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Camping Guide For Apartment Living Families

BY JO SIMON

August 13, 2021

INTRODUCTION

Did you know that, according to the 2016 Australian Census data, nearly 11% of apartment residents are 0-11 year-olds? But, despite their limited local outdoor natural spaces, you won't see many apartment dwelling families around the campgrounds – in my experience anyway.

And that statistic was taken 5-years ago. I can only imagine an upward trend since that time given skyrocketing property prices and the level of high-rise developments.

In actual fact, I have observed over recent trips that over 90% of camping families tow something like a trailer, camper trailer or caravan when they go camping. That would not only rule out the average high-rise family, but many other urban families as well.

Benefits of camping

Camping is an exciting and inexpensive family experience and has many benefits for the whole family – getting away from it all and back to the basics, reflecting on life, low cost, and its mental and physical health benefits.

Not only that, children can benefit from camping enormously. They can explore and be adventurous with a level of independence, and just be kids. AND, they just love it.

Natural outdoor spaces

Living in an apartment can be a great family lifestyle choice for many reasons – affordability, location and proximity to work and family.

One of the main frustrations is, as noted in many articles written on this subject including research published in Theconversation.com, many parents living in apartment complexes felt their children did not have sufficient access to local natural outdoor spaces.

While it won't necessarily reduce the importance of local outdoor play for the kids, one great way to get them outside into nature is to take them camping.

Barriers to camping

But on top of the usual challenges of beginner camping families, living in an apartment means you often have:

  1. A lack of storage space, not only for trailers but for bulky camping gear 
  2. Alternative transport and car/ride share options that make car ownership less attractive, or at least a suitable car for camping
  3. Logistical challenges when it comes to loading the car when there are long distances between the camping gear and the loading bay or car park, especially when stairs are involved.

But here's a news flash….

Families living in apartments and smaller homes are just as likely to appreciate the many benefits of camping as anyone else, if not more so given their limited living and outdoor spaces for the kids.

In this article

In this article, we look at the typical challenges specifically facing families living in high-rise apartments to show you how easy it can be, especially through our Camping Kickstart Program. Many of these tips would be equally useful for other families living in smaller homes as well.

Are you new to camping?

For those new to camping, this article should be read in conjunction with our camping for beginners and first time families article:

1: HOW TO CAMP TRAILER FREE 

If you head down to any campground, you will see the overwhelming majority of camping families of 4 or more doing so with the help of some kind of trailer, caravan, RV or even a second car.

Now, if you have a trailer or access to one, you may be better off using it rather than going to the effort of putting a whole trailer free setup together as we describe in this website and our tailored Camping Kickstart Program.

But if a trailer is not an option, you are a family of up to 5, and you want to take the kids camping (which I assume you do if you are reading this), then I highly recommend you keep reading.

Camping trailer free is a very straightforward process, but you need the trifecta working for you: The right camping setup, the right car, and an efficient system for packing the car.

Three images - a packed car boot, car packed and on the road and a camping setup

> Your camping setup

With a planned approach, you can certainly put together a great camping setup for a family of 4-5 that can be transported comfortably and safely by car.

The setups in the images below are examples of compatible setups, at least for a family of 4.

Image of 4 camping setups 1) Marquee and small tent, 2) Touring tent with wall panel accessories for extra room 3) Tent and screen room, 4) Tent and tarp

For the detail, head over to our trailer-free camping setup article and the associated links to the relevant supporting articles. Here we cover each component of your camping setup and provide tips and advice to help you choose the right kinds of products in the context of camping trailer free. 

Alternatively, for a more supported solution, inquire about our Camping Kickstart Program and you could be camping in as little as 28 days.

You can also head over to get a copy of our popular editable camping checklist.

