There are lists for this everywhere in travel magazines and some camping apps have lists you can print out. Ill keep it really simple for you: every person travelling has struggled with this at one point or another. Many travellers will tell you about how many times they have diverted plans to go back via their storage and dump stuff off. This would be for weight or because they find in realistic terms – ‘nice to have‘ doesn’t mean ‘need to have’, as my father used to say. Everyone packs too much, just in case.
Read my blog about weight – then lay out what you want to take and weigh it in a box, or five…. Then live out of those boxes for at least two weeks at home… you will quickly find lots arent needed. Do make sure though, that you have cold weather gear, even if you leave in summer, many places I have needed ski gear to keep warm (like Tassie in summer or WA south in winter).
Same thing goes for utensils, cooking pots, tools, books, fishing gear … What ever your passion or craft, you can really do it with less and you will be glad you are not squished into a cabin you past comfortable in a 100kms before.
I have heard of some that put a red dot on everything they take, then as they use it, they take the dot off – and the lucky item gets to stay on board during the next cull.
Maybe you heard the rule of ‘everything must have two uses to remain on board’ Lucky I’m multi-skilled? I actually agree with this one in part… you will in the course of travelling find that many things are useful for more than one thing. Like the broom – obviously sweeping up, but great for scooting the water into the drain hole in the shower, also fab for wrapping a chux around the head and using to wipe the underside of the awning for dirt and marks, then it works a treat for getting the cob webs from up in the corners inside and out. My griddle pan is designed by Jamie Oliver for the perfect steak, but I find it cooks the best toast! Im sure now you get the picture, see how many uses you can find for each item. I started with over 15kg of tools, and now have under 2kg.
What is my most essential item to take? (been asked more than once) – its easy: MOISTURISER
You are suddenly in the elements and it dries your skin, so moisturiser is critical, and I would say GOOD sunscreen. There of course are many other things I wouldn’t be without – like cable ties, linen gaffa tape, plenty of fuses, good music on a USB – and my own portaloo … but that’s another story.
People often ask what’s it like to live permanently on the road? Don’t you miss stuff? Well its great, and yes, of course you miss some things while you are busy experiencing new things. If you are not sure if its for you: then borrow a rig or tent, or use your garden shed. Put everything in you will need for a month, and then live in it at home, not allowed to go into the house … this is the quickest way to emulate what its like to be away from your amenities, not be able to pop to the shop or have take away delivered… I think you will know in a few days if its for you, and then when you go, those incredible views and wide open spaces, meeting loads of great people will make your day, every day.
It’s a very personal decision that you and your travel partner need to agree on – or the smallest or largest smelly wet & muddy dog will dampen your spirits literally.
Yes there are some spots you cant take the dog, like National Parks, some Caravan Parks and many side trips, like a ferry or bus to a destination, hotels, restaurants and clubs. Myself, I worked around that: what was important to do vs whats not? Where could I babysit the dog? Mad Paws are a company Australia wide with affordable day sit options in pet lovers homes. Most averaged $25 per day. Some vets day mind, but in a cage and that’s not agreeable to my dogs. Jump on google and see whats available in the areas you will travel.
Early on in my travels, I had my dog certified as a Medical Service Dog through a dog trainer. It cost around $250 all up. Bear in mind you do need a medical condition of sorts to qualify and a doctor or Psychologist to sign off on it. It meant I could take her anywhere, boats, trains, National Parks, – with their permission and advance planning. I would highly recommend this solution if its applicable to you. My Border Collie Bella even travelled in my cabin on the Spirit of Tassie ship.
Then it comes down to the practical side: will the dog/s fit? In the car, camper trailer, have somewhere warm at night out of the weather? Is he/she a barker? Cause you will be shamed out of most camping spots if they are! I’ve lost count of the amount of people who tell me how much they are missing their fur baby – away for months at a time? Honestly my little guy that I have now – Merlin would have given up and found a new source of affection or trembled himself into an early grave if I left him alone for that length of time. He checks the front door hourly when I go out when home. I just couldn’t put him through that anxiety.
