Sunday 26 April 2015

Mt Barney Wilderness Retreat, Queensland

A camping trip to Mt Barney Wilderness Retreat is exactly what you need if you are planning a winter getaway. Fabulous spot to camp, bush walking, a bit of 4WD'ing and relaxing. It definitely makes my Top 10 best ever camping weekends and I am overdue a return visit. Some of the most amazingly beautiful bush walking and scenery in the world. I truly hope you don't miss seeing this. 

It encompasses some of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. 

The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia are World Heritage listed. They are predominantly in two locations. The tropics of Queensland 'Daintree National Park' and in protected areas of Lamington, Springbrook, Mt Barney and Main Range National Parks. 

An estimated 2 million people a year visit this World Heritage area. Have you been to visit? 

  • $25 p/adult p/night
  • Hot showers and toilets
  • Camp Kitchen & Bush Hall
  • Covered campfire
  • Pets are allowed

Do you do an 'Emu Parade' before you break camp?

Do you do an 'Emu Parade' before you break camp? Do you know what it is and have you taught the kids why it is so important? 

An emu parade is when group of children and/or adults spreads out across any area. As they walk, they pick up any piece of rubbish they come across. In a short space of time, the area is absolutely spotless. It's the last thing I do when camping. When I'm all packed up and about to drive out of the campground... Just take a couple of minutes to check the entire area for any rubbish and then pick it up, whether it is mine or not. 

The History of the Emu Parade - The original concept of an emu parade involved a strict line formation. It was used by the army when they broke camp and also used by police at crime scenes. Maybe you don't need to be quite so regimented but it is a great habit to get it into. Happy camping.

Saturday 25 April 2015

How big a tent do I need?

Depends on purpose, people and personal preferences. It is not a simple question to answer.

Tent capacity is measured by the number of adult sleeping bags it will hold. This is standard sized sleeping bags, laid end to end or corner to corner on the floor of the tent. It does not allow for storing your gear, nor allow room to get out in the middle of the night without crawling over your tent mate.

A two man tent will generally be comfortable for one person plus gear, a four man tent will be comfy for two people plus gear and a six man will be comfy for three people plus gear etc.

Height is the another factor to take into account. Children may be happy to sit up in a tent but most adults will want to stretch out and stand to change their clothing. Look at the centre height of the tent to ensure you can comfortably stand up in it. This may not be a factor if you only do a couple of weekend camps twice a year but if you are travelling or taking longer holidays this could be highly relevant.

Your choice may also be influenced by the purpose and method of your travel. If you are backpacking, then light, fast, compact is critical and you may want something just big enough for you to crawl into with a sleeping bag and a backpack. If you are travelling by car then weight and size are not such a factor.

If you have to put it up by yourself, then look for something that is super simple and fast. Some larger geodesic domes really are amazing constructions but they are often two person job to erect. Ultimately, you want it up so you can start relaxing.

Take into account the shape of the tent you choose as this does impact on room. Dome’s will often have less space because they are oval in shape but nothing beats a dome in a strong wind. They are designed exactly for this purpose. They are super robust. A-Frame and geodesic shaped tents often have good height but you lose a little space because of the sloping sides and shape of the tent. This can be even more relevant if you are sleeping on stretchers vs. floor mats. A squarer (umbrella) shaped tent will always be more room efficient but they do not always stand up quite as well to strong wind and the height can make them a little harder to keep heated in winter. In heavy rains and high humidity you don’t want to be resting on the walls of a tent. Water will run off the tents but if something is resting against a tent wall or protruding out of it, it will likely get damp. Taking the next size up in a tent is often the safe option and will alleviate all these potential factors.

If you are struggling to visualise space... The average four man tent will be approximately 2.4 square metres and a queen size air bed will pretty much fill the entire floor space once blown up. If you are concerned about crawling over others, take into account the zippers for entry/exit. If these open and close on both sides of the tent it can make it much easier when getting in and out without disturbing others.

Choosing the right tent to meet your personal needs can be the difference between being sad your trip is over or being pleased you're going home. It is definitely better to err on the side of room and ultimately comfort if you are not restricted. More room is better than not enough.