> The right car

You also need the right kind of car for camping capable of carrying the load. Specifically, your chosen vehicle will need to have:

  • An adequate payload to carry your particular load. We generally work on a payload of around 500 kg, but that may vary depending on your circumstances.
  • A sufficiently large rear cargo area or boot. We generally require a vehicle with a rear cargo space of at least 100 cm deep.
  • Roof rails to carry the gear that the rear cargo area won't hold, unless it is sufficiently large enough to hold all of your gear internally.

Alternatives to actually buying a vehicle include hiring or renting one, which is covered in point two below. This can be done either through a commercial rental car company or one of the various car share services now available.

Another solution if your current vehicle does not meet our requirements would be to hire a second smaller one to carry the extra load until you were ready to upgrade your car.

This would also save on the higher cost of hiring the types of vehicle we suggest below, but may only be a good short-term solution until you can upgrade your vehicle to a more suitable one.

In our Camping Kickstart Program we cover in detail how to choose the right kind of car for camping.

> How to pack the car

You've got a great camping setup and the right kind of car capable of carrying the load.

The final piece to the puzzle is the way in which you pack the car.

Car loaded with camping gear and bikes driving

Essentially, in our trailer-free formula for packing the car, we break down our gear into three components:

  • Tent: Firstly our tent and some tent accessories are transported on the car roof, either placed in a roof box, bag or tray, or strapped directly to the roof racks. 
  • Bedding and clothing: Soft, padded items like sleeping bags and sleeping mats are transported in the rear passenger cabin, space permitting, with the remainder of the bedding as well as clothing transported on the car roof.
  • Everything else: The rest of your gear, including camp furniture, the various camp kitchen components, tools, lighting, electronics and incidentals, is transported in the rear cargo area. It might look like a lot, but it is totally achievable.

All of the above is spelled out in much more detail in our Camping Kickstart Program. If you want to avoid all of the trial and error, and be out there and camping in as little as 28 days, click on the link below for further information.

2: WHEN HIRING OR RENTING A CAR

A common feature of apartment living is accessibility to schools, work, public transport, the local amenities and access to share vehicles, taxis and rideshare services.

With all of this so easily at hand, and more apartments not even providing car parking, hiring or renting a vehicle for your camping getaways can be a really practical and cost-effective option if you don't own one.As hire cars usually lack the useful roof rails and crossbars, your car hire options for a family or group of up to five will be limited to vehicles with an adequate payload or weight carrying capacity. They will also need a sufficiently large internal cargo space to comfortably and safely hold all of your gear, such as:

> 8-seater “people movers”

Image of people mover vehicle

8-seater people movers are commonly available for hire and are an excellent choice for a camping holiday for up to 4-5 people if a dual cab ute with a canopy (see below) was difficult to secure.

These vehicles provide the two main elements we look for in a car – good cargo space with the third row of seats folded down, and a high payload intended for transporting a lot of people.As with most hire cars, they won't typically come with a cargo barrier if that safety feature is important to you.

> A dual cab ute with a canopy 

Image of dual cab ute with canopy

Being a “workhorse”, these vehicles also have a high payload for carrying heavy work/trade materials, and a very large cargo area which also has the added safety feature of being completely separate from the passenger cabin.These vehicles would hands down be your best option for camping. In our experience though, many available for hire are not fitted with the necessary rear canopy.

> Campervans and motorhomes

Image of a campervan parked by the water with two people admiring the viewImage of a large motorhome

If you are going to hire a car, consider whether going a step further and hiring a campervan or motorhome would be a better option, especially if you are new to camping and are still building up your setup. 

They are, however, not as readily available as hire cars and need to be booked fairly well in advance.

3: HOW TO STORE YOUR GEAR IN A SMALL SPACE

One of the issues facing apartment dwelling families and also those living in other smaller properties is the limited amount of available storage space, both inside the home as well as in any storage cages or units provided in your apartment complex.

But we do need some storage space, and primarily in the one location where it can be maintained, sorted and replenished in between trips in readiness for a quick getaway at any time.

When time to pack and load the car, it should be taken from and returned to this location with minimal double handling.

