I love a pamper just as much as the next girl, but in my heart of hearts I will always much rather be walking barefoot around a national park and bathing in waterfalls than living that big city life. Maybe it’s the Norfolk lass in me, maybe I’m just made for the outdoors – all I know is it takes endless beaches, mountains, forests and jungle to really bring me peace. My final six months in Australia has brought me the greatest adventure yet – traveling the West Coast of Australia and living out of a car, camping wild in crazy beautiful spots and not seeing another soul for days on end. It was a trip I had dreamed of since arriving in Australia – my full outback experience – and yet never dared dream would actually become a reality.
Not only did I get to experience this amazing trip, but I had the chance to do it with someone who loves the outdoors and living this simple life just as much as me. Together we’ve spent nights watching the stars in a pitch black sky above cattle ranches, desert and ocean, trails of smoke rise into the air from the camp fire. We’ve woken up to the sound and sight of waves lapping against the shore, to bird cries from the trees around us deep in the bush, and to the excitement of exploring a new place. It really is the most romantic and exciting way to get to know both another person, and this whole other side of Australia.
So many people are often shocked when they realise how much I love camping, hiking and being outdoors – but as someone who was raised on huge walks through the countryside and weekends at the beach no matter what the weather – I’ve been pretty well prepared. My parents always hated us sitting inside watching television, instead there were always activities, exercise and fresh air waiting for us outside. I can see how that has affected me – now I hate being cooped up inside and always long to be outside having adventures. Blacks could tell I was their kind of girl, so they wanted to quiz me on what kind of camper I am – they had actually guessed I would be more of a festival camper. Going back a couple of years that would definitely have been true, but things have changed over the last few years of traveling and my whole perspective of camping has changed.
Can you tell us about your first wild camping experience?
My first ever wild camping experience actually came when I was at school and took part in the Duke of Edinburgh award – my family had never been on a camping holiday, caravans were the closest we got – so when my friends and I heard about the expedition side of the award we were keen to sign up. The whole thing sounded so much fun – planning a route to hike across the Lake or Peak District and camping along the way with my best friends. The first trip was great but definitely a shock to the system after a bit of bad weather and learning to deal with no toilets and lots of mud. It certainly didn’t put me off and I made sure I went for it with the Gold award – having a few practice runs in the Yorkshire Dales before heading off to Wales where we planned to climb and camp around Mt Snowdon. My first proper wild camping experience came here when we were hiking through muddy, flooded fields and then would arrive at our campsite for the night to find it totally open to the elements. We had the choice to use proper campsites with facilities or to go wild, naturally we chose to forgo toilets, showers and shelter for a truly wild camping experience and it is one I will never forget. I’m pretty sure that is what inspired my love of camping and the great outdoors today.
Where is your favourite place you have camped in the wild?
There are so many to choose from – I’ve been a very lucky girl to experience these across the world now from back to basics in the UK, to festival camping, to national parks and jungle in Thailand, Slovenia’s luxury take on wild camping to Australian outback and bush doofs. My top three wild camping locations:
- Camping wild under the stars on a raft floating on a reservoir in the middle of an 80 million year old rainforest in Khao Sok, Thailand. Feeling like you’re living in the set of Jurassic Park, waking up in the night to the sound of wild elephants crashing through the undergrowth and watching the sun rise over the mountains as the jungle wakes up was beyond incredible.
- Western Australia blows all my wild camping experiences out of the water. We lived out of cars and barely showered or had access to toilets for six weeks. It was disgusting and incredible at the same time. Sacrificing hygiene and pampering gave us the most amazing experiences of staying in breathtaking campsites. Eagles Bluff was one where we watched the sunset over a lake and the sunrise over the highway, completely alone in the world with no phone signal and no worries. There were countless others where we watched the stars flood the sky after the sunset over the ocean, or where we woke in the night to kangaroos and wombats scuffling around the tents.
- Tasmania is wild camping heaven – During my two-week road trip we camped in the shadow of mountains, overlooking lakes and the ocean, on beaches surrounded by curious wildlife, in misty marshland and deep in the forests. An experience to remember – so many amazing and very different spots to explore but my favourite was Friendly Beaches, where kangaroos, wallabies and wombats come right up to the tents.
What would be your best tip for first-timers?
Get over the grime. The more you try and avoid dealing with the dirt that comes with wild camping, or the toilet situation, the harder it is. You’ll have the most fun when you relax into it and just accept the grosser aspects. Accept that wet wipe baths are all you’ll have for a few days. Accept that bush toilets are a bit grim, and accept that sometimes the best option is to just go outside. Bush wees will become normal – and trust me the day you get over your first bush poo is a day you become truly free. It is amazing how quickly you can adapt to this simpler life and how it becomes totally normal – by throwing yourself in to every part of it, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time. Trust me, I lived like this for six weeks and loved every second – I would do it again in a heartbeat.
What piece of kit do you consider to be essential?
Wet wipes and a good mattress. It’s important to have a huge supply of wet wipes as they really do get used for everything – bathing, cleaning, washing up, cleaning wounds and much more. A good mattress depends on how long you are camping for – but it makes a huge difference to your experience. I spent three nights sleeping in a hire car at a national park last week and by the end my back was killing me from sleeping on a hard surface which made me tired because I slept badly and affected my experience. Normally we use our own car which comes fitted with the comfiest foam mattress (much better than air mattresses) – a good night’s sleep has a huge impact especially if you’re spending all day busy hiking, swimming and climbing. Wild camping gear available from Blacks here.
Can you tell us about your best wild camping experience?
My absolute best experience had to be when we camped out at Gunn Point a couple of weeks ago. Just outside Darwin, in the Northern Territory, it’s a beautiful spot, right on the beach overlooking the water. I woke up at sunrise and opened the boot of the car to see the ocean lapping at the shore just a few metres away. It was the perfect start to a Sunday morning and even better to wake up there with someone special.
How about your worst?
My worst wild camping experience was definitely one of the bad weather ones – camping is so weather dependent and I will always remember one of my Duke of Edinburgh expeditions being rained off after the Yorkshire Dales was hit by severe storms and became flooded. Not only were we soaked through and unable to complete the trip, but then our van broke down at the beginning of the drive home. Another one, when I was down in Melbourne at Wilson’s Promontory National Park – an amazing trip to a stunning place – sadly we woke up after a night of heavy rain to find the whole campsite flooded and the tents full of muddy water.
Finally, can you finish this sentence: I wild camp because…
I love the freedom that comes with it. It’s a simple life where all you need is a shelter, food, a campfire and the stars to really make your day complete. You can disappear into the outback, or to some deserted beach and not a soul will know where you are. You can turn your phone off and really switch off – something that is so important when you work a lot and desperately need some downtime. There’s something really romantic about the idea of traveling the world with the one you love in the back of a van, you have everything you need and can escape into the world for a little while.
What kind of camper are you – luxury, festival or wild? Where are your favourite wild camping spots? What advice would you give to first-time wild campers?