1. USE SPRINGS ON AWNING ROPES
Awning ropes are designed to hold our awnings against the forces of nature – principally wind. We can get away without them when the air is placid and rain is not falling but they need to be there exerting tension all the time when the atmosphere becomes a little more turbid. To achieve this we need a spring (more properly known as a trace spring)in the system. This allows for some movement of the top of the pole and the attached canvas so that the rope not only does its job of restraining the whole structure but that it also acts like a shock-absorber in your car’s suspension. Surprisingly you do see the occasional set of awning ropes without springs, but they very quickly lose tension at the slide and then the whole structure falls over. Ring-ins like rubber gasket rings designed for sealing joints in ceramic pipes also do not work as they have insufficient stretch to sustain the tension.
2. KEEP EMERGENCY MEDICAL RECORDS
If you take any form of medication or have a specific medical history then you should be carrying a record of your situation in the case of a medical emergency while on the road. In fact, it’s good to carry one no matter what your past history as any medical professional will want to know even if you don’t require specific medications and have never had a medical emergency in your life. The record should include name and address, next of kin and their contact details, Medicare number, medical insurance coverage, your private doctor(s’) details, any and all medications and their dosage which you regularly take (including herbal, home made, over the counter and illegal), past medical history (including diseases and injuries), allergies, treatment history (what worked and what didn’t), and a summary of family medical history back to grandparents (Is your condition genetic?). Place your record in a brightly coloured envelope clearly marked as to what it is, close to the entry to your camper and tell others in your camping group what and where it is.
3. ALWAYS LOOK FOR TRAFFIC
No matter where you are never assume a track is empty and that you are alone. Some years ago this writer stopped in a small ravine, off a narrow track between Yunta and Wilpena Pound in South Australia. It was just over a small blind hill and around a blind bend. We had seen no cars since leaving Yunta about 80km away. We had lunch over about a 40 minute period while stopped in this small side gorge and saw not a single vehicle, then got ready to continue our journey, which was to begin by backing out onto the track we’d left. My wife said, “Do you want me to go back and check the track is clear?” Foolishly I said, “No, we haven’t seen a car for the two hours we’ve been on this track.” As I put the car into reverse she said, “Here, wipe your hands before we go,” handing me a wet wipe. As I paused to wipe my hands a car - the only one we would see for another hour and a half - zoomed across behind our camper. Saved by a wet wipe. Always, always check.
4. FACE SLOPING CANVAS WALLS TO THE WIND
If there is a strong and persistent wind from one direction try lowering the awning wall on the side the wind is blowing from and extend the base out to create a sloping outer wall and peg the base firmly to the ground. It will create a ramp over which the wind will blow, saving on buffeting of the awning and generally make life more comfortable.
5. PUT A TARP UNDER A TENT FLOOR
If you have a sidefold softfloor, or similar camper, always carry a heavy-duty tarp that you can place on the ground under the floor of your tent. This will help protect the floor from any unseen rocks or sticks, make the floor less cold under your feet and reduce the chances of your camper’s tent floor becoming wet and moldy when you pack it away. To prevent any rainwater that might run down the walls from pooling on the top of the tarp tuck any protruding edges back under the tent. This will stop moisture gathering underneath, making a happy home for all manner of crawlies and turning dirt into mud, ready to make a mess of your shirt when packing-up.
6. DON'T PUT ALL YOUR WATER IN ONE CONTAINER
We tend to take it for granted but water is a very precious commodity, especially when you’re a long way from resources. It doesn’t happen too often, but it is quite possible to jag a hose or tap on a large stick or a tree branch in scrubby country, or bounce your tank or a water fitting off a rock or log while negotiating a bit of rough terrain. Suddenly your supply of water is bleeding rapidly onto the track behind, and you probably won’t even know it’s happening. Always carry a spare Jerry can full, either in the tow vehicle or a Jerry can holder on the camper, just in case. It doesn’t take much to fill it, and if you decide near the end of the trip that you don’t need it then it’s easy to dispose of. It’s a problem that’s probably not going to be in the realm of costing someone’s life, but you will soon learn to appreciate the convenience of that ready supply.
