Camping is a lot like driving a tough track. You’re only going to get better at it by doing it. Every time you head out, you discover something that can be done smarter or easier. But unfortunately for most of us, we just can’t get out there enough to build up our knowledge about stress free camping.
The boys at 4WD Action HQ sat down over a couple of cold ones, and through all three brain cells between the bunch of us, decided that we needed to put together a bible of the best tips and tricks for simple, easy and cheap camping – These are things that anyone can do to improve their camp setup.
We realised pretty quickly that to get the best ideas, meant talking to people who do it for a living. So for this issue, we called in the Calvary in the form of our experts. These blokes and blokettes absolutely live and breathe camping, and have gotten so good at it that they can pretty much setup with their eyes closed.
10 TIPS FOR EASY OVERNIGHTERS
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]Overnight camping demands efficiency to maximise time spent sitting by the fire for the night. So for that reason, here are our top tips to make overnight stays even smoother![/blockquote]
KEEPING DRY AT CAMP – JED
When you setup your awning, angling the awning down on one side will direct water flow in bad weather. From there if the weather gets too extreme, you can dig a trench if needed, just be sure to fill it in when you’re done! Chucking a tarp in the back when you head out as well can pay for itself if the heavens open up!
BYO FIREWOOD – LINDA
If you’re stopping at an overnight camp and arrive late, the last thing you want to do is look for wood. Carrying some firewood with you makes the job of getting a small comfort fire happening in no time.
GETTING OUT THERE – LINDA
If you’re a newcomer to the 4WD scene, build up your confidence by travelling with others such as friends or join a 4WD club and head out on some day trips and overnighters. It’s a fantastic way to learn and increase your skill level with camping as well as to understand the capability of your vehicle.
OCCY STRAPS – JED
Chuck a few Occy straps in the back before you go. They are so versatile – You can use one to raise the head of the swag off your face, and clip onto the awning pole. You can also use them as a makeshift clothes line or to strap things down on the roofrack.
BUG-OUT BOX – TRAV
For that quick getaway, have a storage box sitting in your shed with everything you need ready to go in it already. That way when you get home on a Friday, you can chuck the box in the back of the 4WD, throw the fridge in and you’re good to go. It will help save space too – In your 4WD, and your shed!
HANDY BOTTLE OPENER – JED
Screwing a bottle opener to your rear door, drawer setup or even your bullbar makes opening bottles a breeze! To make it even better, chuck a little container below it to catch the lids when you pop ‘em off.
THE ESSENTIALS – DICK
When camping overnight, take only what you need. A little butane stove has made overnight camping very simple. A couple of lightweight cooking pots, frypan, plates and needed cutlery takes up little room. However, for overnight bush trips, prepare a tasty meal at home and let it cook in a Thermos Pot while on the road. It’s simply the easiest way of having a delicious meal when camping overnight.
12V OVEN – GRAHAM
This one may seem like a bit of a luxury, but it’s one of those things that once you have it, you’ll wonder how you ever went bush without it. The best part is that you don’t have to get all your cooking gear out for dinner if you chuck it in the oven a few hours before. Just rock up to camp, get a fire going and enjoy tucker!
PREP YOUR TUCKER – LINDA
If you don’t want to go to a lot of trouble for cooking meals for a quick overnighter, always carry a few meals that have been cryo-vaced. That way when you arrive at camp, you only need to heat in boiling water for 15 minutes and you’re enjoying a cracking home cooked meal.
STRESS FREE CAMP LIGHTING – JED
A simple 12V strip light run under the awning rail can turn night into day and use next to no power. Even better, you can get metres of the stuff online for next to nothing and run it all around your 4WD. Its far better than using a head torch to find where you’re going, and means you don’t have to worry when the sun goes down.
10 TRICKS FOR EPIC ADVENTURES
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]They’re the once-in-a-lifetime trips that we all aspire to do. Our experts have more than a few under their belts. Take a look at what they have found![/blockquote]
BUDGET TINTING – STEVE
Grab some sun shades from the two dollar shop and use double sided tape to stick them to your rear cargo area windows to block out the sun and reduce cabin temps. It’ll also stop grubs from checking out what gear you’ve got in the back of your 4WD, and stop the sun from warming up your fridge, too.
FRESH TUCKER ACROSS THE TOP – DICK
Generally we eat what the local fishing holes offer, barramundi, sooty grunter and cherabin – a freshwater prawn. Take a pot and bait it with a tin of tuna. Just punch a couple of holes in it. It’s a great way to get an easy feed in the tropics – works on red claw crayfish also.
ALL ROUND AWNINGS – JED
Having two or more awnings on your 4WD is one of the best camping mods you can do. You’re covered on all sides of the truck, and you can divide them into sections e.g. one side of the truck is the sleeping area, the rear is the kitchen and the other side is the sitting area.
