It’s the first few days of winter and we find ourselves within a convoy tracing the path of the Murray River. Surprisingly, the days are clear with blue sky occasionally blotted with puffy clouds, but the frosty night air soon rolls in, late in the day.
For many, the idea of winter camping 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 pack for the possibilities.
Just look at our crew – half are travelling in luxury caravans keeping toasty warm at night with their reverse-cycle air-conditioners roaring. The rest make do in camper trailers wrapped in warm doonas and flannelette pyjamas. Fires are permitted at some caravan parks, while others have gas heaters around the camp kitchen, allowing those who like to socialise to share the highlights of their day before retiring for the night.
Accommodation preferences aside, here’s a list of a few things that can help make cool weather camping an enjoyable and relaxing experience.
Historically, the weather forecast is an unreliable beast and, if we ever paid full attention to it, we’d never get away. The only caveat to ignoring the weather is when travelling on outback roads, as any sudden downpour can close the road. When away from civilisation, we often try and read the clouds for signs of pending doom and gloom.
In these situations, it helps to have a backup plan or at least a good dose of patience as you may need to wait for weather to pass and roads to dry out before your trip can continue. If you’re travelling along the major tourist routes with access to the internet, you can use weather apps and radars to see what is coming.
Always bring wet weather gear including rain jackets and shoes resistant to water. Umbrellas are more suited to city activities, as you often need your hands for other things when camping. Unless you plan on puddle jumping, a pair of Blundstones treated with beeswax is fine for around camp with slip on and off usability.
Layering is the best way to keep warm. I find thermal tops a little uncomfortable and prefer thermal pants with a few layers up top, starting with a t-shirt, a long-sleeved short vest and then a fleecy top with a wind protective inner. With little hair for insulation, Mike likes a beanie to minimise heat loss.
Newer fabrics with Teflon coating repel water and are fast drying, although some lack the soft feel of cotton. On the other hand, cotton is useless in the rain. It gets wet and stays wet but still works fine as an under garment. Fleecy tops are popular and still retain warmth when wet.
Beyond the peace and tranquillity of a riverside camp spot, we love the water for the sea of river gums often scattered along its banks. While cleared bush camping spots can often be at a premium, safe from the risk of falling boughs, once found, the plentiful supply of red gum is a huge bonus, subject to local laws on collecting firewood and campfires. At other locations, contained fire pits such as the Ozpig are a great resource as they allow you the privilege of a camp fire and a cooking resource without consuming a lot of wood – the enclosed pot restricts the draught, limiting wood use.
At the end of the day, a weekend or extended trip away is better than staying at home. Prepare for cool weather camping by buying quality, weatherproof equipment and clothing, and get out there and enjoy it.
See you on the trails.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #540 August 2015.