IT WASN’T THE snakes. It wasn’t even the tick that lodged itself deep in my armpit. It was the wrong choice of shoes that created the Camping Trip From Hell.
Instead of proper walking boots, I went with a pair of bog-standard runners, which are fine for sauntering down to the local shops but for a three-night, 60-kilometre hike through rugged coastal bushland – not so much. By that hike’s end my blisters had blisters but I’d learnt a valuable lesson: do your research, be prepared and, above all, wear the correct footwear.
Whether you’re a complete novice or a seasoned Everest campaigner, the act of camping is also an act of self-expression. Are you the khaki-shorts-wearing, grill-your-own-foot-if-you’re-hungry, Bear Grylls type? Or perhaps the more aloof country hipster, who travels nowhere without his Aeropress travel brew kit?
I don’t know exactly where I fit in but, as my mate was extracting that tick from my body with a pocket knife in the middle of nowhere, I do recall thanking my lucky stars I’d packed a hip flask.
What else have I learnt? Boots must be well-walked-in (a former teacher of mine recommended rubbing methylated spirits into the soles of your feet!). Check that your tent works and that all the bits are there (a mallet can be very useful, too), and make a checklist of other essential items: boots, woolly socks, rain jacket, thermals and, most of all, a good sunhat. Because no matter how daggy you look in your high-tech, high-vis NASA-designed artificial fibres, you can always take it to the next level with a floppy Panama.