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Which category of camper do you fall into now the weather is cooling down?

(a)     With the cooler weather coming on, you put your camping gear away for the next few months.
          Whilst the campfires are lovely, it’s just too damn cold outdoors.

(b)     You start getting ready for winter camping – your favourite time of the year to be outdoors.

(c)     You don’t care about the seasons. You head out for a camping trip any time of the year!

Winter camping can polarise campers.     There are 3 distinct group of campers, and group (a) is the group who need a lot of convincing to leave the house.

If you think you belong to group (a) or know someone in this group, then this story is for you (or them).  You might just find enough reasons to head outdoors.

We also include a few reasons why going camping in winter isn't that great, just to keep everyone happy.

Reasons  to go in Winter

(1)   Less People 

Depending on where you go camping, the winter season means fewer people at the campsites.

If you are a camper in the southern half of Australia, you will notice this the most.

The campsites that are so popular in summer (think of all the camping locations that have ballot systems in peak summer periods or the bookings online which are all sold out months in advance), are not so appealing in winter.

Many of the popular online bookings are for sites near water, which is highly desirable in the warm months.   In winter, your need to take a dip in the ocean or river isn’t a priority.

Summer camping also coincides with the longest school holidays of the year so families are out in their droves. School sporting commitments are also generally on hold for summer.  In winter, some sports continue throughout the shorter holiday breaks. That reduces the chances of people being able to get away for a winter weekend break.

There is an exception to the “less people camping in winter”, and that is if you go camping in the top half of Australia. Winter camping is peak season in the northern parts of Australia due to the mild temperatures at this time of year, making it a more appealing option for those who want to escape the chilly southern days.

(2)    Less Insects/Snakes 

You will not be swatting flies constantly.

That fact alone is a big plus for winter camping.

Flies cannot survive the wet and cold (which is more typical for Southern Australia).

Once again, those in the north will not be as lucky in avoiding them – they will keep breeding in warmer and drier locations, but the fly population rises and falls depending on the temperature and rainfalls….so in the north, if you hate flies, you want rain and cold weather!

Other bugs go into something like a deep sleep (technical term: diapause), and wait for warmer weather.

If you want to know more about where the bugs go, an explanation is on this National Geographic page.

Mosquitos? No dramas with those. Something you get mainly in summer as like the flies, they tend to me dormant in winter months.

Even bees take a break.

Of course, a big plus for many people is that they are less likely to wander into the bush and come across a snake. Snakes, like some insects, have gone into hibernation for the winter – but it’s not a true hibernation. They can come out to bask in the winter sun, so you are not going to be 100% safe from sightings, but it is less likely.

 (3)    Excuse to buy better gear
If you are heading out winter camping, you need to be warm. This means buying good gear that will do the job.

Think about 4 important areas that need to be considered for winter camping

- Sleeping Bag

- Mattress/Cot

- Shelter

- Clothing

Make sure your camping equipment suits cooler weather.

With your sleeping bag, check the temperature rating on it. If the rating is high, you know you might need something extra to keep you warm. If you don’t want to purchase another sleeping bag, you will have to prepare for how you want to increase the warmth of your existing sleeping bag (eg. extra blankets, liners, another sleeping bag within the first sleeping bag).

If you have slept on an air mattress during summer, you might find that’s not going to work out too well for you in winter. Like the sleeping bag, what you sleep on could affect much you enjoy the night (and whole trip). If you have a stretcher, then that too is going to be a different experience in winter.   Cold air circulates around you and underneath you so extra padding underneath you might be required.

  • Find out more about choosing a camp stretcher to see if getting off the ground is something you need to think about this winter.

Just check your gear is ready for cooler weather.

The same applies for your winter clothing. It can be so cold at night, so make sure you bring clothes that will help keep your warm. It’s all about  layering.

Remember the 3 layer rule.

Base layer (for warmth and moisture control)

- it needs to fit close to your body

- soft and natural is preferred

- polyester and cotton should be avoided

Mid layer (insulation)

- to trap the heat

Outer Layer (weather protection)

- protects you from the elements, like wind and rain

Don’t have anything like the above 3 layer system?

It’s a perfect opportunity to go shopping. You can pick up thermal gear for from so many stores these days, and it doesn’t cost the earth. Merino wool layers are brilliant, and we use them but they can be a bit pricey.

Just stay away from cotton.

If you love gadgets, then winter is a great time for you to indulge.

We listed some winter gadgets for camping, which could help convince the  non-campers that winter is the right time to be outdoors!! There are lots of innovations for winter camping, with lots of manufacturers trying to create gear to keep you warm. It’s a boom time for gadgets!

(4)   Campfires 

In summer, fire restrictions mean many locations don’t allow campfires. And a campfire is a highlight of camping right?

In winter, those restrictions are generally not in place (though of course, always check).   If you need to know how to choose the perfect spot for a campfire, then read "How to Choose A Campfire Location".  It's important you get this right.

Winter camping can mean a campfire in the morning, and sometimes lunch, and then dinner. And with campfires mean wonderful cooking opportunities, lots of camp oven food, and other delicious foods.

Cooking in summer at the campsite can be quite limiting without a campfire, but winter offers a vast array of cooking techniques.

We have written about some campfire food options previously, so if you need inspiration, make sure you read about

Gourmet Jaffles

Foil Pack Cooking

Food to cook on a stick over a campfire

Most of those recipes can’t be cooked in summer!

(5)    You can eat more

This is not something I made up, though it does sound like it.

Eating generates heat and warms the body. This warming effect is known as thermogenesis. And keeping warm is crucial. It’s more important than staying dry.

So fuel your body.

In saying this, exercise will also help keep you warm. So moderation with your food intake is still recommended.

Added bonus: sitting around with a hot drink in your hand is so much better in winter.   It's practically therapeutic.    We have 9 suggestions on hot drinks for camping, that we think you will love!

(6)   Costs

If you are staying in an established campground (not a National Park or free camping obviously), they frequently will have peak rates and off peak. Winter camping, except for long weekends and school holidays, tends to fall into off peak, so your camping costs are a bit cheaper.

It may not be a lot of cash saved, but some is better than nothing.

(7)    Cooler in a tent

Ever stepped into a tent/camper trailer in the middle of summer and nearly expired on the spot? Summer makes some shelters unbearable to be in during the day. If you want to have a lie down during the day, then your shelter is like an oven, baking you and whilst being basted by your own sweat.

Now, in winter, the tent is naturally cooler, and a safe haven from wind and rain. You don’t mind being in the tent in the middle of the day if you have to. In fact, it can be quite nice to snuggle in a tent, with a good book if the weather isn’t being kind. Winter camping makes this a possibility.

One thing that's worth noting about winter camping. You are cold, so you seal up the tent so no cold air comes in to wake you.  Downside to this?  Condensation in the tent.  So you need to read up on how to minimise condensation in a tent or suffer the consequences eg. you are soggy in the morning.

(8)   Bragging rights
If your friends are summer campers (or non-campers), you can impress them with your outdoor hardiness.

  • Your skills at campfire building.
  • Camp oven finesse.
  • Ability to survive and not freeze.
  • If you can camp in the snow, even better. That’s showing true grit.

