The perfect camping setup, is more a process of elimination than any one perfect solution.
Back in our late teens, camping was simple. A couple of lamb chops, a tin of rice cream and a bottle of green ginger wine. The green ginger keeping you warm at night and then cleaning your teeth in the morning!
Fast forward fifty years, the basics haven’t changed much. Except now the choices are huge and widely varied.
Two years ago, my partner and I decided on a roadie up north. In a matter of days from deciding to go, we’d gathered all our camping essentials. Our life for the next couple months was snugly loaded in just the confines of the back of an Xtrail SUV. We camped our way around the half lap of Oz. Perth to Darwin, down to Adelaide, then across the Nullabor back to Perth. Simple tent, basic needs… low cost, low fuss and effectively everything we needed. It was a great trip. Admittedly, as we drove into a caravan park amongst the many impressive caravan rigs, we were convinced we could see them looking at us as GFC refuges, saying, “well at least they’re out there doing it”!
Two years on, our covid upshot trip was an opportunity to better plan and prepare. But after two months of researching and preparing, reflecting on the simple concept of just upping and leaving with what you have, had so much appeal. That’s because choosing the ideal setup is such a huge compromise. So much choice, so many options, yet each a huge compromise on an ideal solution.
Take the fundamental decision. To tow or not to tow. Now I have to say, towing a caravan is smart. Even if you have to wind up the roof or pop out the ends. It’s your little home away from home.
Not us. No towing was the criteria we set. It’s not that we have a problem with towing a van. Soon after I was married we travelled around the state living and working from a well appointed caravan with shower and toilet. It was a memorable time.
On this trip though we decided to go for the best feeling of adventure and freedom four wheel driving offers. Covid however meant we were just one of thousands stripping 4wd camping and caravan suppliers bare as we too were forced to change our travel plans to local experiences. It meant our choices were limited. However, what we ended up with, a tent mounted on the back of a dual cab ute, was sure to offer us an adventure!
Travelling the Pilbara region of WA features some of the toughest land in the country. The region is dominated by a massive iron ore mining industry. The coast however offers popular fishing and camping destinations for the local mining population and tourists. One favourite is 40 Mile Beach, south of Karratha. It’s a sparsely populated camping experience, right on the beach front. A roaring campfire at night adds to the magic of the experience.
Near the old town of Onslow, another popular destination provides numerous free camping spots dotted along the waters edge.
But by far the most popular destination of north west Western Australia is the Ningaloo reef region. This magical piece of nature stretches from Coral Bay through to Exmouth. Ningaloo Station, Warroora and nearby Giralia stations offer more natural and private experiences right on the beach front.
However Beware… camping at some of these sparsely populated spots, does mean the stray passerby may be confronted by the occasional sixties plus bare ass coming down the steps of a tent!
And if the over popular coastal spots like Coral Bay are booked out, nearby Bullara station is an excellent alternative. The station’s campfire and damper nights, the outdoor open air showers and the morning tea and scones in the garden lawns make this a memorable stay.
Cape Range National Park in the heart of the Ningaloo Reef area, on the other side of Exmouth, is a unique stretch of coast. Its stunning white sandy beaches and pristine turquoise coloured water make it extremely popular for camping and snorkeling, as well as organized tours such as swimming with the whales. The well maintained bush camping areas along the coast are booked out well in advance.
And that’s where our journey currently brings us. We arrived at one of these popular camp grounds, Mesa, in the national park. A beckoning beach is just over the sand hills.
There’s just one small problem. Near gale force rated winds are currently pounding the coast. Already thrashing every piece of canvas that forms our tent, the forecast is it’s about to intensify overnight. As if to not only test the durability of our camping choice, but also our resolve. The unrelenting gusty southerly wind has by now completely chilled the remnants of the preceding hot sun drenched day.
Any notion of a romantic sunset dinner is well and truly shelved. With awning and annex packed away to avoid damage, a quick bite to eat is hurriedly prepared in the shelter of the tailgate. No doubt our adjoining caravaners tucked comfortably away from the wind, are being smugly entertained by our dilemma. We wonder if perhaps we should remove for a more appropriate time, our fun intended car door signage, “Our Senior Aussie Gap Year”!
It’s now barely just scraped past sunset as we batten down fore a wild night inside our canvas igloo. The forecast is the same for the next 48 hours days. Fast forwarding our next camping setup ideas may now be looking more of a priority. To tow or not to tow?!