Calling All Urban Parents And Caregivers

Esp. Of Primary and Pre-school Aged Children

Ready To Unleash Their Inner Explorer?

Learn The Five Keys To Camping For Urban Families

Mockup images of E-book, computer, tablet and iphone screens and infographic
So You Can Enjoy The Best Of Both Worlds!

Are you living in the big smoke, and looking to get your kids off the screens and out of the house, to explore, and learn, and just be kids, like the good old days?

To enjoy some quality one-on-one time with them, far from the hustle and bustle of city life? Summer holidays, school holidays, weekends - any time you like really?

The problem is, perhaps you've never camped before yourself, or at least not with children. Perhaps you didn't even grow up in a camping culture.

Heck, while the kids are champing at the bit to go camping, you might not even know if you will like it!

You just know that there is something missing, and they are spending too much time indoors and on the screens, rather than being outdoors and active.

Image of family watching sunset (1)

And, they grow up so quickly - in the blink of an eye as they say.

Well, if you want to unleash your child's inner explorer, before it's too late to reap the full benefits of camping, then you are absolutely in the right place.

Because, gearing up for camping can be a challenge if you have no plan as to where to start, what to buy, and how to camp.

Especially if you don't have the luxury of hitching up a trailer or caravan to the back of your car every time you want to hit the road, and no way of doing it without one.

So, sit back, relax, turn off the distractions, and learn how you could be a short few weeks away from taking the kids camping.

And not just once, but even starting your family camping tradition. One they will remember fondly, benefit from enormously, and want to share with their families. 

In this article

In this article, we will look at why urban families are very much under-represented at campgrounds compared to those living in suburban and rural areas.

We cover how you can swap your urban surrounds for the great outdoors and take the kids camping, any time you like, even with short notice?

 With our top five keys to camping for urban families, you will be on an equal footing with other families. In fact, when all is said and done, I think you will agree you will be way out in front on many levels.

Image of car and tent at night with stars

I will focus on apartment living families in this article, but the principles apply equally if you live in a smaller home - units, flats, townhouses and terrace houses.

I will also give you tips to help you DIY everything we cover in this article.

But I will also reference our Camping Kickstart Program to help you avoid all of the trial and error with a tried and tested solution, which you can sign up to at settocamp.com/kickstart.

This program covers everything you need to know about camping trailer free, from the planning process right through to your return home.

It’s truly a one-stop-trailer-free-shop with detailed guides and tips on camping for beginners, camping for families, tent camping tips, camping in all kinds of weather, camping health and safety, hacks and alternative uses, space, time and cost saving tips. And there is a whole lot more to come.

And if there is anything missing, I’d love to hear from you. So let’s get started!

Introduction

It was a real surprise to read that, according to the 2016 Australian Census data, nearly 11% of apartment residents are 0-11 year-olds. Such a statistic, I imagine, would be much higher in many other countries.

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 6-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.

Image of Mother and 2 daughters enjoying city skyline - image from their backs

Living in an urban area is absolutely a great lifestyle choice for many families because of affordability, location, social life, and proximity to work and family. These features are all highly sought after by families.

However, children often don’t have sufficient access to local natural outdoor spaces. And, here's what you can do about it.....

The Five Keys To Camping For Urban Families


On top of the usual challenges of any beginner camping family, a number of specific barriers and characteristics to apartment and urban life are addressed in this article.

Specifically:

1.  A lack of storage space, not only for trailers but for bulky camping gear.

2.  Alternative transport and car/rideshare 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.

While the tips outlined below are designed specifically for urban and apartment living families, they may well be equally relevant to many other budding camping families as well.

And, I say, these put you on an equal footing with other camping families. But when you look at how cost effective, efficient and comfortable our style of camping is, I believe you will be way out ahead on many levels.

#1: The Trailer-Free Trifecta: Travel Trailer Free

Split image of a camping setup (top image) and a loaded car (bottom image)

Firstly, since we don't have the parking space, the key to camping for urban families of up to 5 is to avoid the need for any kind of trailer, camper trailer, caravan, RV, or an enormous car for that matter, and to camp trailer free.

And by that we mean to transport everything and everyone using just your vehicle.

Now that might be easy to do if you go down and visit the local hiking store for some lightweight, relatively uncomfortable overnight hiking gear for your camping setup. And perhaps also leave the bikes and other fun things at home.

But not if you want to camp comfortably, travel safely and participate in activities such as bike riding, fishing, 4-wheel driving (etc) like other camping families.