Reasons not to camp in Winter

Well, there is going to have been something really bad to make you not want to go camping in winter, especially after reading all the good points above. So this might be a short section.

But in order to be fair, here we present the reasons why you don’t want to camp in winter.

(1)   It’s very cold

Yes, this an undeniable fact and probably the major reason why you don’t want to camp in winter.

In Australia, are winters are considered mild compared to say North American and European winters. They deal with snow and blizzards for their winter trips, so for us to complain about winter camping, we look pretty soft in comparison.

I read a tip for winter camping, which was to dig a kitchen area in the snow, so you have somewhere to sit in whilst melting snow. That’s hard-core camping.

You can camp in the snow in Australia, but we won’t be covering that here because it’s not as common for us.

But it is cold here and moving away from your campfire, isn’t always fun. Getting ready for bed in icy conditions isn’t enjoyable either. Toilet trips at night are delayed as long as possible to avoid the cold night air, because you know you are going to take ages to warm up again.

We have put together tips for keeping warm when camping in winter, and they will help make it more bearable. You can definitely camp in winter, but it’s  about being prepared for the drop in temperatures.

But the fact that we need to have to take all these measures to get warm and stay warm can be a little off-putting for campers.

(2)    Too much gear

A positive of winter camping is having all this gear to help make winter camping enjoyable. But a negative is that you need it in the first place.

Additional clothing means you are taking a lot more with you in the car (and it was full enough in summer).    It all begins to seem a bit like hard work.

The need to wear so much clothing sitting around at night, and then have to get out of that gear, into other clean clothes for bed can be torture on a cold night. It’s so tempting just to climb straight into bed fully dressed.

Reality is that you can get a lot of gear that is collapsible - all year round - to save space.  See collapsible camping gear ideas and items at this story.

(3)   Too many people

If you are in the Top End in winter, it’s busy up there. All the campers who can escape the cold have gone up to the north of Australia.  Iconic locations  and camping spots are busy and you have to book months ahead to get a spot in places like Broome.

Remember that whilst in the southern states you may be the only one at a campsite, up in parts of the north, your biggest worry won’t be choosing a  campsite; it will be finding one with a vacancy.

(4)  Campfires are a must

Campfires are lovely and we have covered their benefits in winter already in this story, but you can become extremely dependent upon them for your warmth, to the extent you don’t want to leave the fire at all.

You spend all your time crowded around one, not wanting to do anything that takes you away from this heat source. Even getting ready for bed is delayed as  it means leaving the fire. Then there is the bad dash from fire to bed.

Summer camping still has its cold nights, but you are not so dependent upon the fire to warm yourself up constantly.

Plus you stink of smoke for the entire trip because you are always near it. 

Extra reading on campfires and safety -  how to put out a campfire and how to choose a campfire location might be helpful, in winter or summer.

(5)      Rain

It can rain anytime of the year, but being winter, the chances increase. Camping in the rain can prove challenging if you are not prepared for it, and it certainly can dampen your enthusiasm for camping if you cannot be outdoors, the firewood is all damp, and the ground is turning into mud.

If you are not keen on the cold, then being rained upon as well, could be a big deterrent to winter camping.

We list tips to make camping in the rain easier.  Read up on ways to make camping in the rain more bearable if you have to go camping.

The Verdict on Winter Camping

The positives of winter camping do outweigh the negatives. 

If you choose to venture into winter camping for the first time, our advice is to be prepared
for the weather – the cold and the rain.

There are many benefits of camping at this time of the year, but it’s about being ready for it.

But it’s going to come down to what you enjoy doing when camping. If you truly hate winter, even all the positives of this story may not be enough to  entice you to leave home.

Don’t knock it until you have tried it though!   You might just get converted to winter camping……

This story was first published in 2016 and has been updated to maintain accuracy.
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Do you know how to put out a campfire properly? 

We in Australia have all seen the devastation caused by bushfires, and we can never be complacent about a fire.

In summer, the need to extinguish a camp fire in its entirety is more important than ever.   With so much dry vegetation, all it needs is a spark, and property and lives are placed at risk.

Many fires are banned from November through to April, but that doesn’t stop people having them sometimes, especially when they feel safe, like next to a river.

Regardless of the time of the year – you still need to do it properly and safely.     Before you make a campfire, make sure you know how to choose the best location for a campfire (full details here).

 So here is a refresher for anyone who camps on how to put out a campfire.

1.   Allow the fire to burn down to ash if possible. 

That might take a bit of “thinking ahead” – don’t throw on that extra log if you are planning on calling it a night a short time afterward or planning on leaving the campsite.

With a stick or shovel, separate the wood from the charcoal to help slow the fire down.

2.   Slowly sprinkle water on the fire, including embers.  Do this carefully as pockets of air could cause the fire to hiss and spit and you.  If there is a lot of smoke – just wait a little, and try again.

3.  Keep adding water until the hissing stops.  You want everything in the firepit wet.

4.  With a shovel, stir the embers and ash so everything in the fire is damp/wet.

5.   If you do not have enough water for points 2-4, you need to use dirt or sand.       You are trying to suffocate the embers, depriving them of oxygen.         Water is the best method though. 

Do NOT bury the fire with the dirt, but move the dirt/sand through the embers.   A buried fire can smoulder, and then re-ignite.     A buried fire with sand/dirt, can retain heat at 100 degrees, eight hours after being covered with sand (source here)

6.   Final check to see if that fire is really out.   If it's cool to touch, then it's safe to leave. Now obviously, you are not going to stick your hand in the ash and see if it burns your hand, because that would be dangerous and not clever.   If you can feel heat resonating from it as you have your hand lowered over the ash  - but not touching it -  then it's still warm. 

Poke a stick in the embers and see if you see any bright spots when you stir the ash.     If it's warm or there are embers, add more water/dirt to cool it right down.

Too hot to touch?
Too hot to leave.

Sitting around a campfire is definitely a highlight of camping.

But it’s important for you, me and everyone, to know how to safely put out a fire, so the parks and forests remain bushfire free.

Further reading:    How to choose a spot to make a campfire

This story was first published in 2014, and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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When you go camping, for many, a campfire is a must!   It completes the whole outdoor experience, and in winter, provides a source of warmth and comfort on those chilly nights.

If your campsite has a firepit already created, then you are in luck.   You can build a fire without too much thought.    But what if there is no firepit already in place, and you need to make your own?

What are some things you need to think about?   

We list what you need to do to get that campfire created, and created safely.

Number one rule to remember:
Check that fires are even allowed or there is not a fireban in place before proceeding to the next steps.    Only when you are 100% sure you can have a fire, then think about where to have the firepit.

In windy and dry conditions,  do not light a campfire.

Choosing your campfire location:

  • Find a clearing that has no grass (or minimal grass).    

  • Look up.    Check that there are no overhanging branches.

  • Make sure there is not fuel for your fire close by   eg.  sticks, old decaying leaves, scrub.  You want a clear area.   Your camping gear needs to be away from the campfire by at least 15 foot/4.5 meters.

  • Choose a spot that is protected (if possible) from high winds and downwind from your camping shelter.

  • Look for large stones/rocks to surround the fire, and create an enclosed firepit.

  • If there are no large stones around, you can dig a small trench (eg. about 30cm deep) to build the fire in.  This will keep the fire in an enclosed area and minimise embers flying out.

