So…we went camping, with an almost five year old and a one year old, in the middle of a Victorian winter and…it was fun!
In fact, the only thing that stopped it from being completely fantastic was me and all my needless worrying. Story of my life really. Anyway, back to camping. We decided to go to Warburton, a small village on the Yarra River about 90 minutes for Melbourne. We decided on camping because it’s cheap, but also because it fits with our priorities of spending time outside together as a family and moving. I got all these incredulous questions from people at work on my return, basically along the lines of ‘what possessed you to do that?!’. I think our priorities are still quite different to a lot of people’s.
We camped at a caravan park which is a great option for camping with young kids as you still have access to toilets, showers and other amenities and you don’t need to take water or to walk very far with all your gear to your camp site.
We didn’t completely decide to go until we knew that it wouldn’t be raining as it would have been too unpleasant I think with the kids and rain. So we left after the rain stopped, but it was cold. Not northern hemisphere cold of course, but getting close to 0 degrees celsius on our first night there and a bit warmer the second night, around 5 or 6 degrees. This was something I was worrying about before we left, would we be warm enough, especially the baby. We don’t have any fancy gear either to help to keep us warm. David and I dug out our old thermals and took those and I found an old merino wool top of Lou’s that Belle wore, but mainly it was just picking well from our ordinary clothes. Hats and gloves of course, and fleece type jackets for the girls. Lou hates jackets and shoes and socks and hates wearing pants to bed so that was a bit of hard work as she was constantly trying to strip off her clothes. We also had a water proof suit for Belle which was great as she spends a lot of time on the ground and would have been quite wet otherwise.
At night, it wasn’t too hard keeping Belle warm as she had her thermal, then her sleeping bag and we put her in between us so she didn’t seem cold. On the first night I found it hard to get to sleep though as my face was cold and I slept with a beanie on. We were worried about Belle on the morning after our first night as it was super cold and she was very pale with blue lips despite being all rugged up and in the carrier. The sun came out though and the day got warmer so we decided to stay for a second night which was a far less cold night thankfully!
Our camp site was in front of a lovely river, but there was a section of bush in between us and the river which was good for safety. I had wondered if Belle would be trying to crawl off on her own, but still really stuck quite close to us when we put her on the ground and didn’t venture near the fire either, I don’t think she liked the smoke. Lou too didn’t stray too far either. She enjoyed feeding the ducks at the river, collecting fire wood in a wheelbarrow and picking flowers around our camp site. On our second day we went to Healesville Sanctuary, where we had a great time wandering around the bushy paths next to lovely creeks looking at the Australian animal exhibits. There were lots of things to climb on too, as well as the playground where even the grown-ups got to do some hanging and supported squatting.
We don’t have any sort of cooler or portable fridge anymore so our diet was a bit abysmal. Breakfast was fine as we just did our usual scrambled eggs, but dinner was trickier. Baked beans, gluten free toast, gluten free noodles, fruit and (reasonably healthy) chips and gluten free crackers was the bulk of what we ate, as well as some dark chocolate and red wine for David and I in the night. Belle isn’t a big fan of soup, but that probably would be a good option. And some type of cooler would mean at least for one night you could pretty much have a normal meal (particularly if you froze something that could then be reheated in a saucepan, like some mince and veggies). I found the girls seemed to be quite hungry a lot, probably because it was cold and they were moving frequently so I think taking lots of snacks is a must for camping. We have a bit of an 80/20 approach to food anyway, so eating a less than perfect diet for a few days camping fits with our general food philosophy.
Despite the cold, we would have been happy to stay longer. It would have been good to walk into town from our camp site, hire bikes and do the Lilydale to Warburton rail trail for a bit and explore more around the river with the kids. And I found that I became more relaxed over the course of our trip as I think much of my fear stems from worrying about coping with things as they arise and once a few of the things I’ve been worrying about turning out fine, my anxiety gradually settles down.
And as much as we are all for minimalism, some better gear would really help: better, flexible water proof boots for Lou; soft water proof shoes that stay on (!) for Belle; thermals for Lou so she’s warm even without her jacket and waterproof jackets for all of us, maybe shell type ones that can be worn over fleeces. Being just slightly better equipped might be the difference between more outside movement time and so is probably worth the investment. Having an organised system for all the stuff you need would make things easier too. Someone from work was telling me how they have all of their camping stuff organised into plastic crates that they just throw in the car each time they go. It took us ages to pack, and ages to get organise each day at the campsite so having some sort of system would help make the most of the experience I think.