‘How are you coping with camping with tummy troubles?!?’ is probably the most common question I got in my DMs whilst I was in Australia. And for good reason, camping can entail being far away from a bathroom, navigating to said bathroom in the dark & not having the comfort of privacy and facilities you would usually have at home.
This blog is the first of a mini series of posts I will be sharing with you after spending 6 weeks travelling around Australia – and each blog post addresses the most common questions and queries I got in my DMs whilst away. One of the most resounding questions I got, as mentioned above, was asking me how camping was possible with IBD or IBS. If someone had said to me 10 years ago that I would be camping on the other side of the world for 4 weeks, I honestly would have laughed. (You can learn more about my Crohns story here.) I have never enjoyed or entertained the thought of camping – but now having spent 4 weeks in a campervan, I have realised it is more than possible. The secret is really identifying your anxieties and making sure everything is planned to minimise those concerns.
I think these simple top tips will really help & also reassure you that whether you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, there are ways you fulfil a travel dream and enjoy a adventure in the great outdoors, like I did.
1. Ok full disclaimer here, I got a campervan with a onboard toilet.
Yes, a proper flushing toilet. And I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it without having that reassurance. They do cost a little more but I honestly think it’s so worth it. Navigating to the toilets if you get up at night can be stressful – and this just eliminates that anxiety.
I should add that obviously this means you have to empty the toilet yourself too – and I want to also reassure you that this also really isn’t as bad as it sounds! They are usually equipped with a self contained toilet container and are full of chemicals – so really you are just disposing of chemical fluid.
We booked our van through STA – who talked us through what the best option was for us.
2. Book a campsite with proper camping facilities – and I mean, private toilet cubicles and showers.
95% of our campsites had really decent bathroom facilities. If you go for a campervan or tent with no toilet facilities – don’t be afraid to ask for a camping spot near the amenity block. It seriously helps in the night!
Whilst in Australia we booked all powered sites – which means you can plug the van in and have full working electricity and this cost around $30-$40 (Australian dollars) per night, which is around £20-£30. We booked a huge amount of sites through Big4.
3. Which brings me to number 3 – always pack a really decent torch. Campsites get alarmingly dark at nightfall and this will be your saviour!
You can also use it to spot some pretty amazing wildlife in the campsites – we saw possums, koalas and kangaroos at night with the torch!
4. Often camping involves lots of travel and time on the road – another time you could be away from a bathroom.
Plan your route and suss out petrol stations enroute. They will all have toilet facilities! We were lucky we had a SatNav onboard that told us when we had petrol stations coming up and I found this such a relief.
5. Make sure you have enough of any meds you take for your tummy.
And be reassured even in a campervan without a flushing toilet, you will often have running water which means you can make peppermint tea/take meds when you need to.
It’s quite amazing that even the smaller vans will have running water (which again, you have to fill up yourself at campsites!) and this is very important not only for being able to cook basic food like pasta or rice, but keeping hydrated and being able to take medication too.
In Australia the tap water is of the highest quality – so you don’t need to worry about only drinking bottled water.
6. You can also cook some pretty simple & delicious meals with really basic camping cooking equipment.
In our van we not only had running water but a 3 ring stove inside and a pull out barbecue on the outside. We also had a toaster, microwave and a kettle – which meant we could actually cook some really simple meals all with our own equipment. When you’re travelling it can always be a bit hit and miss eating out, and I don’t know about anyone else but I get a great source of comfort eating food I’ve cooked myself (not least because I know what’s in it!)
We ate a lot of simple tuna pasta with sweetcorn, with gluten free spaghetti and also barbecued fresh fish and meat which we served with fresh salad or even rice bags which we slung in the microwave. The smaller vans also have this type of cooking equipment.
7. Go with someone you trust. Because generally that just makes the whole thing easier!
Maybe this is obvious, but make sure you are travelling and camping with people or someone you trust. It means if you do have any issues, being open and honest about it will make it a whole lot easier.
8. Boring but essential – make sure you get good travel insurance that’ll cover your medical problems.
It might cost a lot, especially with IBD – but it’s worth it. I used Medical Travel Compared to get a really good price for this trip (it still hurt how expensive it was, but for peace of mind it was worth it!)
9. If you have Crohns or Colitis and you’re going away for an extended period of time, it is probably worth telling your specialist consultant.
I had lengthy chats with my IBD nurse ahead of my 6 week trip, to make sure I had the right medication and also documentation for those medicines. I also asked their advice of what to do if something went wrong whilst I was away and more than anything, they reassured me that my health insurance would cover any disasters.
10. ENJOY IT! The beauty of a campervan is the freedom & flexibility to stop anywhere, see untouched natural beauty & watch the stars.
Your tummy shouldn’t get in the way of that.
What are your tips you’d add to this list? DM me and I might feature you on my Instagram!