And then you are ready to make the campfire itself.

When you leave your campsite, leave that ring of rocks for the next campers, so they can benefit from your excellent preparation of a campfire, and to indicate that is where they should have their campfire (and not to create another one).

To find out how to put out a campfire safely, read our story.
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What to choose  - a motorhome or hire car?

That was our dilemma and this is our story.

When planning a recent trip to New Zealand, like many other tourists, we had planned to hire a motorhome (the bigger, fancier version of a campervan) to see this part of the world.      

We could have gone camping in the more traditional way, but that would have meant taking a lot of our camping gear on the plane with us and the logistics of that (plus quarantine requirements) would be way too hard......  So a motorhome (or campervan) seemed like the perfect option.

Purists of camping might be recoiling in horror that we were going to toss aside the tent in favour of a big diesel-hungry truck.    But that was the plan.

So we booked our motorhome - toilet, shower, 6-berth.  The whole works.  No roughing it for us.   It was going to be a nice change from the tent and giving us a totally different perspective on camping, plus a unique way to see the countryside.  

Four weeks after paying the deposit, we cancelled this hire, and booked a car.    

So how and why did we do a total reversal on our choice of travel in NZ?  

It was a combination of things, which would apply to hiring such a vehicle not just in NZ, but here in Australia too.   

So to explain our reasoning, whether it be right or wrong, we decided to put together the story about why we changed our minds and what we learned along the way in making this decision.  

From doing our own reading, it seems many people struggle with knowing whether to hire a car or hire a motorhome, so some further clarity couldn't hurt!

Now, in the story we won't mention the name of the company with whom we initially chose to hire (you may be able to work it out on your own), but many of the reasons we list, tips we suggest, would apply to any hiring company.

First up - the easy part:  Booking the motorhome

After viewing the huge variety of campervan/motorhomes available in NZ to hire, we sort of knew what features we wanted.    6-berth (eg. 3 beds), shower, toilet, fully self contained, awning, auto transmission.      

We were going to travel in school holidays (a traditionally busy time) and we found that motorhomes do not come cheaply for hire.

There are huge variations amongst the companies that hire these vehicles so shopping around for a deal that suits you is definitely something you need to do - and do it as soon as you can, especially if your travel dates are in peak season.

I actually was surprised at the daily rate of the motorhomes.    In my head,  I imagined them to be a lot cheaper, but we weren't looking at one the campervans perfect for 2 people - ours was going to be a beast of a motorhome and consequently were paying a lot for that sort of vehicle.

We chose a motorhome that met our requirements - it had a fairly good daily rate, compared to some other offerings of similar vehicles:  the daily rate does vary greatly amongst similar vehicles and companies.

Booking online was easy and hassle free once we had decided on the vehicle and found it was available.

Deposit paid!

No second thoughts by us at this point......

Second -  Reading Reviews is a wise move

We went with one of the biggest motorhome suppliers in NZ/Australia - going with a big one should be safer and have the best fleet of vehicles, theoretically.    The motorhome was meant to be no more than 12 months old which was important to us (maybe not important to you, but there you go).

Only after we had paid the deposit, did we start reading incredibly negative reviews and stories about this particular company.      Stories that make your jaw drop with the horror treatment some customers have received.

 Look at TripAdvisor Forum and type in the name of the company you want to hire from.... you will see what I mean.

The internet is full of unhappy customers and experiences of the company we were hiring from.

Complaints ranging from broken or dirty or  dangerous campervans,  poor service everywhere, long waits to get their vans and return them,  non existent customer service before, during and after the hire, and shady business practices plus, long delays in refunds.   There are a lot of reviews out there, and the company we  had chosen seemed to have more than most - not just in NZ, but Australia too.

Now, I realise that unhappy people are probably a whole lot more  eager to share their story than say happy customers, so we did take that into consideration.

Would we say we made our decision to cancel based on  these reviews?  

Not totally, but the reviews were so bad and so plentiful about this company, we just couldn't ignore them.  

If we had ignored the reviews  and something untoward had happened, then I would be furious at myself for not paying more attention.    Of course,  everything could have gone perfectly, and I would have counted myself "lucky" not to be one of those people who had experienced some of the shocking motorhome experiences.    

There are plenty of bad reviews for other motorhome companies too, and also plenty of glowing reports for other companies, but that was not going to help us, as we had already chosen to go with this particular company (because we had paid our deposit).

Before You Hire Tips:

Tip # 1:      Read online, other people's experiences of the company you are hiring from.    Try to balance what you read, and look at a variety of sites/forums to get a wide range of views.       Don't read the reviews placed on the company's own website because they are worthless.

Tip # 2:   Rankers NZ is an excellent place to start - loads of information about car and campervan hire companies and everything else in New Zealand with real reviews.

Tip # 3:    Type into Google  "(insert company name) motorhome reviews".  See what comes up in your search.

Tip # 4:    Do  tips 1-3 before paying any deposit (we didn't, and that was an error by us)

Insurance: Forewarned is Forearmed

Hiring a big vehicle is not exactly cheap and apart from the daily rate, there are daily insurance costs you can pay for to help reduce your excess (the amount you would pay in the likelihood of damage to the vehicle).      

We knew the daily rate we had agreed to, so that wasn't an issue plus we knew we were not going to be paying the hirers own insurance;  we were going to book insurance with a company that especially covers rental excess. 

This was a part of our homework we actually had done prior to committing to hire :   to not fall into the trap of paying the hirer's insurance (something you will get pressured to do at pick up of the vehicle).

  • You can save a lot of money on insurance with rental car/campervan companies if you don't pay their insurance but use a separate insurance provider that specialises in rental excess.    You should look at your travel insurance and credit card insurance options as well though you may find they have limitations - read on for further explanation.

  • Look at these sites below to read more about what you can expect to pay with them compared to what the hiring company will make you pay for insurance.  The daily rate difference is huge. They will cover things that the hiring company will NOT cover, like undercarriage damage, windscreens, tyres, demurrage.    Rentalcover.com seems to be the most comprehensive of the the two listed (or the easiest site to understand).

(FYI:  Not affiliated with either of these companies, but believe they are worth investigating)

Feedback from others  who didn't take out that separate insurance, is that you will be told horror stories when collecting your campervan, about all the costs you can expect to deal with, should you NOT take out the hiring companies daily insurance package.   Some cases, staff have been quite aggressive with customers when customers deny the hirer's own plans.

  • Choice Magazine has talked about this issue in the articles below which I recommend you read:

Motorhome Insurance Tips:

Tip #1  :  Do your homework on insurance and read all the terms and conditions about hiring before you commit to any hire.

You will find that the terms and conditions may be a separate download/PDF, and you may have to search around the site to find it in its entirety.       Many sites just seem to give an abridged version at first glance, so look further on the website for the full agreement.    Know exactly what you are agreeing to and the conditions around the hire.

Tip # 2:    Even though you may pay top dollar with the motorhome company's own insurance (eg. $35-65 extra per day) it doesn't always cover damage you think would be covered.   Eg.  windscreens, tyres and undercarriage and top of campervan.       This information will generally be listed in the agreement (see tip #1)

You would  think paying that much money to the hirer, you will be OK for any damage, but that is not always the case.      The company we were hiring through (one of the BIG ones)  did not cover these items in 2017.     You will need your own separate insurance to cover those items if you want them covered, which makes you wonder, "why pay for their insurance in the first place, if you have to go elsewhere for full coverage".