So big decisions – bigger than you will make with any other part of your trip. If you do decide to take the dog – go on a few shake down trips to nut out all the little things that could present themselves – like are they car sick? Extra towels for wet or sick pups. Spill proof water dish in the back seat. Appropriate air con and protection from sun through the windows. How many pee breaks will you stop for? Are they part of the trip? Or just tucked away in the far far back being ignored? As I said Plan Plan Plan. I am very fortunate to say that I have walked with my dog on almost every beach on the Australian coastline! … and my dog & I loved it! It was often the best part of the day!
Be prepared & check requirements for extra worm or tick prevention per state. $70 for specific worming tablets before travelling to Tassie = $350 to buy them on board if they find you didn’t do it prior. The 1080 poison situation in some states like WA – are necessary for such a wide area of terrain, they are dropped by plane from a reasonable height. This means they can land where you are camping, which is why the signs are there. They are made from kangaroo strip and poisoned, then dried. So they look like a 2” dog treat – on top of this, the birds are immune to the poison, pick them up and drop while flying past, even on the beach!?…..you need to be vigilant and always, always have the dog on lead or be well trained in voice command.
Several travellers I have met take a bird with them and they seem to do OK. I had an Indian Ring Neck Parrot for my first trip out – it was hot and I found that my trip was all based around whether the bird was cool enough, camping where there were trees to hang the bird cage in, then ever watchful for wind or rain? The bird was re-homed after 3 weeks. It just wasn’t fair on either of us in the end.
Why travel and how is best to do it? What kind of rig is most suited to you and how do you maintain or look after it. What to take with you and the huge question of – do you take the dog?
These are just some of the questions that we will look at together and hopefully give you an insight and help you to arrive at conclusions suited to you.
Myself, I’ve travelled around Australia, OVER 50,000 kms as a full time Grey Nomad over the past 6 years, absolutely loving it and the adventures I’ve had in every state of our great land – in 5 different rigs! only just now settling back in Cessnock, in The Hunter Valley, NSW.
So, let’s start with the biggest question everyone asks – and no, its not which is your favourite place to go! The biggest question I get asked is can you travel full time on just a pension? My answer is yes! And I have proven it, as it has been my sole source of income, on a disability pension due to Rheumatoid Arthritis & Fibromyalgia.
So how do you manage? – first you need a well maintained rig. My first was a 36yr old York caravan towed by a Commodore Station wagon. I bought the van for $3,500 and the car for $1000. Both were in OK condition, so I got the car fully serviced and made sure there were no real issues to deal with long term. The van had water leaks so I spent 4mths preparing it to road worthy stage before I left and the rest I did as I travelled, doing most of the work myself and paying for professional services where I needed to.
Id advise having about $2,000 as a back up and then plan plan plan how your fuel ratio is and how many kms you can count on getting per tank. Knowing your fuel ratio is paramount to your trip. It will change, sometimes dramatically if your towing up hill, on 110km freeways (which is limited to 100kms if towing) and start & stop suburban traffic or city driving.
Then the cruncher – the head-wind! A strong head or cross wind is liable to cost you at least an extra half a tank in a 250km drive, it can double your fuel too. I remember one drive from Bourke & Wills camp driving south to Mt Isa – head wind and very slight up hill grade: cost me one and a half 70L tanks of unleaded, when it should have been ½ to ¾ of one tank. It was a valuable lesson.
Nomads become adept at watching the weather like a hawk, especially the wind. Good weather apps on your phone are invaluable. A good one also is Predict Wind, a free app that the boaties use. It provides the ability to watch the wind displayed by hundreds of tiny arrows to show you in a video format over days which direction and how intense the wind will become, thereby allowing you to select the window of time that travel is going to be best. I stopped for two days in a road side camp when I was crossing the Nullarbor – it saved me hundreds of dollars and I got to rest up and relax for a coupe of days. By watching the app, I discovered that very often there is no wind very early in the morning and it comes up stronger at 9 or 10am. So early bird travel is much more advisable – and you get to see the sunrise – one of my favourite times of the day.
