Let’s set something straight right from the get-go; there is no right or wrong way to camp and subsequently, there’s no right or wrong way to set up a camping 4WD. Whether you choose to sleep bent backwards over a large rock, with little more than a knife and flint, or choose all the luxuries of a camper trailer, hot water shower and king size bed, you’re getting out there and that’s all that matters.
That said, no matter how you choose to tailor your camping experience, there are always little things you can do to improve your processes, vehicle setup or camping gear. It might be as simple as laying some moss over your sleeping rock, or installing a 12V point in your roof top tent, but one thing’s for certain; it isn’t until you spend time in the camping company of others that you really open your eyes to the sometimes incredibly simple, yet super effective little modifications and tricks that can make all the difference when you’re out in the scrub.
To prove the point, we teamed up with a group of passionate 4WDers that just so happened to own some of the best built camping 4WDs in Australia. We camped for a week straight from bush campsites, right through to a couple of days on Moreton Island to really get a feel for why, and how they’ve built their rigs and to sink our teeth into the tiny little tricks they use to camp anywhere in Australia. The aim was to bring you guys at home the gems that’ll make your next camping experience that much more enjoyable and efficient.
If by the end of this article you still prefer your sleeping rock, knife and flint then we salute you – you’re tougher than us. But, for everyone else, we reckon just one of these tips is enough to get you out in the shed, or down to your local hardware store for some weekend DIY.
EASY PULL ZIPPERS
Cold weather, tightly packed roof racks and small tags are all the natural enemy of the bloke trying to pull a zipper up tight – on camping gear that is. Use a loop of para cord through the zipper tag to give yourself something easier to grip and pull up tight.
Use a small, two way caravan level somewhere on your roof rack – this’ll let you know instantly if your roof top tent is level when you open it up.
ROOF TOP TENT POWER
Install a dual outlet 12V point in your roof top tent. This’ll be super handy for charging a phone or head torch, or running a small camp light.
SLIDE OUT UTE TABLE
Something as simple as a sheet of ply and two legs makes a perfect quick-attach table for the side of any tray back ute. Simply use some hooks to attach one side to the edge of the tray, while two fold down legs take the weight on the other side.
How much do you value your 4WD? More than about $100? If so, then fork out for two fire extinguishers and a fire blanket. Keep one extinguisher nearby in the cabin and one up the back along with the fire blanket. It can save your 4WD, and your life.
PORTABLE FIRE PIT
In some areas of Australia, open fires are banned however a self-contained, raised fireplace is allowed. Invest in, or make yourself a fire pit and you’ll be enjoying all the comforts of an open fire without breaking the rules.
TAKE AN ICE BOX FOR YOUR DRINKS
Fridges ultimately work much harder the more you put in them and really at the end of the day you need to keep meat and dairy cooler than beer (We know, it sucks). A good quality ice box will handle the drink cooling duties for several days without a worry, while your food stays safe in the 12v fridge.
There’s not much worse than planning a sleep in at camp, only to be woken up at 5am by the first light. Before you set up your camp, use a compass or app to check your direction and camp on the western side of your 4WD, or at least face your windows to the west.
ROOF TOP TENT ROPES
When you’re camping on hard ground and can’t secure your roof top tent ropes with pegs, loop the ropes around the bottom of the tent’s ladder and haul ‘em up tight.
CAMPING WASHING MACHINE
Call us soft, but if you spend enough days in the scrub, you’re going to run out of (semi) clean clothes. Cut a hole in the lid of a 25L bucket, big enough to pass the handle of a toilet plunger through from the inside. Then chuck some fresh creek water, your clothes and some detergent in, seal the lid and plunge away for a couple of minutes.
NON-SLIP ROOF TOP TENT LADDER
Wet ladders are no fun – especially in thongs. Grab some non-slip matting and cut strips the same size as the ladder rungs. Use some contact adhesive to glue them to the rungs and you’ll have safe wet weather access to the roof topper and less chance of taking a spill.
KEEPING YOUR COOL
If you’ve fitted your roof-top tent with 12V outlets, grab yourself a 12V fan to keep air circulating through the tent and keep you cool in those hot tropical climates. [blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”Just one of these tips is enough to get you out in the shed”[/blockquote]
CAM STRAP TENT ROPES
Using fluro coloured cam straps as tent ropes, gives you a super quick to adjust, high-visibility solution for tying down anything from roof-top tents to awnings and anything in between.
