Overnight camping refers to the outdoor adventure activity of camping in a temporary or residential campsite, usually in a bush or remote setting.
A range of other outdoor adventure activities are usually included in the excursion.
Temporary accommodation includes bush huts, tents, tarpaulin shelters, bush shelters, snow structures and arrangements with no shelter. If overnight camping takes place in snow shelters, please see the guidelines for
Cross Country Skiing. If overnight camping takes place as part of a bush walk, please see the guidelines for
Residential campsites are campsites which usually have permanent facilities (such as cooking and eating facilities, beds and an amenities block) and adventure recreation options. This definition does not include caravan parks, hotels/motels or ski lodges or Victorian government residential schools. Schools using residential campsites for overnight camping must use accredited sites. Further advice on residential campsites and recognised accreditation providers, may be found in the School Policy and Advisory Guide, see
If a school organises an excursion involving overnight camping as an outdoor adventure activity, organising staff must refer to these guidelines. However, these guidelines do not apply to study camps held at residential campsites. Departmental guidelines are also available on this website, for other adventure activities. These guidelines must be followed when planning and conducting those adventure activities.
Overnight camping — A group spends one or more nights out in huts, tents, tarpaulin shelters, bush shelters, snow structures, or with no shelter. If camping takes place in snow shelters, please see
Cross Country Skiing.
Residential camping — Takes place in campsites which usually have permanent facilities (such as cooking and eating facilities, beds, and an amenities block) and adventure recreation options. This definition does not include caravan parks, hotels/motels or ski lodges. Schools must use accredited residential campsites for overnight camping. Further advice on accreditation and residential campsites may be found in the School Policy and Advisory Guide, see
The environments chosen for overnight camping are often relatively undisturbed and require sensitive use and management. These environments offer opportunities for personal challenge and reflection as well as for studying unique flora and fauna, however they are very susceptible to long-lasting damage from human activity.
Staff should consider ways to minimise the environmental impact of the activity, when preparing for overnight camping.
Due to the unique nature of each location, the teacher responsible for the activity should specifically assess the suitability of the location before the excursion.
The choice of location should be based on the recent and first-hand knowledge of at least one member of the planning and supervising staff. Where this is impractical, planning and supervising staff should be thoroughly familiar with the general characteristics and conditions found in similar locations, and should have consulted with people who can supply recent and first-hand knowledge of the locations being considered.
When assessing the suitability of a location, consider:
- the potential to support the educational objectives
- the level of access to resources, services and facilities that may be needed, such as campsites, water, walking trails, toilets, shelter from extreme weather, or interpretive information
- the level of access to communications and external assistance in the event of an emergency or extreme weather conditions — the more remote the location is, the more self-contained and self-reliant the group must be and this must be taken into account in the planning of the activity
- the potential exposure to environmental hazards and difficulties
- the ability and fitness levels of students.
Contact with relevant authorities should be made in order to access current information and determine any access and permit requirements.
These authorities may include:
Staff need to be aware that severe weather conditions may develop before or during the proposed activity and should be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate the excursion or individual activities within the excursion
at any time.
The excursion should include alternatives for activities that cannot proceed due to adverse weather, equipment failure or other reasons.
The campsite should be inspected prior to the activity to ensure that the activity is appropriate to the venue and that the camp facilities and equipment are safe and suitable.
The communication strategy should enable staff to receive weather forecasts and warnings, communicate with the school, and engage support in the case of an incident or emergency.
- Choose communication equipment based on current communication technology and the location of the activity.
- Develop a communication strategy for the group during the activity which enables communication with outside parties, including the school and emergency services.
- Be aware of the limitations of the communication strategy.
Check the weather forecast for the location in the days leading up to the activity and on the day the activity commences. If the excursion extends overnight, access weather forecasts and warnings daily and monitor and assess the weather throughout.
Weather forecasts should be obtained from the Bureau of Meteorology.
Weather conditions can change rapidly. Monitor and assess the weather throughout the activity and be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate at anytime.
