A Camping Guru Story

I was never an academic at school, in fact I was quite disengaged. I left school a skinny, pimple faced, immature (physically and mentally) quiet kid and I had no idea what I wanted to do. The last thing on my mind was wondering what damage I was doing to my planet. All I wanted to do was surf, hang out with mates and go fishing. Little did I know all  these years later, I would be the owner of a camping store, have a personal brand The Camping Guru and have spent the last 24+ years living and breathing all facets of the camping retail industry. Between experiencing an economic boom, a G.F.C, feeling the hard hand of commercial greed and being a part of the information technology evolution – it’s been a wild old ride.  

Before I get into my story – I must tell you, the most exciting thing I have been a part of is the education I have had around “Great Quality Camping Gear” and the social responsibility it delivers to our camping community. For me, great quality has two very rewarding benefits. 

1. It will deliver better camping experiences time and time again. Giving more back to nature experiences = a healthier and better quality of life for our families.

2. Great quality is now more important to than ever before – it lasts longer and therefore creates less waste on our planet… period!! More on this later…. 

A Camping Childhood


Just like eating, drinking and walking – camping for me was something that I did long before my earliest memories as a child. Up until the age of 7, growing up in remote country Victoria I have vivid but intermittent memories of camping and fishing on freshwater lakes, reservoirs, the Murray River and high in the hills of the Grampians. I spent hours by dads side chasing the allusive trout in trickling streams or redfin in his mates dams (they did know you were there dad… didn’t they?). Dad just loved getting outdoors and loved nature. If we were in front of the TV, it wasn’t the footy we were watching – it was something like the Leyland Brothers or an African wildlife documentary and there was always a running commentary from the old boy along the lines of: “Watch this kids, this is amazing!” Even today, dad can tell you some ridiculous statistic or rare behaviour of an animal that we’ve never even heard of or seen. 

Growing Up in a Retail Business

A move to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in the early 80’s saw mum and dad buy a retail business called the Big Mower in Beerwah. Every workday afternoon and saturday morning we spent at the shop as kids. It would appear I was destined to be in retail forever! My parents were extremely hard workers who did long hours, it was here where I started to understand what great service is all about.

Living in Beerwah meant we were within a stones throw of the most diverse and amazing camping environments you’ve ever seen. From the pristine sandy beaches of Fraser Island, the picturesque Borumba Dam in the small township of Imbil, the natural beauty of the rainforest at Booloumba Creek and occasionally on the rarely chartered river system at Harry’s Hut north of Noosa. I had a mentor say to me once that so much of what we do and enjoy later in life comes from environmental conditioning as a kid! Of all the great health benefits I received from camping as a child, it is my love for the peace and quiet, seclusion and sounds I hear when getting back to nature that makes me crave more of it each and every day. My only question now is, why don’t more people see the importance of this for their family? In a modern day world that is filling our busy lives with computers, I think it is of more importance than ever. I think it all gets back to balance! So before you tell me you are too busy – let me remind you of something way bigger than you! Our kids future – i.e: ‘their health’ is at risk and I’m not just talking about their physical health either! If you leave this story with one peace of valuable information, get your kids back to nature, give their brain the opportunity to wind down and reboot… it needs it! They may not appreciate it now, but I guarantee you, they will when they get older!

Why a Camping Store?

Mum and dad were looking for something new to do in the early 90’s. With one sister still in high school and another at Uni and / or traveling the world, mum and dad decided to start a camping store. I still remember dad saying “we love camping, why don’t we open a camping store?” Mum being one to go with the flow and with dad’s creative mind, Camping Country was born.


My folks signed a lease, ordered in some stock, and organised product training from a few of our new suppliers. Dad being highly creative, designed a brand and some cartoon imagery on the front of the shop – at that stage we were on the main drag into the Maroochydore town centre. Timing was impeccable, we were right at the beginning of economic growth in Australia – dad organised a little bit of mainstream advertising, we opened the doors and people started to slowly walk in the doors. I was in my element! I had spent my entire childhood camping at any spare opportunity my parents had and here I am surrounded with fun and exciting stuff!

Never Mix a Hobby with Work?

We’ve all heard it before, when it comes to turning your favourite hobby into a business. If you love fishing… don’t open a fishing store – you’ll never get the time to do things you love and your passion will become something you despise. I disagree entirely! If you are able to find the balance to do both and if it is genuinely a passion… it will most definitely flow through to the customer. When a customer walks into Camping Country Australia, I want them to know they are talking to a camping expert – someone that has camped their whole life and knows their products inside out. 

