It’s the June long weekend, the first few days of winter, and we find ourselves backroad touring between Burra and Morgan. Our goal is to find a quiet camping spot to relax for a few days with friends, to enjoy some campfire cooking and try out a new camper.
We’re tested on the first night with sub zero temperatures, leaving ice on the camper the next morning. We eventually crawl out of bed to rekindle the fire for a cooked breakfast.
For many, the idea of winter camping just simply isn’t on, with the thought of cool conditions dampening any enthusiasm. Yet rain or cool weather won’t necessarily spoil a trip if you plan for the conditions. Here’s a few tips to help you enjoy cool weather camping.
Love the Great Outdoors
Camping is all about enjoying the great outdoors. There will be days when it rains, but it’s not a big deal. You’ll probably just go exploring in the car anyway to check out the local sights. A rain jacket will protect you from light rain if you explore a nature trail or point of interest.
If you don’t like the colder months, head north for winter. The Kimberley, Red Centre or Top End are ideal destinations to clear out the cobwebs while staying warm. But the further north you go, the more holiday time you’ll need, unless you want to spend a significant part of your break driving.
If you can’t escape from work for very long, consider a farm stay on the fringe of the outback such as the Flinders Ranges or the Burra region, where wood collection is permitted. At least you’ll keep warm around the fire at night, with plenty of exploring to do during the day, if that’s what you like.
It’s hard to beat the ambience of a campfire for both warmth and cooking. However, there’s the work involved to make it happen. Collecting, chopping and carrying the wood for starters. For most people, buying a bag of wood on the way is a good start and then picking up extra supplies as required.
A chainsaw helps the wood gathering process by trimming to the right dimensions for your wood box. Electric or petrol powered, they both do the job.
Keeping the fire small to reduce the burn rate is a good strategy to minimise the work. Reducing the draught by digging a hole or using an enclosed fire pit such as an Ozpig has the same result, but it also can reduce the heat output. We always bring some red gum as a backup plan and gather more from the area, local laws permitting.
It’s not rocket science, but the secret of happy camping adventures in the cooler months starts with smart dressing. Thermal undergarments are a good start, particularly natural fibres which breathe, keeping you warm with natural temperature regulation. This breathability of the fabric keeps you smelling good without body odour, ensuring at least a couple of days use. Thermals make great PJ’s too, when it’s really cold!
Head coverings such as a beanie or hoodie, provide extra insulation for those who are a bit thin up top. The hoodie stops the draft from extending down your neck and a skull cap (read thin beanie) helps you sleep at night without discomfort or losing too much body warmth.
Shoes resistant to water, such as a pair of Blundstones treated with bee’s wax make great camping footwear, with the added convenience of slip on and off useability.
12V Electric Blanket
A recent acquisition, this has added a new element of comfort for our cooler climate camping. It’s powered from a standard 12V cigarette socket and covers the important chest to knee area, so you still need bed socks. It burns around 6 amps for hour, so it’s not super-efficient, but it’s an overhead we’re more than happy to carry.
Although somewhat of a luxury, an integrated heater goes a long way of providing those home away from home comforts for four season camping.
An integrated heater fitted by the manufacturer, pumps heat into the cabin and emissions outside. Because these heaters emit toxic fumes, it’s important to be installed by a licensed professional.
At the end of the day, a bad day camping is better than a good day at home. Prepare for cool weather camping by buying quality equipment and weatherproof clothing and just get out there and do it.