Rainforest

PREPARING FOR YOUR RAINFOREST CAMPING EXPERIENCE:

 

RAINFOREST CAMPING – PREPARATION

Kerri and I love camping in the rainforest, it just feels so fresh, so rejuvenating and it’s just so damn pretty. It’s alive with nature and it’s an incredibly complex ecosystem that is working away, right in front of you. Rainforests are very moist environments and this is something we all need to be very aware of. This affects our camping gear, our camping experiences, the type of gear we need, the type of vehicle we need and let’s not forget the rise and fall of creeks we have just crossed coming in. Once again, it’s all about research and preparing yourselves for the best camping experience ever.

Bollard Campsites:
Here in South-East Queensland, many of the rainforest camping destinations are in national parks and the campsites have separation bollards between your vehicle (including trailers) and the area in which you set up the tents or shelter. This means all of your camping gear has to be carried from your car, past the bollards (short upright pine posts sticking out of the ground) and over to your campsite platform. In most cases the campsite platforms have pre-set tent designated areas. So it’s a good idea to prepare for this type of campsite, by knowing the size of your tent or tarp. When preparing your camping gear, it would be easier in smaller kit form and as lightweight as possible. Don’t forget, if you have a range of 12-volt operated camping products such as LED lighting and refrigeration that plugs into your vehicle, you will either have to come up with some pretty long cables or have an external/portable battery system. The great things with these bollard divided campsites is the fact they are usually closer to the creeks for swimming.

Weather preparation – rainforest camping:
You really have to be well prepared and researched when it comes to rainforest camping. Most of the rainforest type destinations I have camped in rarely have any mobile phone coverage whatsoever. If you’re like me and like to keep an eye on your smartphone weather app when camping you are in all sorts of trouble. Once you make your decision to rainforest camp and you are finally at your destination, you need to handle whatever comes your way. I usually prepare by watching the weather forecast right up until the day I leave home and pack accordingly. When the weather is good, camping in the rainforest and swimming in the crystal clear creeks can’t be beaten. I can’t recommend it enough!

CHOOSING A CAMPSITE – RAINFOREST CAMPING

Open-area campsites:
The open-area rainforest campsites are incredibly popular and that’s because of the accessibility with camper trailers, and sometimes caravans. Because there are no campsite boundaries (it’s a free for all environment), they can become quite densely populated and this type of open area rainforest campsite usually entails a walk to the creek for a swim.

Solar:
Due to the natural rooftop canopy of the rainforest, there is usually limited sun and that makes it tough for those of us who want to use solar panels. The open-area rainforest campsites that aren’t under the tree canopy are obviously better for those with solar.

Legalities:
Because most rainforest camping destinations are in national parks, there are some legalities that we all must follow. It is illegal to use petrol driven generators or to camp with domestic animals. This is something to consider when preparing for a rainforest camping trip if it is in a national park.

Wet:
What sets rainforest camping apart from all the other natural environments is the wet. Rainforests are wet environments and being prepared for this is essential. I don’t mean it’s going to rain the whole time, I mean, a lot of it can be damp. The ground can be damp, the grass can be damp and of course the trees hold a lot of moisture too. The rainforest canopy ensures we have limited sun filtering through and this can limit the type of camping gear we take and or require. It also makes for a slippery environment under-foot, the good old pluggers (Aussie for thongs or jandles for our international readers) are not always the greatest choice for footwear for this reason.

Wet – clothes airer:
It’s a great place to take a miniature portable clothesline because you want as much airflow through your wet swimmers and used towels as possible.

Wet – furniture:
Whether it’s raining or not, be prepared to put your chairs and tables undercover at night, if you don’t I guarantee you they will be wet in the morning.

Wet – timber:
Always keep your timber dry at all times by storing it undercover (under the tarp) at night.

Wet – or lack of:
I have seen our local rainforest environment incredibly dry, to the point that the creeks stop flowing. It is very rare in fact I have only seen this once locally since the early 1980s. The waterholes can become stagnant and it’s not ideal for swimming and not good for your health. Do your research here and make a call to the local rangers office to get some good first hand advice prior.

Wet -creeks rising
If you are in the rainforest, there is a good chance it could rain heavily and with this comes the likelihood of rising creeks. Because so many of our rainforest camping destinations are in and around hills, there are limited tracks in and out. So prepare for this by researching weather forecasts beforehand to manage the risk of getting caught.