The other crucial factor the winds affect – is your awning of your caravan or rig. If its tethered down with solid tent pegs (the steel thick ones) then in my opinion, you can leave it out up to 35kms per hour – more than that – take it in. And don’t go off exploring for the day and leave it out, in fact, only have your awning out if you are present to keep and eye on it. I went fishing one morning at Port Julia, left the awning out, and when I got back, there were 4 people trying to wrestle my twisted awning back into place as a rogue 80km wind had struck and lifted the tent pegs right out of the ground. Lucky there were fello campers around, but none of them had awnings like mine and really were guessing as to how to bring it in. It was too late and the damage was done. Costly repairs were then needed and I had no shade in the mean time. The “She’ll be right mate” attitude does not even come into play when camping. You really just cant be too careful.
Next factor for surviving on a pension is ‘free or low cost camping’ – if your rig is only suited to caravan parks for their electricity, then alas to say, you wont be able to go far each fortnight, paying a daily rate of on average $35 per night (p/n). By free camping and having everything on 12v charged by solar is really the most recommended way to travel cheaply. Honestly, if your rig is only suited to 240v power stays, then you really wont be able to live on the road full time unless you only stay in one spot on an un-powered site, which generally go for $25p/n. The other question you may ask is do I need a generator? Answer is most definitely YES – if you are free camping, there are often many overcast days and you wont get the solar you need for your batteries. We are going to cover battery maintenance in a forthcoming blog, so stay tuned or subscribe for free to be alerted when new posts are up.
Now you need to work out how many kms you can afford for fuel each fortnight and then decide how many jumps you can do. Jumps? = drive from one camp to the next. From that figure you can work out how long you need to stay in each camp before jumping to the next. Are you catching on?
So you may well end up needing to stay in a camp for 5 days then the next one 4 days etc. So you will need to be certain that the camp you are choosing is not a 48hr maximum stay. The rangers patrol camps like these and will move you on if you overstay.
The answer to how do I find these camps is easy: Camping apps on your phone such as Wikki Camps, its easy to use and can also track your journey, which can also be downloaded as a PDF later. Terrific. Now there are many camping apps, and you can explore them all. CMCA (Caravan & Motorhome Camping Association) have their own, Full Range Camping, Campedia, Farm Stay AU, Pub Stay, Camps Australia and more…. Most campers use Wikki Camps as a main and check the others. It costs about $10, but only the once with no annual renewal. I recommend doing the tutorial on wikki, video format and it will show you the way to use it fully. You can use filters to search for just what you want and it will show you every camp available in the style or price you want. Information is updated all the time so rest assured you have correct info. You can submit changes too in case you find one that is closed or has changed it stats.
So if you want to live the dream as they say and camp full time, then plan-plan-plan! Its essential and be on the same page as your travel buddy. Know the style of camping you want to do, how you will handle any emergencies and large decisions…. And above all else, crucial – make sure you know your budget and have a savings account for emergencies (like a new battery) – and the other thing is: have a guardian angel watching over you, that you report into once a week. They should have a recent photo of you and the rig, the rego numbers and your phone listed on theirs for finda phone. We recently found ‘Life 360’ it is a free app that you can list with a family member. It will offer loads of benefits and fun – like telling you what speed your person is doing, when their phone is low battery and when they stop anywhere. I can highly recommend this one as it made me feel very safe that my daughter knew exactly where I was all the time, and I her.
We all ‘boo-hoo’ face book and social media for various reasons, but honestly, its invaluable for staying in touch with fellow travellers, knowing when they are close by for catch ups and can usually be read with low phone signal. Many solo groups use it as a platform for its members to have a connected travel buddy to report to and its better than any phone tree – if someone is missing – just watch the branches extend across many pages. The power of social media is strong, and its up to you how you use it. One of my tips for privacy is to list which camp you have just been in, not currently in. There is so much to experience and learn, I hope to help in some small way here for free to anyone who wishes to read. Cheers to camping! – Jen
Whether you are renovating your own from scratch or just loading an existing or beautiful brand newy – weight distribution is everything! Be it 4WD & caravan or camper trailer or Motor home – they all need to be loaded with some things in mind. While evenly loading for weight is often carefully considered by most travellers, here are a couple of things you may not have already considered;
1. The 4WD with roof racks, bull bar, and rear back loaded … how much does it decrease your towing capacity? – and Ball Weight?
2. Have you stepped to the side and looked at the level of your car and rig? Is your tow bar adjusted for height? Should you invert it to create a higher hitch? Incorrectly loading your entire rig will impact on your tyre wear, the way it tows, especially if you have a tyre blow while driving? And it will also affect the way it travels behind you. If you need help, 4WD mechanics and places like ARB and many tyre places, mechanics can adjust these issues for you and ensure you are correctly set up. Other campers have a giggle at bad set ups, but its really not funny if your front wheels are up so high that you have lost good steering ability, or your rear end is riding heavily on the springs, or your caravan looks like its about to do a headstand? So what happens if you do have to pull up super quick? Will it flip?
3. A boot in the front of a caravan doesn’t mean you should load it full of tools, generator, fishing gear, jockey wheel and various other heavy items…. It will impact on your ball weight. Yes its not as easy to get things out from under the lounge cupboard, but its safer.
3. Have you done a towing course? Defensive driving? Do you insist that only one of you is the driver? Fatigue is one of the greatest killers on the road. If you are an adult in the vehicle and you have a license, you should have training on driving/towing in case of emergency. Just in case. It takes a good amount of time and confidence to constantly pass 4 caboose Road trains – my last trip in WA: passing me were: (on most days), 4wd, then 4 Road trains, 4wd, then 4 Road trains…Along the Savannah Way in the north, there is only one car width of road in most places, so Road train means you need to pull onto the dirt while still driving – so make sure you are confident with driving your rig – before you leave home.
4. Ever seen that add about towing where they have everything at the back? The rear of the van will start to sway wildly with any sudden jerk of the wheel, and often results in the caravan jack-knifing across the road, often taking the 4WD with it – sideways or over an embankment or worse into on coming traffic. Unfortunately many vans or motor-homes are made with the double bed at the back, with the lift up storage underneath.
Again, think about what you put under there .. light and fluffy like a blanket, not 4 slabs of beer in case the stores run out! Because we turn to the right around all round-abouts, most caravan designers put the heavier stuff down the driver’s side. This means the rig will balance better when leaning over to the left. Having all the heavy gear on the passenger side, will feel like you are going to tip. Try to balance the heavy stuff out and of course this means your batteries too. You may have 3 x 140 deep cycles = 90kg +. Think about which side the stove should be on, and even go to the extent of weighing everything you put on board. Keep a list and know what weight you have on each side, front and back. About one metre inside (over the wheels) is best spot to have anything truly weighty.
5. Lots of Motor home’s you see have a little trailer running behind. This is to off set the weight. Some vehicles, like Toyota Coasters are set at different gross weight allowance while using a car license (up to 4.5 Tonne) but by towing a trailer, they can have a lot more weight on board between the two and also have the convenience of taking toys with them or having a place to deploy things to, should they be pulled up and weighed, and found to be over weight. If you do get caught being over weight, dumping your water tank is the fastest way to decrease your overall weight. If you are on your own and get caught, you will need to stay by the roadside until your weight is within the ranges of your MOD Plate (registration weights) unless you do have the LR or now, MR license to cover the additional weight. The other thing worth noting: IF you have two seats but are travelling alone, if weighed, they will add 100kg to your total to allow for that second person/clothing/food that your vehicle is registered for. So say in the Coaster, your total would have to be 4.4T to allow for that 100kg if it was only licensed for car license.
Where to get weighed? The Refuse Tip, I just go dump a piece of metal for free and look at the weigh station gauge as I drive through. If you need to pay for a bag of rubbish, you will get a slip with weight printed on it. Then there are the metal recycling yards, they will often weigh your rig at no charge, especially if you offer to pay, or are bringing in a battery or metal. The other one is Landscaping yards, same as previous, they are set up to weigh their trucks, so can sometimes be a good spot. I have asked many times in different states if I go to a council weigh station for trucks and pay my $15 to get weighed and happen to be over: will that info be sent to the Service centre in my state? The jury is still out on that, so just be careful.
6. Remember: if your weight is over the legal mount on your rego papers, your insurance will NOT pay out in case of an accident. The assessors have weigh scales on board and it is the first thing they will do in the case of an accident. Remember, they don’t want to pay out!