Check the forecast
The worst thing would be doing all the prep work and arriving to find you can’t even light the BBQ! The weather can play a big part in your meal plans, so check the forecast before you go. Look out for alerts involving wet weather, park fire bans, or total fire bans since they’ll massively affect your options.
Hold your fire!
Generally it’s a good idea to pack a portable gas or electric cooker in case conditions don’t allow for open fires. These beauties are easier, functional and offer more cooking options, and best of all they are OK to use off the beaten track. Portable gas or electric cookers are fine to use during park fire bans (not total fire bans) as long as you follow the safety guidelines: only let an adult control the cooker, clear flammable materials away from the area, don’t use physical fuels like wood or coal, and keep a bucket of water handy – just in case. A total fire ban means there’s no fire allowed outside at all, but you can still use the provided barbecue facilities in picnic areas or cook inside cabins, caravans and campers.
Fast fact: All National Parks in NSW are no-smoking areas. Makes sense, really.
Prep first, win later
Save heaps of time and chop, marinade, and pre-cook as much as possible before you go. Aim for things that cook fast and are easy to handle with skewers, foil wraps or a camp oven. Use a cooler for perishables like meat and dairy products, store it in the shade, don’t open it too often, and try to eat that stuff sooner so there’s less risk of it going off.
In case of a barbecue emergency, there are some delicious no-cook meals and snacks like tinned-bean tacos, pre-cooked meatballs and protein balls. And don’t forget: always bring marshmallows.
Light my fire
If the conditions are right and safe for a campfire (see tips 1 and 2)…
Gather deadwood and don’t take wood on trees or anything that looks like an animal’s home. Now, create a little fire pit by clearing the ground and scraping out a shallow concave hole. Put some dry rocks around the edges to act as a windbreak. Start with a few larger pieces of wood, then add some larger kindling, then make a teepee of dry sticks and leaves in the middle.
It’s time to light! Ignite the dry centre and blow gently on the sparks to make them catch, feeding twigs and sticks into the growing flames. Once the flames take hold, take a moment to celebrate. You’ve just achieved a primal goal.
Did you know: Even if you’re a camping pro, you should try to make life as easy for yourself as possible. Bring a lighter or matches in a waterproof resealable bag to ensure a maximum strike rate.
Good food, good vibes
Next up, the food. Skewer those hot dogs, butter that fresh fish in foil, and string up those veggie kebabs. It’s not hard to make a nice hot meal in the wilderness. Even if you forget to prep any meals beforehand, you can pack some tinned food, flatbread, veggies and hummus, or flour and salt for a basic damper. Before someone can awkwardly pull out an acoustic guitar and start singing ‘Wonderwall’, your food will be ready (and hiding the guitar might become an option). Afterwards, it’s time to break out the marshmallows.
Be a ninja
When you walk away from the campsite, it should look like you were never there, like a campsite ninja. Take all your rubbish home with you. All of it. Ensure the fire is fully extinguished with water, sand and dirt, and really mix it in to remove and residual heat. Leave plenty of time to make sure it’s definitely out.