Tip #3:      If relying on travel insurance (or your credit card insurance) to cover you, find out what it actually will cover in relation to car/motorhome hire.  

Make sure your insurance option covers the sort of vehicle you will be hiring.   Don't assume your camping vehicle is covered.

Here is one set of exclusions, which I have found in at least 2 separate travel insurance Product Disclosure Statements:    

Rental excess insurance does not cover  commercial vehicles, buses, minibuses, trucks, utes, full-size vans mounted on truck chassis, campervans, off-road vehicles and other recreational vehicles, trailers, motorbikes, motorcycles or moped and any other vehicles having fewer than four wheels, antique cars 

Also, another exclusion found in travel insurance. This insurance does not cover items such as, but not limited to, tyres and/or windscreens if they are not covered by the motor vehicle insurance or damage waiver purchased from the rental company or agency

Tip #4:     Demurrage is when your vehicle of choice is unable to be hired by others due to damage you incurred.    That vehicle is now off the road, and you can be charged the daily rate as long as that vehicle is not available to hire.      Does your insurance cover this?     A motorhome with a daily rate of $200+ could be expensive if off the road due to repairs.   Investigate.

The Bond aka The Deal Breaker

This was the deal breaker for us.  The bond we had to pay for the motorhome.     $7500.    

That's not an imprint on our card - that money was to be deducted from our credit card at time of collecting the vehicle.     Some companies will not deduct money from your card, so that is one important thing to look for.   The company we chose was all about taking the money off us right from the start!    Once again, it was in the hiring agreement.

Others will not deduct that money if you take their liability options (eg. insurance packages) - just imprint your credit card.   But if you say you have your own insurance, then expect that credit card deduction.    

Once again, not all motorhome companies have bonds as high as this or do the deduction.     That is something you will need to look at on an individual basis.  

Now, we did know about this bond when we paid the deposit (so we can't say we were blindsided) but we didn't think about the following:

  • Deduction of $7500 would incur 2-3% credit card fees when deducting, plus international credit card fees (if your CC charges them), currency conversion difference and, all of that would be on our credit card for 2 weeks of travelling.       That's at the start of the hiring process.   Getting the $7500 returned at the end of the hire period, means more charges when the money is returned.  

  • That's $7500 we don't have available on our credit card to spend on our holiday, and we need to make sure our card is cleared to have that much deducted in one go.

  • Don't think about trying to use cash to avoid this.     It's credit card only.    No pre-paid credit cards.      If you use 2 separate credit cards to make up the amount, you will have to pay all the charges listed above, twice. 

  • You can reduce the bond, only if you pay their daily liability rate.

  • Then when we return the motorhome at the end of the 2 weeks, it can take up to 2-3 weeks to get that money returned to us - and we can expect all those extra charges to be applied again, when the money is returned.     That's if nothing is wrong with the vehicle of course........

Bond Tips:
Tip #1:   Look at all the charges of hiring.  Not just the quoted daily rate.     Incorporate into the daily rate any fees that you will be charged by the hiring company, such as the fees mentioned above. A 2% charge on a bond of $7500 is $150.  

Tip #2:    If you need a credit card, and worried about international charges, see if your bank has a no foreign transaction fee credit card.   If it doesn't, it may be worthwhile looking around at banks/credit unions to see if you can qualify for such a card.

Tip #3:    Travel insurance rental excess varies greatly across policies.     Many we looked at did not have an excess that would cover $7500.     You may need to hunt around to find a policy that will cover that much of a bond.        

Damage to your vehicle

I was understandably, a little worried about having $7500 on my credit card, especially in the event of an accident.

It seems that a minor scratch to the motorhome could result in them holding the entire bond ($7500) whilst the damage was repaired, and then they would refund me any difference between the cost to repair and the bond.

That could take weeks or even longer (based on reviews some people have waited months) - think of the interest you could end up paying if refunds take a long time?

Yes, my own insurance would cover any damage to the vehicle in the end, but that still doesn't stop them having my $7500 during the repair process.   I would then have to claim from my own insurer.

Lots of people get through their holidays totally unscathed, and I wanted to be one of them.    But a niggling doubt was playing over  in my mind, and being a total over-thinker, I was looking at the worse case scenario.  

Did I want to spend my trip worrying about potential damage or the company claiming some damage that wasn't visible at time of pick up?     The answer was beginning to be very clear to me......

Our biggest tip for hiring - check your vehicle closely, including spare tyres.  Get every single fault listed on the sheet before you drive away for your holiday.   No matter how small it is, or what the salesperson says, have it written down.
Note:     We have read about people being told on return of vehicle they have sustained undercarriage damage to their campervans, even though the customer has no idea how it could have occurred - this is not an easy thing to check before you go, and I am not even sure what undercarriage damage looks like.      Just be wary of this issue that possibly could arise and as mentioned previously, many insurance packages offered by these hiring companies will NOT cover this.       That's why you might need separate insurance from someone who does.

The day-to-day issues we considered when making our choice

If we forget about the bond, and the money and the risk of damage, the motorhome sounded like a real adventure and a beautiful way to see NZ.    

But there were things we didn't want to deal with on this holiday at this point in our lives.

They included:

- didn't want to worry about emptying the toilet in the motorhome (sounds trivial I know, but if we are hiring a van with a toilet, chances are we will use it and it's going to have to be emptied)

-making up beds and rearranging the layout of the van every night to create extra beds, and then having to undo it all again in the morning.

- inability to "pop" into a town or shop without packing up everyone and everything

- driving with everything we own to remote places whilst we went hiking (and leaving an ideal campsite to do so with the possibility of not getting a great spot to stay on our return).

- greater fuel consumption and driving considerably slower to get from A to  B.

- teenagers can be tricky beasts, prone to bouts of moodiness and sulking.    In a van, I would have no escape!!!

- powered sites in caravan parks during a busy holiday season, squashed up near others, wasn't really what I had in mind

- lack of privacy and space

and finally

We didn't miss the stress that goes along with driving a big vehicle with a $7500 bond on it!

Weigh up what is important to you.    What was important to us won't apply to everyone.   I get that.

Think about what you want from your trip, what you do and don't want to be doing as part of your holiday (especially if your time is limited).       All these thoughts came after the initial rush of excitement of booking our trip.

Why we chose the car option? 

I know there are a lot of negatives mentioned in this story.  

If it was all bad, no-one would hire a campervan.      So it's obviously not.     I have seen wonderful stories, blog posts and forum comments from travellers who have had fantastic adventures in their motorhome.   And judging by the amount of campervans on the road, it remains a very popular way of travel.

A car seemed a better option for us as a family at this point in lives,  for the following reasons:

  • driving a car is something we are more familiar with, so more confident on narrow roads
  • allows us to readily get around towns and to National Parks without all our..
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“Happiness is a warm puppy.” – Charles M. Schulz

One of the most common questions we get in our inbox from readers,  is regarding taking the family dog on a camping trip.       “Are dogs allowed?”   “Can we bring our dog"?”

