There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. It’s an old saying that always rings true when camping in extreme weather. Sun, heat, rain, hail, or snow can all be overcome and enjoyed with the right equipment. I’ve spent more than a few nights shivering away in a swag at 8°C with dodgy stuff, then had the best night’s sleep of my life at 0°C because of rated and appropriate gear.
Of course, this isn’t just a yarn about my sleeping habits, it’s more of a focus on making life that little bit easier offroad with the right bits of kit. Not the blindingly obvious stuff like ‘camping is great if you have a camper trailer’ but the little odds and ends you’ve probably never thought of before but can all take the edge off, so to speak.
So what are the requirements for a bit of kit to make our list of the gear you never knew you needed? First of all, it’s gotta be affordable, there’s no use having something that makes life a little easier if it’s simply not affordable. They also can’t be too bulky, a portable coffee machine might be great, but not if you need to bring a support vehicle just to lug the thing around. And finally, they have to be genuinely useful, something you’ll use every single time you head off road and wonder how you ever did without it. I guess that counts the 12V popcorn maker out?
Camping in the warmer months is fantastic, it means beachside setups, kayaking in a river and rope swings into a lake. There simply isn’t a better time to head bush. Of course, that’s on the good days. On the bad days, its uncomfortably hot and dry and there are only so many wet towels you can throw over your face. Bring a family into the mix and it’s a recipe for divorce.
Evaporative coolers work by misting the air, sucking in dry hot air, adding in a little water and sending out cool air. Think of them a little like standing near a waterfall on a hot day and you’re on the money. They’re incredibly common in dry climates but can work perfectly to knock the edge off inside a camper trailer, just enough to make it comfortable and get you to sleep. Simply plug them into 12V power, fill them up with water and enjoy a decent night’s sleep. They’re no substitute for a full blown air-conditioning unit, but they’re also around 10 per cent of the price and can easily fit in the back of a 4WD.
RRP: $299 (plus postage)
More info: transcool.info
CENTRE CONSOLE FRIDGE
Big fridges in a camper trailer or the back of your 4WD are great. They let you load up with weeks’ worth of food and all the supplies you need to survive off the beaten track. But having to stop every time you want a cold drink isn’t so great. Getting into the back of a 4WD, especially when it’s connected to a trailer is a cumbersome experience. Rear-tyre carrier open, door open, fridge-slide out, and doing it all while you’re dodging the trailer’s A-frame. It’s a little easier in a camper trailer, although if you’re on the road you’ll generally have the trailer locked. You could go through all that rigmarole, or you could reach down into the centre console fridge beside you and grab a cold drink without stopping. I know which one I’d rather.
Like most things on this list, it might come across as the lazy man’s option but it’s all a part of making life that little bit easier on the road and off it. When you consider you can pick up budget options for less than $100 it just makes sense.
Where: 4WD accessory outlets, nationally
More info: www.waeco.com.au, www.engel.com.au; www.bushman.com.au
Alright, surely we’re pulling your leg now right? Eh, kinda. Cranking the stabiliser legs up and down on any camper trailer is a slow and tedious process. It’s not hard work by any means, but when the kids are itching to go swimming and you’ve got an adult beverage calling your name, it’s 10 minutes you’d rather spend doing anything but winding a handle back and forth 100 times.
A strong 12V cordless drill with the appropriate socket on the end can take the arm work out of adjusting your legs into place making it a 2-minute job max. They’re not exactly accurate so the final few spins should be done by hand but it will save you a whole lot of swinging. They’re also just plain handy to have lying around in the toolkit.
Where: Your neighbour’s shed or hardware outlets, nationally
More info: www.bunnings.com.au; www.mitre10.com.au
If you look at any high-end camper trailer you’d be hard pressed to find a single model that doesn’t have a shower included. They’re one of those little luxuries offroad that just make things that little bit nicer. If you’re heading away for an overnighter it’s not that big a deal, but a week on the tele track will have you stinging for a shower.
While the high-end trailers have them all plumbed in with hot water systems good to go it’s not the only way, and portable options do exist that can run straight out of a bucket of fresh water. In many cases, a quality system can be picked up for a few hundred bucks and stowed away inside the trailer. They’re not an absolute necessity but they’re something you’ll appreciate having. After all, there’s no shame in being a little delicate, even if you’re a big bloke with a bushy beard.
Where: Camping and caravanning outlets, nationally
More info: www.smarthotwatersystems.com.au; www.colemanaustralia.com.au; www.truma.com.au or turn to page 116 for DIY versions.