The Hunter's Camp
Here Marcus O'Dean describes the lightweight way to camp from your vehicle when hunting.
Recently, I took four days out to stock the larder with goat meat, so I rang a friendly grazier to arrange a camping/hunting trip. The property has delightful river flats shaded by casuarinas which provide ample firewood and grassy tent sites. I was by myself and did not have to please anyone else, so I went basic. Now 95 percent of my driving is city-based (sigh), so I own a small-but-capable four-wheel drive vehicle, a Suzuki Grand Vitara that would certainly go to more places than I would be prepared to drive it.
On this particular trip, I got amongst a few goats and had the heavens open with a magnificent thunderstorm and an inch of rain over five hours, so sleep was not a reality for most of one night but I stayed dry under the hoochies. The 5-million bugs that made reading with a headlamp impossible meant it was a lo-o-ong night though. Nevertheless, a hoochie is a fine shelter if you do not want to read in a night rainstorm.
Where many hunters like swags, I find them bulky and overkill for my camping needs and prefer a double hoochie or two-man hike tent, which together with a self-inflating mat or two and a pillow from home, I can get away with much less load. Years of bushwalking and cross-country ski-touring have conditioned my camp mindset, when I sat and cooked on the ground, retiring into my sleeping bag generally tired and sore.
Now I used to sleep in very warm mummy-style down sleeping bags, but rare is the car camp where you'd need one in Australia, so I use rectangular superdown bags of different temperature ratings or a brilliant little 800-gram Snugpak Softie synthetic bag, which I have ski-toured in. It is good as a light quilt or zipped up will keep you comfortable in zero degrees.
So, despite my long standing “light-scales” mindset, I have upscaled my car camping checklist to include a few “luxuries” to improve the camping experience. These include a small, square lightweight folding table (that lives in the car boot) and a pretty luxurious folding camp chair; I found it really nice to sit back at the fire with my head torch on, reading a book, occasionally stoking the flames to warm the tootsies. In the Army, we called this type of seat the “Chairs, Millionaire”, because that's what you felt like sitting in one after you'd been grovelling on the ground for a week.
Greengrocers' discarded broccoli boxes make great food coolers when you don't have a huge esky. They are free and keep food cold for days on a bag of ice. Just bring your perishables up in them and fill them up with game meat on the way back.
One thing I have never found the need for, is a hatchet, axe or machete. When bushwalking we would just feed long lengths of wood into the fire, or you could break long bits into smaller bits in the “Y” formed by tree branches, leaning on the log to break it. When they have a bit of spring in them, they can launch you off your feet with the backlash, so take it easy and test first.
Camp cooking can still be done with a small hiking cookset, like a Trangia or Optimus, using a campfire for most cooking and the stove for a pre-dawn brew-up before commencing the hunt.
A plastic wash-up basin can also be used down at the creek to assist in washing yourself and paper towels are great to generally clean up around camp, providing fire food afterwards.
Now I have made up a car camping hunting checklist for anyone who doesn't own a large ute, but who still wants to enjoy the experience of relative comfort out bush.
Let's know if there is any little indispensable item(s) you would add to it that the car camper would appreciate.
- Clothing – avoid wearing blue and launder clothes in detergent without UV brighteners – put through final rinse with eucalyptus oil, avoid deodorant or aftershave.
- Light waterproof jacket
- Fleece mid-layer
- Thermal undershirt or cotton long sleeve shirt
- Hat / blaze orange / beanie
- 6-pocket shorts or tough long trousers
- Woollen socks
- Sock savers or gaiters for burr country
- Glasses / sunglasses
- Rifle-sighted in
- Ammo (you have worked through the rifle action prior)
- In daypack:
- Basic cleaning gear – flexible rod, oil, small amount of flanellete
- Binocular and neck strap/harness
- Laser rangefinder & spare battery*
- Hunting Knife and sharpener
- Water bottle or bladder
- Small cake of soap or liquid hand sanitiserser
- Face veil or scrim
- Fingerless gloves
- Plastic bags or sack for skins, meat etc
- Powder wind puffer*
- Ear plugs
- Dry soft cloth in Ziploc bag to clean or dry lenses
- Predator calls / whistles*
- Mobile phone and or UHF radio and or personal locator beacon*
- Muesli bars, fruit, trailmix etc
- LED torch / headtorch and spare batteries
- GPS / Backtracker*
- First aid kit with tape, para-cord, shell dressing, elastic bandage, alcohol wipes, small dressing pads/eye pads, aspirin/paracetamol, notebook and pencil stub, sunscreen, foil emergency blanket, cigarette lighter and one tablet of hexamine, necessary daily medication.
- *indicates optional depending on circumstance.
Large carryall with:
- Comfortable camp clothing and slippers/Crocs
- Sleeping bag, pillow and inner sheet
- Self-inflating mattress
- Towel. Face flannel and toiletries
- In boxes or loose
- Two-person three-season hiking tent
- Caping knife or scalpel blades and or boning/butchering knives
- Small Groundsheet cum tarp
- Port, muscat or green ginger wine*
- Insect repellent
- Maintenance lit – cleaning rod, solvent, screwdrivers, hex wrenches etc and multi-tool
- Duct tape
- Lockable ammo container with spare ammo
- Rifle case
- Thermos and brew gear
- Water Jerry Can
- Small folding table
- Shelter – tent or swag
- Paper towels
- Small device solar charger
- Nesting cookset with portable cooker/hexamine stove
- Small plastic chopping board
- Folding chair
- Small spade and toilet paper
- 10-litre plastic wash-up basin
- Detergent, scourer-sponge and tea towel(s)
- Esky or two or three polystyrene broccoli boxes with ice
- Plastic bags for rubbish – take out what you bring in.
A Useful Camping Knot - The Prussik Knot
Years ago I learned to travel roped to partners to rock or ice climb and I learned about the Prussik knot. It's purpose was to be able to ascend or descend climbing ropes using two such knots of thinner rope than the primary climbing or abseiling rope.
When you pull on the Prussik knot it grips the main rope and when pressure is released the Prussik knot can easily be loosened off so it can be moved along the rope to grip further on. By alternating waist-chest harness and single boot prussik grips and bottom prussik grips, standing on one while running the top loop and then hanging, I have climbed over 40 metres up cliffs. It goes by another name – the Friction Hitch – for good reason.
In camp, you can use a combination of shock cord on guys and prussik loops between trees to beautifully tension a fly shelter, so its sheds wind and rain more effectively.
To make one, run a bight of thin cord across and over the main rope twice – see the diagram, and while the loop is loose, tie it onto the apex ferrule or loop at the tent's apex. Then tension the loop on the rope and it will grip under pressure.
It is a simple device you will find many uses for.