One of the wonderful things about living in a country that has no snakes, no poisonous insects and only a couple of rarely seen harmful spiders, is that we can enjoy camping without the worry of nocturnal visits from venomous critters. We are also lucky that in New Zealand most Kiwis still have a decent sized property, or at least a backyard, so we don’t have to head off to the wilderness to enjoy the fun of camping. In fact if you ask, most New Zealanders have at some stage had the quintessential Kiwi experience of backyard camping.
There is no better way to share a summer weekend or holiday with your family than camping out in the backyard. To begin with you have the challenge of erecting the tent. For small children this may mean holding the pegs or pulling the ties, while older children can actively help with positioning poles, pegs and ties. Once the tent is up it is time to fill it with sleeping bags, pillows, cuddly toys, books, and maybe a small pet or two! Most people will find that the family cat and/or dog will be more than fascinated with the strange apparition in the garden. You may also find that they will wish to spend the night in the tent too!
Once the bedding is sorted, it is time to gather other supplies. Of course no backyard camping experience is complete without a fire. For some this may be a small portable cooker, for others it may mean a brazier or small contained brick fire on the lawn. The fire will be the focus of the evening when it is time to cook sausages for dinner, and once the fire has burned down to embers it will be time to bring out the marshmallows! You can also add chocolate biscuits to the supplies; these are a real treat with melted marshmallows, or sandwich a piece of chocolate with your marshmallow in a plain biscuit (known as s’mores). Another key item for Kiwi camping is a hot Milo, this is just like cocoa but a bit more kiwi.
Once you are settled around the fire you can start the storytelling. Of course ghost stories are a must for older children, but fairytales will suffice for most generations – and it is amazing how much better a story is told when you are in the outdoors, especially at night. After the stories come the camp fire songs. For old Scouts and Girl Guides this is a great time to shine, and if you are talented on the guitar or ukulele you will be the life of the camp party. There are so many great songs that go with Kiwi camping including Ten Guitars, E Papa, Campfires Burning, Alice the Camel, Found a Peanut, and Puff the Magic Dragon etc. Campfire singing is a great time to teach your children songs from older generations and from around the world.
After the thrill of stories and songs, lay back and enjoy the incredible stars above you. Older children will be fascinated to see all the satellites moving around above them. You can even download an App on your iPhone or iPad that identifies stars, planets, galaxies and satellites that you see in the night sky. The highlight of course will be who gets to see the first shooting star.
Then it will be time to settle down in the tent. If you have young ones, now will be the time that a real toilet is a blessing and you will be glad you aren’t in the bush. But don’t expect much sleep of course, between pets climbing all over you, snoring, and small people squashed up against you, you may only get to dream of sleep. But for parents let it be enough to know you have given your kids an amazing night and have created family memories of Kiwi camping in the backyard (and be safe in the knowledge that your own bed awaits tomorrow!).