The answer is always going to depend on the location, but if your destination is a National Park, the answer will be a decisive "no".

But there are options, so do read on and find out where you can get more info on dog-friendly locations, plus some tips to camping with dogs.

National Parks 

photo credit: itspaulkelly via photopin cc

Dogs and National Parks don’t go together.

Taking your pet into a State or National Park is forbidden in order to protect our native wildlife.

Your dog might be this calm and well behaved dog, kept on a leash, but that still does not make it permissible to take them into the Park when you camp.

The following is an excerpt from the NSW Government Environment & Heritage page, giving a few reasons why you can’t take your dog into a National Park:

  • Native animals see dogs as predators. The lasting scent left by dogs can easily scare small animals and birds away from their homes, often causing them to leave their young unprotected.
  • Dog faeces carry diseases which can be harmful to wildlife and people, and also add nutrients to the soil, increasing the spread of weeds.
  • If dogs and other domestic pets have frightened native animals away from popular visitor areas, there will be no wildlife for other visitors to see.
  • Dogs can interfere with the enjoyment of other park visitors.

Assistance dogs, or dogs that provide support for people with disabilities, are an exception.

Failure to pay attention to this rule in a National Park can result in you being asked to leave, or an on-the-spot fine (and could make a cheap camping trip, a whole lot more pricey).

Dog Friendly Camping 

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

You know that a National Park is out of the question, so what are your options?

Basically, the answer is going to depend on where you are staying.    The rules will vary from place to place, so you will need to do some homework.   

If in doubt, call and ask.    A call to the property you want to stay at, and finding out the rules about pets could save you time and money.

Some private properties will also have a ban on pets, so its important to check, and not just assume.

Taking your Dog Camping - Some Tips

  • Make sure if a dog is meant to be on leash, it is on leash at all times.

  • Collar with ID should be on your dogs at all time.  

  • Reflective collars/leashes are handy to have on pooch at night to maximise chances of being seen by everyone.

  • Know where the nearest vet to your campsite is.   Hopefully you won't need a vet, but when something goes wrong, it's handy to know where you might have to go in a hurry.

  • If camping in a part of the country that has ticks, make sure you have done all you can to prevent ticks, and know how to treat an animal that has a tick (especially if you are visiting a tick prone area, and you aren't familiar with this dangerous problem for animals).

  • Check that vaccinations are up to date.   If a location requires proof of such vaccinations, have a printout by your vet ready to handover.    

  • Keep your dog close to you and your campsite at all times (part of good camping etiquette).  A long lead might be good to have, so your dog can wander but never too far.   

  • Is your dog a big barker?   Loves to yap a lot, all the time?    In a camping situation, people near you will tire of that very, very, quickly.    You may need to consider that your dog isn't really the right companion to have on a camping trip.      Do consider the behaviours of your dog and how your dog could be on a camping trip, and how you plan to manage such a situation.

  • Don't leave your dog unattended.    It's behaviour could deteriorate out of boredom or loneliness in a strange environment, and could result in bothering other campers. 

  • CLEAN UP after your dog.     It's disgusting to be on a trail or around a campsite and find dog faeces there.    Like you have to do in a park, or on a walk, clean it up properly.   Sure you are outside, but if you are near others, they might step in a big messy poo.     Think of others. 

And if you think you need a dog camping checklist, check this list.

Useful links 
We can’t give a blanket answer for every camping location, but below are some links to help you in your search.   Some of the locations will be duplicated across the links.

State Specific Guides


Camping With Your Dogs   is a website covering campsites that do allow dogs, and covers 5 states, but with a focus on Queensland.

The Courier-Mail listed 7 best sites in Queensland to take your dogs camping.   You can see the sites listed here.

Travel Dogs Australia covers dog friendly locations in 3 states.

Urbanlist lists dog friendly camping spots in Brisbane and in and around the Sunshine Coast.   Also you can see lists specific to the Gold Coast area. 

Dog friendly caravan parks are found in this compilation by RACQ


Dogs on Holiday is for those in Victoria, and covers all sorts of accommodation including camping.

15 locations that are dog friendly are listed by Roma Caravans.

Travel Dogs Australia covers dog friendly locations in 3 states.

If you want a dog specific camping holiday, this location is all about dogs and offers off leash areas etc for your dog.    Read about the Best Friend Holiday Retreat. 


Turu – NSW Pet Friendly sites are listed here, and at time of writing, listed 226 pet friendly camping grounds.

Travel Dogs Australia covers dog friendly locations in 3 states.

Dog Friendly camping spots, covered by the Urban List

Northern NSW features in this list of dog friendly camping areas.


 Then this site has a list of places where dogs can go.

Pet friendly parks are listed in this caravanning guide for Tasmania.

Western Australia 

  Dog's Guide,  giving you info about your state's dog friendly locations

Urban List put together these  10 dog friendly locations for  WA.

For Perth and beyond, you can see the list of dog allowed camping spots.

The Dog's Guide to the Margaret River area.

Big4 Pet Friendly Guide - shows the locations of their caravan parks which allows dogs.

South Australia

Pet friendly Caravan and Camping locations can be viewed here.

Turu lists over 120 pet friendly locations in South Australia.   See them here.

General Search Links for Dog Friendly Locations (not just one state)

PetPlaces has a list of dog friendly locations and a whole lot more about your pooch.

A general site, that doesn't just cover campgrounds is Take Your Pet

Selected Big 4 holiday parks allow dogs.    To see which parks accept dogs, you can click here.

Australian Dog Lover covers 25 locations throughout Australia.

Get a Book

A book devoted to camping and dogs is Bush Camping with Dogs. If you are planning on doing a bit of camping, this might be worth investigating.   The link is for one site that sells the book, though there are many others.

Final Word

Your dog is probably a great companion to you and your family.      And bringing it along can be a lovely way for the whole family to go camping.       Enjoy this time with your 4-legged friend, but please be mindful that just because you love him/her unconditionally, others might not love your dog as much.

Respect those who don't want their camping trip disturbed by a pet or just don't like dogs.   

This post was first published in 2013 but has been updated to maintain accuracy. 
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With Christmas just around the corner, some of you might be wondering what to get someone who loves the outdoors? 

Time is precious, and online shopping is definitely the way to go and beat the queues, the carparking dramas and all those people.

To make life a bit easier for you, we collated some of our fave items from our affiliate, Wild Earth which should appeal to anyone who goes camping! 

And quite a few of these, we think can do double-duty:    home and away.

Need more ideas? Check out this story CLICK HERE

Solar Powered Candle Lantern
We love the Luci lantern, and we have reviewed it here.     But this is the Luci Candle Lantern, for that softer (and yes, romantic) glow. 

Why we like it?     Solar powered, safer than a candle, and perfect for home use

Buy it here

Stocking Stuffer

Looking for something small and useful to go in a stocking?  Then the Light My Fire Firesteel is incredibly handy.      This is for any camper, whether you be a lightweight hiking sort of camper, or full luxuries-a-must camper.    Don't rely on matches, when this works.   And you look quite rugged as well.

Why we like it?    It's practical, small and reliable.

Buy it here

Light My Fire Grandpa's Fire Fork

Cook sausages and marshmallows and more when you attach your Light My Fire Grandpa's Fork to any stick.   And voila!   Cooking over a campfire just got a little less tricky.