SETTING UP THE TRUCK FOR THE BIG LAP – STEVE
You can do the ‘big lap’ of Oz in a fairly standard 4WD, providing it’s reliable and got decent tyres. But the one thing that’ll totally transform your camp setup is quality 12V. Invest in a quality dual battery system, AGM second battery, solar panels and LED lights.
GAS HOT WATER SYSTEM – BRENNO
I figured this would be something only the grey nomad oldies would really want, but I installed a Joolca gas hot water shower on the trailer and instantly fell in love it. These things are deadset brilliant. It’s quicker to use it to fill a bowl to do the washing up than it is to boil a billy on the stove. I’ve set it up to suck out of a freshwater creek and there’s absolutely nothing like the luxury of a shower after a couple of hot dusty days out in the scrub. I’d even run one in a ute canopy if I was setting up a ute tourer – up on the headboard would be perfect.
VACUUM SEALING YOUR MEAT – SHAUNO
This one has popped up a few times, and for good reason! Get yourself one of those vacuum sealers from the shop and before you head out, seal a whole bunch of meats, spag bog, fish etc. You’ll be amazed at how much space you save. If you’re going for a while, take the sealer with you so you can top up your stores when you catch a fish at your dream beach campsite.
TOOLS UP TOP – STEVE
Secure a weatherproof toolbox to your roof cage or ute tray for spares, tools and recovery gear, freeing up your rear drawers and cargo area for every day Knick knacks like food, kitchen items, torches and loo paper. Just make sure you lock it up when you’re not using it!
DRIVE THE PLAN – LINDA
We don’t go anywhere without having a good plan in place, especially when travelling remote. This means doing a stack of research to calculate fuel range distances, where you can get water, obtaining the right permits, and having our set up thoroughly prepared.
PACK SMART – GRAHAM
Pack strategically, with the things you access most often at the front, and the things you don’t need much at the back. Not having to unload your entire boot load of gear every time you pull in to camp will make the whole job faster, easier and more enjoyable.
WATER STORAGE – STEVE
If you need to carry a lot of water, you want to keep it as low as possible to ensure the vehicle remains stable. For just three bucks you can buy 10L water containers with taps from most supermarkets. They fit places larger jerry cans won’t, like in back foot wells, down the side of your drawers or behind the back seat. Plus, if you get a hole in one you haven’t lost your entire water supply.
10 HARD LEARNED SOLO CAMPING TIPS
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]Camping solo needs to be simple but effective. Check out these top tips for streamlining your setup[/blockquote]
TRADIE’S RADIO – TRAV
The last thing you want to do when you’re on your own is drain your battery. Get yourself one of those portable radios from your local hardware store. They’re only a couple of hundred bucks for a good one that lets you play your own music too!
EASY FIRE STARTING – DICK
Wet timber is difficult to light especially if you’re on your own. No camp should be without a fire. Collect egg cartons, stack and soak them in sump oil or any oil for a few days (even with your old oil in the shed before you go). When done cut them into “bricks” and dry. Store the dry bricks in a plastic container and when timber is hard to light use one as a fire starter.
PACKING UP AN AWNING – JED
When you pack up an awning on your own, sit the awning on the top of the rack as you pack away the poles, so it’s not awkward to put away. When you finish packing, make sure the zips are closed up at the back of the car – This way you won’t hear the rattles of the zips hitting each other when you’re driving and it limits the chance of rain ingress when travelling into the wet.
CUTLERY MULTITOOL – JED
If space is an issue, those folding camping cutlery sets are under 10 bucks, excellent for the solo camper and take up no room! They come with a fork, knife, spoon and a clip to hang or store it. The best part is they are super easy to clean up, and take up bugger all space leaving more room for all that fishing gear.
PORTABLE BBQ – TRAV
When you’re on your own, for the most part space saving won’t be a massive concern. If you can, chuck your portable BBQ in the back. It’s a lot quicker than cooking on the fire, and you can setup and pack up with no fuss – ideal for the solo camper!
PROTECTING YOUR COOKING – BRENNO
Cooking on your own needs to be quick. To avoid having to relight the stove from wind, all you need is a simple three-sided windbreak made out of some gal sheet and a couple of small hinges that folds flat when not in use, and sits around the cooker on all three sides. The difference it makes to how quickly you can cook tucker is massive, with the added benefit being you seriously reduce how much gas you use. Even if your cooker has its own wind-breaks, add this to your kit and watch how good it works!