Whether you store your camping gear in a spare room, your storage unit, garage or shed, your parent's garage or an external storage facility, we have a tried and tested solution for you.

Firstly, how much storage space do you need?

It goes without saying that you shouldn't need much room to store your camping gear if you have followed our advice on this website and kept it all to the confines of your car and car roof.All you really need for our setup is an area that is about 1.5 metres wide by 1 metre deep (60 x 40 in). If you don't have access to a storage facility, try a section of wall in a spare room or other out of the way place. Shielded by a nice room divider and you would (sort of) barely know it was there! In fact, you will probably have some space in this area to store other items as well.While you might want to keep a few items separately in your home, such as some clothing, first aid and toiletry items, most of your camping gear can be stored in this one location.

For our guide to storing your camping stuff, download your free copy here.

4: HOW TO CHOOSE GEAR THAT WILL BE EASY TO DRY

Firstly, as we mention and in our tips for choosing your tent article, if you have limited space at home to actually erect your tent to dry, then the smaller single-room tents with separate annex panels will be easier to dry than the larger two and three-room tents.

Not only that, tents that allow the frame to be removed, such as your typical dome tent, will be even easier, allowing you to hang the tent fabric on the clotheslines and drape over balconies (if permitted), doors and furniture.

Tips on drying your gear

Sometimes most of the drying can be done actually at the campsite. Obviously, attempting to do so in the rain might prove fruitless, but if the weather is clear, as early in the day as possible:

  • shake the water off the tent as much as possible
  • wipe down the tent with a towel or cloth
  • scrape off any dirt from the pegs and under the floor
  • and finally, move it and any additional panels to a sunny area to dry, making sure of course it can't blow away in the wind

Packing up your tent into its bag should be the last thing you do before you leave to maximise drying time.

Other options for drying out your tent include common areas, taking it to someone's place who does have the required outdoor space (together with their beverage or chocolate of choice) or taking it to a local park if permitted.

5: HOW TO CHOOSE SPACE-EFFICIENT GEAR

And finally, when you live in an apartment or smaller home, there's usually not a lot of room for bulky camping gear. So, while minimising what we take is important generally, it is all the more so when you live in a smaller home.

We've put a lot of thought into this and have published a space-saving ideas for camping article, which has loads of ideas.

In particular though, when choosing the individual items for your setup, here are some tips specific to high-rise families and those with particular space challenges:

Avoid large tents

Image of two camping setups of tents 1) with a two smaller tents and 2) with a smaller tent and separate annex using loose panels

Living in an apartment, the biggest consideration when choosing your tent will be the practicalities of how to dry it out when you return home, which is inevitable if you camp often enough.

If you have limited space to dry out wet camping gear, choose one or two smaller tents rather than one large one (see image above left).

Alternatively, you could also choose a small tent that you can extend to create an enclosed annex using wall panel accessories that are much easier to dry (see image above right). The basic tent and the separate loose panels will be much easier to dry than larger two and three-room tents. Tents with removable frames, such as your typical dome tent, will be even easier, allowing you to hang the tent fabric on the clotheslines and drape over balconies, doors and furniture.

Buy easily stackable and packable gear

Two images of stackable plates and a folding table and chair

When shopping for your camping gear, choose space-saving items that stack and pack efficiently, such as stackable dinnerware and cookware, lightweight bath towels, stackable plastic storage containers, and collapsible items such as for your bucket.

Limit the volume of your kitchenware

Your camp kitchenware is also notoriously bulky and difficult to store. As shown in the image above, the kitchen and cookware, excluding the camp / dutch oven and related bulky campfire cooking accessories, will comfortably fit into a container measuring W:60 x D:40 x H:30 cm (W:24 x D:16 x H:12 in) and a medium sized lunch cooler bag.

Image of kitchen container with content laid out on a table

Limit the size of your icebox or fridge 

For further reading


Trailer-Free Camping Setup Inspirations

Thank you for reading!

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