Happy camping!

Surf Keys

Surf keys have been around for a long time now. They are simple to have cut, inexpensive and supa handy.

Surfers have them cut so they can pop them in a small velcro pocket of their boardies. They can lock all other keys, wallet and belongings in the car for safe keeping and simply enjoy the surf without any worries.

I use one because I often take a friend camping with me. Giving them a surf key means they can get in and out of the car, day or night, without seeking me out. Fabulous option for the kids. If they lose it swimming in a creek, running through the bush or worse.. drop it down the composting loo.. Noooooooo!!!! It is not a problem. Just leave it there! Simply have another surf key cut when you return to civilisation.

Do you have other useful things you take camping?

My favourite multi-purpose small plastic box!

I carry firewood  in it and empty the wood on arrival at camping.  I then use it as a coffee table for the rest of the weekend.  At dinner time, I use it as a stable table and eat off it.  I later take it to bed with me and use it as a bedside table.  It makes it so easy to find all my bits and pieces in the dark if I need.  Occasionally I watch a movie on my laptop and it is fabulous place to place the laptop.  It also stops ground moisture reaching things, especially the laptop.  I then pack all my rubbish in it and take it home with me.

Sunday 12 April 2015

Does your airbed deflate?

Please don't panic and throw out your air bed if you notice it going a bit flat.

Air expands and contracts as it gets hotter and colder. If you add air to a mattress on a hot day, and it cools off, the air pressure will decline, making it look flat. If you inflate it on a cold day, the exact opposite will happen. It will expand and be over inflated.

To get the right amount of air in an airbed is a bit about personal preference but I sit on mine when I have nearly got it all blown up and if my bottom hits the ground, it needs more air. If it is a cold night, I always fill it till it is very firm.

Always remember to place a rug under your airbed when camping. Often they can make you feel colder than you should, simply because the air in the mattress is so cold. A rug underneath will reduce the cold from the ground rising up into your airbed.

To double check if it really does have a leak:

  • Fill the bed up with air. 
  • Fill the bathtub up with water. 
  • Completely submerge the bed in the water. 
  • If you see bubbles then you have a leak. 
  • It could be a simple fix like a drop of silicone around the valve or it may be time for an upgrade. 
Even if you have a camp stretcher or a camper trailer these days they still make fabulous spare beds for guests and when the kids have sleepover friends. They fold away to nothing and store well in the linen cupboard till you need them next time.

Saturday 11 April 2015

Are you truly going remote (bush or desert)?

Fitzgerald River National Park, Western Australia

In the perfect world, none of us would go remote without:

  • Plenty of Water 
  • Heaps of Food 
  • Spare Fuel 
  • Fully stocked first aid kit 
  • Fire extinguisher 
  • Basic tool box 
  • Recovery gear and know how to use it 
  • Spare tyre 
  • Satellite Phone 
  • EPIRB 
  • Maps and Compass 
  • Companion car 
  • Have left your destination (GPS coordinates) with family/friends 
  • Advised family/friends to raise an alert if you don't return or make contact by an agreed time. 
Sadly, we don't live in a perfect world and one day we may find ourselves stranded. “That wasn't part of the plan” is something we have all said to ourselves at least once in our lives. Murphy's Law is such, 'If it can go wrong; it will go wrong' when you forgot the thing you needed most.

You took the tool box out of the car to fix the sink; didn't put it back. Took an off-road track to see what’s up there; got seriously bogged. Car fell into ditch; you have no recovery gear. Motor caught fire; no extinguisher. Snagged a branch and lost steering. Hit a rock and punctured fuel tank. Now fuel tank is empty. Hit a kangaroo. Forgot to renew the sat phone subscription last month. EPIRB won't work because the battery is flat.

Anything can happen. Even to the most pedantic prepper, most experienced four wheel driver or bush hiker/survivalist.

So, what are you going to do now? You are stranded!

