Doran Francis, the founder of Homecamp, has done his fair share of camping trips. And while it might seem like packing for one of those adventures is a simple process, there are certain things the pros do to streamline it.
“Camping takes some effort but the benefits are huge,” says Francis. “Getting away from technology, communing with nature, starry nights, camp cooking and waking up with the sound of bird life are all wonderful experiences. There’s also a sense of self-reliance that comes from developing simple skills such as setting up camp, foraging wood and cooking with fire.”
Broadsheet: How important is the quality of your gear?
Doran Francis: If you have ever witnessed the aftermath of a camping festival, you’d know most gear is made to be practically disposable. Homecamp is the antithesis of this – we encourage people to think about what they buy, and try to buy the best quality they can afford.
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BS: What's a camping item you should never spend much money on?
DF: A plastic washing-up tub.
BS: Why do you advise people not to take their favourite cooking pots and opt for second-hand ones? Is that better than buying special camping cooking pots like a Trangia?
DF: It’s important to distinguish between lightweight camping and car camping. Lightweight camping is usually on the move from camp to camp, so products like a Trangia stove are useful, whereas with car camping you are generally going to a dedicated camping site for a couple nights or more and so you can take heavier equipment.
We advise beginners who are going car camping to just take gear from home or buy second-hand, you don’t need to go out and buy all the ‘proper’ gear straight away, just buy a decent tent. Then once you have your shelter sorted you can start slowly building your own dedicated kit.
BS: Do you make checklists? Do you keep all your gear in one place?
DF: Yes, we have a checklist and this is an essential for car camping. These days we have our gear already packed into storage tubs that fit neatly into our vehicle. Our kit is ready to go which makes life simpler.
BS: What’s an item sold at camping stores that's a total waste of money?
DF: Most gear sold at the local camping ‘superstore’ is mass-produced and sadly not built to last. Generally items such as cheap battery-powered lanterns will be a waste of money in our opinion.
BS: Which apps do you use to help you camp?
DF: I love a good stargazing app such as Star Walk or Sky View. I’m sure there are tons but we tend to turn off our tech when we get to our destination, unless we are in the mood for campfire tunes, that is.
BS: What are your tips for finding the best camping spots?
DF: Camping midweek and outside of school holidays is the quietest. WikiCamps is an awesome resource for finding campsites. Youcamp has a brilliant service that allows you to book campsites on private property. I also use Google Maps with satellite imagery turned on to find remote camping spots. Then I look for reviews, but you can’t beat recommendations from friends.
In Australia, we have an abundance of national parks where you can book specific camping sites online, and you should do this for popular sites such as the Grampians in Victoria. With more remote sites you won’t need to do this. People often don’t realise you can camp in state forests without a booking or a permit. There are many remote campsites and as long as you observe fire bans you can pretty much camp anywhere.
Our checklist will help ensure that not only do you have a comfortable campsite, but you also leave no trace of your visit behind.
HOMECAMP’S CAR CAMPING TRIP CHECKLIST
Shelter, sleeping and relaxing
• Tent (double check you have your poles, pegs, guylines and spares)
• Mallet with a heavy, metal head
• Sleeping pads such as the Exped MegaMat or an inflatable mattress
• Sleeping bag, blankets and/or a doona
• Headlamps and a torch (flashlight), as well as extra batteries
• Camp chairs and a foldable, lightweight table
• Lanterns, such as a kerosene storm lantern and a battery lantern
• Hard-wearing picnic rug and blankets
Cooking and the fire
• Stove and fuel
• Two cool boxes (one for beverages and one for food) and ice
• Drinking water and an easy-to-fill container for collecting water onsite
• Water filter or treatment tablets
• Lighters and matches (stored in waterproof containers)
• Charcoal (with firestarter)
• Firewood and kindling (always check to see if you are allowed to collect wood at the site)
• Frying pan (a 25.5cm/10in pan is ideal)
• Favourite camp coffee-making device, like an Aeropress
• Cooking pots (don’t take your favourites; get camping pots from a second-hand store)
• Plates, bowls, mixing bowls and mugs (bamboo, BPA-free plastics or enamel are a good investment)
• Utensils such as a chef/chopping knife, paring knife, serving spoon, cutlery and long metal skewers, and a utensil roll for safely transporting them
• Barbecqe spatula and fork
• Chopping board
• Cooking oil or spray
• Condiments, salt and pepper
• Foil and plastic wrap
• Vacuum bottle/thermos
• Water bottles
• Tupperware or airtight food containers
• Resealable plastic storage bags
• Rubbish bags
• Fixed-blade knife (this needs to be sharp and in its sheath when not in use)
• Saw or axe/hatchet (folding saws are a very handy camp tool for cutting wood for fuel)
• Foldable shovel with sharp blade (great for digging out car wheels, creating a fire pit, tending the fire or digging a latrine)
• Multi-tool or Swiss Army knife that includes a knife, bottle opener, corkscrew and can opener
• Gaffer tape
• Rope or paracord (some of its many uses include washing line and tarp ridgelines)
• Carabiners and adjustable webbing straps (you will find many uses for these)
Washing up and cleaning
• Collapsible washing-up tub
• Biodegradable soap
• Steel scrubs and sponges
• Collapsible water container(s)
• Kitchen towels
• Tea towels
• Dust pan and brush (helpful for keeping the tent free of dirt)
• Bucket with lid
• Toiletry bag with common-sense essentials
• Baby wipes and hand sanitiser
• Toilet paper in a resealable plastic bag
• Sunscreen, lip balm and insect repellent
• Luggage (backpacks, tote bags, duffels and other soft bags are a good idea)
• Spare clothing, particularly for warmth (jackets, hoodies, beanie, shorts, socks, thermals, fleece, merino underwear, swimming gear – you never know how cold or wet things will get)
• Wet-weather gear
• Sun hat or cap with detachable mosquito/fly net
• Hiking boots or trail shoes
• Thongs (flip flops)
• Gloves (fingerless is a great way to stay warm and still accomplish things around camp)
• Maps and a compass
• Spare car key kept in a safe place
• Spare batteries and extra fuel for lantern(s) and stove
• Spare eyeglasses and contact lenses
• First aid kit with whistle, painkillers and rehydration packs
• Watch with an alarm
Not essential, but nice to have
• Griddle or grill rack for cooking on an open fire
• Shade tarp
• Mosquito/fly netting
• Dutch oven
• Solar powered batteries (check out Goal Zero)
• Trekking poles
• Two-way radio set
• Bluetooth speaker (waterproof)
• Biking/kayaking/fishing gear
This is an adapted extract from Homecamp by Doron & Stephanie Francis published by Hardie Grant Travel RRP $59.99 and is available in stores nationally.