QUICK CONNECT ROPES
Using carabiners on the ends of your awning/tent ropes (or cam straps) means you’ll have a two-second job attaching ropes, instead of trying to tie crappy knots in the dark or while it’s blowing a gale.
FIRST AID KIT FIRELIGHTERS
Like so many of us, if you find you’ve forgotten the fire lighters at home, dip a cotton bud into petroleum jelly and use it as a water resistant fire lighter.
WET WEATHER AWNING
A 3x3m tarp run at a 45° angle down from the end of your awning massively increases your out-of-the-elements area when you’re at camp. Set the swag up under the tarp and use the area under the awning as a living/cooking/eating area.
AUTO RESET CIRCUIT BREAKERS
No one wants to wake up in the morning to find their fridge has popped a fuse and turned off overnight. Fitting an auto reset circuit breaker to your fridge circuit will automatically turn the fridge back on if it was just a minor power surge. If there’s a dead short it won’t reconnect, keeping your fridge safe.
DUAL AWNINGS FOR A BETTER CAMPSITE
Two awnings makes for a wicked setup. Use one to sleep under, the other to cook under – add a mozzie net to the one you cook under and you’ll have somewhere comfortable away from the mozzies to hang out. The mozzie nets for awnings pack away tiny too.
ONE PERSON AWNING SETUP
There’s a trick to it, regardless of the terrain you’re on. Unzip the cover, and roll the awning out just enough so you can sit it up on top of the roofrack. Now, swing the horizontal poles just past 90° and extend them all the way out. Now unroll your awning to the end, drop the vertical poles and the horizontal poles will be within reach. One-person pack-up is just a reversal of the same process.
SHADE SAIL GROUND SHEET
A small piece of shade sail makes for an excellent ground-sheet – make it about 2ft bigger in each direction than your swag. Throw it down under your awning and roll out your swag on top – your swag stays cleaner, and you’ve got somewhere clean and dry to step out of your boots before you go to bed.
Sage is a natural mosquito repellent – chuck some into the campfire and it’ll help with the biting buggers.
MAKE YOUR FRIDGE RUN BETTER
The more heat you can keep away from your fridge, the less it will cycle, saving you power in the bush. To this effect, use a cheap windscreen sun visor as a DIY fridge bag, to reflect heat away from the fridge. One of these’ll cost you $20 whereas a dedicated fridge bag can be over $200.
When you’re camped in cold climates, use some foil insulation sheeting under your swag’s mattress with the shiny side up. The foil reflects your body heat and helps keep you warm throughout the night. This can work under any sleeping medium, be it a camper mattress or tent.
Using an old coffee tin (A large Bushells style works well), you can turn out some cracking loafs of bread using your normal camp oven. Just put your bread, or damper mix into a greased coffee tin and stand it in your camp oven on a trivet. Why not make a loaf then cut it into sandwich slices for lunch the next day?
BUDGET BUSH DUNNY!
A bucket, a pool noodle and a garbage bag will make the most comfortable bush loo you’ve ever used. Cut a slice along the length of the pool noodle, insert a bag into the bucket and push the pool noodle over the top lip of the bucket to form a comfortable, padded seat. Then simply hang your toilet paper roll from the bucket’s handle.
COLLAPSABLE KITCHEN WEAR
There’s always another bit of cooking kit you need, but with space at a premium it usually stays home. Just a few bowls and a washing up tup can take up heaps of space. Invest in some silicone, collapsing bowls and buckets. They take up no space at all, are easy to clean and will seriously change the way you pack your 4WD.
ROOFTOP TENT PACKUP
When you’re packing yours away, leave the entrance door open and rolled up, and stuff the fly over the top of the ladder into the tent. This way it all stays neat and tidy within the tent when it’s folded over, and zipping up the cover’s a piece of cake. By leaving the door open, the tent doesn’t blow up like a balloon while you’re trying to fold it up.
PORTABLE CAMP LIGHT
Pick up a cheap LED work light (one of those round ones works best) and make yourself a long extension lead from dual-core wire and connect a CIG lighter socket to the other end. At camp you’ll have a portable light that can attach anywhere with a hook or attach to a tent pole.