Weather warning telephone services
- Coastal, Land Weather and Flood Warnings on
1300 659 217
- Full State Telephone Weather Service on
1900 955 363 (call charge applies)
- Coastal Waters Telephone Service on
1900 969 930 (call charge applies)
- Victorian Bushfire Information Line on
1800 240 667.
The above telephone numbers may be useful to have available during the excursion.
Core skills and knowledge for overnight camping include the following:
- group hygiene — water collection, safe food preparation, dining and cleaning
- personal hygiene
- cooperation and teamwork during camp activities
- individual responsibility for personal and group safety
- technical camping skills, including cooking and safe shelter construction
- awareness of wildlife and potential for bites or stings
- ability to react immediately and responsibly to emergencies.
The psychological preparation of students is as important as the physical preparation, especially for students who are anxious about the activity. Under no circumstances should students be pressured by staff or peers to participate beyond their readiness.
Equipment and clothing
Equipment, whether hired, borrowed or owned by the school or students, must be in a safe condition and suitable for the activity
First aid kits
First aid kits appropriate to the location and level of training must be carried.
Clothing is the individual’s primary protection against severe and variable weather conditions.
Clothing lists need to be appropriate for the range of activities in the excursion, the environment and the season.
This includes catering for sudden changes in weather and should include appropriate sun protection and personal safety items for the activities planned (e.g. strong footwear, waterproof overpants, a woollen or sun hat).
When deciding which clothing should be worn for the activity, staff and students will consider the:
- appropriateness of clothing materials
- principles of layering
- need for a wind and waterproof outer shell.
To protect against sunburn (see
sun exposure) use broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen on all exposed parts of the body, applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Students who own sunglasses should be encouraged to bring and wear them when required. In addition, the use of sun hats should be maximised.
Staff and students must be easily identifiable.
Staff must determine the most suitable identification system based on an assessment of the environment, students’ skills, the type of activities to be undertaken, and the age and number of students.
Students must have equipment that is in good repair and matches the level of experience, remoteness, altitude, local environmental conditions and season.
Staff members are those adults who provide the supervisory, instructional and educational elements of the activity. All staff members must be approved by the school council.
All staff members must comply with current Departmental police check requirements or the
Working with Children Check.
A teacher registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching and either employed by the Department or the school council must be present and have overall responsibility for the activity.
Where not directly responsible for the instruction of the activity or assisting the instructor, the teacher responsible for the activity must understand the activity and the environment in which it will be conducted. This teacher must confer with the designated instructor about the supervisory role and establish areas of responsibility. If this teacher is not the designated instructor, he/she is to act on the advice of the designated instructor on technical safety issues.
Any staff member with a known medical condition that might compromise the group’s risk management plan should make accompanying staff aware of this condition. Issues of confidentiality and privacy will arise in any such disclosure.
Experience and qualifications
Staff involved in the planning and conduct of the activity should have sufficient knowledge and experience of the activity and its environment to operate in all foreseeable conditions.
There is no nationally recognised qualification for conducting overnight camps.
Documentation of Staff Qualifications and Experience (doc - 151kb) must be used by the designated instructor to document staff qualifications/experience in lieu of qualifications.
The designated instructor should have the following skills and experience:
- regular and recent experience in managing students in a comparable camping environment
- experience in planning a camp that is appropriate for student groups
- experience in the selection of campsites
- skills in interpreting and responding to weather conditions.
Where outdoor adventure activities are to be combined with an overnight camping experience, staff must also refer to the relevant activity safety guideline(s).
At least one other accompanying staff member should have sufficient camping experience. That person must:
- be able to assume a supervisory role during the activity
- be competent in emergency response procedures
- have conferred with the instructor to establish the emergency response and supervision responsibilities.
Documentation of Staff Qualifications and Experience (doc - 151kb) can be used to document staff qualifications/experience of accompanying staff member(s).
Where an external contractor is chosen to run all or part of this activity, the guidelines for the use of
External providers should be followed.
