We all have a few favourite campsites. Each has its own breed of magnetism. Some sites force our return with their promise of spectacular sunsets, others with the opportunity to revisit a much-loved beach or swimming hole — but their appeal can be more unique than that. For Troy and Sheree Hageman, the campsite at the sporting club Hunter Valley Traditional Archers, near Newcastle, lures them back with traditional archery events.
For years, we’ve been bumping into Troy, Sheree and their two kids at exactly the same spot during the June and October long weekends. Usually, they turn up at camp in their beloved Land Rover Disco with a box trailer packed with a canvas tent, poles, pegs and tarps. So, we were intrigued when they arrived last time with a completely different set-up in tow.
Troy is one of those handy blokes who can turn his hand to just about anything, tinker with it, and make it work. What’s more, he makes it look simple while he’s doing it. We’ve seen Troy strip their Holden Adventurer wagon down to its diff to fix an oil leak, holding nothing more than the contents of a small tool box in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. Not bad for an electrician! In short, Troy operates like a mini-MacGyver: ‘with a little bit of imagination, anything is possible’. When he, Sheree and the kids pulled up at camp with a tradie-style trailer that Troy had obviously modified himself, we knew we’d be in for a surprise or two.
The first thing we noticed was the aluminium checkerplate — a feature that initially had us assuming that we were looking at a newly manufactured trailer. Looking closer, however, we realised that we were actually looking at Troy’s old 6x4 box trailer, to which he’d added a customised “Tradesman’s” top.
Mounted to the roof there’s a Kalahari Classic roof-top camper that the family picked up after seeing another mate with one. Troy said he chose it because he was impressed with its build strength. With this addition, Troy’s wife and daughter can be off the floor while he and his son ride shotgun in swags in the boy’s annex below. (Truth be known, Troy is secretly hoping to one day reclaim his rightful place on the comfy double bed mattress up top when his kids get a bit older).
Over the kitchen area is a Kalahari side-awning that matches the other one that’s fitted to the family’s Disco. This way, Troy and Sheree can zip the two together to make for a tidy 5m x 2.5m kitchen and dining area. The kitchen has been entirely fabricated by Troy and comes complete with slide-draw tables, a portable gas burner and cupboard space (including a classic Bread Box) big enough to feed a small army.
An ingenious addition to the set-up is the swing-mounted fridge that Troy designed himself. Simply drop the tailgate, release a retaining pin and swing out the fridge. Then slide out an actual residential kitchen sink which neatly slides over the water tank behind the fridge while travelling.
There’s also a simple cold water tap in the wasted space above the trailer’s wheel arch and Troy’s added a stainless steel plate to level and reinforce the arch so that hot frying pans, kettles and the like can be put down without causing damage to table tops or causing a fire hazard.
Popping around to the front of the trailer, Troy has mounted a toolbox on the A-Frame to house the batteries. In front of this, there’s a 3000lb electric winch to literally pull the trailer into place when hitching and for positioning the trailer in difficult situations — a great idea for people who hate reversing or who don’t have a rear-vision camera.
Above the battery box, Troy keeps his camp-side toys and tools in a 150L toolbox. The contents of this box, above and beyond the menagerie of hand tools, include everything from an electric chainsaw and workshop vice, to a Christie’s petrol battery charger. And to ensure Troy can find what he needs at any time of day, he’s fitted LED strip lighting inside the tool box.
In fact, come to think of it, Troy’s fitted LED light strips all over the trailer. Which is probably not surprising. After all, as we said: Troy’s an electrician.
WHO ARE THEY?
Name: Troy and Sheree Hageman
Home: Nowra, NSW
Home on the road: DIY box trailer conversion
Camper Mods: Almost everything
Tow Vehicle: Land Rover Discovery TD5 2.5LTR diesel 2004 model
Vehicle Mods: Roof Racks, LED bars, awning, fridge, headlight protectors, snorkel, LED work lights, Kings single row 42 inch light bar, bash plates, disc guards and rock sliders with a 2 inch lift
Favourite Destination: Sheree told us that the family like to camp: “Anywhere with family and friends in front of a good campfire. We do a lot of our camping at the Hunter Valley archery event twice a year and at Ironfest in Lithgow – blacksmithing.” “My other hobby,” adds Troy. On top of this, Sheree concludes, living on the coast, there’s always a great beach within an easy drive.
Scariest Moment: Apart from being an electrician, Troy also has a hobby as a blacksmith. So he’s got more stories than most of close encounters with sharp objects and electrifying near misses. But when it comes to time on the road, he told us: “Always be prepared for just about everything.”
Lessons Learnt: “Never pay retail. If you think you can make it, then go for it. The capacity to make things with your hands is one of Nature’s greatest gifts.”
Future Plans: For Troy and Sheree, their immediate focus is obvious — it’s their kids. Troy’s next camping project is to put air suspension on the trailer and widen the track. But before that happens Sheree wants to add a water level gauge to their tank. Troy is also planning to add a drawer to the underside of the trailer for ease of storage. But first he needs to satisfy a back-order for hand forged-knives and cupboard handles made from 1084 high carbon steel and spring steel!