› Family camping gear

What family camping gear should you take around Oz?

There’s only so much family camping gear you can take when you go around Australia. Space is limited so you have to be ruthless. Some stuff you really do need, but lots of stuff you don’t. Try to think about when and how often you might use each item you pack.

It’s easy to buy things along the way, but much harder to throw stuff away if you take too much.

Just some of our family camping gear!

Everyday essentials

What about babies? Take a look at my list of special baby camping gear.

Here’s the family camping gear we used the most…and was the most essential:

  • Good sturdy walking shoes for everyone.
  • Hard-wearing drink bottles, we had great stainless steel ones.
  • Plenty of dark coloured play clothes.
  • Washable hats – two each.
  • Books, especially “Are we there yet?” by Alison Lester.
  • A table the kids could sit and “work” at – ours was height adjustable, which was perfect.
  • A 38L flexi-tub (tubtrug) – Excellent as a kids’ bath, a shower tray, laundry bucket...
  • Inflatable swim rings, noodles, or some other versatile flotation devices.
  • Kids' beach toys (e.g. bucket, scoop, rake) – these will get used in dirt as much as sand!
  • Kids' fishing rods - even if you don't fish you might find your kids want to give it a go.
  • Basic kids’ medicines and first aid kit (maybe this is too obvious, but I thought I’d add it anyway).
  • An Ergo baby carrier – You can carry a child up to 25kg in this marvellous frame-free invention. Not just for babies, but for any child up to about age 6. Great for any long walks when the kids need a rest.

For a rainy day or quiet time

It’s easy to pack too much family camping gear for a rainy day that never comes. After all, if you travel with the weather, rain is infrequent. And with kids, quiet time is always relatively short. So just choose a couple of options, such as –

  • A pack of cards, and maybe one or two travel games, e.g. Scrabble or Connect 4.
  • Basic craft items such as glue, scissors, sticky-tape, paper, pens, maybe paint. With these basics you can do a lot.
  • Colouring-in or activity books – but only one at a time. We made the mistake of having a few choices, and we ended up carting lots of half-finished books around.
  • Small box or backpack of toys for each kid. Choose versatile and durable toys, e.g. toy cars, lego, plastic animals, Barbies. Beware of taking too many toys…they will take up space and get limited use.
  • Kids' music CDs – great for a groove at the camp or for some tunes in the car.
  • Family movies. Burn some to your laptop or iPad or put some DVDs into sleeves. Leave the cases at home, they take up too much space. I wouldn’t take a dedicated DVD player, unless you are using it for the car – just use your laptop or iPad.

What about bikes?

Surely you would think I was crazy if I suggested leaving bikes at home! So, I won't suggest it. I don't think I'm crazy, but I'd like you to give the bike question some thought. In my experience, they are not essential items to take.

Having said that, we took bikes for the kids (not us). They were still on training wheels when we left, which meant they were limited in when and where they could ride. But when they rode, they enjoyed it and both kids learned to ride without training wheels before the end of the trip.

But here’s the thing about bikes when you’re travelling around Australia –

  • Many riding surfaces will be uneven, sandy, or gravel – particularly in the north.
  • Your bikes may need to travel outside your vehicle or camper. They will get extremely dirty.
  • Bikes are bulky, awkward things to pack. Depending on where you keep them, you might have to unload your bikes at every camp, even if you don’t use them.
  • You can always hire bikes on the occasions when you want them.

If you and your children love mountain biking, take them (but I probably wouldn’t take your $1,000 bike). If not, have a think about it before you decide. Because once you take them you’re pretty much stuck with them.

If I haven’t listed it here, think carefully if it's worth taking.

It took us the whole trip to realise how little family camping gear we really needed. No matter how much or little you take, you’ll still accumulate more stuff along the way.

And, of course you’ve still got to pack your essential camping equipment, other gear, clothes, food and cooking equipment! It all adds up…

› Family camping gear