We have a bunch of friends who just love camping but had never been before we got into camper trailers. They therefore have little or no facilities for enjoying the delights of the outdoors, aside from a few folding chairs and sleeping bags. We do a couple of weekend trips away with them each year, with our Aussie Swag acting as the mothership and our son’s three-room tent providing the extra accommodation.
It’s always an “interesting” time dealing with the expectations of non-campers, and I am thankful on such occasions that we are all good friends; I’ve discovered the gap between friendship and homicide can be a surprisingly narrow one. Be warned: short term friends might not return home as they left it.
The trouble with non-campers is they expect a hot shower every day, flushing toilets, and even (as was the case with one of our friends) access to 240V power to fan them as they slumber all night long. While we tried supplying the latter from the camper’s inverter, the demands of the fridge (for the wine and cheese and dips and salad and meat for eight) and a few LED lights meant that our poor camper battery and solar panel set-up was sadly overwhelmed.
Trying to find a “charming” campsite that can supply all of the above and still has some wildlife, bush ambience, interesting local attractions like cafes and markets, and touristy haunts for overcast or wet days can be difficult. Add to this the general preference for a site that has access to a beach (short walk at most) for swims or long walks in the afternoon, and the task can prove pretty difficult (though not impossible).
I am genuinely surprised at how civilised such crowded occasions can be. Everyone chips in with a meal and the washing up and drying of items are quickly taken care of. There seems an inordinately large amount of nibbley items, and a couple of eskies with ice keep the beer and wine cold. The hours between the beach walks, swims and jaunts to local sites of interest are pleasantly filled with long languorous grazing —the imbibing of your favourite tipples and plenty of genial chit-chat. It all sounds so convivial that you’d think more people would be doing it, but there are drawbacks. The parking of three or four cars usually presents problems of some kind; some often have to park well away from the campsite.
Wet and windy weather is another mountain to climb. During the day, we can usually find some antique shops, a market or a local museum to keep us occupied. Come meal time, however, we’re all crowded into the back of the hardfloor camper. Knees drawn up, we precariously balance a plate of food on our laps, careful to avoid spilling gravy on the bedding — or each other. For those unfamiliar with this style, rear-fold hardfloor campers like our Aussie Swag are usually designed to comfortably accommodate two. I’m sure eight occupants in such a confined space breaches some UN health or welfare regulation.
General crowding is another matter again. Every time you turn around you’re dodging someone else’s feet or chair or glass of wine placed precariously on the ground. As everyone leaps to be seen to be contributing, there’s never enough tea towels to go around and the sink is only able to deal with one washer at a time. It also means having to take a second table so that everyone can sit at the same board. The “necessity” of having the luxuries of hot showers/flushing toilets/mains power also usually means you’re somewhere where campfires are verboten.
At times, you simply need people to have the freedom to walk off on their own or in small groups just to release some of the pressure.
Despite the limitations of the arrangements, I am genuinely happy that one couple who came with us on several of these junkets with their tent has now purchased a camper trailer of their own, and another couple is looking around for one. Camper trailers are infectious!
One woman whose husband works overseas and is often away for long stretches has even bought herself an airbed, tent, and other camping gear so she can enjoy the camping lifestyle whenever she feels like it. Notwithstanding the recent Australia Day weekend debacle when she forgot her tent’s fiberglass poles, the fold-up chair (donated by yours truly from spare stock) and only remembered to pack her clothes after she’d gotten into the car and dashed back into the house to retrieve her phone.
The next camping essential we’re introducing her to is a check list!
TALKIN’ TOTAL BULL!
If there was a prize for most experienced camper trailerer (technical term) in Australia, David Cook would probably win it. He can limbo under guy ropes like nobody’s business and usually communicates in an elaborate language he made up himself, not dissimilar to Morse code only employing the sound of hammering tent pegs. We’re not convinced, but he reckons it’ll catch on and has even launched a campaign to have it introduced to the national education curriculum.
David has grown so accustomed to sleeping in his camper trailer that he feels rather odd on the rare occasions he’s at home. To combat this he ingeniously raised his bed 2ft and fixed a step ladder to the side so he can slumber in peace while the noise machine plays ‘crickets’ on repeat beside him.*
Given David’s all-consuming passion for camper trailers, we thought it only fair to give the bloke an opportunity to vent his spleen to a listening audience every month, and so Bulldust was born. In this fearless, hard-hitting column David will be tackling the big issues close to every camper’s heart, like what brand of marshmallow crusts over the best and what variety of beer is suitably shaped for optimum esky packing. Rest assured, no subject is too taboo for Bulldust.
*Disclaimer: This bio almost certainly contains factual inaccuracies.
Originally published in Camper Trailer Australia #63, March/April 2013.