DURING YOUR RAINFOREST CAMPING EXPERIENCE:

 

ERECTING YOUR CAMPSITE:

Water, water and more water – it’s a rainforest after all! It’s not always raining of course, but there is nothing like being ready for it. The good thing about rainforest camping is that most of the tent sites are pre-made with pre-positioned raised pads. This is mainly due to the fact it is run by the national parks. If you have pre-booked a spot online you have to deal with the position of your campsite regardless. However, in the designated open-camping areas (these are not as common, but do allow some caravans and camper trailers access provided they can get through the creeks on the drive through), you don’t want to be positioned in the lower end of the campground, if it rains you’re going to be inundated with all the water from the higher ground. Because most national park campgrounds can be heavily used, there is rarely grass growing in the tent erecting and awning/tarp areas. Most of the sites are positioned directly under the tree’s canopy with little sunlight, so it’s easy to see previous areas that hold water should it rain. One last thing, falling palm fronds can be a slight issue in rainforest areas so steer clear of these if possible. Always look up above before erecting your tent or tarp!

Finding the right spot:|As I mentioned above, due to the fact many rainforest campgrounds are pre-booked online and the tent sites are pre-made and pre-positioned, it’s hard to know what your site is going to be like until you get there. It’s a great idea to do a research trip prior (that’s code for Sunday drive a few weeks earlier) and scope the campgrounds for the right spot.

Dust from the roads – finding the right spot
Whilst you are camping in a moist environment, the major roads in and out of Rainforests can be quite dry when used heavily. My advice is to camp away from the main roads, as where there’s high traffic such as groups of 4WD enthusiasts, there’s usually a lot of dust floating through the air. I remember camping in a designated site years ago and the amount of dust we had through our camp was incredible, and not so fun to clean out when we got home because it was in everything.

Incoming visitors – finding the right spot
In my experience, rainforest campgrounds are usually busy with day tourists on weekends. After all, it’s a great way to spend a hot Sunday, swimming in the refreshing creeks and having a BBQ with the family. Just keep in mind that if you are going to camp in a designated site that is right beside the swimming hole, you will be inundated with people walking right past your campsite. If this doesn’t bother you then thats great. If this does bother you, then it might be better to camp a little further away and have a small walk to the water for a swim.

Handy hints – rainforest camping:
When I was thinking about some handy hints for rainforest camping, two things instantly came to mind and both of these have come from experience:

FIRES AND WOOD:

Fire bans:
As you enter the rainforest campgrounds here on the Sunshine Coast, the first thing you come across is a large sign showing the fire danger ratings. So most definitely do your research if you are thinking of doing all your cooking on the fire as you might not be able to.

Bring your own timber:
It is a good idea to bring your own timber along. Often your timber must be milled (cut by a saw of some sort) as rainforest camping areas are often in national parks and this is to show that you haven’t taken timber off the ground, which is illegal to use/burn. By default, many of the privately owned farms surrounding the entries into rainforests and national parks often sell firewood through an honesty system at their front gates. Very handy!

Designated Fire Pits:
In most national park rainforest camping areas you will usually find firepits. Many of them are enclosed with a large steel ring and some even have built in folding hot plates ready to cook on.

Handy hint – designated fire pits:
One of the greatest things about using a fire pit that has an enclosed steel ring, is having the ability to rest any wet timber vertically around the inside of the ring to dry. I have done this on many occasions.

RUBBISH AND ANIMALS:

Store rubbish away at night:
Be aware that if you leave rubbish bins out in your annexe area when rainforest camping, it will most probably be hampered with by wildlife – especially in popular camping areas. The wildlife will get in everywhere and they’ll hop on to your tables too so don’t think by stacking stuff on tables you’re in the clear! I’ve even heard of animals eating through the wall of camp pantries to get food. It sounds disgusting, but the only place to store a bin at night before you go to bed is in an enclosed vehicle such as a car, canopy or trailer. The bush turkeys are the worst as you can imagine.

Lesson learnt with rubbish storage:
This piece of advice comes in the form of a lesson learnt that cost my parents a packet of money. We were rainforest camping in the Gold Coast hinterland in the 1990s when dad grabbed our rubbish bin, double wrapped it and put it inside our camper trailer on the floor. When we woke in the morning, a hole had been eaten through the bottom of the tent floor, through the two layers of bin bag and into the rubbish. We’ve had countless discussions about it over the years and to this day we are still baffled as to how it happened!

Footwear:
If you want to walk freely along the creeks and swim in the water holes, you will need footwear because there are generally lots of sharp rocks. Ensure you have some type of grip too, because rainforests are notoriously moist and slippery on the good old rubber thongs. Bushwalking sandals are a really good idea and are perfect for rainforest camping.

POST RAINFOREST CAMPING EXPERIENCE.

