The "Joy" Of Camping

For many people, hearing the simple statement, “I’m going camping”, can elicit a look of discomfort at best and horror at worst.

Why is this the case? Why do so many adults react with horror to the thought of going camping?

I have my theories about this, but I think that much of the blame may be placed at the door of many teenage school and Scouts type camps.

Do you remember those camps? I still do, and I still like camping, but can certainly relate to people whom those camps left scarred for life (mentally scarred that is!)

What Was Wrong With Those Camps and That Style of Camping?

There was plenty that we endured on those camps that were less than positive.


Tents were often old-style canvas or early nylon tents – often without tent flys. This lack of a tent fly meant they leaked. As School camps generally took place during mid to late spring, when it can rain a great deal, clothing and sleeping bags often got damp or wet.

What You Slept On

If you were lucky, you were one of the kids that had a rubber sleeping mat. If you were not so lucky, you slept in your sleeping bag directly on top of a groundsheet. However, the sleeping mat was not a lot better, being akin to sleeping on a thick piece of cardboard.

All night you tossed and turned, trying to find a new position that would give more comfort and relieve your aching shoulder, hip or back.


Food was often fairly average, dominated as it was by various out of a packet, simply add water and heat type dishes.


I think this is an area of the early camping experience that still bothers many people. Toilet conditions were often very primitive in the extreme, often involving the digging of small personal cat pits or smelly long drops.

What Has Changed?

A great deal has changed for the better since the school camps of my youth. It has been the development of so much better equipment that has led to this change.


Tents now come in a dizzying range of styles, colours, shape and convenience. Many of even the cheapest tents will keep you dry and snug in all but the worst weather conditions. If you are prepared to spend more money, you can purchase tents that are lighter in weight, made of better materials and will stand up to blizzards.

At the other end of the size spectrum, there are huge family tents available, perfect for some form of car camping.

It is Now Possible To Have a Great Nights Sleep

While some people still have their rubber mat, I am not one of them! There is now a whole range of sleeping pad options. On our multi-day river trips, we issue thick self-inflating mattresses to customers, which allow a great nights sleep. Thinner three quarter length options are available if you are hiking or tramping.

My personal favourites are the down inflatable sleeping mats. These are a little like an air mattress in having to be inflated but are light, pack small, warm and comfortable. Perfect for a good nights sleep.


Surprisingly not as much has changed on this front, especially if you are carrying everything on your back. Our river trips are quite different. Expect three-course dinners, fresh vegetables and meat, wine etc. If you can comfortably carry it, which you can in a raft, then why not have it.

The Toilet

There are still a range of toilet options. Cat pits are still a common option if out in the bush. On the river, we use a fold-out style toilet seat which is comfortable, hygienic and surprises many people with how clean and simple going to the toilet while camping can be.

In conclusion, camping has come a long way since the days of your youth (that is if you are old as I am). I think you could be very pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and fun it can now be. I dare you to try it.

Brian Megaw

A Few Of Our Favourite Camping Spots

Camping at Tommy’s on our new 8 day horse trek -The River Valley Ride

The campsite by The Narrows on The Epic Rangitikei multi-day river trip

kids on a whanganui dories trip

One of the DOC campsites we visit on a Whanganui River Dories trip

Camping next to the river at ‘Christmas Camp’ on a Rangitikei River Explorer trip

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