Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

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mattm9
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Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by mattm9 » March 18th, 2016, 2:43 pm

Hi guys,

I'm just after a bit of advice. After spending the past 6 months looking at a variety of options from camper trailer, campervans and 4x4's with roof tents I settled on the 4x4 option. I've just purchased a completely standard '99 Pathfinder its been owned by a friend of mine since new and I know its a reliable vehicle.

So I'm now beginning the process of converting it into usable camping vehicle. I've spent hours looking at different products and figuring out what I need and am now just after some advice from others here on what they've got in their own setups and what brands to stay away from. The majority of the time I'll be away for 3-4 days and but I do have a few bigger trips planned in the future. It will only be me and the wife using it.

Budget wise I'm looking at a max of $5k at the moment. I know its linked to this site but I've been looking at the majority of my stuff from 4WD Supacentre...

So if anyones got any advice or reccomendations on the following I would greatly appreciate it.

Roof Tent
Awnings
Drawers
Fridge - at the moment I'm looking at a Waeco one.
Auxillary Battery

Cheers,

Matt

tony bogle
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by tony bogle » March 18th, 2016, 4:45 pm

Hello mattm9 over the years it has been trial and error for me when i head out for a weekend i keep it simple i use a 40 litre engle i have dual batteries i have an awning and i just bought a new double kings swag it is one of the best swags i have ever owned i set it up under my awning i also have a double stretcher i like a little bit more comfort and i set up a table for cooking and a chair thats it i also have a camper trailer for longer stays i am now looking at a awning tent as a new addition i think would work well for me it just keeps more of the elements out a lot is down to personnal choice i know a lot of people that have spent a lot of money on gear that they have not used i would write a list and work out if it is going to work for you keeping it simple works if you can look at buying a good second hand camper trailer i bought mine second hand and i have there when i need it this is a good excuse for you to get out and do a lot more product testing and saving money for a new set of tyres with the money you can save good luck

mattm9
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by mattm9 » March 18th, 2016, 7:54 pm

Hey Tony,

Thanks for your reply. I've bought the Pathfinder with the intention to convert that. I decided against the camp trailer route as I fancied more the freedom of the Pathfinder and I dont really have a safe place to store a trailer.

I've made a list of all the things I'm after, I guess the main thing I need some advice on is what roof tent people recommend. I dont mind spending the money on one but I want to make sure I get a suitable one for the price!

Cheers

BigDutchy
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by BigDutchy » March 18th, 2016, 9:04 pm

Roof Tent; I am on my second. I started years ago with a 1.4 wide Ebay special. We loved it and never gave us any trouble. We bought a new tent last year. This one is 1.8 wide. This is just awesome. It is so good. Again just an ebay special. I think its a G camper or something.

Awnings; I have a heavy canvas one. I got it for free. It's about 10 years old now. It is again a great thing. I have seen the cheapies but my one feels so much better, more solid and after 10 years it is still working great.

Drawers; I bought some MDF and non construction pine from Bunnings. No sliders needed. MDF on MDF is slippery enough. Is it pretty? No way!! But I spend $50 on timber and it has lasted me about 4 or 5 years now. I made it for my GU, the modified the frame for my Rodeo and it's now sitting in my Cruiser..

Fridge - at the moment I'm looking at a Waeco one. I am still buying ice and have done this for for ever.
Fridge $1200, extra battery set up $500, Solar $500. Total $2200. I am at this moment not able to go to remote and I have never not been able to buy a bag or two ice.
For $2200 I can buy approx 550 bags of ice. I need on average about 1.5 bags a day= 367 days. My trips are max 14 days.
That is enough for 26 trips. That's in my case give or take 9 years of ice.
Now to be honest this is all a little silliness. A fridge is much more convenient but if you go out only 3 weeks a year I just wonder if a fridge is worth the expense...

Auxiliary Battery again do you really use it?

I am now looking at a second battery, fridge, solar etc. You can spend a million on this stuff. Have a think what you want and really need and take it from there.