You can read about what foods you can cook over a campfire using a stick to give you some inspiration.

Why we like it?     Because sometimes food does fall off the stick because the end of the stick just wasn't designed to hold a sausage!

Buy it here

GSI Commuter Coffee Java Press
For the coffee lover in your life.    You don't need to be camping to have a desire for caffeine, and this gives you the French Press taste, without the plunger mess. 

Why we like it?    Caffeine hit, anytime, anywhere.  Not just camping.

Buy it here

Klymit Inertia O Zone
If you have someone needing ultralight gear, and wanting them to sleep well on their treks, this bizarre looking sleeping mat with built-in pillow, could be the gift that you get a lot of thanks for.
Put inside or outside of your sleeping bag.

Why we like it?     Because it's so cool looking, and a built in pillow means one less thing we have to remember.

Buy it here

Collapsible Gear
For the space saving campers, get ready to collapse lots of items.

Why we like these items?    Space is always an issue for us.   Anything that saves us a bit of room is always appreciated and  needed.

The water bottle - Hydrapak 750ml Stash Bottle

Buy it here

The kettle - Sea to Summit X-Kettle

Buy it here

The complete cooking set - Sea to Summit X-Set 31

Buy it here

The mug - Sea to Summit X Mug

Buy it here

Biolite Charge 10 USB Powerbank
Don't let your phone run out of power, anywhere, anytime.     Give the gift that allows your loved one to stay connected.

Why we like it?    Small, light and waterproof.    Perfect for city use as well, so you can pop one in your handbag or pocket for day's of heavy use of your phone.

Buy it here

Headlamps are a must for camping  (you can read on how to choose a headlamp here).    So if you don't have one on your list of gear, then check out the range (and prices vary greatly).

Why we like it?   We think headlamps are mandatory part of camping.    Hands free cooking, hiking, and around camp.  What's not to love?   Huge range on offer as well.

Buy them here

Thermarest Stretcher Cot Bug Shelter

Sleep under the stars, but comfortably on a Thermarest cot, with a bug shelter above you.      Fine weather camping only.       FYI:  Shelter only, cot sold separately.

Why we like it:     Comfort and style in the outdoors.   For the glampers not the hard core campers!

Buy it here

Swift Fold Hammock

Got room in your car to experience hammock camping without the need for trees?  Or for your backyard (perfect for days when you want to laze at home)?     Try a fold up hammock stand.

Why we like it?    Hammock in the backyard is a great way to spend your days off this summer.

Buy it here

So there are just a few ideas, all of which we think most campers could definitely put to use at the campsite or at home.

If you miss out before Christmas, there's always next year.

Happy and safe Christmas.

PS.  Still stuck for ideas?   Then see these 15 not so dull gift ideas.
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Being South Australians, we have always loved to find places close to Adelaide, where we can get away for a quick night's camping.     We don't want to always travel hours in the car, especially for an overnight trip, so finding places close is important to us.

If you are looking for some ideas where you can go camping near Adelaide, here are 5 suggestions worth investigating further. 

  • Weekend camping is possible, even for just one night.     So don't get discouraged.  But if you need some tips on making a weekend getaway easier, then read our tips on stress free camping for a short trip whilst you are here. 

Our main website, Go Camping Australia features loads of reviews and tips too, if these 5 suggestions don't appeal.

Deep Creek Conservation Park

This Park is around 2 hours from Adelaide (or 108 km)  on the way to Jervis Bay (where the ferry goes to Kangaroo Island).

Just follow the signs for the ferry, and you will see a turn off to this Park.   

With a number of campgrounds, there is a camping style to suit every sort of camper.   It has been a firm favourite of ours and has increased in popularity over the past few years.

There are a number of walks to do within the Park, including a hike-in only camping option.

Bookings needed:    Yes
Free:    No
Dogs allowed:    No
Campfires allowed:     Yes, if fire restrictions permit
2WD:    Yes
Toilets:     Yes, drop toilets
Showers:   Only in 1 campground
Suit what sort of camper:    A campsite/campground for every sort of camper, though Trig Campground is more tent based camping.

Read our review of this campground here with full details on how to book etc.

Saunders Gorge

Just over 1 hour from Adelaide, you will find this bush camping location in the Adelaide Hills.

If you want to get back to basics, without travelling too far from home, this is a good place to experience, and probably best in the cooler months, as the Adelaide Hills are prettier and more lush at that time.

Bookings needed:    Yes
Free:    No
Dogs allowed:    No
Campfires allowed:     Yes, if fire restrictions permit
2WD:    Yes  plus 4WD tracks on property (extra cost)
Toilets:     Yes, drop toilets
Showers:   No
Suit what sort of camper:    A campsite/campground for every sort of camper, though 2 sites are better for tent based camping.

Read our review of this campground here with full details on how to book etc.

Morgan Conservation Park

If you wish to get up to the Murray River without too much driving, then we recommend this location.   Admittedly, there are many places to camp along the Murray, and some might be closer than this, but it does allow you to experience bush camping, with stores nearby if it all goes a bit wrong!

It's 150km from Adelaide.

Bookings needed:    Yes, but no specific campsite is allocated in the booking process
Free:   No  (please note:  earlier version of this story, said it was free which was an error)
Dogs allowed:    No
Campfires allowed:     Yes, unless fire restrictions are in place
2WD:    Yes  but after rain, some parts of the park can be a little slippery
Toilets:     No - you need to be self sufficient
Showers:   No
Suit what sort of camper:    All styles of camping can be accommodated here.

Read our review of this campground here with full details on how to book etc.

Chalks Campground, Mt Crawford

One hour from Adelaide, this campground in Mt Crawford Forest, is ideal for a fast trip at certain times of the year only.    From December through to end of March, you cannot camp here due to fire risk. 

It's not true bush camping, more of a relaxed open oval sort of vibe happening, but you can still chill out here and feel like you have escaped the city (but know it's only an hour away).

Bookings needed:    No
Free:   No - permit required
Dogs allowed:    Yes, under certain conditions
Campfires allowed:     Banned from 1 November to 30 April and on any fire restriction day
2WD:    Yes
Toilets:     Yes
Showers:   No
Suit what sort of camper:    All styles of camping can be accommodated here.

Read our review of this campground here with full details on how to book etc.

Newland Head Conservation Park

91km from Adelaide, close to Victor Harbour, this established campground lets you explore some of the Fleurieu Peninsula, either on foot or driving around the area.       

Not the most picturesque of campgrounds, but if you can visit at a non-busy time, some of the campsites are private and more appealing as they can be tucked away a little.

Bookings needed:    Yes
Free:   No
Dogs allowed:   No
Campfires allowed:     No
2WD:    Yes
Toilets:     Yes
Showers:   No
Suit what sort of camper:    Tent campers (though we did see a camper trailer in there).

Read our review of this campground here with full details on how to book etc.

Of course, apart from these camping locations, you can find out about more places to camp in South Australia (and other states) at our website.

There is no reason to get out and enjoy camping this coming weekend!

Not sure what to look for in a campsite?   Read these 7 tips.

Go to Go Camping Australia for reviews plus tips, advice and plenty more.
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Is it time for you to get a new sleeping bag?

