cheap ones tend to cause more trouble, they’re more easily affected by wind, weaker and have more problems on the whole.
Again, don’t overdo it when buying a tent, try and buy something that’s not too cumbersome as it’ll make putting it up (and down) a hassle, particularly if you’re hot and sweaty after a long drive and all you want to do is jump in the sea.
Shade is a key factor to enjoying your camping anywhere. Whilst most public sites have plenty of shade, it’s a very good idea to take some form of shade with you. Tents are notorious for heating up in an instant as soon as the sun comes up, if you’re camping in the far north you’ll be out like lightening of the tent at 6 am every day unless you’re well shaded.
You can buy large foil groundsheets quite cheaply, so long as you have some ability to hold these in place they can be exceptionally useful for creating cool shaded areas when there are none. Draped over your tent, they can provide very useful coverage, but make sure there is room for the air to circulate between the outer lining of the tent and your foil “wrap” as you might swelter in the night.
Open fires are not allowed in most of the camping areas for bushfire reasons, but many parts do provide fireplaces, with facilities to cook over, so bring your billycan. Some national parks provide firewood, mainly to stop campers damaging the surrounding forest.
In the absence of open fires, it’s a good idea to take small, compact cooking equipment with you. With a car you can take a reusable gas cylinder with you, these are excellent value for money and last a very long time, typically being available for around $30 per cylinder and a full refill from $10 (AUD) for the gas. Again, bring the smallest stove that covers your needs, 2 rings are preferable as you often need to cook a couple of items at once.
If you’re really looking to travel light then a trangia style stove is an excellent alternative as they are powered by a small compact bottle of methylated spirit, they also pack away very small so you can even have two sets with you and this will enable you to cook for 4 or more people quite comfortably.
Remember to take food that is going to last. You can get cool boxes, fridges and so forth, but you don’t want to be relying on these to look after fresh food, so take food that keeps in the hot of your car, or catch your fish fresh if you’re near the sea or a lake. Tinned food and dried pasta are best, will keep for ages and are light and durable. Pasta also provides you with tons of carbohydrates so it’ll keep you going for ages.
My personal choice are dried pasta and sauce packets. These are cheap, taste great and very small so you can carry weeks worth of food with very little space taken up.
The simple rule is take more water than you need, and always keep fresh clean water to one side, you never know when you’re going to need it. Most camping areas provide fresh water but you don’t want to be relying on this to keep you camping happily. If you’re really going “bush” take as much as you need for your entire trip as you never know when you’re going to get water. In the centre of Australia the water is sapped from your body at an alarming rate as the air is so dry, so you can’t be too careful.
If you’re camping with a vehicle, you will have a great time and as long as you don’t overuse your cars storage facilities whilst still being prepared, the lighter you camp, the more free you are and the more fun you'll have.