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Home > Tips and Hints > Starting Out Index > More Choices

Much of Australia is inland and dry, and this is where we do most of our touring. With the added weight and wind resistance of a boat on top, you would use more fuel.  There is always the option to go on an occasional charter boat if at a fishing venue. What's more, they know the water, tides and hazards, and where to catch the fish.  A much better option in my opinion. You can also hire small boats at many beachside locations. 

Do you want to take a boat around Australia?
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Do you need a ladder? 

There are numerous versions of screens in the front of the caravan, sloping slightly forward to bounce stones down to the road instead of into the rear of the tow vehicle, and under slung guards with a variety of methods to allow turning where attached to the vehicle. Most are from heavy duty shade cloth and many are home made. 

 

If using large mud flaps, do not extend the full width of your vehicle, as without a gap there is poor air flow for cooling and drag will reduce vehicle efficiency.  The brush as used around heavy haulage truck tyres can be used in place of a solid large mud flap. 

 

Rear windows can be protected from stones bounced off the trailer by covering with cardboard or thick clear plastic sheeting.  Attachment methods range from masking tape to Velcro tabs, although all can come loose, particularly in very hot weather. 

 

Most of these options are now available commercially .

Stone deflectors

These are invaluable for monitoring the road behind you easily and constantly when towing.  They are not so useful on dusty dirt roads as the cloud of dirt behind the caravan obscured the vision.  You can also have a reversing camera in the back of your tow vehicle using the one monitor and switching between, which makes it easy for the driver to back onto the caravan to hitch up.  Ensure that the camera for the caravan is focused for distance as there is a difference between these as rear view cameras and close vision focuses reversing cameras. 

 

A reversing camera has close focus and point downwards for easy reversing.  It is of limited use out on the road.  A rear view camera has a long narrow focus and is good for seeing well down the road behind you; invaluable when towing.  It is also of some assistance when reversing into a campsite.

 

There are numerous options, ranging from purchasing a camera and monitor for a few dollars from China and fitting it yourself if you are that way inclined, to spending over $1,000 on a fully integrated top of the range system installed Ė ideally built in when the caravan is manufactured. 

 

Rear view camera

We have had both as we started out with a small single axle camper. 

 

Advantages: We could spin it round by hand if stuck in a tight spot.  Less tyres to maintain. 

 

Disadvantages: Stuff was tossed from one side of the cupboards to the other (we travel off the bitumen frequently), damage to fittings, milk bottles and cartons leaking from the bottom from the bouncing. I wouldn't even try and take eggs! 

 

My manís reasoning had more to do with safety in case of a blowout or losing a wheel, and general stability of the unit. There is also less thrust up and down on your tow hitch with the van stable on dual axles. 

 

Unless you have a very small caravan or a camper trailer and pack light, I thoroughly recommend tandem. 

Single or tandem?

How often will you use it?  The walls are heavy so if you won't use them on that trip, leave them at home.  If we want shade or shelter from rain, putting out the roof part as an awning is sufficient.  A simple wind out awning is more suitable for travellers like us who move on most days, but it cannot be used in very windy conditions.  A full awning is a large extra room for those who travel with children, live full time in their caravan and those who stay at one place for some time.  With our travel style of frequent moves, we do not see the need to put out an annex or awning at all when stopping only for a day or two.  With only two of us, we do not need the annex as an extra room, preferring to take our chairs out under a tree and watch the birds. 

Do you want a full annex or an awning?
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We did purchase an inflatable dinghy in case we want to paddle in inland waterways where there are no crocodiles, but we didn't have room to fit it in.  Again, canoes can be hired at places where canoeing is popular. 
 
If you are a real boating and fishing enthusiast, you will want to take a boat, be it roof mounted or a collapsible boat such as Portabote.   For many travellers, a boat is an important part of and completes their travelling rig.   

Many large motor homes and some caravans are fitted with a sullage tank to collect waste kitchen and bathroom water.  Although there are areas that require you to contain and remove waste water, over much of Australia this is not an issue, and water can be collected with a bucket and taken into the bush or used to help maintain a grassy camp ground.  At all times use environmentally friendly or small quantities of soaps and detergents, be disposal into the bush or into a caravan park septic system.  If you are stopping for one night, using a bucket to collect the waste water is simpler than getting out and fitting a sullage hose.  Sullage tanks and pipes can accumulate fat, so need to be regularly cleaned.  Portable grey water tanks with wheels are an option to a fitted tank, so long as you can store and carry the tank, and lift it when full.  Read about options for grey water containment methods and the requirements to camp at a campground specified for Self Contained Only.

Grey water or Sullage

Whereas someone living full time in a large caravan may want to carry several hundred litres of water and shower every day even when out in the bush, for the average traveller, two or three 80 litre tanks and a couple of twenty litres jerry cans can be manageable. For those who mostly go to caravan parks, one tank may be enough.  See economical use of water and what to do when you have no water on these links.  Your choice of tanks will depend on your style of travel and the size and carrying capacity of your caravan or motor home. 

 

Water storage

This again is a personal choice.  Those living full time in their caravan may well want the convenience of a built in washing machine, whereas many part time travellers like us find it easy to use buckets and an occasional laundromat rather than carry something extra.  Machines range from the purpose built models which can be built in when the van is manufactured, to small cheap portable twin tubs from on line discount stores and eBay which do the job well for those who have them.  See details of the washing machine options in Q&A Washing Machines for Caravans

 

For more on doing the washing click here.

