Not many people get bitten by the travelling bug, but it’s hard to get rid of the urge to get on the road once you are. There are two ways to scratch this itch; one is to pay for everything and enjoy the amenities of modern travel, while the other is to jump in a car and do everything yourself. We like the idea of the latter, because travelling is all about the journey and very seldom about the destination.
Camping and caravanning has given many people much pleasure throughout their lifetime. But unless you have to, no one really enjoys roughing it, especially when there was no way out. Not many people plan for accidents to happen but even the safest of holidays can quickly turn south and if you are not mentally prepared it can spell disaster. That's why our staff at Outback Equipment are always pushing the limits to what they can do or how far they can take their vehicle. To us, no matter where you are, it's only commonsense to make yourself as comfortable as the circumstances allow. When you are a kid, there are core memories you just can't forget. I camped out on the ground wrapped in a blanket with a rolled-up pullover on my shoes as a pillow, and quickly learned the trick of scratching a depression to accommodate my hipbone.
When Dad took the family camping to southern Queensland's glorious beaches he really made a home away from home. Our 15x15ft marquee was set up with double-decker bunks made from sprung single beds, a large table with screw-on legs, comfortable chairs, a galley where Mum cooked the traditional Christmas dinner in soaring temps, an ice chest, basins and a wash stand in lieu of the kitchen sink. You name it. The first time we set off from home with piled-high trailer the neighbours must have thought we'd been evicted. Today, the superb caravanning and camping equipment available enables you to live outdoors in comfort previously undreamed of, even by our parents. The camper has the choice of a wide range of airy, lightweight tents that have waterproof floors to keep out the rain and zipped sides with mesh windows to exclude mosquitoes and flies. You can sleep in a comfortable collapsible bunk or float on an air bed, Keep your beer and steak well chilled in a refrigerator or cool box, cook on an efficient camp stove, light the night with brilliant lamps and, when away from a formal camping ground, bathe under a solar shower and discreetly use a portable camping toilet or the caravanner, the degree of comfort and living convenience is limited only by the size of the van you are prepared to tow and the depth of your pocket. The more opulent of today's caravans and motor homes might be regarded as apartments on wheels. There is no doubt that the older generations did things differently and had to rough it, but one thing is for sure. They had a good time doing it. They made it work with what they had and the best thing to come out of the camping and caravanning industry is accessories and products that help you save time. In our busy lives, getting away can become difficult and so making the most of it is something our generation benefits from, is the access to cheaper and more practical equipment.
Just as importantly, an increasing number of caravan parks now really are parks, lawned and planted with shade trees and gardens, with swimming pool, tennis courts, recreation rooms, restaurant and well-stocked shops, and amenities blocks with quality fittings. But what has been most interesting in recent years has been the development of the middle ground where camping and caravanning meet. Tents have been given wheels and even perched on the roofs of vehicles; caravans have been given (in part) canvas walls to minimise their height and bulk. The development of the tent-trailer, the rooftop tent, the camper-trailer, compact, rugged caravans designed to follow in the tracks of the towing vehicle, has added a new dimension to camping and caravanning. Something our parents would never have dreamed of. These developments have gone hand-in-hand with the increasing popularity of 4WD vehicles and their use in exploring the countryside both close to home and over vast distances. The line, therefore, between camping and caravanning is often ill-defined.
In a lifetime you can expect away from caravan parks, which we use quite a lot when covering ground on highways, we think in terms of camp "setting up: We apply similar criteria to selecting a site as when pitching a tent and refer to our chosen spot as "the campsite'. Much of the time, we cook dinner on the caravans efficient, two-burner gas stove and settle down for the evening on foam rubber seats with a pile of books on the roomy table. Light is provided by an extension lead from the wagon's second battery. We may take a cool drink from the fridge, which is now running on gas but can also operate on mains power and, when driving, the vehicle's 12-volt system. On other occasions, we gather wood, light a fire, straddle it with a barbecue plate and grille that has folding legs for easy stowage, and cook our steak, sausages, spuds and whatever over glowing coals. Seated on comfortable camp chairs we eat under the stars at a camp table lit by the flames of the built-up fire and a gas lamp mounted at a convenient height on an extension rod. A stew for the next night's meal might be glugging gently in the camp oven over coals scraped to the edge of the fire.
