Camping and outdoors
by the Super-Twins
Camping is a great outdoor activity. You may not be as lucky as us and have an uninhabited river island complete with cave, but even if you only camp in your own back yard you can still erect a tent, have a campfire, enjoy camp cooking and sleep under the stars.
We've set out, below, a few tips about some of the more important aspects of camping. There's lots of things we haven't mentioned, though. To get some ideas, read the Super-Twins books (naturally we'd say that!): you'll find heaps of information about food, clothes, utensils, sun protection and other stuff.
One essential: If you are planning a camping trip to anywhere but your back yard, take a First-Aid kit with you!
Tents and Sleeping Bags
There are thousands of different tents you can
buy and some are very inexpensive. If you are going to carry your tent in a backpack for any distance, it is important to get the
lightest one that you can afford that suits your needs. Some other things to consider are:
If you are only going to sleep in your tent, just get one big enough for the number of people. The tent on the far left is a two-man tent and is fine for us for a short camp-out. But if we were going to be spending several day camping we would definitely go for something bigger, like the one to the right of it, which is nominally a four-man tent.
The material your tent is made from is very important. Most light-weight tents are "shower-proof". This means they will protect you from light rain, but will leak in heavy rain. Make sure the part of your tent that you are sleeping in has a floor and insect screening. Sleeping on damp ground or being attacked by insects and even snakes can ruin your whole camping experience.
A good sleeping bag is the next most important thing you'll need after a tent. Remember, even when camping out, you still have to sleep and there's nothing more likely to ruin an enjoyable day than an uncomfortable night. Make sure the sleeping bag you choose is suitable for local conditions. A bag with a zip all round is best for mild to warm conditions - you can open it up if you get too hot or zip it shut if you get too cold. For really cold weather sleeping bags in the form of a full body suit are available. If you can't bear the thought of sleeping on the ground, you can buy an air mattress or a camp stretcher, but these will add considerably to the weight of your kit.
Camp Fires and Cooking
The absolute best thing about camping is the campfire and the great food you can cook on it. We built our own drystone fireplace on Goat Island, but you don't need anything that elaborate - just make sure that your fire is safe: Put a ring of stones or bare earth around it if possible so that there is no chance that the fire can spread to surround grass, bushes or trees. If in any doubt, don't make your own fire - most campsites have ready-built fireplaces or you can carry a small gas burner with you. Never light a fire during a time of total fire ban (check with the proper authorities before you go camping) and always extinguish all trace of fire before leaving you campsite.
Once you have your campfire sorted, you'll need something to cook with. A camp oven, frying pan and griddle, as shown in the picture are absolutely ideal, but if you are backpacking then weight will be a problem. You'll find you can get by fine with just a frying pan in most situations.
If you can manage it, a camp oven is just
great. You can cook just about any type of food in it - damper, scones, bread, roasts, stews, vegetables, porridge. Just put in the
food and heap hot coals and ashes over it. It makes a brilliant slow-cooker, but it will take a bit of experience before you get cooking
times right, so be careful.
An excellent substitute for a camp oven, if weight is a problem, is aluminium (aluminum, for our North American friends) foil. You can wrap vegetables, meat or even damper in foil and cook it the same way as you would with a camp oven. Just make sure the food is completely sealed and that you don't puncture the foil.
Another essential is a billycan. You can use one
of these for heating water, making stews and even cooking damper.
Here's a picture of our billy boiling on Goat Island.
As we said, don't even think of lighting a fire unless it is absolutely safe. At all other times a camping gas burner is ideal. These are light-weight and great for a frying pan or billycan, so you can still enjoy cooking some great food using one.