As you can see I do my Dutch heritage proud and don't spend a lot of money on all my camping gear.
I have everything I need for a few weeks away but I have always spend my money on things that are important and have always tried to get the extra's on the cheap.
I spend $150 on camp chair. After a day behind the wheel I want to sit comfortable. Try to sit a night around the camp fire on these $15 umbrella chairs....

Les - PK Ranger
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by Les - PK Ranger » March 19th, 2016, 3:28 am

Roof Tent
Consider a tent to start, they can be a lot more versatile if you camp a day or three and want to drive daily.
You said you wanted to set up to go camping, so just a thought . . . a RTT is great for touring where you move each day.

Awnings
I looked the other day, they are getting quite dear now !!
The 2.5 x 2m out might be a tad long for the Pathy, check if you can find a 1.6 x 2 or 2.5 out.

Drawers
DIY or second hand set (adapted to fit) maybe ?
Best Offroad drawers are good quality commercially made to fit, if in budget.

Fridge - at the moment I'm looking at a Waeco one.
If you can afford it, go for it, wait for specials Supercheap etc.
I have Techniice 45lt, very happy with how it's handled 4 years and 100k touring inc outback desert and corro roads.
Low draw and excellent performance, I have it in the cab behind front pax seat.

Auxillary Battery
Run 6B&S dual core wiring (~$12/m) from the main battery via an isolator (~$120), couple of HD fuses placed suitably each end (~$40), battery box with a couple of 12v ciggy plugs / Anderson plug / USB if possible etc (~$70), Anderson plug connection ($20).
It'll charge while driving and recharge AGM battery (~$300 - $350) in no time, or hook up a solar panel while camping multi days via a suitable controller.

Mind you, as Dutchy said you can get by without 2nd battery . . . if your main battery is good, it will cope with a low draw fridge and a strip or two of LED lights through the night and more.
Mine is good (safe) for a day and couple of nights camping if I wanted to run from main, but 2nd battery is less worries.
You can set up a decent solar system to keep your main charge if camping multi days to start with, and set up 2nd battery later ?

3136 ranger
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by 3136 ranger » March 19th, 2016, 8:16 am

I can't give any advice on what brand of roof tents, but if you are on very hairy terrain the extra weight up there can be just that little bit extra to make you tip over, but the track has to be pretty bad.
I did get a fridge though, it's an ebay special, sold from a business in Boronia Vic. It's a 60l and it was $500 at the time. I've had it about 2 years and I leave it running on the deck out the back at home, so it's been running pretty much constant the whole time, never missed a beat. Just look for one with a Danfoss compressor, that's the critical part.They don't sell that size anymore, but have a decent range.
I put in a dual battery in mine, I got a deep cycle from ebay that was a second hand one from a big UPS setup. The battery was $75, as long as it sits on 12.8v (on rest) or close it's a good sign it will last for years. As far as charge controller I used a VSR, voltage sensitive relay ($30), they sense when the starting battery is charged, then pump the current to the aux battery, there is no pulse width modulation charge control or anything like that, it's just bang on and bang off, so it depends on how your alternator works as to how much charge current it will get. Probably not great, but for a $75 battery who cares. I got a 140 watt folding solar panel and never use it, if you use your car every day, that is more than enough to top up the battery. I normally drive each day till at least 3pm so really no need for it. If you were hanging around camp for a couple of days without starting the car, then yes a great idea. Don't forget if you use a second battery, and a VSR or charge controller of some sort, your starter battery is not used so you are always safe and will be able to start your car. But try not to discharge the deep cycle below 12v (at rest, no draw on it)
I saw a bloke who made his own draws out of MDF also, really really heavy, very cheap, but way too heavy considering you'll fill your vehicle up with stuff when you go away, your back springs just won't cope.
Now that comes to what you are going to do with the vehicle. The stock suspension isn't up to much extra weight and the shocks aren't up to a lot of work either, so consider an upgrade to that also. But you haven't said what type of driving you'll be doing, flat terrain hwy through the desert? Coastal scenic trips? High country tracks?