  • How much WATER do you have? Plenty! Then you will be fine. Ration everything just in case it takes a few days for someone to find you. 
  • STAY CALM. Panicking is not going to help. 
  • Make a fire, if safe to do so 
  • Make a rock sign on the ground if possible 
  • Tie something bright and flappy to the highest point on your vehicle. 
  • Make it easy for someone to find you 
  • Stay in the shade 
  • Maintain healthy body temperature. More your body struggles, the more fluids you will need. 
  • Conserve your energy 

You can live weeks without food but can only live a few days without water. One week without water would be very best scenario. After a couple of days your body and mind will truly start to struggle. After about 4 days you will likely become confused and uncoordinated. In extreme heat this could happen even faster. The Australian bush or desert is the last place you would want to be stranded without water. Do not forget water.

If you're running low on water or you didn't have any to start with.
  • Scout for a water source immediately. 
  • If you find one, then you will be fine. 
  • Go back to relaxing in the shade next to your vehicle. 
You found water but it’s not clean or healthy. Maybe you carry a few sterilizing tabs in the glove box for emergencies. If not, boil the water and it will be likely be fine to drink. Even really muddy water will purify after being boiled hard for 10 mins.

You may have some alternative water you didn't think of.

Juice from a tin of peas is fluids. So think laterally.
Don't forget you have a radiator full of water if you haven't filled it with coolant.
You also have water in your windscreen washer bucket if you remembered to top it.

Some other tips

  • Do not discard unused water until you have returned safely to civilisation. You don't want to be looking for water if you snap an axle 60 km’s before you hit the main highway.
  • Much better to carry a few smaller water containers vs. one larger (same applies to fuel and food). If one is spilled, split or contaminated, you still reserves. If you need to walk from camp to collect water from a creek, a smaller container is easier to replenish and carry. If you have collected water and it is not the cleanest, having a couple of containers will allow time for the sediment to settle in one, whilst you collect more or to put already sterilised water into another.
Ideal water levels for the average bush camping trip:

  • 2 litres per person/per day - Clean drinking water 
  • 3 litre per person/per day - Dishwashing, hand washing and having a sponge down 
= 5 litres per person/per day. If rationed, this water would last for many days. Take spare.


NB: There are numerous other water gathering techniques taught by survivalists. They are beyond the scope of this particular feature article.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

The Country Code

Whether you are camping, bush walking, travelling, 4by’ing or simply going for a drive to picnic in the country, there is an expectation that everyone will follow a code of conduct. It is called the Country Code.

It starts with understanding and respecting that every piece of land we drive on, camp on or visit is owned or leased by someone. Someone pays the insurance and taxes on it. Someone maintains the roads, fences, creeks, dams and livestock on it. They need to safely access these when required. Someone is making a living from it or protecting it for our current or future generations.

Remember to never rip up the roads. This can easily happens with dirt roads after rain. Many people rely on these roads to get to work and school. They need to get groceries, mail and move livestock or crops to and from market. The ambulance, police, fire brigade and SES may use them to save lives, livestock and property. Local farmers may use the sides of roads and stock routes to graze cattle in times of drought or to move cattle to water or better feeding paddocks.

Always ask permission before relaxing on someone's property. If they say "YES, it's okay to rest up here for a bit" that is great. They may even point you to a particularly pristine area. Most people are happy to help those who are courteous, respectful and appear trustworthy. They may be very happy for you to camp on their pretty creek today or next time you are in that region.

Please don't break the Country Code.

  • Know whose land you are on and ensure it is okay to be there 
  • Ask permission before you set up your tent, campfire or picnic 
  • If you go through a gate.. Leave it as you found it. 
  • DO NOT disturb anything. Don't let your dog bark at or chase livestock or wildlife or beep your horn at them. 
  • Keep the dog in the car at a farm. Ideally you should stay in the car unless the farmer has signalled it is okay to get out. Most farms have working dogs, which may not be appreciative of an unfamiliar in their territory. Farm dogs have rarely been socialised. 
  • Try not to stir up unnecessary dust by driving fast or taking off quickly and covering the locals with more dust than they already deal with on a daily basis. 
  • Be aware of any fire ban or firewood collection restrictions in the region 
  • Please don't interfere with any troughs, windmills or tanks. 
  • Drive carefully around any crops. 
  • Drive slowly and carefully on wet roads. 
  • Never leave any litter. Leave no trace. 

  • Always show respect!