Effective supervision is a critical factor in managing risk in the outdoors.
A minimum of two staff members must be present for each activity. One staff member is to have responsibility for instruction in the activity and the other is to assist the instructor.
The following table shows the minimum staff-to-student ratios that must be used for overnight camping.
|Activity||Staff required||Student numbers|
Different ratios may be required if the excursion includes other outdoor adventure activities. Please refer to the relevant ratios for each activity published in other sections on this site. When camps are conducted in more remote areas or with groups with special needs, consideration must be given to more intensive staffing ratios. If overnight camping takes place as part of a bushwalk, please refer to ratios provided in the
It may be necessary to increase the number of staff allocated based on the:
- age, maturity and gender of students
- ability and experience of students
- needs of individuals
- dynamics of the student group
- experience, qualifications and skills of staff
- location of the activity
- anticipated conditions at the location.
Reasons for increasing staff allocations must be documented.
The teacher in charge is responsible for the supervision strategy, which must be endorsed by the school council as part of the excursion approval process. Staff members should supervise students according to this strategy.
The school must receive consent from parents or guardians before their child may participate in adventure activities.
Informed consent should be based on an understanding of:
- the educational purpose of the activity
- the nature and details of the activity
- the supervision strategy
- other information deemed relevant by the school, parents or guardians.
Informed consent must be given in writing and signed by parents or guardians.
At least one member of staff responsible for each group of students must hold, as a minimum, a current (within 3 years) level two first aid qualification, a current (within 12 months) Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) qualification and have a first aid kit applicable to the level of training.
Staff members must carefully consider the nature and location of the excursion, as well as the medical history of the students, to determine the level of first aid training required by staff. For example, if any student in the group has a history of anaphylaxis and may require the use of an epi-pen, appropriately trained staff must be present. See Excursion Support – First Aid.
School staff must refer to the risk management section which explains how to prepare a risk register. Risks and possible controls are also explained. See
The list below identifies some risks in overnight camping activities. Identifying risk is only one aspect of the risk assessment process. An activity-specific risk management plan must be completed which takes into account the specific conditions and unique participants of the activity.
Overnight camping specific risks
A student or group of students use equipment or facilities in an unauthorised and/or unsafe manner.
Students will be briefed on safety. This will include areas or items of equipment that are out of bounds, may only be accessed or used under direct supervision, or require adherence to specific procedures.
This briefing will also refer to water courses or dams near the camp and how these will be managed to avoid drownings. Similarly, where the campsite is in a steep environment, clear expectations shall be provided as to where safe areas are located and what the boundaries will be.
A student or group of students act in a way that causes danger to themselves or to others.
Pre-activity planning will consider ways of managing students who may endanger themselves and/or others. This may include strategies that support students, isolate them from the risk or remove them altogether from the environment. This should be documented in the informed consent material sent to parents.
Campsites and activities will be chosen with reference to the student group and their experience, maturity, age and abilities.
Students will be informed that all school rules apply to a school excursion. Staff will also consider whether additional rules are required and communicate them to the students.
Systems will be established to avoid students and staff getting lost at night.
A student or staff member falls on steep ground or trips and sustains a soft tissue or skeletal injury.
During pre-activity planning, staff will consider students’ skills and experience to ensure that the campsite is suitable for the group.
Staff will have first aid training and first aid kits appropriate to the location of the campsite.
Students with pre-existing injuries or weaknesses will be offered support to reduce the risk of worsening the particular injury.
Staff will select campsites that offer a safe environment to move around. If there are specific hazards at the campsite (e.g. holes, exposed roots, loose rocks, bodies of water or steep terrain), staff will alert students and implement relevant control measures.
Evacuation plans will be detailed in pre-activity planning.
During an overnight camp, a tree branch or tree falls on a student or staff member causing injury or death.
Staff will research local vegetation to identify any tree species with specific risk factors.
