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!
So here are the lessons I learnt on camp.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
One 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.