VELCRO EVERYTHING, TO EVERYTHING
Velcro is absolutely underrated when it comes to organising gear around camp and the beaut part is it sticks to marine carpet like glue. Lighters, knives, torches, pens – anything you can think of really – can do with a small patch of Velcro to secure it where you want for quick access.
CAMPING RAIN WATER TANK
We all know the trick, slant your awning in the rain to allow it drain. However, if you use a length of drain pipe, hose clamped to the short leg of your awning and run into a bucket you’ll end up with a good collection of general purpose water. [blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”The simplest mods often make the most difference to your experience”[/blockquote]
KEEP THOSE KEYS CLOSE
Ever misplaced your 4WD’s keys for hours, only to realise you rolled them up in your swag that’s now strapped to the roof, while your mates wait to hit the road? We’ve all been there. Get yourself a small hook made of fencing wire, and hook your keys to the inside zipper of your swag. They’re safe in there with you at night, but you can’t get out of the swag in the morning without remembering to grab ‘em.
STUBBY COOLER DASHBOARD ORGANISER
Got a weird fetish for collecting stubby coolers? Well, put ‘em to good use by using them to hold pens, sunnies or anything else you can think of. In older 4WDs they stand up quite easily on the dash, so use a square of – wait for it – Velcro, to secure them in place.
Washing up after a meal is usually a huge waste of water. Get yourself a collapsible bucket, start with the cleanest items first, and wash the worst stuff last using the same water for as long as you can.
BEER BUCKET BBQ
Grab yourself an old Corona bucket (or any steel bucket) and use it as a portable BBQ. Just chuck a shovel full of coals in the bucket, lay a grill over the top and Bob’s your sister. This is a great way to slow cook steaks and we reckon you won’t get a softer steak than one that’s slow cooked over the bucket barbie.
COOK IN A PIT FOR A BETTER MEAL
Dig a shallow pit for your camp oven to sit in and place the coals at the bottom. Especially on windy days, the pit will retain much more heat and keep it more evenly distributed around the pot.
There’s nothing worse than having a great meal planned, yet every ingredient is scattered somewhere different inside the truck. Half torn shopping bags and spilled cans simply don’t cut it. Get yourself a crate, container or heck, even a sack to use as a dedicated pantry. All dry goods and cooking gear goes in there. This will change the way you cook a meal – it’s a dead set marriage saver.
EXTERNAL LIGHT SWITCHES
A huge switch panel inside your truck might look great, but having the ability to turn camp lights and showers on and off from the outside of the vehicle is more useful. Consider a second switch for outside accessories mounted near where you’d be using them. Things like camp lights, water pumps and air compressors can all benefit from this mod.
ALWAYS PRE-HEAT YOUR CAMP OVEN
A key to a successful camp oven dinner is to preheat the oven for about 10 minutes prior to chucking any food in. If it’s a big roast, then make sure you seal the roast first by searing it on every side before adding any liquids.
You know those hanging wardrobe organisers with all the plastic pockets? Use one as a nifty kitchen organiser. Pack it right and it’ll roll up for storage and hang under your awning or wherever you cook.
CLEAN AND COOL
Throw a packet of wet wipes in the fridge. Trust us, when its 40 degrees in the shade, an ice cold wet wipe will make all the difference.
Use a stack of old TicTac boxes to store your cooking spices. They pack much smaller and let’s face it, how much of each spice do you REALLY need to carry?
If you’re keen on spending more time preparing at home, and less time wasted at camp, you can pre-cook some meals and use a vac sealer to keep ‘em fresh. Then it’s as simple as cutting the bag open, heating the meal and bam, you’re ready to eat.
CAMP OVENS IN AN OPEN FIRE BAN
When there’s an open fire ban (NOT total fire ban) in place, use heat beads under and on top of your camp oven. They stay hot for ages and will cook a roast as well as using coals from an open fire.
Crack heaps of eggs into a plastic bottle and add a bit of milk. Shake the whole lot up and stick it in the 4WD’s fridge. Instant omelettes and scrambled eggs with no eggs to pack and no eggs to break! [blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a 5-star setup”[/blockquote]
BACK UP COOKING
Carry a small metal grille plate – something along the size of those you’d find in a coal BBQ. If you run out of gas or your cooker kicks the bucket, a grille plate over some coals will always keep you fed.