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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by Peter Aawen » March 19th, 2016, 9:36 am

You ask for advice mattm9, here's some: be VERY careful to clearly establish your driving/camping needs before getting a Roof Top Tent (or a Dome Tent for that matter!) Like many others (here & elsewhere) I've found (over 20 odd years of running Tag-along Tours) that these RTT things can be the bane of your existence, but others find they like them?! They are a CoG raising, height raising, fuel guzzling, space sapping protuberance sticking up there on your roof rack, often ALL the time cos it's too much bother to dismount it between 4WD trips ; once you've set up you camp can't move the vehicle far or go anywhere unless you pack up; and there are significant risks to climbing up & down the ladder too - and that's if you can actually sleep up there on a windy night without getting sea-sick!! Dome Tents aren't much better, being pretty much the ground based version of the same pain in the ar....ea!! :o Dome tents tend to take ages to put up & take down; they often leave you with significant un-useable floor area inside; they are renowned for blowing flat or breaking struts in strong winds; & they don't pack down as compactly as most centre pole or frame tents. :irked:

We mainly used (& at times supplied) Freedom Minit Campers, a fairly expensive high quality 2-4 person tent that lasted extremely well & even after 10 years of fairly hard & continuous use (generally about 300 days per year) still looked & worked like new!! But there are other brands out there, Southern Cross Tents do a similar quality range, & there are quite a few cheaper that use a similar concept. They are centre pole tents that take about 2-3 minutes max to put up & maybe 2-5 to take down & pack away. The centre pole is far less intrusive than you'd think, most double swags fit on one side & there's ample room on the other side for 2kids or just open floor space; and you get stand-up head height too, something that many other tents don't allow, or if they do the tent is massive!! The Minit Camper & it's bigger brother (room for 6+ people) the Family Tourer 1310 that we used when camping/travelling or living on the tracks for 3months or so with our 4kids in tow (& we now use a roomier 4person Wagon Tourer that I don't think they sell anymore - check out their website, http://www.freedomcamping.com.au) pack down to a One metre square pack that's about 100-150mm thick, plus the collapsible pole (& a rear frame) & a bundle of pegs!!

We found these to be much more versatile & suitable to 4x4 Touring & camping than any RTT we've ever come across, & frequently we could sit back with a cold beverage in hand while the RTT campers were still setting up or pulling down their tents -AND we could still get in the vehicle & drive off if we wanted once we'd set up camp!! Sure, the top brands like Freedom might be a tad expensive in terms of initial outlay, but after more than 10 years of using them, each of ours, the Family Camper & the dozen or so Minute Campers we used for the Tour operation, sold for a significant portion of their initial purchase price cos they still looked almost new (one needed a new zipper tho) and worked well - but even before we recouped money from their sale came to less than $100 p/a for each tent!! And (once 'seasoned' properly) that was waterproof & pretty much rain, gale, & even snow blizzard proof too!! Yes, we tested it, & in fact we ended up with 19 people in our Family Tourer one night cos everyone else's tents collapsed under the weight of snow & the howling gale!! We often had the only tent left standing after wind storms too, and we never had to worry about leaks & wet cold nights!! Altho a day long dust storm in the middle of the desert did have us all blinking, breathing, & chewing very VERY fine dust that filtered in eventually. But largely, they provide quick & hassle free camping that was both comfortable & easier to carry/erect/pack than almost any other type of tent! :thumb:

But even if you don't want to head down the centre pole tent track, there are heaps of other relatively economical & versatile tents out there, generally much cheaper than most if not all the RTT's on the market & almost invariably easier to use & more 'all round' user friendly for most 4WD campers. Some of them, like the Oztent RV's or 30 Second tents, are very quick to set up & take down, but those do take up a little more roof rack space due to their length when collapsed; & others are very compact & lightweight - but all IMHO are far more useful & versatile than a RTT - and visitors or the kids can use them in the back yard if you feel the need!! My advice, think VERY carefully before committing to a RTT - there's a reason there are so many readily available second hand!! ;)
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nananut
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by nananut » March 19th, 2016, 10:42 am

I did lots of trial and error before my current setup. I have dual battery system installed for the days when I'm not travelling like a muster that lasts a few days. Needed something quick and versatile since my back won't cope with long set ups. Current setup is:
- Swag and stretcher for the quick overnighters or when privacy is not an issue. Used the most currently.
- 3secs pop up tent when some privacy is needed for overnights and a few days base camp as long as camp as toilet facilities available. Giving this a few more months to see if I actually need it. If not, it's going.
- Oztent for when privacy is absolutely required like at muster or as base camp where there are no facilities available. Currently only used 2 or 3 times a year.

I have awning that is used for the swag. Once I get the walls for the awning, the Oztent will be used only once a year. Problem with the walls is I need to find space for them.

The converter thingyabob (too tired to think of the proper name) for the solar panel is installed in the car and an Anderson plug is installed under the tray for a quick easy 1 cable plug and play to the solar panel. Debating whether to mount the solar panel on the roof but at the moment I don't need it. It may be an option in the future if I do more stay at base trips. If solar panel is not required then it's not coming on trips.

I had looked at RTT but I don't need another 50kg or 60kg of deadweight on the roof of canopy or the cab. I have no space to store it when not in use and the drag on RTT is a killer to fuel economy. I do more country highway driving than camping trips to justify a heavy and bulky item on the roof. Peter has already touched on the other factors against RTT. I had more cons than pros for RTT. I also like to keep the roof space free for the unforeseen circumstances where you will need the roof space.
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the-viking
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by the-viking » March 19th, 2016, 1:42 pm

1. Roof Top Tents:
We don't do Roof Top Tents for reasons already mentioned. Wouldn't suit our style of Camping. 99% of the time we'll do a night drive. Also a Roof Tent would have meant us turning around on tracks more than we already have to do… They suit some camping styles but not ours. We still Swag it… :)

2. Awnings:
Again don't do Awnings. Awnings would be ripped off the side of our car as two of our friends had happen to them on a track we took them on. Well not ripped off but they were relocated on the car. But mainly because I see to many times when they're not doing what they're meant to be doing. Thats casting shade and keeping rain off!!! I like to park my car the way I want it to be and not how the shade is being cast or the direction of the rain. Suits some, not us. We use a large reflective tarp of the rear of the car but have the option to run it off any side as well.

3. Drawers:
Drawers are home made. As is the matching camping chest that sits on top. My two main sliding drawers are not on running rails. The main reason for this was that when I was building the rear drawers we were scheduled to go for a camp and I didn't have the time to source the runners/Sliders and get them in time for the trip. So I built the drawers in mind as a temporary to fit full width of the openings, and this is how I've left them. The reason is there is way more literage space by not having the slider space each side of each drawer. The added bonus was I can pull the drawers fully out to the rear of the drawer to place or access things. Yes there's a tad more effort in sliding them this way but the extra space is worth it.

4. Fridge:
We have a Waeco CF50 thats not far off 9 years old now and has never missed a beat. This isn't a Engel bash because they are truly great quality fridges, generally; but here's my reasons for not owning one. Price, but most and above all…. their bloody weight! Jeeez they're heavy buggers. Admittedly I was also put off by my neighbours experience when his brand new 60ltr Engel died 2 days into his trip to the Top End. He also had bad after sales service which I hear is a common thing with Engel.

5. Auxiliary Battery:
I had a very simple Dual Battery system installed in the car from day one we bought the car so its now going on 9 years old also. Running a basic Redarc Isolator. Nothing fancy but works a treat.

If you want to win your wife over to all these mods one of our favourites was the Glind Heat Exchanger on-board Shower System. I got our 'Inlet'/'Outlet' ends plumbed to the front of the bullbar with a marine grade waterproof switch placed in between them. No having to pop the bonnet.

Cheers. :D

nilla60
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by nilla60 » March 19th, 2016, 9:29 pm

We did a boat load of 3-4 day trips before roof top tents, drawers or fridges were common. You don't especially need any of them to enjoy camping and you especially don't need to buy them all at once. I don't have a roof top tent or drawers, I usually have a tarp and swag and keep my stuff in milk crates. When the family camps we have an old canvas touring tent I bought used from the Trading Post for $60.