Sadly, in the modern day world of the internet, we now have large companies that employ amazing marketers who can create a public image that actually contradicts and/or distorts who they really are. 

I decided a number of years ago to buck this trend and tell people who I really am! It’s authentic and it’s real. Quite simply, I take a camera with me when I go camping… I bring you along for the ride with me. There is nothing to hide and our image as a family business is an exact reflection of who we are. Someone that loves camping and knows it inside out. 

 

More Quality and Less waste

I left a campground last year and saw two massive industrial dump bins full of cheap and broken gazebo’s, scissor folding chairs, airbeds and even a few 4WD awnings  – so much of it was barely a couple of years old!! Then last night on the local news – up popped a story on the cheap camping rubbish that had broken, dumped and been left to rot at one of our favourite camping spots… Inskip Point (entry way to Fraser Island for the readers outside of the Sunshine Coast). This all stews me up inside to no end – after all my parents brought me up to understand the value of buying a quality product that lasts!

Unfortunately to maintain endless growth, too many companies in the camping industry (big and small) are producing some disgustingly poor quality product… for the small manufactures it’s out of desperation to maintain some market share, and for the large corporates it’s because they understand how to maintain their profits (endless growth), a short life cycle has to be built into their product.

The earth is heating up and disappointingly, we’re doing everything we can to make this worse by producing more cheap crap and burning fossil fuels like never seen before. It’s a game our natural world cannot win – it’s simply not sustainable. There is too much strain between the corporate product manufacturers / retailers need for endless growth and the planets need for a breather.

So what is the point of sharing this story? We’re in a world where we cannot avoid impacting our planet. At some stage we need to live, go camping and buy some new camping gear, and what we do each own, is the power to make smarter decisions when doing so! 

“It’s quality all the way!”

To use high-quality camping products is not only responsible, it’s a way to pay respect to the user, the use of the camping goods and Mother Nature!

27 Comments

  • simon Hamilton says:

    Hey Jarrod, brilliant piece. I too heard of the rubbish and filth that people left behind at Inskip and Teerwah beach. I have seen it before myself over the years, and I really makes me mad to see the rubbish that people leave behind because they could not be bothered to put it in the bin just 50 meters away, or even better take it home. These people don’t belong in these beautiful places. Before long, no one will be able to go there because of a few ignorant people. On your other point of quality products. I totally agree. It may cost more up front, but the savings for both your self and nature over the years is un beatable! I still have gear that I bought off you guys 20 years ago and still going strong! My initial investment has payed for itself over and over many times compare to the cheap merchandise available in those other stores. Keep up the great work. Simon.

  • David Meakins says:

    Totally agree, have been camping since I too was a kid. Unfortunately work commitments kept me out of this for many years. Have finally realized time is too short & am now enjoying life more going camping again. Hate coming back to the real though.

  • Ronda Vijsma says:

    We love your quality products. We have our great tent, great sleeping gear, and will be embarking on a 4 month trip to Western Australia later this year.
    We too, spend time at Inskip and when we go for a walk each day, we take plastic bags and pick up the smaller rubbish. I think school holidays (which we avoid) are even worse, with people not caring that they are leaving their rubbish for others to remove. This could result in higher camping fees in the future, as rubbish removal will have to be factored in to the fees. Inskip is a great spot which we love. Please don’t rubbish it. Ronda

  • Alice says:

    Fantastic article

  • Mark Wallace says:

    Hi jarrod,
    Thankyou for sharing your personal experiences and thoughts. I love the way camping puts me close to nature also. It helps to bring me back to reality and gives me a better perspective on life. It makes me realise how much waste we produce, especially when I camp in an area with no waste bins and I have to take all my waste home. But this small inconvenience far outweighs the benifits I receive . I value people sharing their thoughts on quality camping equipment and ideas as a means of reducing waste by helping people to select genuine products and designs from people who also enjoy nature and have a healthy respect for its virtues.
    Nature is truly wonderful!

  • Michelle Rowlands says:

    What a great story! We grew up camping as babies and now we have taken our kids from when they were babies! We all love getting out there and enjoying the great outdoors, there’s really nothing like it!

  • NIgel McNeill says:

    Awesome blog……love your shop.

