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First time campers

After Christmas our family is going to enter the unknown world of camping!

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Growing up, Jeremy and I never did much camping but we know the kids will love it, and living in the Eastland region we are spoilt for beautiful camping spots on our doorstep. We’re taking the advice about “camping local” – as first time campers this is a good way to start because if we get wet, cold or it all turns to custard it’s easy to head home.

We’ve made the all important tent purchase because a good tent can mean the difference between fun and disaster. And we’ve followed Consumer’s helpful tips to get started – setting up the tent to see how everything works and checking we’ve got everything we need. We’ve also bought a few spare pegs just in case little hands like the look of them! A good buying tip (especially for novices) is to look for a tent that has the instructions permanently attached to the carry bag so you can have an easy refresher if you haven’t put up the tent in a while.

A portable gas cooker is on our Christmas list. A 2-burner is the best option for several people and for extended use. It has about one-third the running costs of a single-burner model (excluding the cost of the LPG cylinder). But as we’ll only be occasional campers (at least to start with) we’ve decided on a single burner. They use gas canisters, which are more convenient to use than the larger LPG cylinders. When Consumer last tested single-burner gas cookers we found they were so close in performance you might as well buy the cheapest and we should be able to pick one up for less than $30.

But remember to never use a gas cooker within the tent – no matter how bad the weather. There’s the risk of fire and also fatal carbon monoxide poisoning.

An effective mozzie spray is an essential on the coast. DEET-based insect repellents have long been the gold standard but they have their downsides. Some people don’t like how they smell and feel on their skin and they can damage plastic items such as sunglasses. In Consumer’s latest test of insect repellents we tested 4 DEET products, 2 products containing picaridin and one that used a natural repellent, citronella oil. All the DEET and picaridin products performed well lasting for 4 to 6 hours. The natural product didn’t perform so well – we’ve also found in past tests that natural repellents have some initial effect but it diminishes rapidly so you’ll need to reapply them regularly.

Sophia is now in a bed so thankfully we don’t have to lug a portable cot with us. But if you’re still in the baby phase Consumer has just tested the safety and ease of use of 3 travel cots, which are lighter and more compact than regular portable cots so perfect for camping.

You can check out our full reports on travel cots, portable gas cookers and insect repellents online.

Happy camping!

About the author:

Belinda Allan used to be Consumer's Research Manager with a particular interest in food issues. In her eight years at Consumer she read more labels than she cares to remember! Belinda left Consumer to become a Mum - Charlie is three and Sophia eight months. Definitely the most rewarding but challenging job she's taken on.

Belinda and her family moved to Gisborne for a slower-paced life, to be close to family – and the weather of course. She still writes for Consumer and will be sharing her parenting ups and downs in her blog.