FIVE STAR FREE CAMPING
10 super-easy ways to transform your basic bush camp into a 5-star resort!
WORDS BY STEVE COLLINS, PHOTOGRAPHY BY CARAVAN AND MOTORHOME ON TOUR
You just can’t beat free camping, can you? The freedom. The adventure.The serenity. However, just because you’ve chosen the nomadic lifestyle doesn’t mean you should miss out on the finer things in life. Like a good night’s sleep in the searing heat of summer or being able to watch your favourite movies in the middle of nowhere.
Well, what if we told you that there are a heap of cheap and easy upgrades you can do to make your camping experience more comfortable? From accessories to set-up tips to essential upgrades. We’ll help turn your basic bush camp into a 5 star resort by solving ten of the most tiring, annoying and uncomfortable aspects of free-camping with your RV. Bugs, water supplies, power, cooling, communication, entertainment and so much more. We’ve got a solution for them all!
10 SURE-FIRE WAYS TO MAKE FREE CAMPING MORE COMFORTABLE
1 MAKE CLEANING UP OUTSIDE A BREEZE
Whether you’re cleaning utensils or washing sand and dirt from your feet, some messes are best cleaned up outside the caravan. That’s why many modern RVs come fitted with external taps: it’s just that bit easier to ensure that the outdoors stays where it belongs and your interior stays clean.
So here’s our tip – hang a soap holder and shower caddy from your draw bar and position a bowl nearby to collect water, and hey presto, you’ve got an outdoor wash basin.
If you don’t want your bowl sitting on the ground, grab a magnetic base from the hardware store for around $19 and glue it to the bottom of your bowl.
2 KEEPING CREEPY CRAWLIES OUT
Here are three super-simple ways to avoid being pestered by bugs and creepy crawlies.
1 – Throw some ant powder around your van’s stabilising legs to create a barrier from crawling pests like ants and spiders. You can pick up a packet for under $10 from most hardware stores.
2 – Lay down as much shade cloth as you’ve got if you’re in snake prone areas. It’s said that snakes won’t go near it because the course weave of the fibres catch on their scales. Garage sales are a great place to pick up cheap shade cloth.
3 – Replace the external lights on your van with bug repellent globes or LEDs. They won’t kill bugs or solve your problems entirely, but they will attract a lot less flying insects to entry points near doors and windows than regular white lights. You can pick up a handful of lights for under $50 delivered if you shop around online.
3 GUARANTEED 240V POWER ON THE MOVE
Investing in a quality generator will unlock a whole new world of comfort for freedom campers. Generators often cop a bad rap because people associate them with excess noise, but the good news is, most new models are more quiet, fuel efficient and compact than ever.
Whether you want to run your AC on a stinking hot summer’s day or charge up your house batteries when the solar panels aren’t producing enough electricity for your needs – a genie alleviates the hassle of running out of power or not being able to use power hungry appliances while you’re disconnected from the grid.
4 CUT YOUR CLEAN UP TIME BY HALF!
Linda Bloffwitch – Travel Writer
“Throw down some cheap shade cloth outside your van to prevent dirtying your floor coverings inside your van. Just a few metres of shade cloth can dramatically reduce the amount of sand and dirt that gets walked into your van by giving it time to drop off your feet before you go inside.”
5 BEAT THE HEAT WITH A PORTABLE DIY AIR CONDITIONER
Here’s a cool project for hubby. You can make your own portable air conditioner using an old plastic esky, some duct and a 12V fan. Simply cut a hole for your fan on one half of the lid. Next, cut a second hole for the ducting on the other side of the lid. Then, wire up the fan using a two metre lead with a fused CIG socket and simply fill the esky with ice and enjoy the cool refreshing air it’ll produce. This one won’t cost you much either. You can pick up an old esky and a 12V fan from an Op Shop for around $20. And what’s better, if you bung a two litre bottle of water in your freezer each night you won’t have spend any money on ice. It’s the cheapest way to stay cool if you don’t have AC!
6 DOUBLE YOUR DRINKING WATER ANYWHERE IN OZ
Although only 18% of Australia is technically declared a desert, as much as 35% of Australia receives such low levels of rainfall that it is practically as dry. Naturally, that means having a quality water setup with you while you travel should be considered mandatory.
1 – First, spend a few bucks on a set of ‘rain savers’. From as little as $8, these ingenious round clips enable you to use your awning to harvest rain water by collecting and funnelling it into a bucket. This then can be filtered and used for drinking.
2 – Then invest the $120 odd dollars on a dual cartridge 5 micron carbon filter kit to filter everything from river water to rain and bore water. If you make up a removable mount using some C-channel you can sit it over your rear bumper when it’s time to fill your tanks then stow it away while you travel. This handy little water setup will double your drinking water instantly!
7 ARE YOU SITTING ON OZ’S COMFIEST CAMP CHAIR?
When it comes to outdoor comfort, a quality camp chair is a pretty obvious one, but here’s our tried and tested tip. Invest in a flat folding lounge chair next time you’re due for an upgrade. They’re extremely popular these days because they offer great back support, have a built in foot rest and can be laid almost flat when it’s time for your afternoon kip. Plus they’ll store flat in the boot.
8 GET RID OF SANDFLIES FOR GOOD!
Linda Bloffwitch – Travel Writer
“Keep a spray bottle on hand containing an equal mix of Dettol, baby oil and methylated spirits. It’s a cheap and effective way of deterring the most persistent sand flies. For something a little gentler, combine rosemary and sandalwood cream and rub it onto the exposed areas of your skin.”
9 CHECK YOUR EMAILS FROM ALMOST ANYWHERE
Hasn’t technology changed? One minute we’re in a great depression the next we’re video calling our loved ones from the other side of the country. To get online while you’re on the road all you need to do is pick up a wireless internet modem which will set you back around $65 a month.
To get the best coverage, choose a reputable network supplier that will cover rural and outback communities and pay the extra for an external antenna. Mount it to an extendable tent pole or to the top of your TV antenna to get it up high and it will almost certainly give you internet coverage where your standard mobile phone will be struggling for any signal at all. Not to mention you’ll be able to stream your favourite movies where there’s absolutely no conventional TV reception – how good is that?
10 GET THE BEST NIGHT’S SLEEP YOU’VE EVER HAD
Free camping is peaceful, but are you actually getting a good night’s sleep? While everyone has their different preferences, upgrading your standard van mattress to a quality pocket spring (with pillow top) or memory foam unit (if you can afford it) is the single best thing you’ll do to your van.
If your budget won’t stretch to a full replacement, hunt down a 3in memory foam mattress topper (which can be customised new for around the $500 mark) to pop on top of your existing mattress. It’s a cost-effective way of making the best of what you’ve got.