For many, the southern chill inspires great joy, as it heralds the time when they pack up vans and campers and head north, out into the Never Never, when the more tolerable winter weather takes over and life is good. But for most of us, stuck around home and without the time to get away for half the year, it means damp camps and bitter bivouacs.
You can spot these cold-latitude campers pretty easily. They have pasty faces, damp and saggy clothes hanging limping from their bodies, hair stuck to their foreheads and a shuffle from getting about in damp shoes.
They’re usually spotted in larger regional towns, moping about, looking in windows and eating counter lunches in pubs because life is just too uncomfortable back at camp and everyone is stuck inside their campers or there’s just too little space under the awning to herd the troops.
Have you ever tried to light a fire when all the wood is wet and there’s a cold, damp wind blowing? It isn’t easy, let me tell you. You see these dipsticks in stupid online videos pouring petrol on their firewood and almost blowing themselves and witnesses into the next world and you wonder how crazy can they be? But I’m here to bet that in almost every single case these were poor struggling campers frustrated over their inability to get a campfire going.
Tips on surviving the cold
When you’re stamping your feet, wrapped in every garment you’ve brought with you as well as several pieces of the canvas from that wall kit you never use, and left only to amuse yourself and your wife by creating animal-shaped clouds as you exhale, then you are ready to take on board some of these creative solutions to avoid death by exposure at camp.
Down a nip of warmth
Imbibing a generous quantity of spirituous liquor has a certain ring of genuineness about it, and is one that has been passed through many generations. This isn’t recommended if you’re planning an offroad adventure for the next day, or if you are far from your camper’s bed, as the strategy of sleeping it off in a gutter may result in flash floods taking you to places you never want to go.
Pack the right gear
How many clothes you take on a camping trip is a matter of personal taste, but the wet-weather recourse to empty out the washing bag and round up additional warm gear is perfectly acceptable. The rule of thumb is to take an oversize Driza-Bone so you can cover up whatever you might have piled on underneath. And take your gumboots; not very fashionable but certainly functional.
Keep your wood dry
Even if it means displacing the kids from the backseat of the tow car, having the bag of wood sit on the end of your bed, or storing kindling in the pantry. If you have a swag, take it along as these are good places to store firewood during inclement weather. So are kids’ tents.
Take fire lighters — lots of them — and filled gas lighters and matches. Pretty much anything that might encourage the process of combustion should be included. And leave the jerry can full of fuel in its holder. Really.
Build a windbreak
You can use just about anything that’s handy: any canvas from that wall kit not already wrapped around your body; your tow vehicle; piles of brushwood, dirt, rocks or anything else that can get between you and the weather.
Hit the snooze button
Don’t get up in the morning unless it’s to meet a call of nature, then get back in as quickly as possible. If there’s any sign of the rugrats waking and wanting to frolic on your bed threaten them with a loss of technology privileges or anything else that comes to mind to diminish their ardour. Grab a loaf of bread, butter and your favourite spreads and eat your way in comfort towards evening.
Head into the nearest town
Mooch about looking in shop windows, check the leaflets at the information centre, go to the supermarket, try the library (they’re usually heated) or the local historical museum, top up the fuel in the car, try anything to while away the dismal days.
Check out the full feature in issue #89 June 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine.