Jessica Brady was one of the lucky winners of the We Are Explorers Secret Adventure wild camping weekend. We called her up one week before d-day and she boldly confessed that she’d never slept in the wild before. Would it be a problem? Shit no. She was in for a life-changing treat.

Jess shares her wild experience with us, the highs and the higher highs. We reckon it may just be the gentle nudge for other wild camping newbies to point their noses to the trail and escape to the woods…

Photography by Noah Stammbach

So let me start by saying I am not a camper…

I never have been, and up until a few weeks ago I was convinced I never would be. I’m much more of a ‘let’s find an amazing 5-star hotel’ kinda gal.

I am a suit wearing, almond milk coffee drinking, Eastern Suburbs resident. Many would suggest the most incompatible person to take on a ‘wild camping adventure’. I tend to agree.

Needless to say when I was given the opportunity to go on a ‘proper’ camping expedition I was simultaneously excited and terrified. The idea of carrying all my own gear, not being near a coffee shop and peeing in the bush wasn’t terribly appealing.

For those of you who say ‘I hate camping’ (having never tried it) I hear you! That was me. In theory, it wasn’t appealing (sorry, why are we leaving our perfectly good houses with running hot water and working toilets again?!). I didn’t know if I would like it. I was worried I would hate it, but I didn’t! In fact, I would go as far as saying it was absolutely amazing. Truly, it was! Now, back in the office, with a coffee in hand bashing away at my laptop I wish, so much, I could be back.

You see I always thought you were either a ‘city person’ or a ‘camping person’ and never shall the two meet. But I now understand that is, my friends, wrong! We need to embrace the idea that you can be a ‘City person’ who likes wine bars and brunch and, on occasion, adventures into the wild. So let me elaborate on my experience, in the hope it will push you too into the wild.

Jessica Brady first wild camping experience 4x4

The journey (let me set the scene)

Our journey took us way off the beaten track. God knows where we actually went. I honestly have no idea. After about an hour driving in a Bear Rentals Land Rover Defender through firetrails, I was well and truly lost. Thankfully I wasn’t the driver. It was so far off the beaten track so there was an actual compass and GPS/satellite thingy involved!

Once the cars were parked we trekked through a National park to a secret destination. There were no signs or walking tracks (dear God, how am I going to escape if I hate this?!). After about an hour we reached our destination, an amazing rock formation that had a small, cave-like crevice underneath. It was once a crater. Fire had raged here earlier this year which meant everything was growing back to create a dense, lush, green blanket.

By this point I had forgotten about my fears and my princess ways. I was, surprisingly, excited.

Whilst I was secretly trying to contain my enthusiasm (which really meant just standing around looking stupid) the regulars got straight to work doing important camper duties. These include, scouring out the perfect place for tents (I have learnt the flatter the better), collecting firewood and finding the perfect log for the all-important bonding/drinking game ‘nails’.

Jessica Brady First Wild Camping Experience Gooches crater

After climbing to the top of one of the crater rock formations I very quickly realised how disconnected I had become to nature. How out of place I felt. Where were the buildings? The screaming children?! The words ‘how’s the serenity’ popped into my mind. It dawned on me I had no phone reception and no access to social media (will I actually survive the night without such important implements?); just me and the wilderness. It was strange. I had nowhere to be, nothing to do. I was free to enjoy the moment. And I did. It was amazing.

There is this concept of Biophilia, it means ‘love of life’ – scientific studies suggest our tendency to affiliate with nature is inherent and integral to our psychological and physical development. So, if you are stressed, tired, or down in the dumps… maybe camping is the cure!

My two biggest concerns about camping were… sleeping well and eating well.

Let me cover those of for you. Firstly, I am going to be honest… I didn’t sleep well. At all. This was entirely my fault. You see the sleeping equipment I brought was totally inappropriate. If I can share one piece of helpful advice, make sure your gear is warm enough for your location! My dear friend Grace should think herself lucky because I seriously considered jumping into her sleeping bag with her. However, foodstuffs, I am proud to say, we nailed! With a little bit of planning on my part plus the wonderful Henry we had organised an amazing 5-star camping feast courtesy of Ora King Salmon and new Sydney restaurant/ takeaway Salmon & Bear. We ate like camper kings!

Jessica Brady First Wild Camping Experience salmon campfire cooking

Final thoughts…

So, let me recap. My view on camping has totally changed. It isn’t terrifying. It was bizarrely refreshing.

Am I going to turn into the female version of Bear Grylls? No. Am I going to go camping every weekend? No. But I certainly would go again. Getting away from the ‘big smoke’ allows you to truly recharge. It puts many of the stresses of modern day life into perspective. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and really enjoyed it. So, my advice to you is very simple… just try it! If you hate it I am prepared to accept hate mail. But I won’t, because you won’t. You too will come back with a whole new appreciation for the outdoors, and, in turn, camping!

Jessica Brady First Wild Camping Experience Gooches Crater

Here are some more resources for all the first-timers out there!

Overnight Camping: A Checklist for First-Time Campers

Adventure Spots Near Sydney (That are Perfect for First Timers)

How To: Plan Your First Overnight Bike Trip

A First Timer’s Guide to Mount Barney (QLD)

A Boy’s First Canyon // Lower Bowens Creek North (NSW)