But having good gear *is* nice. I particularly like having a fridge these days as it is easier to manage and gives a lot more variety than what will keep in an Esky (second battery and isolator recommended). I'd say a good sleeping bag and comfy bed are high on the list, nothing worse than sleeping cold and uncomfortable.

Those cheap plastic solar shower bags also work really well. Nothing like a warm shower at the end of a long hot dusty day to impress the missus.

I know that the same folk do warranty work on Waeco and Engel, as far as I am aware they are all agents so your experience will to a degree depend on who you deal with. Last time I looked behind the counter, both brands were equally represented.

Carry at least a couple of silver tarps and have a set of ropes, pegs and poles to rig one as shade/shelter.

mattm9
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by mattm9 » March 21st, 2016, 1:57 pm

Hey guys,

Thanks for everyones responses. Interesting the points that have been made about RTT I guess it all does come down to personal preference.

In response to some of the questions:

I'm a shift worker so my idea was to take off on my days off for 2/3 days at a time and probably just stay in one location, coupled in with some longer trips of a couple weeks but again only spending a day or 2 in each location. Majority of the driving will be coastal and desert driving I wont be attempting anything on a to much of a hairy terrain to start with. This will be a second vehicle used solely for getting away. Not quite sure the fuel consumption on a Pathy will match my Yaris for city driving!

An auxillary battery is a must I think - even just for a few comforts to keep 'er in doors happy and unfortunately after reading this thread a hot shower has risen to the top of her list! I think it would be good to have a fridge and be able to run a few LED lights etc off the battery anyway.

Drawers I've been looking at them and if I cant find any second hand ones I think I'll bite the bullet and get some decent ones made/buy them pre-made and mod them to fit.

Tent - I was fairly certain I wanted a RTT but from reading everyones comments I'm thinking I might be better off looking at alternatives. This will leave the roof open for extra storage and unfortunately it will be parked on the road in Sydney when its not being used which I was a bit worried about it being damaged/vandalised. I know it all comes down to personal preference with these sort of things...I guess its just trial and error on what works best for you.

Something I was wandering myself and was touched on in replies, will the standard suspension be able to handle all the additonal weight or is it worth upgrading it?

Thanks for everyones time in replying, in case you hadnt guessed I'm a novice at this and theres been some great advice and things I hadnt thought of! Picking it up tonight and the real planning can begin!

Cheers

3136 ranger
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by 3136 ranger » March 21st, 2016, 4:23 pm

OK now we know what type of trips/driving you'll be doing more targeted advice can be given.

If you keep your weight down, you will not need a suspension upgrade, so no heavy MDF draws. What I would suggest is using a bunch of click top storage crates from bunnings, you can have one with crockery cookware stuff another with other stuff etc etc. Maybe try that out before buying an expensive draw setup.
Tents.. If you want to stand up in one, and trust me it's great, then a touring tent like the coleman instant up tent will be a good option, it's on the cheaper end, but will still last years. I have the 6 person one and it's great ($300), but a pain to pack up into a small bag, if the bottom isn't dry when you pack it you have to set it up again at home dry it off and pack it away again. I only use this if staying 2 nights in one spot or more. The OZ tent is another great one, much stronger construction, will last very well with very high use, but around $1000.
Hot water unit... I bought the coleman one, the new red model. It's fantastic, on sale at anaconda for 300, but the functions of the companion cube are better $400+ the lithium on is the one to get (blue model), you can stop and start the water flow on that one, the coleman will shut down if no flow is going through it, so a tad annoying. if you have plenty of water handy then no big deal though.
When you get a aux battery, really try hard to fit it in the bonnet, running cable to the rear will be a pain and will cost a heap if you do it right as you'll need really thick cable, I was lucky and had some 1cm thick cable given to me, that would have prob cost $150 or more, so do try and keep it in the bonnet.
BTW a Pathy isn't really up to anything really hairy anyway, so I'm glad you didn't say high country tracks, that vehicle will be great for what you plan to do.
The wife will probably like a porta potty, if going this route, get a twin privacy tent, one side for shower and one for potty, when using the correct chemicals, they are fine and don't stink. But this is once again 2 night plus option.