For that, you need:

  • A comfortable camping setup that can be comfortably and safely transported by car
  • A compatible car capable of carrying the load safely 
  • An efficient way of packing it.

> Your camping setup

Firstly, you need a family camping setup that can be transported comfortably and safely by car. One that also includes a well equipped kitchen, good lighting, a decent tool-kit and good outdoor shelter as well as comfortable sleeping arrangements. And of course, a chair for everyone.

The setups in the images below are examples of compatible setups, at least for a family of 4-5, that we can help you put together in the Camping Kickstart Program.

Image of 4 camping setups

While exactly what you will include in your camping setup will vary, everything will generally fall into the following categories:

  • Tent and accessories
  • Tools
  • Power and fuel
  • Lighting
  • Camp kitchen
  • Refrigeration
  • First aid
  • Bathroom
  • Furniture
  • Sleeping
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment

Feel free to download our camping checklist here.

Alternatively, head over to the Camping Kickstart Program for a detailed walk through of everything in our Kickstarter Kit, together with printable and editable checklists, and access to our exclusive Facebook group and one-on-one support.

> Your vehicle

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

  • An adequate payload to carry your particular load. While for our type of setup, smaller vehicles will be out of the question, there are some mid-size vehicles that would be compatible, at least for a younger family of four.
  • A sufficiently large rear cargo area or boot - with a minimum depth of around 100 cm / 39 inches.
  • 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
  • Hiring a second smaller one to carry the extra load until you were ready to upgrade your car
  • Borrowing one, if you are the reliable type

In our  Camping Kickstart Program we cover in detail how to choose the right kind of car for camping, including the best mid-size cars for camping trailer free. AND, we have hired and packed our fair share of them to show you how it is done.

> An efficient way 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, our Trailer-free Formula for packing the car goes like this:

  • TentFirstly 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.

You can read more about our tips for packing the car for camping here.

All of the above is spelled out in much more detail in our  Camping Kickstart Program, including our step by step process with images for packing five different vehicles to show how it could be done.

#2: Hire Car Stars: Rent Or Hire The Right Vehicle (If You Don't Own One)

A common feature of high density 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 and other properties 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 and 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.

The share economy

The worldwide movement to rent or hire rather than buy has extended to the car market. This gives you much more flexibility to source the right kind of car for your needs from individual car owners themselves for the period you want it. 

Campervans/motorhomes

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: Store And Order: Minimize Storage Space Required

One of the issues facing apartment living 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.

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 and kept it all to the confines of your car and car roof.

All you really need for our type of setup is an area that is about 1.5 meters wide by 1 meter 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.

Diagram of storage space required

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.

Recommended shelving

The camping gear can be stored on two sturdy shelving units that are available from any hardware store measuring W:90 x D:40 x H:180 cm (W:35 x D:16 x H:70 in) or resting next to them on the floor according to the layout below.

One particularly deep shelf of the same height and width would also be suitable. Just make sure they have five shelves.

Image of two storage shelves side by side - one empty and one loaded with camping gear

Having one deep shelf instead of two shallow ones side by side allows you to place items at right angles rather than parallel to the wall, making the items easier to access and remove.

When constructing the two shelf units, the shelves should be fitted at identical intervals and the shelving units placed one in front of the other to make one deep shelf unit to measure around 90 cm / 35 in wide by 80 cm / 32 in deep.


Location of shelving
  • Choose one locationIdeally, your camping gear should be stored, maintained, sorted and replenished in the one location as much as possible. This allows for easier loading and unloading of the car and minimal double handling.
  • Locate close to the exitCarrying sometimes heavy and bulky camping gear through tight spaces and long distances can be difficult and frustrating. Whether you store your gear in a shed, garage, storage facility or spare room, it should be located as close as possible to the door / entrance of the storage area, and also to where the car will be situated for loading and unloading.
  • Establish a sorting area: Ideally, your camping storage area should have a table, bench or other flat surface nearby to allow you to quickly sort out or check an item or bag without necessarily removing it from the storage area. If there isn't sufficient space for a permanent flat sorting surface, you could just temporarily pull out a camping table.

#4: Not The Space Jam: Buy Space Efficient Gear

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

In particular though, when choosing the individual items for your setup:

Avoid large tents

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.

Alternatively, you could also choose a small tent that you can extend to create an enclosed annex using wall panel accessories. 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.

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 maximize 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.

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.

Limit the volume of your kitchenware

Your camp kitchenware is also notoriously bulky and difficult to store. As shown in the image below, the kitchen and cookware, excluding the camp / dutch oven and related bulky campfire cooking accessories, will comfortably fit into a 35 liter container 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 

Similarly, the size of your icebox or fridge needs to be big enough to service your family or group, but no bigger in our opinion than 40-50 liters.

