Our ultimate camping checklist is full of useful gear for your next night under the stars, but what items are essential when you’re out on your own without any facilities to lean on?
Australia is an incredibly dry place – so much so that it’s the driest inhabited continent in the world. When you combine this with the fact that most bush camps are in far-off places (where other campers are few and far between), it suddenly becomes obvious that self-sufficiency is essential when bush camping in Australia.Beyond portable air conditioners, pop-up ensuites and even basic shelter, your primary need is always water. In hot places like the Australian Outback the need for water is even higher, which is why we recommend you carry enough water for 5 litres per person, per day that you plan to stay away from facilities or general supply points.
- Long-handled shovel
If you’re bush camping, you’re probably out the Back O’ Bourke. This means you’re most likely focused on every piece of gear serving at least one essential purpose. Believe it or not, once you’re off the beaten track your humble long-handled shovel suddenly outs itself as a Swiss Army Knife in disguise.First off, everyone needs a shovel to dig a bush toilet when you’re camping without facilities. However, the long-handled shovel’s usefulness extends far beyond this: it’s perfect for manoeuvring hot coals at a distance, making do as a dodgy BBQ plate (after a wash of course), helping to recover a 4WD that’s bogged to the sills or as a weapon for warding off drop bears that have acquired a taste for human flesh.
- Wet wipes
We’ve already mentioned that water is precious when you’re bush camping, so what do you do when you want to save your liquid gold and still keep things clean? The answer is simple: wet wipes. Wet wipes can be used in a pinch as a simple water substitute for a variety of purposes – the best examples being for a dry shower, for wiping down plates (and countless other dusty or dirty surfaces) and for cleaning your hands at a moment’s notice.
Always useful but often underrated, a tarpaulin sheet is one of the world’s great inventions. Its simplicity is its greatest strength, and when you’re in the middle of nowhere the simple things are what matter most. A tarp is most often used for protecting your gear from the elements when you’re travelling, but it can also be setup as additional shelter at your campsite (so long as it’s got some corner eyelets) or used as a makeshift picnic blanket. In a true emergency, tarps can be used to collect dew as part of a water catcher in arid places. Finally, if you’re camping in a new spot every day and want to avoid rolling up a wet swag, throwing a tarp over your swag before bed solves the problem in an instant – simply take it off, shake it off and your swag remains dry as a bone.
The joy of bush camping comes, in large part, from being away from conventional campsites and their noise (from other people) and light. Without these things, it’s easier to enjoy a wide-open night sky and the serenity of being in the outdoors while blending into nature. To help avoid beaming light into the night and potentially spoiling your bush camping experience, headlamps are an effective way to light up what’s in front of you without using ambient light. A headlamp’s directional light makes washing up, going to the bush toilet or searching for a lost child quick and easy.