Everything you need to know for your first camping trip in a national park

New to camping? This four-part series will help you prepare for an unforgettable trip. First up – the tent.

South Australia has some wonderful bush camping, with campgrounds in more than 40 of our national parks and reserves.

You can camp at whatever level suits you, from the most basic to an ultra-comfy set up, but there’s a few things to consider when organising your site.

Here’s some ideas for choosing and setting up your tent, and getting a good night’s rest:

1. How to pick a tent

While camping, your tent is your home. If you’re not carrying it on your back, always choose a tent that is slightly larger than you need so you have room for your luggage. There are low tents or taller ones that allow you to stand in the middle, so pick the size and height that suits you best.

Once your tent’s been pitched it’s a good idea to take your shoes off whenever you’re inside – mud and dirt can make for a messy experience. Leaving your shoes inside on a piece of newspaper will ensure they stay free of creepy crawlies when you’re not wearing them.

Speaking of critters, always keep the fly screen closed or you’re likely to have uninvited guests.

2. Be prepared with extras

An extra tarpaulin as a ground sheet will keep the base of your tent from getting muddy if the ground is wet.

Bring a mallet to hammer in the tent pegs, although a rock will do if you’re travelling light. It’s a good idea to pack some extra tent pegs in case one gets bent. A peg can even double as a tool to pull out the others when you’re taking the tent down.

Cable ties and duct tape are invaluable in emergencies. Cable ties can be used to mend broken tent poles and duct tape can stop unexpected leaks.

Another handy item is glow in the dark ribbon, which can prevent sudden tent collapses caused by people tripping over cables in the dark.

3. Think about your sleep

If comfort is your priority, pack an air mattress, sleeping bag and a pillow, with an extra blanket for cold nights. A double sleeping bag is a great investment if you have a camping partner, or even if you don’t, as they’re less likely to tangle than the single version. 

If you’re not as worried about comfort, a bedroll and sleeping bag will save space.

4. Choosing a national park

With more than 300 national parks covering more than 20 per cent of South Australia, choosing a national park for your camping trip might seem daunting! To give you a helping hand, use the Find a Park tool on the National Parks and Wildlife Service SA website. It allows you to search the vast number of parks and refine the results to find the perfect park for you. For example, you can search for:

  • national parks that have caravan sites
  • national parks where you can have a campfire (outside of Fire Danger Season)
  • national parks that have showers and toilets
  • national parks where you can go hiking, bird watching, fishing, swimming or even rock climbing.

There’s many more search options available, so go online and have a look today, you might be surprised what you’ll find in our national parks!

5. Great campsites for first-timers

If it’s your first time camping, you probably want to ease in with a campground that has toilets and showers. These four spots have all the facilities and are surrounded by amazing scenery and wildlife:

Now that your tent and sleeping is sorted, check out the next instalments in this series:

Please remember to keep social distance of 1.5m from other visitors at all times and don’t visit if you are sick or required to self-isolate. In response to South Australian Government COVID-19 restrictions, access to parks and their facilities in South Australia is changing regularly. You can keep up-to-date by reading our frequently asked questions, by following us on Facebook or by contacting us.

For more camping options in national parks and reserves, visit the National Parks and Wildlife Service SA website.

This story was originally posted in September 2015.

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