THE RIGHT TOOLS -BRENNO
When heading out, have a dedicated small box for tools and equipment, and keep it in a spot that’s easy to access like your roof. Not just for your 4WD, but for servicing camp equipment like chainsaws etc. On top of that, make sure you know how to use them!
SWAG STRETCHER – SHAUNO
After watching a lot of my mates use them for a couple of years I simply refused to get myself a stretcher for my swag because I thought it was just another thing to carry and it was a bit soft, if you know what I mean. I finally decided to try one out, and that was the last night I slept on the ground in a single swag. Ever!
PORTALOO – TIM
You may have seen this one in 4WD Action before – because it’s just that good. Get yourself an old milk crate and toilet seat, cut a hole in the milk crate and attach the seat to it. For added comfort, a stubby holder for your cold one and a roll holder can be added too…space isn’t an issue on your own, why not answer natures call in luxury!
SPREAD THE WORD -JED
Before you head out, make sure you tell people where you plan to go, what you’ll be doing and how long you expect to be. If you can, give your contact a map of where you’re going/where you’re camping so if something does happen, they can pass the map onto emergency services.
10 EASY TIPS FOR COUPLES
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]They say the true test for a couple is to travel together – check out these tips to make sure your couples getaway is the best it can be![/blockquote]
BUDGETING DONE RIGHT – TRAV
Nothing will ruin a trip (or a relationship) more than running out of money. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you spend time before any extended camping journey to do the maths and get yourself a solid budget. You need to take things into account like the increased price of food and fuel in remote areas, not to mention allowing a bit extra for any mechanical repairs that come along. While it’s not exactly anyone’s idea of fun, spending the time to do a proper budget prior to your trip will ensure that you have more fun and less stress out in the scrub.
SHARE THE ROAD -LINDA
Depending on the vehicle you choose to take, make sure both of you can drive in the terrain that you’re travelling in case of an emergency and one party is unable to drive. As well as this, it just makes the trip a lot smoother if you share the load when driving.
TRAVELLING WITH YOUR BEST MATE – STEVE
It’s sort of a couple, but if you’re travelling with a dog, put their dry food in a jerry can. You can store it anywhere, it doesn’t smell, it won’t spill, it won’t attract ants or mice and it’s easy to dish out at camp. Just make sure you have enough space for it. You can even use one of those smaller jerry cans for it too.
CAMP TOGETHER -LINDA
When heading off whether for a weekend or longer trip, share the camping workload between the two of you. That way you’ll be ready to share the fun in half the time, and each of you can be responsible for certain parts of the trip.
SMART SLEEPING STORAGE -STEVE
Installing a cargo net to the roof above the rear passenger seat for things like pillows and sleeping bags is an excellent idea for space saving. An added benefit is they stay clean, don’t take up valuable boot space and are easy to get to!
EASY CAMPING – GRAHAM
Whatever tent, swag or camper you buy, make sure it’s easy to set up and pack down. The easier it is, the less arguments you’ll have with the other half around camp and the faster you can kick back with a coldie. Simplicity is key when camping together.
CAMPING LUXURY – BRENNO
Okay, now things are sounding a little silly but hear me out. A cheapie door matt next to your swag, rooftop tent ladder or camper trailer door lets you step out of your boots without bringing dirt into your bed. When I first saw the grey nomads doing it I thought it’d be only for those setting up to stay somewhere a week, but I keep a cheapie rolled up behind the toolbox and it’s the first thing I grab when I get to camp – the missus will thank you for not bringing dirt into the bed.
CLEVER CLOTHES LINE – STEVE
Use a guy rope and dampening spring as a clothes line. Simply attach a karabiner at each end, link a few together if you need a longer line, and pull the guy rope handle to tension. You’ll have it set up in seconds and never have to muck around tying and untying knots again.
THE COUPLE COUCH – JED
If you are looking to save space, you can pick up one of those twin camping chairs, and they don’t take up much more room when folded up than a normal chair. They are ideal for shorter trips away with your better half. What’s even better is, if only one of you is using it at the time, you can spread out!
THE LITTLE THINGS – SHAUNO
When my girlfriend and I went to the Kimberley last year, she made me buy her a self-inflating mattress for the double swag. I refused to buy one for myself as the mattress in the swag was great. Again after trying it, my swag game was changed for the better! Now I only use self-inflating mattresses inside my swag, it’s the best upgrade you can make.