Upon arrival at the campsite, staff will brief students about the danger of falling trees or branches and ensure that shelters are not pitched in potentially dangerous places. Dangers include, but are not limited to dead branches or trees, large and heavy overhanging branches; hanging dead wood (loose branches stuck in tree branches), trees that have two or more main trunks, diseased trees, damaged or split trees, fire-damaged trees, trees with cavities or cracks, trees with storm damage, and trees that have grown around and included loose bark.
Where strong winds prevail, staff will consider changing the site or cancelling the camp.
A student or group gets sick due to unsafe food or drink or poor hygiene practices.
Staff will carry current and confidential medical details for each student.
Staff will be aware of food safety as described in the School Policy and Advisory Guide, see
Safe Food Handling.
Staff will ensure that safe food storage practices are followed. Staff will also be aware of any group members with food allergies.
Staff will ensure safe water sources are available for the group, and will refer to local land managers to determine sources of safe water where necessary. Students will be advised not to share water bottles, cutlery and cups to reduce the risk of cross-infection.
Staff will ensure that students are appropriately trained in food safety practices, including hygiene after toileting. Staff will ensure appropriate washing systems for both hands and food equipment.
Staff will ensure that the group adopts low-impact travel strategies (particularly with regard to toileting and the protection of water courses) to reduce the risk of illness.
During pre-activity planning, staff will develop an emergency response strategy. This strategy will consider actions that should be taken if a group member requires outside or medical assistance.
A student or staff member experiences hypothermia.
During pre-activity planning, staff will consider students’ skills and experience and make sure that the campsite is suitable for the group.
Staff will monitor the weather and the communication strategy will include mechanisms to notify the group of approaching severe weather.
Options for responding to severe weather will be planned and may include changing the venue, postponing or cancelling the camp.
All group members will have and wear appropriate clothing and have the required equipment and knowledge to respond to adverse conditions. Staff will pay particular attention to students who are unwell, as they may be more susceptible to hypothermia.
All group members will carry high-nutrition food that does not require cooking.
Emergency food, warm and waterproof clothing, a first aid kit, a water bottle, a whistle and a torch will be carried on side trips away from the campsite.
A student or staff member experiences hyperthermia.
During pre-activity planning, staff will consider students’ skills and experience and make sure that the camp site is suitable for the group.
Staff will monitor prevailing weather and consider adjustments to the activity as appropriate.
Students will be briefed on the need to drink water regularly when exercising and general strategies to stay hydrated.
All group members will have and wear appropriate clothing and have the required equipment and knowledge to manage adverse heat conditions.
In hot and dry weather, the group will seek shade where possible.
When undertaking exercise, water consumption by students and staff will be monitored. Care will be taken to ensure that sufficient water is provided.
Consideration will be given to exercising in the early morning and evening, to avoid heat and greater exposure to ultraviolet rays.
A student or staff member receives burns at the camp site.
Students will be briefed on the safe siting and use of fuel stoves or other sources of heat, including cooking areas and cooking, disposal of matches, and extinguishing flames.
Open flames, including cigarettes, matches or stoves, will not be permitted in or near tents.
A group is caught in a bushfire and faces the danger of equipment damage and/or personal injury or death.
Pre-activity planning will include consideration of the possible fire risk and potential for bushfire in the relevant location. Alternatives will be planned to allow for last-minute change in the event of severe fire danger.
Fires and open fire places will be used in accordance with the requirements of the fire and/or land management authorities.
Students will be briefed on the safe siting and use of fuel stoves and alerted to the risks associated with open flames in a bush setting.
The communication strategy will include mechanisms to ensure that the group is alerted to a potential Total Fire Ban or other communications from fire authorities.
In addition, staff will consider prevailing local conditions and adjust the excursion accordingly. Adjustments could include further consultation with the school and/or land management authorities to determine course of action, evacuation, changing location or cancellation of the activity.
A student or staff member fails to return while going to the toilet or fetching water at night (or other activity away from campsite).
Staff will choose a campsite that matches the ages and experience of the students.
