Last week I had the pleasure of spending most of the week, out of mobile coverage, sleeping in a tent and hiking through the beautiful bush along the Wingecaribee River near Berrima in the NSW Southern Highlands. This is the joys of being a primary school teacher – occasionally you get to do really cool stuff. Well I like camping, so I thought it was cool. And while I had a fantastic time, it had been a while since I’d been camping – I mean real camping. There was also some pretty serious hiking and at time my little legs struggled to keep up with those year 6 boys, many of whom were now taller than me. If you ever need a reminder of how your fitness is slipping – try keeping up with 12 year old boys on an all day hike!

Biloela_View

So here are the lessons I learnt on camp.

Sleeping

Sleeping Bag: Make sure it matches your climate. I know this sounds obvious, but when sleeping bags for cold climates cost in excess of $400, you might think you can get by with a few extra layers. Unfortunately not! During my week away, the temperatures dropped below zero. It was cold! Freezing. Literally! At one point I think I was wearing every item of merino wool clothing that I’d packed. I was still cold. Cold makes it difficult to sleep. Cold makes you want to pee. Apparently your body doesn’t like storing waste product when it’s cold, so it attempts to get rid of it. Nobody likes going to the toilet, out in the open, in subzero temperatures!

KookaburraTent

Tent: The smaller the tent, the warmer the tent! Much of this comes down to if you have to carry it or not. Big tents that resemble a one bedroom apartment are fun if you have a trailer to take all your gear… but if you have to hike it in and out, think of the weight. Most camping websites allow for easy comparison and include details such as weight. And as I eluded to before, you have to consider the climate. Small tents are much easier to keep warm!

Yes, that would be ice all over my tent!

Yes, that would be ice all over my tent!

Sleeping Mat: There are some fancy ones out there and if you have the room and can justify the added weight – get one. We slept on these rather cool waffle style, inflatable mattresses. Unfortuantely they didn’t keep the cold out, but they were exceptionally comfortable. Considering they rolled up to something resembling the size of my 2L water bottle, I think I’ll be checking those out in the shops!

Our camp leader had a funny sense of humour... but the fact you could scrawl that in the ice - gives you an idea how cold it was!

Our camp leader had a funny sense of humour… but the fact you could scrawl that in the ice – gives you an idea how cold it was!

Pillow: You can either live without it or you can’t. I can’t. Fortunately for us, we only had to hike down with our day packs, so I decided to shove my pillow in my overnight bag. However it did make my bag ridiculously big, so since coming back I’ve looked into this a little more. There are quite a few inflatable pillows on the market and they look a lot better than the ones that were on offer when I camped before. This will be on my list for next year.

Some of the gorgeous rocks we had to climb over on our hike.

Some of the gorgeous rocks we had to climb over on our hike.

Daypacks

I took a tiny Macpac 18L backpack. See, I have a sneaky habit of packing to fill the bag. So my concern has always been that if I carried a bigger pack – I’d fill it. However, given the varying weather conditions (read cold and wet) I needed to pack rain gear, layers and loads of water as we were often out all day. It doesn’t sound like much but I struggled to fit it in. Looking at the packs the others’ took, I discovered some things I should’ve had;

  • space for a water bottle on the outside
  • a pocket that’s rain proof for important things (if not your entire bag)
  • an easy reach pocket for the map
  • consider buying a pack that allows you to put a camel pak (water pack) in

So now I’ve got my eye on either the Macpac Voyager 35L daypack or the Mont 32L Trance daypack.

Kookaburra

Shoes

I thought I could get by in my old netball sneakers. I was wrong. I few quick slides back down what I’d just climbed up taught me there is a reason for those expensive hiking shoes. Had we stuck to the fire trails, I would’ve been fine. But if you’re going off the beaten track (to use a apt cliche), get the right shoes or you’ll end up with an impressive display of cuts and bruises like I have.

Some of the gorgeous wattle on our hike. If you follow my instagram account, you know I love wattle!

Pushing Your Comfort Zone

During our time away the boys had to do everything from extended hikes, to abseiling and canoeing. Each of them was challenging for different boys and for different reasons. Even just being away from their families was a challenge for many of the boys, and for the most part, the boys pushed through their fears and conquered them. The staff at the Biloela Bush Camp were amazing in talking the boys through their fears and giving them encouragement. They reminded the boys that every time they pushed their boundaries, their comfort zone increased slightly. It was a real reminder to me about pushing my comfort zone a little further. How many times as adults do we challenge ourselves, like we expect our kids to challenge themselves?

Take Time to ReflectCampfire

At the end of our time away, our group leader asked the boys to construct a representation of what they were ‘leaving’ camp with, something that moved or challenged them.

The campfire was a popular choice. It was where we’d sat up talking of a night, we’d shared stories, we re-grouped, it was where we started and ended each of our days.

