There are many great camping locations throughout Western Australia but often we overlook certain options when the weather cools. Winter camping for Perth locals usually means heading north to find the warmth and sun and with locations like Exmouth or Coral Bay available, it’s not hard to see why. However, the crisp entrance of winter doesn’t mean all your trips require long drives up the coast.
Having the right setup for the conditions and your desired location is the first step to a great winter camping experience. With a little preparation and planning, you can enjoy quieter camp sites and beautiful greenery in the south west even when the temperature starts to dip.
Obvious, right? However, temperatures can fluctuate from being temperate during the day to freezing at night. Choose warm clothes which are easily layered. My absolute must haves are thermals. Jeans won’t always do the job in the evening. Winter clothes can be chunky but warm. However, they can take up room when packing so consider packing light for winter by investing in thinner, lightweight materials that are designed to keep you warm.
Tip: Look out for sales at your local camping or outdoor gear store and you can pick up wool thermals at a great price. Many places have mid year sales, which is perfect for stocking up for a weekend winter trip.
Keep your set up in mind. Sleeping on the ground means you lose a lot of warmth to the earth so investing in the right bedding such as a self-inflating mattress is essential. Choose a sleeping bag with an appropriate thermal rating. A spare rug can also be useful. Better to get too warm and kick it off than freeze.
Tip: Choose a self-inflating mattress with a layer of interior foam to provide extra insulation. We have a roll of foam we put down as well in the floor of the tent and in the Landy to ward off creeping cold and for general comfort.
There are several factors to consider if you are tent camping such as whether your tent is waterproof and how well it can keep out the cold. Also many camp sites don’t have shelter so consider a tarp or gazebo to position over where you would like to sit. Shelter will help to keep the cold off you as the night creeps in and stop frost settling over your equipment.
It will also give you a place to keep out of the rain. Investing in a gazebo or a decent sized tent gives you the option of purchasing side panel attachments. If it does rain or become windy, you will have a more protected place to shelter whilst the weather (hopefully) passes.
When camping at Honeymoon Pool, we saw one set up with a tarp angled over the tent. Unfortunately the tarp would drain water to the top of a slope leading it straight back down again and into the tent. Where it’s set up matters just as much as what you set up!
Tip: When choosing a tent, it’s often a balance between budget and use. Canvas tents can be expensive , but are often waterproof and better suited to the extreme conditions. They are long-lasting and can be a good investment. Less expensive polyester tents can be lighter and do the trick for a quick getaway but may not last as long and may not hold up as well in harsh sun, wind or rain as a canvas tent.
For camping in WA, we are spoilt for choice with excellent locations throughout the state and many close to Perth. Inland in the south west can experience freezing temperatures but close to the coast can be chilly too. Many locations allow a campfire during the cooler months but check in advance that fires are permitted. There is nothing better than sitting around the fire after a day of adventures, relaxing with a drink.
Many destinations in the south west have plenty of activities to keep you warm during the day and are better to undertake in the cooler months. Bushwalking and cycling are great ways to enjoy the natural surroundings and stay busy. The hardest part of camping in winter is trying to get warm again if you body temperature drops. Stay active to keep warm.
Tip: Research the location before you go. The DPAW ParkStay site has information on their camping grounds, which will usually tell you about the facilities available and whether fires are permitted at the time.
A spot of rain here or there is often inevitable during winter but downpours and gale force winds do not make a pleasant camping experience. Check during the week before you go and if you are keen to go despite the weather, ensure your set up can handle the extremes.
Tip: Download weather apps to help you stay ahead of what’s happening. Weatherzone is great but I also use AccuWeather which gives detailed, hourly information on conditions. It is especially useful if you are considering activities on the water.
We lose light early in the winter months and evenings are best spent having a drink around the campfire rather than spending ages chopping and cooking. And often, something out of a can is not very satisfying when you are starving after a long hike, ride or fishing adventure. Eating filling meals is essential to staying warm. Preparing in advance means you can have something healthy and hearty to eat on hand.
Did I mention being prepared?
There are plenty of small things you can do to make your winter camping experience enjoyable. Here are a few quick tips to consider in your set up:
- Bring multiple boxes of matches but store them in different locations. If water gets into your storage box for one, the others will stay safe and dry.
- Frost and damp can creep in overnight so have a set up to keep you and your equipment dry. Sitting in your car shivering is not an enjoyable way to spend your camping trip. Nor is putting on damp clothes or shoes in the morning.
- Once you are cold, it’s hard to warm up again. Choose daily activities that help you to make the most of the sunlight hours.
- Buy good lighting to keep your main shelter lit well. As the sun sets early, you will inevitably need to prepare a meal in fading light. Head lamps are great but there are a range of LED options available which are efficient and will light up your area like a stage.
- Keep your food and other perishable items like toiletries in hard containers. It will keep the damp as well as the critters out of your food and other items. We use a plastic toolbox to keep a first aid kit as well as toothbrushes and other toiletries.
It can take some time to get the right set up and often it’s a matter of practice to find what works for you. Some are happy to chance it without shelter, trusting the fire to keep them warm (youth, eh?). For us, we prefer a little more preparation so we have a good night’s sleep and warm meals making us ready to tackle a day’s adventure.
The outcome of being prepared is the freedom to camp any time of the year with a great range of options available. Camp sites are less busy down south in winter so you can enjoy locations that are often full in summer and admire the beauty of the region without the crowds. Cooler months mean great bushwalking and bike riding opportunities with the forests green from the rain and wildflowers starting to bloom. And with more camping options available, the hardest part will be deciding where to go next.