Maybe your current one is showing the signs of wear and tear?   Or you want to upgrade to a warmer or lighter sort of bag?

Possibly, this could be your first ever purchase of a sleeping bag (which means you could be a little amazed by the variety on the market).

But how do you choose a sleeping bag?    

What do you look for in a sleeping bag?

I am going to tell you straight up – it’s not easy.

There are so many things to consider.

If you go into a camping store there are a few things you need to know before you go, to make the right choice.   It's thinking about how you like to camp, where you camp, and of course, the weather you camp in.

With that in mind, read on to find out 5 tips to choosing the right sleeping bag.

1.   Temperature Rating

The temperature rating on a bag is a guide (and I stress the word, guide) on the lowest temperature the bag is designed to keep you warm in.

So a bag that has a rating of 5 degrees Celsius, should theoretically keep you warm when the mercury gets to 5 degrees.

But will it?

The manufacturers testing of this temperature rating isn’t known, and a lot of factors also need to be considered on how effective that bag will be.    Your sleeping mat, if you are a warm or cold sleeper, the clothes you are wearing in the bag, the shelter you are in during the night, etc.

All factors that might alter how you feel in the bag.

So what do you look for in a rating?

Think about the lowest temp you think you will be camping in with this bag (not just the first trip, but any trip you are planning on using it).    Then subtract 10 degrees from that temperature.    And with that new temperature, choose a sleeping bag with that rating.

eg.  You think the coldest place you will camp in will be about 0 degrees.    Choose a bag rated to minus 10 degrees.

This might seem a little excessive, but it's easier to cool down in a too-warm sleeping bag, by  unzipping it.     Trying to get warm in a not-warm-enough bag is harder (and can lead to a sleepless night).

Further reading:  How to choose a self inflating mat

What about the ratings on the bag?

You might see on a sleeping bag, 3 levels of comfort rating and this is based on the EN 13537 rating, which means it's the official European standard for the labelling of sleeping bags.

Comfort - that's what a standard night sleep would be like for a 'standard' woman, because women need more insulation than men apparently.    It's the warmth level that women would like for a comfortable night's sleep.  

Limit of comfort
- This is the lowest temperature that a 'standard' man would need for a comfortable nights sleep.     I am not sure what constitutes a 'standard' man, or woman (as above mentions)  but it assumes you are not sleeping naked and have some insulation underneath you.

Extreme - This is the coldest temperature you can survive in, in this particular bag without freezing to death.     Now under the standard EN13537 for sleeping bag ratings, they classify this 'extreme' rating as follows, "a strong sensation of cold has to be expected and there is a risk of health damage due to hypothermia".     Of course, you shouldn't be relying on any sleeping bag to save you from hypothermia, and use this as a guide only.

Here is an example of what you can see on the bags:

Found on One Planet bags

If you want to read more about the EN 13537 rating standards and validity, there is a paper from the Outdoor Industry which discusses in detail.

2.   Synthetic or Down filled  
Marmot Down filled

Another big choice will be the filling for the bag.   Do you choose synthetic or down?       

What is the difference?

Synthetic –
  • cheaper than its same rated down counterpart
  • heavier and bulky
  • has insulation properties when wet
  • easy care
  • hypoallergenic
  • Not as long lasting – will deteriorate over time

Down –
  • lighter
  • longer lasting than any synthetic when cared for
  • expensive
  • no insulation when wet
  • highly compressible so takes up very little room
  • warmer than any synthetic available
  • more difficult to care for
  • not hypoallergenic

They both have pro’s and con’s about them as you can tell.

But what one to choose?

That will come down to your budget and your style of camping.        

Down is a good long term choice, and will suit anyone – and where weight and bulk is a consideration, you can’t do better.  There are different sorts of down too, and that affects price and warmth in the bag as well.    The higher the concentration of down feathers, the better.  So a down of 850+ is superior to one of 600+.   Simple!

(read our reviews on 2 Down-filled sleeping bags at www.gocampingaustralia.com)

Synthetics are good if you plan on being on in wet conditions, and on a budget.    And if you don’t plan on being a regular camper – the more casual or not so sure about camping sort of person, then this will be a good choice and an economical one.

You might find if you enjoy camping, that you need to upgrade later.

Black Wolf Synthetic

 Looking for  a good range of sleeping bags?
We use and recommend:    Cotswold Outdoors   The Ethical Use of Down Before we move onto the next point, it's very important that we mention the use of down and the ethical treatment of animals to produce this down.     This was raised in comments when we first published this story, and it was remiss of us not to address at the time.

When purchasing a down product (whether it be a sleeping bag or a jacket), you should check that it was ethically sourced.

Unfortunately, big business means ill treatment of animals in the past, and the down from ducks and geese have meant extreme cruelty against these animals.      It still goes on, but you as a consumer can make a choice.    That means looking for companies that follow the Responsible Down Standard.  It's a voluntary standard, so not every company will participate so you need to do some homework.

Read about the Responsible Down Standard and what it means here.

The list of outdoor companies that use this standard can be found here.

Patagonia has their own Traceable Down Standard.

Is this RDS a guarantee?    I am not sure....there can be no guarantees.

PETA has recently put out information saying the unethical treatment of animals continues.    You can read their current story on live plucking.    It is very distressing to read and see.

  3.  Shape
The shape of the sleeping bag varies, and the main shapes you will come across is the mummy, tapered rectangular and rectangular.

A mummy shaped is probably the most efficient.   Its wide at the shoulders and then narrows down to the feet, which means less air needs to be heated in the bag.    Less room to wriggle about, though, so if you like to toss and turn in your sleeping bag, this might be a little restrictive.

Tapered rectangular is just as it sounds.   They taper down to the foot of the bag,  like the mummy, but not as much.    More wriggle room and a good all-rounder shaped bag.

A rectangular bag is…..rectangular!    Even more wriggle room, and tend to be the sort of bag you would use if you don’t have to worry about weight or size.     Plenty of room inside, and a generalist camping bag.

           4.    Fit
This goes together with the shape (point 3).  It’s about finding the bag that suits you.     Not only do bags come in different shapes, but different sizes too.

Some bags are different lengths to cater for tall or short people.

Other bags are based on gender – some female bags might be narrow at the top, but a little wider at the hips.     And typically (but not always), women are considered “cold sleepers” and some bags cater for women, with woman sleeping bags with extra insulation provided.     A pink colored sleeping bag doesn’t make it a women's sleeping bag.

With other bags, regardless of gender, the fit of the bag will depend on the individual, so trying the bag out in a shop is a good idea (if that is possible).

5.  Extra features
The little touches are important when choosing a bag.  Easy to overlook in favour of the above 4 points, but still worth considering.

Look at the zippers – Do they close up easily, or snag a lot on the lining? Do the zips lock in place when pulled up?  Do they go all the way to the bottom or only half way (the former means the bag can be opened up easily to cool you down if you get too hot)?

What is the lining made of?   Polyester or nylon breathes and draws away moisture.  Cotton (like flannelette) is comfortable but moisture stays with you and can leave you feeling damp.

Neck muff – holds the warmth in the bag, not letting it seep out.

A hood – allows you not to wear a hat when in the bag, and provides a soft spot for your head.   Some hoods will have a drawstring that will only show your face when drawn in.