Care will be taken when establishing toilet facilities to ensure systems are put in place to define a clear path (or some other mechanism) to guide people to and from the toilet.
Students are asked to let someone know if they are leaving the camp area at night. Preferably they will go with a ‘buddy’ to assist with path finding.
Where possible, all water collection will take place during daylight hours to avoid the need to collect water at night.
On an overnight camp the group or individuals run out of food or water.
Pre-activity planning will make sure the group has adequate access to water and the means to ensure that this water is potable. Options should a water source prove unavailable, will also be considered.
Students will receive appropriate training in the planning and preparation of food for overnight camping. This will include the selection of food of a suitable energy value and the provision of emergency options.
Staff will consider options should a food or water source be affected by weather or pest interference (e.g. feral animals, insects). This may include sharing food, sending group members to source alternate water, rationing food or altering the activity.
A problem arises with another group using the campsite.
Staff will notify local land managers of the intended activity, as part of the pre-activity planning.
Staff will have the contact information of local land managers and emergency services with them during the activity.
Staff will, where appropriate, consult with other user groups on location, especially if there is a conflict of interest.
A pre-existing medical condition results in injury or illness during the excursion.
Staff will collect and then review current confidential medical information for all students and staff. Where uncertainty exists, additional information will be sought.
At least one staff member will have a minimum of a level two first aid qualification and a first aid kit, which is appropriate to the activity and the environments to be encountered.
Medical information will be carried by staff on the excursion and referred to as necessary.
At the start of the excursion, staff will ensure that there is no new illness that may have an impact on the ability of the affected student(s) or staff to participate. Consideration will also be given as to whether that illness might spread to others in the group.
The emergency response strategy will include communication and evacuation procedures.
Staff or student fatigue results in incident and/or injury.
During the planning phase, staff will consider the skills and experience of students and staff and make sure that the activity is suitable.
The group will adopt appropriately timed rest stops. Food and water breaks will match the activity intensity, weather conditions and the group’s abilities.
Food and water intake will be monitored during the excursion to ensure all participants are eating and drinking adequately.
Staff will monitor each student and consider strategies to support the group and individuals. This may include altered intensity and loads, changing the activity, obtaining outside support, evacuations or cancellation of the activity.
Warm or cold weather conditions lead to a temperature-related illness.
Staff will consider the skills, ages, experience and maturity of students and staff when determining the activity, season and venue.
Clothing and equipment will be suitable for the planned season and venue.
Staff will plan and/or adjust the activity in response to foreseeable and prevailing weather conditions.
The emergency response strategy will include responses for when students and/or staff are affected by heat or cold.
A group is caught in severe weather or thunderstorm resulting in injury.
The chosen venue, activity and season will be appropriate to the group.
Staff will obtain regular Bureau of Meteorology weather forecasts for the specific area they will be in and, if necessary, adjust the activity.
Staff will observe the weather before and during the activity and adjust the activity accordingly.
Staff will consider exposure to tree and lightning hazards.
The emergency response strategy will include possible responses should severe weather or a thunderstorm occur.
A transport accident occurs while travelling to or from the venue.
The vehicle must be appropriately insured and maintained. Where the vehicle is a bus, it must be regularly inspected by a licensed bus tester.
Drivers will have the appropriate drivers licence and certificates for the planned journey. Drivers will perform a daily vehicle check (see the
Victorian Bus & Truck Drivers Handbook, Chapter 4, Vehicle Checks).
In accordance with heavy vehicle driver fatigue laws, (see
transport) all drivers will take sufficient breaks from driving. Drivers will also be sufficiently rested prior to driving.
Drivers will allow sufficient time for the planned journey and adjust speed to suit the driving conditions.
A student or staff member suffers a bite or sting causing illness or death.
Students and staff will have clear and relevant clothing/equipment lists which reflect the possibility of bites or stings, and have appropriate first aid equipment.
Staff will carry current and confidential medical information for all students and staff participating in the activity. Staff will ensure there are appropriate medications available and an emergency response strategy to support a worsening condition.