Seriously, get yourself one if funds allow. Just a $100 portable barbie will cook some of the best meals you can imagine and if you stick your pots or pans over the plate, they double as a great stove or oven. They’re really the only cooking system you need, provided you’ve got the space to store it.
If you’re in the mood for a bit of weekend DIY, grab yourself a cheap water pump and plumb it up to draw water INTO your tank. This way you can haul up to a fresh creek and refill your tank – it’s all about being able to stay in the bush longer.
Ever tried pouring a just boiled billy? Not easy without burning yourself. Keep an old pair of vice grips in your billy and snap em on once it’s boiled – an easy, burn-free pourer.
Veggies need to be well ventilated to survive in the scrub. When you’re anchored at camp for a few days, grab a hessian bag, throw your veggies inside and hang the bag off the ground. Air flow will keep them fresher and you’ll keep wildlife out of your tucker too.
LARGER FOLD OUT TABLE
A drop down table is handy for a cup of coffee or a sandwich but when it comes to bigger meals you’ll run out of space real quick. Grab yourself a cheap fold out table from the local Bunnings and use it as a cooking bench – trust us, you’ll never know how you managed without it.
BUDGET SAVVY LEFT-OVERS
Use your meal left-overs from Thursday night, for the weekend’s camping trip. It’ll save you heaps of money on shopping, not to mention time, both packing and once you’re at camp.
WET GROUND AND FIRES
Trying to start a fire, or keep coals on a cold wet ground can be tough. Keep a square of thin steel sheet somewhere in your 4WD and place it on the ground and light your fire on top of it. It’ll stop all the heat escaping into the ground and make camp cooking a breeze.
ULTIMATE OUTBACK FLY REPELLENT
Getting out into the outback brings with it the inescapable reality of flies – lots of them! No matter what commercial insect repellents you buy, there’s very few that actually work on these buggers. You’ll smell like a roast lamb, but rosemary and sandalwood cream is absolutely brilliant for keeping the flies of you. Once you’re out west you’ll find it at most road houses – try it, you’ll be amazed.
TOOL ROLL ORGANISERS
An old tool roll makes for a perfect organiser, whether it’s for cutlery, toiletries or even medications. They’ll roll up tight and you can jam them just about anywhere in the back of your truck and roll ‘em out on your table when it’s time to cook.
DON’T BUST THE BOOZE
Booze bottles can be stored safely by rolling them up in your swag, or folding ‘em up in the roof topper. They’ll be protected from any knocks and are perfectly corrugation-proof.
HIGH TECH ICE
With the average 12v fridge costing over $1000, there’s a lot to be said for the humble ice-box. Using synthetic ice packets, like Techni-Ice, can keep your food as cool as a $1000 fridge.
These are essential if you want to cook on a fire. Quality welder’s gloves can handle huge heat and come up to your elbows, letting you safely grab your camp oven out of the fire, or pour a billy without burns.
LONGER ICE-BOX ICE
When you’re at camp and have the ice-box out of the 4WD, leave the drain bung out. By constantly draining the water, you’ll get up to an extra day out of your ice. [blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”These tricks make all the difference out in the bush”[/blockquote]
SOLAR NIGHT LIGHTS FOR THE KIDS
A couple of cheap’o solar garden lights (the ones with the spike in the bottom) are perfect as a DIY night light for the kids around camp. Stick one near the dunny, one outside the kid’s tent and anywhere else you might need to see at night. The kids will be happier and you’ll know they’re safer if they hop up during the night.
VELCRO PENCIL CASES
Velcro pencil cases to the insides of doors, the side of the fridge or anywhere you fancy. Use them to store anything from cutlery to toiletries close to hand.
Much more than a redneck luxury, having a can crusher will reduce the amount of space your rubbish takes up. A crushed can is about 10% the size of a normal one and over the course of a weekend with a few mates will save you a full bag of rubbish in the back of your 4WD. For around $10, they’re a useful addition.
12V EXTENSION LEADS
Got some spare dual-core wire laying around at home? Make yourself a couple of 12v CIG plug extension leads. You’ll be able to take portable power around camp, into your tent, or anywhere that some extra power would be useful.