Whatever the sort of sleeping bag you want to choose, do your homework.      

Some bags are not cheap – so make sure you get the one that is right for you and your camping.   

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Editors Note:   This story was originally published in 2014 but has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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We were on a camping trip, enjoying the serenity of our summer getaway until the mosquitos arrived in force.    There was no respite from them.  They were everywhere - on us, our food, our gear - everywhere, day and night.  It was so bad, we had to retire early to our tent, spraying the tent copiously with flyspray to try to avoid being eaten alive.

Mosquitos are the downside to summer nights.     If at home, on a picnic or like we were, camping, they are incredibly annoying.

Our friends at Hovex feel the same.    They want to make outdoors more appealing and want you outdoors, enjoying our amazing country.        Hovex has created a new, and world first,
vapour active technology to provide invisible and odourless protection against flies and mosquitos for up to six hours.

Yes, flies too!!!

Did I mention how much I hate flies as well?      Mealtimes, where you spend more time brushing flies off your food than you do eating isn't fun.  

The Hovex Vaporgard Outdoor Fly & Mosquito Shield is a simple, no mess solution for entertaining outdoors will leave your guests scratching their heads (and not because they’ve been bitten by mosquitoes!) wondering how you managed to keep the insects at bay.

This highly effective product forms a ‘no fly zone’. Simply spray the surface around the outdoor area you want to protect to create a vertical barrier around your outdoor activities.   What that means for you, is up to 6 hours protection, and you can leave the citronella candles at home.

So do you want your next picnic, camping trip or backyard BBQ to be mozzie and fly free?  

If you do, and want to be one of the first to enjoy this technology,  thanks to Hovex, we have 5 picnic packs to share with you.

The Prize

Each pack has  Hovex Vaporgard that you can enjoy on the picnic blanket, whilst you and the family play cards or Go Fish set (all included, total value $60 per pack).

  • Need more information about this all-Australian brand, Hovex?  Then read more here
  • Can't wait to get this Fly & Mosquito Shield?  Head to Bunnings to pick up your own can there.

Easy as always.     Enter via the Rafflecopter app below.

Competition is open from 21 February 2017 and closes 6 March.

Open to Australian residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Everyone knows about putting a marshmallow on a stick, and cooking it over the fire. If you have camped, you probably have done it at least once!

But do you put anything else on a stick and heat it up?    

Yes, we have some easy camping recipes.

Here are 8 other foods to cook over the campfire.

What you need:

  • You will need the food, and a good stick (free of loose bark, and nice and clean).

But for longer cooking times, a metal skewer (a long one, ideally with some sort of handle at the end to stop it burning in your hands) might be the implement to add to your cooking utensil box.

1.    Damper
This is a very popular item to put on a stick – easy and delicious.

Make up your damper (not too wet, or its going to slide right off) and roll it into long snake-like shape.    Roll around a clean stick, and when its on securely, SLOWLY rotate it over the fire, so the dough is cooked evenly and thoroughly. 

It can be a bit trial & error getting the dough cooked just to your liking.

Tap the dough, and if it sounds hollow, it should be cooked.

When done, pull off the stick (well cooked, it comes off a lot more easily), and pour jam or maple syrup or whatever you like into the hole where the stick was, and enjoy!

Hint:  Kids love Nutella on their damper on a stick!

2.    Hot Dogs
An easy way to heat up your hot dog sausage and get that smoky taste too!   Put the stick through the sausage and heat carefully (don’t put it right into the middle of the flame).

Then slide off onto your bun, with all the condiments ready to go!

If you want to jazz up the humble hot dog, make 4 slices at the end of the sausage, to about 1/3rd of the way down.

 Do this at BOTH ends of sausage.  The middle of the sausage is unsliced.

When it cooks, the ends, curl up, supposedly looking like a spider!

  3.   Roasted Bananas

Put a banana on a metal skewer (a stick may work, but a skewer is going to be cleaner removing it from a mushy banana) , then heat it over an open flame.

When it's nicely warmed and starting to go a bit soft, you can roll it in choc flakes (Cadbury Flakes all smashed up works), or nuts or any topping you think goes well with a warmed banana.

4.   More fruit -   apples, pineapples or peaches.

One way to get fruit into the kids is roasting your fruit near the flame.   Other than bananas, fruit that goes well on a skewer includes apples, pineapple and firm peaches.   I love strawberries done like this, but they can fall off quite easily!

If you have the ability, brush the fruit with some melted butter and a dash of orange juice or honey, which contributes to the flavour.

Those who are mega-prepared with camping supplies can dip the warmed fruit in cream (sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon!!!)

5.   Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
This isn’t one that I would normally associate with cooking on a stick, but comes from the Food Network.

On bread, spread mayonnaise, ham, cheese (of choice, but swiss would work well) and pickles.   Top with another slice of bread, and cut the sandwich into quarters.

Toast each quarter on a stick/skewer until the cheese melts.

6.   Prosciutto &  Mozzarella Balls
Another one courtesy of Food Network!

And one to impress.      Would be very tasty for those who are wanting to have something to munch on with your drink before dinner!

Wrap prosciutto around mini mozzarella balls. Thread a cherry tomato, a prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella ball, and another tomato onto each skewer; toast over a flame until the tomatoes blister.

7.    Egg in an Orange 

This one got a lot of “likes” on our Facebook Page!    The following information comes from Egg Farmers of Alberta.
Cut a large orange in half and scrape out the fruit from both pieces. With a sharp knife, cut a small “x” on one orange half about 1 cm below the rim. Cut another “x” just below the opposite rim. Thread a long pointed stick through the cuts so that the orange half hangs like a basket. While someone holds the half peel steady, crack a small egg into it. Grasp the end of the stick and hold the orange shell over the campfire (low flames or embers) for about 10 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and remove the orange from the stick. Add salt and pepper… and enjoy your egg!

(reference:   http://eggs.ab.ca/recipes-1/campfire-quot-eggs-in-an-orange-quot)

8.  Kebabs

Whatever you call it,  shish kabobs or kebabs, these are good on the campfire too.     Generally, it is a meat/fish and a vegetable alternated on a skewer.

The choice of what you put on it is up to you and your pantry!!  The options are limitless.

But a couple of things to ensure you get it right are:

- don’t make the protein so chunky that it takes a lot longer to cook than the vegetable, and vice-versa.  You want the kebab contents to all cooks roughly at the same time.

- if you brush a sauce or marinade over them, sometimes it will make them look burnt, and may mislead you into thinking the meat is cooked.  If it's chicken, you don’t want raw meat!

- If the food looks like it could fall right off into the fire, 2 skewers could be used to stabilise the food

Beginner Guide to all Camping Food Packing and Preparation

If you are not sure about the whole packing food for a camping trip process, we put together a guide on how to pack camping food.   It will tell you how to prepare and pack for a camping trip.    Tips you need to know to make camping food so much easier.

Read it today, especially if you are a beginner.  You won't regret it!

Looking for more easy camping recipes like the ones above?   Then you can read up on these great recipe guides:

French Toast Recipes for Camping

Pancake Recipes for Camping -  from the basics to the more elaborate

and if you want more campfire specific meals, have you thought about foil packed meals?   We have THE guide for you on everything foil packed.  
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