Should a track be too rough for the good of the van, we leave it behind and use either a 10x10ft frame tent, a small two-person tunnel tent, stick it in the back of the 4WD and head down for the night. While we are usually drawn to quiet spots far away from the crowd, we are by no means isolates and enjoy the company of kindred spirits. Camping and caravanning seem to attract pleasant people and many a friendship established around a camp fire or while doing the washing in a caravan park laundry lasts forever. You frequently find groups of families and friends with tents or tent-trailers set up adjacent to each other sharing an additional large tent or space roofed by a tarpaulin as a communal centre. Driving around the country, you come across two, three and four caravans travelling together. Usually, members of the party are long-standing friends aware of each other's strengths and frailties. Some parties slavishly follow each other in convoy like elephants clutching each other's tail, but I think the most successful maintain a degree of flexibility, acknowledging the need for space and the right of one or another to mooch off occasionally and rejoin further down the track. Right across Australia there are clubs comprised of people with a preference for a certain type of rig who regularly get together for excursions and expeditions.
Today, there is a mass of information available for the traveller. All state motoring organisations regularly publish directories listing caravan parks and camping grounds nationwide; but in recent years phone apps like Wikicamps, Roadtrippers and other websites have done the hard work for you.
While there is a growing number of commercial caravan parks and camping grounds around Australia and an opening up of camping grounds in national parks and forestry areas, we prefer camping where there is access to much of our magnificent country presently locked away behind barbed-wire fences. No doubt because of past unhappy experiences in which gates have been left open allowing stock to stray, sheep and cattle being destroyed by a mindless shooter, and messes left by thoughtless people, "No camping" signs will be found strung along every highway and country road.
Tourism can lose its appeal when it is too concentrated, and at peak periods every resort area is stretched to the limit. Many properties have sections of country that would be extremely attractive to city people who want to camp in the bush and are prepared to accept basic amenities and abide by a set of commonsense rules of behaviour. I think warmly of places I have encountered where enterprising property owners have provided facilities for holiday makers and travellers, such as Coolendel on the banks of the Shoalhaven River in New South Wales and Fraser's Station (no relation) in Western Australia at the beginning (or the end) of the long haul across the Eyre Highway. It surely would be in the interests of local councils and state governments to make tangible concessions to encourage property owners to open up their land for tourism. One of the attractions of camping is its cheapness and depending on how you want to travel and for how long, you may find yourself attracted to the idea of working the seasons. You can find a free meal and warm bed to stay in for weeks at a time in exchange for labour. Workaway is a commonly used tool for backpackers to earn their visas, but Australians also benefit from meeting different people and learning as well. This is a very pure way of travelling as it removes the requirement for money and take you back a step in time.
For trips like this, you can set yourself up with essential gear for no more, and probably much less, than you would spend on one annual holiday at an average resort-and you still have a camping set up that you can use again and again for many years. Whatever car you own will get you there and back: there is no need for an expensive four wheel drive. Camping in your car is a great way to see the world at a very low cost depending on the time of year and how far you plan on going.
However, if you intend taking camping seriously it does pay to invest in quality equipment. Only a masochist would claim there is any joy in spending a night in a leaking tent. If you're a first timer and have doubts about taking to the outdoor life, why not hire equipment and have a trial run over, say, a long weekend? The same can be said of caravanning or even vanlife. There are great services online called Camplify where you can rent vans, buses, caravans and 4WD from people that have decked them out personally to suit their needs. Setting yourself up with a caravan, campervan or motor home is not cheap, although the outlay is only a fraction of the cost of investing in a holiday cottage or unit. Lacking previous experience, it's as well to rent and try before you buy. You can also rent an on-site van in a caravan park.
There is no mystique about it and there's no one way of doing things. Much of camping and caravanning is plain commonsense. Naturally, there are certain inconveniences by comparison with staying in a serviced apartment or hotel, but once you've tasted the sense of freedom and sat yarning around a camp fire on a starry night the chances are you'll be hooked for life. If you’re ready to move away from the mundane activies of resorts and hotels and are looking for the right solutions, contact us today. Our equipment catalogue carries a variety of items ranging from electrical products and camping items, to caravan accessories to make your trip as enjoyable as possible.