10 TIPS FOR CAMPING WITH THE WHOLE CLAN
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]This section is aimed at those of you who love their family camping. Our experts here all have families of their own, and have tried and tested these top tips for a stress free family camping trip[/blockquote]
FEEDING TIME – TRAV
No matter how far you’re traveling, as soon as you get in the 4WD, the kids are going to tell you they’re hungry! The fact is, kids will use boredom as an excuse to eat, so it’s important to keep them entertained, and to ensure you plan specific stops for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. The thing is, they’re still going to want to eat while you’re on the tracks, and let’s face it, the last thing you want is to have to clean up a whole bunch of leftovers once you’re back at camp. Take a lunch box in the vehicle with you, with pre-prepared snacks – things like sliced apple or the odd biscuit. Doing this will help keep the mess (and complaints!) to a minimum. Also let the kids help with the food prep while you’re at camp, that way they know exactly what to expect.
GET THEM INVOLVED – LINDA
Have everyone involved when family camping by assigning each person a job when setting up the camp or collecting firewood. This way everyone has something to do and owns their slice of the fun.
LEAVE TECH AT HOME – DICK
Okay, this one is going to hurt, but be firm and leave all those electronic toys at home and instead teach the kids bush and camp craft by getting them involved in all chores and duties, and very importantly – all outdoor activities. Don’t leave your children in the camp when you go fishing. Take them with you and teach them how to bait a hook, cast a lure, and catch a fish. Teach them about the birds and the plants and carefully explain some of the dangers that may be present, or they may take fright. They may find it difficult to appreciate it at the time, but they’ll look back on it and be thankful for learning such important skills so young!
STORAGE KING – TRAV
The thing with travelling with kids, is that they have so much gear you need to take when you go camping. That means you really need to best utilise the space on offer to fit as much as possible. One way to do this, is to use a trusty old 12V vacuum sealer. Now most people will tell you these things are sensational when it comes to maximising food storage space, but why stop there? A 12V vacuum sealer takes up very little space, so take it with you, and vacuum pack your food, clothes and anything else that tends to take up excessive space. You’ll be surprised by how much space you save!
LET THE KIDS USE THEIR IMAGINATION – TRAV
Don’t be too quick to provide your kids with entertainment when you’re at camp – let them explore and entertain themselves as much as possible. Whether they’re building a cubby house or a sand castle, you really only need to get them started, and they’ll be occupied for hours! It’s kind of like training them to use their imagination – once you’ve done it a few times; you’ll find that as soon as you pull up at camp, they’ll throw themselves into the challenge of exploring and unlocking their new environment.
K.I.S.S – THE BURDENS
When travelling with the family keep it simple. Particularly with the kids clothing and belongings, one set of good clothes is ideal for when you get into town, and then a couple of pairs of old clothes. That way, they can get dirty in their old gear and it doesn’t matter. They are out there to experience the bush. Let them run free!
BUSH COMMUNICATIONS – TRAV
Not to harp too much on safety, but if you’re camping in a remote or semi-remote region, then make sure you’ve got a reliable form of communication should things go wrong. Unfortunately, a UHF won’t always cut it, as it’s a relatively short-range form of communication. You’re safest option is to carry a sat-phone which will provide telephone communication regardless of where you are. The best part is, you can easily hire a sat phone, which means you don’t need to invest big bucks on purchasing one yourself. Carrying a Personal Locator Beacon or EPIRB is also wise, especially for extremely remote trips.
FAMILY COOKING – LINDA
Create a family dish that only happens when you head out bush. It could be a simple dish like frog in the hole, or why not get creative and make up a special family jaffle favourite – this way the kids will associate their fun meal with camping and get excited around dinner time!
EMERGENCY SITUATIONS! – TRAV
If there’s one thing you can never take too seriously when you head bush with the family, it’s safety. To that end, I recommend without reservation that every parent complete a first aid course if you plan to go camping with your kids, and ensure you’ve got a fully stocked first aid kit. Just ask yourself the question “Would I know what to do if my child gets bitten by a snake?” If the answer is no, then it’s really a no-brainer – enrol yourself in a first aid course and get yourself a comprehensive first aid kit.
GIVING THEM SOME RESPONSIBILITIES – LINDA
The greatest way to educate the kids is to give them some responsibility – If you let them have their own bag or seat organiser in the back of the 4WD, they can set it up the way they like it (with some guidance). It will get them involved and they will love having their own part of the trip to take care of.
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]There are enough tips in here to build the ultimate camping rig, all that’s left is to head bush![/blockquote]
Crikey, how’s that for a camping almanac? There are some absolutely cracking tips in there from people who have tried and tested what works and what doesn’t.
Obviously at the end of the day none of us get out camping as much as we’d like to. Heck, if it was up to us, 4WD Action HQ would be setup under an awning by a beach campsite somewhere. But at least you will be able to simplify your setup for next time. Then after that you can find out what works and what doesn’t and refine your setup even more! It’s a never ending process, but that’s the beauty of camping. All that remains is to pack the 4WD and head bush – whether it’s for an overnighter, an epic trip or a weekend with the family – time out bush is time well spent!
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