With packing up after a rainforest camping expedition there’s generally a lot of dampness. If you pack up early in the morning, your gear won’t have had time to dry, so Kerri and I always try to pack our vehicles in order of what needs to get dried first, with the most damp gear going in last so it’s first out. The other thing to think about is leaving the rainforest camping destination and the creek crossings – if there’s been some rainfall these creeks might be higher than when you came in and that can cause some logistical problems.

 

DRYING OUT YOUR GEAR – MOULD

If you pack away a wet tent and store it wet, it will grow mould! It doesn’t matter what your tent is made of, it will get mouldy if you don’t dry it and look after it properly:

Can I pack my tent away wet?

Yes. You can pack your tent away wet, as long as it is re-erected to dry within 12 to 18 hours. Keep in mind, mould will start to grow within 24 to 48 hours.

What if it is raining when I get home – do I set it up in the rain?

Yes. Mould is inhibited by UV and good ventilation. If it is raining when you get home, re-erect it and leave it up until the tent is 100 per cent dry before you pack it away. My parents have owned and operated canvas manufacturing and repair businesses for many years, so you can imagine what we have seen and had to repair. We’ve had to replace a lot of floors in tents and camper trailers over the years because just about all tents have cotton-based thread that is stitched in. The floors obviously cop a lot of the water as they sit on the ground and this is often the first place the mould starts to grow.

Webbing – Wicking Water and Drying:
There’s a huge misconception that bucket/tub floors on tents are watertight. (A bucket floor is when the floor material is raised up the wall of the tent from the ground approximately 15cm). However this is not necessarily true because a lot of tents use webbing externally around the base of the tent to hold pegs to the ground (looks like seat belt webbing). If this webbing is stitched into the tub floor, it can easily wick water into your tent. Many webbing straps are waterproofed and treated, but this is often short term and needs to be re-waterproofed over the life of the tent. If you want to make sure your tent is 100 per cent dry when you get home, check the webbing around the base of your tent as a last precaution.

 

Mould Facts and Information:
Over the years I’ve had a lot of people wanting advice on mould and tents so I now consider myself a bit of a mould expert!

Here are some facts about mould:

  •  Mould is an organism and it is living. It’s not a plant or an animal but a fungi and it eats and digests organic matter.
  • Mould cannot grow unless there is moisture. It also requires oxygen and organic matter containing carbon to provide nutrients. It will start to grow in 24 – 48 hours and it grows exponentially from there.
  • Direct ultraviolet light inhibits the growth of mould, and it can grow on almost any surface given the right environment.
  • Living mould spores can travel through the air, re-attach to another surface and continue growing provided the environment is suitable.
  • Mould mainly comes from an internal enclosed environment – rarely external.

(There are some excellent facts on mould on the Queensland Government website if you require more information.)

Driving home – rainforest camping:
With most rainforest camping destinations you have to cross some creeks on the way out of the campsite. Always think about the amount of rainfall had during your stay and if this will affect the creek crossings and if so, this can also affect the bottom of the road at the creek crossing making it rockier etc.

DRIVING HOME – WET UNSEALED ROADS

Slow Down:
Not much needs to be said here does it? If you are on an unsealed road and it has been raining it will be more slippery. Take your time and slow down, especially those who are towing a trailer or caravan because the extra weight will push your car and your traction is reduced.

Entering a creek:
Sometimes there can be steep down turns just as you start to enter the creek crossing. Because many of the creek entries are narrow (one lane in and out), any cars that have travelled in the on-coming direction, bring a fair bit of water out of the creeks and the entering road can be very wet. Once again, slow down and take your time for the 50 metres or so before you reach a creek crossing.

Driving Home – narrow unsealed roads:
Many rainforest destinations have single-lane roads and they can often be in hillside areas with lots of twists and turns. Therefore there can be a lot of blind corners so it’s imperative that you slow down and drive with precaution.

Handy Hint:

Slow down – dust:
If it is quite dry, just keep in mind that the faster you go, the more dust you are going to cough up into the rainforest campgrounds. Slowing down a little bit will help to reduce this considerably and also gives other campers a better, less-dusty experience!

Slow Down – smell the roses:
Take time driving in the rainforest because it’s absolutely beautiful! Wind the car windows down and get a good sniff because the smell and sights are truly amazing.

Driving Home – parked cars and people walking on the road:
I’ve noticed that a lot of people park their cars on the sides of the road as they start to enter the rainforest. This is usually due to the fact they are in a two-wheel drive only and can’t make the creek crossing. So they park their car and walk into the campsite or have someone give them a lift. This means there are more people walking around on the narrow roads, in often dusty conditions. So once again, slow down.