TowerRenOne of my favourites was the boy who’d chosen a stick that looked like the Chinese character for person (the boys learn Chinese at school) and had sat it on top of a pile of stones which resembled the enormous mountain we’d climbed. I was with him on this one. That one day hike we’d done had challenged me too. I also doubted whether I was going to make it to the top. But what choice did we have? And we all got there in the end. Although I’ll tell you – I was very much aware of every muscle I had when we finished. Occasionally our group leader would comment about how steep the climb was – seriously, there were many points where we had to hold onto a rope to help pull us up. When he muttered these comments, I was so grateful. I thought it was just me!

 

 

If all this has you wondering when was the last time you went camping, The Outdoor Education Group have an open weekend at Biloela Bush Camp, which is where we stayed. The weekend is for the Great Aussie Camp Out, an initiative by the Australian Camps Association to bring together Australians for one big night to experience camping. It all happens on Saturday 10th October to Sunday 11th October. The guys at the Outdoor Education Group have organised a great weekend full of hiking, abseiling, canoeing and the flying fox. They’ll also provide the food! But just be aware, there are only two flushing toilets and no showers. Yup. That’s camping!

 

And like all Tuesdays, I’ve linked up with Jess for I blog on Tuesdays. Check out the other great posts up today.

 

 

 

Written by Nadia

21 Comments

Lisa @ Mummy's Undeserved Blesssings

You make it sound fun! I like camping but ours is usually in a well equipped caravan park haha! What a great experience for those boys.

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nadiamc

It was heaps of fun. Like you, most of my camping now consists of a really well equipped fit out that requires a trailer to bring… it had been a long time since I’d been camping like this. I only pray that my rear end will see some benefit from all those steep inclines we had to walk up!!

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cate

last time I joined in GACO, I was leading 12 scouts, most who were camping for the first time, was a fun weekend! But that mountain you climbed sounds like a real step outside the comfort zone!

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nadiamc

Wow! Scouts would be fun! I was a girl guide. I have fond memories of those camps. I think pre-pregnancy the mountain wouldn’t have been a problem, even with my little legs! But my fitness has lagged since having kids. I can’t just kick of to touch footy games and netball on a weekend like I used to!

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nadiamc

It was a little steep. I’ve never camped in such cold weather before. I didn’t really think it through. As much as I love camping – I love 5 star hotels too!! Hahaha, especially as I get older.

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nadiamc

Yeah. The ice was a bit much. I woke up that morning thinking, “Seriously?!?” but at least it explained why I had been so cold! I prepared for the cold better the next two nights.

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nadiamc

Yeah, I must admit, I’m really like a toilet too. I don’t think it’s being soft. I think it’s moving with the times! I can live without a lot but not having a toilet really pushes it. I was grateful that our site was only a short walk away. It’s not that easy to go to the toilet amongst the trees when you’re a girl!
But the cold wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be. I think I prefer the cold to the heat. You can always layer up in the cold and the fire adds atmosphere. You lose that in the heat…

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Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life

I love camping and hiking…haven’t been camping since December though thanks to a busy life but will be getting back into it from November. I remember having to learn so many things along the way as well. In terms of sleeping mats, Thermarests are really good…they are insulated and keep the heat in. I have a 0 degree lightweight sleeping bag and so far, it has been good. Depending on the weather, I have had to sometimes wear my thermals and down jacket to sleep. There’s nothing as amazing as being out in nature, is there?

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nadiamc

Where is your favourite spot to camp? I will look into thermarests. Are they expensive?

Yup. Love nature. Part of the reason for our tree change!

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EssentiallyJess

Oh it sounds amazing. I would love to do that kind of camp. Even the fact that it was freezing hasn’t put me off at all. It’s all part of the adventure 🙂

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nadiamc

Adventure! It can be loads of fun! But I do wonder about the guides who do it as their everyday. I’m not sure I’d be up for it every day. Kind of like being a pilot. I wouldn’t want to be a pilot as I think it would take the shine off flying. Would it take the fun out of it if camping was your everyday?

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Janet aka Middle Aged Mama

Fantastic photos! I have also learned from experience how important it is to have a good quality sleeping bag for colder climates. I remember one very miserable night where I didn’t sleep a wink, just shivered!

Visiting today from #teamIBOT x

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nadiamc

Thank you! I spent a lot of time thinking that I could get better photos if I was camping by myself. Ha! That never happens though.
Yes, cold weather doesn’t make for restful nights. There is something quite lovely though, about waking up in the morning and snuggling into your warm sleeping bag and just listening to the world outside wake up… and then taking a big breath and getting on with it!

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best family tent 2015

Camping and hiking remain always my first priority to opt for during vaccination. This is an adventurous thing to visit such natural place full of beauty. Camping and hiking is really good outdoor sports.

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