Also keep in mind when/if you have children all the camping trips get put on hold till the kids are old enough to come, so keep that in mind.

Les - PK Ranger
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by Les - PK Ranger » March 21st, 2016, 8:02 pm

"Something I was wandering myself and was touched on in replies, will the standard suspension be able to handle all the additonal weight or is it worth upgrading it?"

Pathys aren't too bad, if it's just you in it, you should be more than ok with std suspension.
If a family of four with extra things to keep the missus / kids happy, you might find it a challenge.

All you need for a great time is shelter, warmth, food & water, reasonable comfort, a comfy camp chair, bit of safety gear, spade and toilet paper, and a map to get there and back.
Some secondary things are dry firewood, small stove, pot / kettle, torch and misc like that.
Everything else is optional.

nananut
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by nananut » March 22nd, 2016, 12:53 am

If you want something portable as a second battery, the ArkPak or similar is handy. It can be moved easily between cars or left at home when not in use.

With regards to whether you need a suspension upgrade, pack all the things you need in the car including full containers of water, passengers and have a full tank. Take it to the weighbridge and weigh it. Go for a drive on the nearest dirt tracks with a few not too crazy washouts and see what it feels like. If it doesn't feel right, uncomfortable or too low, then you know you'll need a suspension upgrade. Also, depends also how much gear you are going to keep in the car on a more permanent basis. Keep in mind as well, the more luxuries you have, the more weight you'll carry.

I'm getting a GVM upgrade because my constant weight is very close to the GVM. Most of my gear is in car at all times. All I need to do is grab food and water and off I go for the quick trips. Fully loaded and I'll be overweight. I'm aiming to do more long term remote travelling so my rig will be set up for it.
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the-viking
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Re: Starting my camping Setup From Scratch - any advice?

Unread post by the-viking » March 22nd, 2016, 4:57 am

3136 ranger wrote:Tents.. If you want to stand up in one, and trust me it's great, then a touring tent like the coleman instant up tent will be a good option, it's on the cheaper end, but will still last years. I have the 6 person one and it's great ($300), but a pain to pack up into a small bag,
Ditto on this style of tent. We have the Souther Cross 10x10 Touring tent that was used when we did the family camping. Little squeezy for four but doable. Brilliant for two adults. I'm not suggesting the brand btw as I think they're over the 1k price tag now but the style is great for the reason of being able to stand up as 3136 said, as well as ease of setting up and packing away. Which brings me to the point of my post. One thing Iv done over the many years of my camping is to learn to stop packing things back in the bags they come with. Seriously, the amount of time and effort people spend trying to stuff thing back into bags is quite unnecessary. Nothing worse than struggling with sleeping bag bags and Self Inflating Matt bags and so on when it's wet or filthy hot. Some of the things we don't bag any more are; Sleeping Bags: These get stuffed into a section in the back and they in turn keep rattles down and act as cucioning. Swags: One trap. Chairs: Nothing. SIM's: One strap. Folding toilet seat: Nothing. I use to have a canvas tent pole bag, not any more, just two small straps. With our tent it was simply fold and up onto the roof cage and strapped down. While I'm on it hears a bonus tip....lol; if you were to go a Touing Tent, when your packing up, fold the sides in first, then the back and lastly the front. This lets you know that the fold end is always the front of the tent when you set up the next time. If that makes sense. Btw, bag what you want when you get home and I think it's only the sleeping bags we do this to.
If your into smart phones, use it as a note taker when your camping. While camping I'll often note down things that need to be done, culled from the kit, fixed, added, and so on. Seriously quite handy. One last thing; try and buy as much dedicated camping items so it prevents you from having to raid the kitchen or what ever every time you go camping. Have a kit packed in tubs or the like in the garage ready to load and go. Cheers.. :D

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