  • Hannah says:

    Great article – thought provoking on many levels.thanks 😊

  • Anna Bradley says:

    The only camping shop to purchase from! The very best equipment and the very best service. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Ian Rogers says:

    Well written Jarrod, I remember when you guys opened in Maroochydore… 🙂 The coast has changed a bit over the years, including your store, but one thing hasnt changed, your love of the great outdoors, your passion and the quality of gear you guys stock. Keep it up 👍

  • Ian Roberts says:

    We congratulate all of your family Jarrod, from Mum & Dad at the top, they have had the hard slog all the way, but at no time have they, and yourself, lost sight of the ‘ Goal Posts’ , and that is looking after your customers. Having runs on the board for customer satisfaction is a great feeling, I can tell you, and you and your staff can hold your heads high, well done Camping Country.

  • Hecter Pascal says:

    Awesome mate. It makes me want to go camping. Keep up that stuff…. it inspires people.

  • Paul Boulton says:

    Great stuff mate, and thank you and your family for your invaluable help and support over the years.

  • Sue says:

    Awesome, Jarrod. My parents were campers and I have photos of myself with our tent on the Coolum foreshore in 1950. My own children were introduced to camping at Sandy Cape and Double Island and I am pleased that their own very young children are now campers as well. We enjoy the 3 generations camping together. We, too, still use camping gear from your first store in Maroochydore…..quality all the way. I love visiting your store for new ideas, gear and truly excellent service.

  • Linda says:

    Awesome write up. Thanks for bringing attention to taking care of mother nature and that we need to protect these beautiful places for more generations to enjoy. Unfortunately NSW and QLD have the highest rates of tree clearing in Australia.
    Also as you say about cheap stuff, China is getting rich on this and buying up Australia fast, so yes everyone please buy quality long lasting and support Australian business likes this one.

  • Loraine & Keith Taylor says:

    Hi Jarrod!
    Great to hear about your life experiences growing up enjoying camping and appreciating our unique environment.
    We agree about buying quality products and how it saves money & our planet. We only have one problem, our gear just doesn’t wear out and the fantastic quality new products that you now carry are too tempting and there is no more space in the camper until our old gear wears out.
    We love walking into your shop and getting that feeling that we’ve come home. Always welcoming and very helpful.
    Thank you Jarrod & Kerry, Rob & Marg

  • Ann Burbury says:

    Great article Jarrod. Many thanks to you and your family for all the help and advice over the years.

  • Kim says:

    Thanks for sharing,a great read. When ever I want camping gear I drive up from Brisbane and you guys give great service and advice and make me feel like part of the family.
    Kim

  • Anne Godfrey says:

    Hi Jarrod, I love the way you speak your heart and stick to your principals. What you’ve said about buying quality as a means of saving the planet is absolutely true, though often ignored because of the hip pocket nerve!
    KEEP NAGGING US!!
    My Dad, Bill, would always make sure we had the best gear possible- even if he had to make it himself. I’ll show you the original “ensuite” tent one day.

  • Thara says:

    Great article Jarrod! And as a lucky person who got to actually camp with you Michaels I know how much it was a part of everyone in your family. Great to hear your doing so amazingly!! Keep up the good work and great articles too!

  • Monica says:

    Wonderful story Jarrod. It makes me want to pack up and go camping again in this beautiful country Keep up that enthusiasm.

  • Bernie says:

    Nice piece Guru, the mindfulness you get in the bush is not replicable and buy stuff once, use it a thousand times

    Keep up the good work!

  • Cheryl Ireland says:

    Hi Jarrod. Congratulations on the blog well written
    agree with you all the way.

  • JJill Chamberlain says:

    Hi Jarrod,

    Terrific article and so true of someone who has grown up camping, and seen areas that were unspoilt. Lucky you!. Unfortunately, your mention of peace and quiet in the bush is so hard to find nowadays. Overcrowded campsites, noisy generators, yobbo campers with no thought for the environment spoiling it for everyone else, and of course the rubbish and dirt left behind. Fraser Island is a classic case of ignorance and disregard to Nature,

  • Jo Bartlett says:

    Watched someone putting down a cheap gazebo at Mooloolaba on Australia Day. When it was all bent and broken, they ended up carting it away as rubbish.
    Funniest thing to watch. I bet they wish they’d paid a little extra for a something that would last….

  • Daryle Cook says:

    Well said Jarrod. You speak for many of us here, and that is why we choose to patronise our local business people who are accountable for the products they sell, whether it be camping or any other products.

  • Rachel says:

    Great article, couldn’t agree more. Love your shop and I know that I’m always getting good service and a quality product.

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