Using some cable ties, it’s a piece of cake to attach a pump soap dispenser to the centre of your spare tyre. If you’ve also got running water, or a water jerry in your rear bar then washing your hands is quick and easy.
CHEAP CAMP SHOWER
It might be cold, but a basic $30 12V camp shower will save you hundreds of dollars over a hot water system and can draw straight from one of those 20L jerry cans. In hot weather who minds a cold shower anyway? Beats forking out close to a grand for a plumbed hot water system.
BUDGET 4WD CAMP STORAGE
If funds don’t allow for a set of drawers, milk crates are great storage solution and keep all your gear separated and can easily come out of the truck, into your tent or under an awning.
FISHING ROD STORAGE
Store your smaller 2-piece fishing rods inside you awning cover. Just beware if you’re on a tough track to take them out in case you rub the awning along a tree.
CAMP OVEN CARE
When storing your camp oven, scrunch up a sheet of newspaper and stuff it inside the oven before packing away. The newspaper will absorb any residual moisture and help to prevent rust.
DEAD SPACE WATER STORAGE
Cheaper still and just as effective for drinking water storage is to use small, frozen water bottles scattered all over the inside of the 4WD. Under seats, beside draws and in various nooks and crannies that’d otherwise be dead space.
BUDGET WATER TANKS
You don’t need a several hundred dollar water tank when a couple of 20l jerry cans will do the same job. In some cases they’re actually better, because you can move them around to where you’re washing up or showering.
BACKUP WATER PURIFICATION
Always carry at least one form of water purification in your 4WD. Even something as simple as some purification tablets tossed in the glovebox can really be a lifesaver if you split a water tank or just plain run out of water.
KEEP IT TOGETHER
If you travel with mates in other 4WDs and only need enough gear in your 4WD for yourself, then pack a set of cutlery, a plate and a campers cup inside your camp oven. It’ll all fit inside and be in one handy place every night when you knock up dinner.
WET WEATHER FIRE
A wet campsite, and soaking timber plain sucks. Keep a tight bundle of 25x25mm, untreated timber in a small tub in the back of your 4WD along with some kindling and fire lighters. This will be enough to get you through a cold night, when the weather unexpectedly turns to rubbish.
HALVE YOUR SETUP AND PACKUP TIMES
If you camp with a swag or a roof topper, then get into the habit of leaving all of your camp bedding, pillows and sleeping clothes inside it when you pack up. Most swags will easily roll up with bedding still inside, and a roof topper will happily swallow your sleeping gear, no worries.
HEAD TORCH HANGER
Head torches – if the isn’t flat, then you can’t find them. Sling your head torch around your head rest and it’ll always be nearby when you need to find it in the dark.
Use an LED strip on the underside of your rooftop tent to light your ladder area or inside your annexe. Trust us, it comes in handy when you’re trying to make your way up the ladder in the dark, or sheltering in the annexe during bad weather.
Weld a steel hook (about the same size as a padlock) to the bottom of your shovel handle where it meets the wood. This is the perfect camp oven accessory as it lets you shovel coals around, and use the hook to open the lid.
It’s an unfortunate fact that some scumbags are too willing to knock off your hard earned camping gear. When it comes to expensive gear that you’ll likely leave out overnight, use a length of bike chain to secure them to a nearby tree, or your 4WD’s bulbar.
DIY SAND BAGS
A couple of enviro bags from the local Woollies make for a perfect awning tie-down. Fill the bags with sand and bury them a foot under the sand, and attach the ropes to the bag handle. Then fill in the hole. Your truck will flip over in the wind before these pull out of the ground.
STORAGE DRAWER COUNTER TOP
Some thin ply wood cut to the size of your drawers makes a perfect pull-out counter top. If you’re feeling fancy, then add a simple hinge so you can flip the ply up and out of the way to access the drawer.
CARAVAN LEVELLING RAMPS
Use those stepped, plastic caravan levelling ramps to ensure a good night sleep inside your rooftop tent, no matter what the ground under you is like. In conjunction with a few small squares of plywood to level the ladder, you’ll have a level tent and a slide-free night’s sleep.