Consider hiking style bedding

When looking at bedding options for the kids, consider hiking style sleeping bags as well as sleeping mats rather than the more bulky alternatives you will find in camping and general department stores. 

Acquaint yourself with your local hiking store and you will also be equipped (at least in the sleeping department) for an overnight hike when the opportunity arises.

More compact bedding options will be much easier to store at home as well as to pack in the car.

Just remember though, we suggest buying the best quality products you can afford. Also don't try to save space at home by storing sleeping bags and self-inflating mats/pads packed tightly in their stuff sacks. Keep them loose to maintain their loftiness and they will last you for years to come.

Layer your clothing

When you have limited car space as well as home storage space, choose compact and lightweight clothing, and especially in cold weather, follow the three-layer rule with synthetic and wool-based clothing.

More compact but good quality outer, middle and base layers will be as efficient in terms of warmth, if not more so, than a heavy and bulky overcoat, but it will be much more space-efficient. 

Keep this in mind whenever you are buying clothing that might come in handy for camping, even if it might cost a little more.

Focus on items with a smaller pack size
2 Images - one of compact lighting and the second of compact devices

When buying your camping gear, such as chairs, furniture, lighting, devices, games and entertainment, be selective and choose good quality but more compact items when packed up. You don't necessarily need the smallest item on the shelf, but don't go for the biggest one either.

Every bit counts

Scrutinize everything you include in your camping setup in terms of size, including the small stuff. A small saving on one item might not sound much, but multiplying that saving across everything in your setup will make a big difference to your packing and storage requirements.

#5: A quick pack is a good pack

When you are living in close proximity to a whole lot of people, you don't want them all to know you are heading out of town for a few days.

And that tends to happen when you take hours to pack and load the car. You want to be packed and gone in as little time as possible, and as discreetly as possible:

  1. Store and organize your gear to speed up packing - see point 3 above..

  2. Establish a plan for packing your car, and stick to it, so that when you are packing the car there is no second guessing or hesitation.

  3. Leave plenty of space, as a tightly packed car will take longer to pack.

  4. Return everything to its storage location ready to be transferred to the car, to speed up the packing process.

  5. Remove items you won’t be taking from the vehicle early in the day to reduce packing time.

  6. Break-up the packing process to avoid drawing attention to yourself by packing all at once. Ie, pack the rear cargo area first, say in the morning, then the rear passenger cabin later, and then before you leave, the roof load.

  7. Gear packed together in the car should be stored together where appropriate to save packing time.

  8. Invest in a trolley to help carry the load if the car is not situated close to the storage area.

  9. Pack smaller items in larger bags or containers to avoid multiple trips to/from the car.

  10. Sign on to the Camping Kickstart Program (settocamp.com/kickstart) for our step by step photo by photo system for packing a variety of vehicles :)

And Finally, Join Us In The Camping Kickstart Program

So there you have it - no practical excuses now!

Hi, Jo Simon here!

I’m not one of those guru’s who has all of the sales funnels and marketing ploys (although I do out of necessity try).

I’m an urban mum living in inner-city Melbourne, and our first family camping experience involved a weeklong record rainfall event with our then 5-month old son, and a brand new tent that was totally inadequate for the conditions.

If not for our co-camping friends, who all had great camping setups brought along courtesy of their trailers, we would have headed home not long after we arrived.

Not owning a trailer, or wanting to own one for lack of storage, I set about putting together a camping setup to rival that of our friends without the need for one.

After a couple of camping trips a year for about 4-years, and lots of trial and error and regret buys, I finally had a  “trailer- free” camping setup we were happy with.

I have a background of over 25 years in accounting, business and financial management, and corporate governance, mostly in the not-for-profit sector.

And, with those skills, I felt I could really help others - fellow urban parents whose dreams of an adventurous and outdoor childhood for their kids are still dreams. 

I put my money and my time where my mouth is, and started the popular trailer-free camping blog, SetToCamp.com, in 2018 to help others.

I then developed the Camping Kickstart Program with a step-by-step process to help you go camping like a pro, in 4 weeks, and not the 4 plus years it took me.

But hurry, the program for what you get as well as what you gain is a steal , and is available today at a low price.

If you have any comments, suggestions or feedback, I would love to hear from you. You would not only be helping me, but other urban families yet to take the leap. Settocamp.com/chat/.

I hope to see you on the inside.

 


Jo Simon

Image of Jo Simon