7. PROTECT YOUR CUTLERY
Cutlery does a lot of bouncing around in a drawer while your camper is on the road, whether in the outback or on the motorway near home. If you have any knives where you want to keep the cutting edge at its best slice a piece of hose along one side and use it to protect the knife edge. It weighs very little and makes preparing meals much easier.
8. CARE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, DON'T DROP PLASTICS
Walk around any regularly used camp area and you will find the ground littered with old cable/zip ties. These are almost universally randomly cut off by people who obviously don’t care. Those plastics will be breaking down into ever smaller chunks for several hundred years after we’re all dead, choking small fish and animals and generally creating environmental havoc. All plastics break down into microplastics, and consumers of shellfish in Europe ingest more than 11,000 particles per year. Microplastics are also found in terrestrial meats and tens of thousands settle on our meals every day, which are all ingested and many of them cross the digestive tissues of our gut and become components of our bodies. Put all plastics in the bin.
9. FIT A SMALL BOLT TO SHACKLE PINS
Undoing shackle pins often requires a pair of pliers as the threads become blocked with dirt and the two parts 'weld' themselves together. It’s either that or, seemingly, the pin undoes itself and falls out, causing the shackle to fail in its task of joining two components together. A simple way to defeat both problems is to place a small bolt through the eye of the shackle pin, and a locking not on the other side. Put some thread locker on it or use a spring washer to hold it all tightly together. The weight of the bolt will stop the pin’s thread from rotating and undoing, and the protruding bolt will give you leverage to undo the pin any time you need to.
10. USE HAND HELD RADIOS WHEN PARKING
One of the greatest tests of any relationship is having your partner guide you back into a park or camp site. To make it easier get yourself a hand-held UHF radio for whoever is outside the vehicle and talk to the UHF in the car. They should stand behind and look towards the car, so they’re facing the same way as the driver, so that when you say 'further right' it means the same to both of you.
11. DON'T FEED THE ANIMALS
There are very good reasons why they put up signs saying do not feed wildlife. For example, the common advice to not feed birds is because that piece of bread or biscuit that you throw to the birds is easy food, so they don’t bother to pursue their natural diet. It leaves them with brittle bones and the next time they land their legs can simply snap. When you engage in feeding wild animals it causes crowding and a competitive environment that can lead to fighting and injuries and the spread of communicable diseases between individuals. Look at the problems that exist with dingoes on Fraser Island because of the feeding which has gone on in the past.
12. CAMP AT LEAST 60 METRES FROM WATER
Water resources are as important for animals as they are for us. This applies to both wild and stock animals. Preserving the purity of water supplies is important as any change in the taste or smell of their water can turn animals away from it, and the addition of soap or other non-natural substances to a creek or billabong can prevent its use by animals. In addition, your very presence may disrupt natural animal access to the water. Use only biodegradable detergents and chemicals and ensure you wash and dispose of used water no closer than 60m (70 adult steps) from water.
13. CARRY OUT YOUR RUBBISH
Don’t litter the bush with your left-over rubbish. Carry some small garbage bags with you and make sure you leave nothing behind. You can burn paper in the campfire, but don’t burn plastics because of the toxic smoke. It’s a simple courtesy to other travellers, an assurance that you and other campers will be granted access to this land and/or track in the future and a blessing to wildlife which won’t be trying to eat plastic or deal with sharp broken glass or rusty cans.
14. ENSURE YOUR FIRE IS EXTINGUISHED
A camp fire is a great – one might even say critical – part of camping, but before you move on make sure it is absolutely out. That doesn’t mean throwing a thin layer of soil over the top, it means dousing all the coals and making sure there is no heat left to start a fire from, say, a small branch that drops on that spot minutes after you’ve driven away.