SOLAR/GENERATOR QUICK CONNECTIONS
If you use solar or generators for charging your auxiliary batteries, have a couple of Anderson plugs wired to your battery or charger, and mount them to the bullbar for a quick connection that doesn’t require anything other than just plugging them in.
Use small rod-tip, fishing glow sticks to mark ropes and poles around camp. They can be had for less that 50c each from a local fishing store.
Using a door pressure switch and some LED strip, it’s too easy to knock up an automatic LED light for the inside of your drawers. When you’re looking for the chilli powder, or recovery gear in the middle of the night, it’ll be a life (or marriage) saver.
INSTANT GAS BOTTLE LEVEL
Ever wondered quite how much gas is left in your BBQ’s bottle? Well, by pouring some boiling water over your gas cylinder, you’ll see a condensation mark form at the exact level where the LPG is inside. You can also use your hand to check – where the tank is cold, is where the gas level is.
CAMPING PIZZA OVEN
Simply throw your pizza on the flat of the BBQ plate, then place the camp oven upside down over the top. Pizza perfection every time.
DOG BOXES- PERFECT DIRTY GEAR STORAGE
Got a ute? Good. Got a dog? Doesn’t matter. Ute dog cages are the perfect storage system for dirty gear. Things like fire wood, garbage bags, oils and fuel drums can be stored, ventilated and protected in a dog cage. So whether you’ve got a pooch or not, a dog cage is one of the best storage systems for a ute.
UTE WATER TANKS
If even if you’ve got a modern tub-style ute, you can use the dead space between the chassis and tub to install a water tank, complete with pumps and a tap under the tray. It’s a lot of space to go to waste otherwise!
SAFETENT POLE STORAGE
We’ve all seen the old PVC fishing rod storage tubes along roof racks, but another beaut use for these is to hold all your tent poles. It keeps them in the same place and they’re always close to hand when it comes to setting up and packing down.
MAGNETIC PARTS TRAYS
If you’ve got a camper trailer, use a couple of magnetic parts trays on the drawbar as soap holders, or just to hold general bits and pieces. They’re useful under the bonnet just as much as under the shower.
PORTABLE CAMP/WORK LIGHT
Using a portable 12V rechargeable work light is the perfect alternative to a hard-wired 12V camp light. Use one with a magnetic back and you can attach it anywhere from the rear barn door, to under the bonnet, or even take it inside your roof top tent and attach to one of the cross bars.
BARN DOOR LIGHT
Got a wagon with barn doors and a drop down table? Use some flexible LED strip at the top of the door to light up your table area.
INTERLOCKING RUBBER MATS
There are a million uses for these cheap rubber mats. They’re perfect for vibration proofing things like fridges by placing them under the fridge and they also make a perfect place to stand while you have a bush shower, letting water and dirt flow through while keeping your feet clean. Use them as an entrance mat to your swag, or under the ladder on your roof topper.
Running your 4WD’s stereo at camp might seem great, but often you end up switching ‘em off to save power, plus they only sound half decent with all the doors open. Look for a cordless worksite radio at your local hardware. These things can really crank, can hook to an MP3 player and the batteries last for days. Plus, if you head down to the river for a fish or swim, it can come with you!
If you’re not in need of back seats for the family or mates, then seriously consider fitting a false floor. You’ll gain a massive increase in storage space, and the whole job should take less than a day.
SWIVELLING CAMP LIGHTS
Mount a pair of camp lights on the rear corners of your roof rack, but allow them to swivel so they can either light the rear of the truck while cooking, or be turned to light the sides of the truck, under the awnings.
A cargo barrier, while a definite safety feature, is also one of the most useful storage accessories you can have. You can secure recovery gear, mount fire extinguishers or hard mount 12V gear straight to the barrier.
UTE BBQ SLIDE
If you’ve got the extra space handy, and happen to have a spare fridge slide handy, then you’ve got everything you need to make a slide out BBQ from the side of your tray back.
PLASTIC STATIONARY DRAWERS FOR CUTLERY
For utes, but even wagons grab yourself a cheap three or four drawer desktop stationary drawer for storing cutlery and cooking utensils. This is perfect for a ute canopy where you can mount the drawers above or near your cooking surface. Use some rubber matting underneath to dampen the vibration. [share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true” reddit=”true” email=”true”]