Washing Machine?
Heating and cooling

Are air conditioners and heaters essential in Australia?  Generally no.  They are home comforts, and depending on whether you will be travelling in the snow country in winter or the tropics in the heat of summer, or a medical condition requires a constant temperature, you can manage comfortably without either.   Most people travel in the north in the cooler months, and the south in the hotter, chasing the optimum temperatures.  On a really hot day, drive during the heat with the car air conditioner. If you are staying a few days by a lake or a river and it is crocodile safe, a short swim is very cooling.  Otherwise sitting outside in the shade (even the shade of your camper if there are no trees) can be quite confortable, particularly if there is a breeze. A 12 volt fan uses very little power and helps you cool down on hot evenings, and a damp towel between you and the fan can have a further cooling effect if the weather is not too humid.  A 240 volt fan can be used from an inverter if necessary.  However in much of inland Australia, nights are cool. 

 

Built in roof extraction fans running from the caravan batteries can be effective at cooling the caravan if not in very hot climates.  Fantastic Air Vent is one such option.  Use one to draw air in and the other to draw air out. 

 

Most modern full sized caravans and motor homes have inbuilt roof mounted air conditioners.  In addition to powered sites, a 2 or 2.4 kva generator will run most, and the small area of the van cools quickly.   

 

Some caravanners have found fitting a normal household split system air conditioner to their caravan satisfactory, but they are not build for constant movement so may have a limited life.  They require wall space to fit the air conditioner and also require a suitable place to mount the external fan box.

 

Read about running an air conditioner.

 

Heaters:  If you intend to travel in cold areas in winter, the ideal would be a built in diesel (such as Webasto, Dometic, Eberspacher or a number of cheaper brands) or an external gas heater (Truma).  These can be ducted to the bathroom and or the living areas separately.  A diesel heater can be fitted by an owner, but a gas heater must be installed by a licensed gas fitter.  However in normal temperatures with a fully enclosed caravan, I find putting on a pullover and/or shutting the windows on a cold night (but leaving the lower door safety vents, and the roof vents open) adequate to keep us warm.  Another alternatives if you are camping in very cold areas is a heated jacketIf sleeping under canvas such as in a camper trailer or expanding caravan, a cold night can be most uncomfortable and heaters are not suitable.  Thick bed socks, tracksuits over pyjamas, and extra padding under you as well as on top can keep you warm enough.  A zero rated sleeping bag keeps warmth in and has the necessary insulation both uder and over you. Some people use electric blankets, either purchasing a 12 volt appliance or running a 240 volt blanket from an inverter, if they have a good supply of power.  Heaters such as portable gas heaters are not suitable or safe to be used in caravans and campers.   Do not consider suggestions such as a flower pot placed over a gas burner.  Read about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide poisoning from using unflued gas heaters.  See Diesel Gas Interior Heating

 

If you intend staying only in powered sites, a small electric heater is an easy solution.  Although our air conditioner has a heat cycle (really just an element which works as a fan heater), even when on mains power we have not used it on heat cycle as a heater at ceiling level will not be efficient.  Reverse cycle air conditioners on heat cycle often cut out at the low temperatures when you need heatng the most. In 2009 we moved from a very warm Queensland into New South Wales just as the weather turned wintery.  My husband had bronchitis at the time, so we purchased a small fan heater to run on the caravan floor when on mains power.  It was very effective at warming the van and reducing his coughing.  We did not need to run it during the night; just during the evening and for a short while in the morning. It also proved to be a very effective clothes dryer when we rain set in just as I finished a big wash day at a caravan park. 

More features to choose to have in your caravan, motor home or camper.  Do you want an airconditioner or a heater?  Will you need a washing machine?  How many water tanks?  What about a grey water (sullage) tank?  Do you need a fully enclosed annex, or just an awning?   Single or tandem axle?  What about a rear view camera or a stone deflector?  Is it worth taking a boat around Australia?  Can you manage without a ladder?
 
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For a small lightly built caravan, a wireless camera may be suitable, but can be subject to outside interference in cities.  For hard wired, a quick and easy method of connection and disconnection to the tow vehicle is a good idea and this can also be a weak point in the communication line if not using a good and secure fitting. 

 

Regardless of whether you are using a camera to see behind you, it is still compulsory in Australia to have adequate towing mirrors fitted to you vehicle when towing
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You may need a ladder regularly to put out your awning, and occasionally to clean or check you solar panels, but in most cases, a ladder is just taking up more room and adding a bit more weight.  If you do really need to access you roof while travelling, you can usually borrow a ladder from someone in a town.  A small step ladder may be adequate for accessing the awning. 

 

TXP make good quality collapsible and fold up (squeezebox) ladders for easy storage.  There are other similar versions available through auto and discount chains, but they may not be adequate for the weightier people. 

 

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Do you need to register you boat in each state as you travel?  Do you need a Skippers Ticket (Marine Licence) to take you boat out on the water?  There are different requirements in each state.  See here for details.
 
Recreational fishing licence requirements also very between the states.  See what is needed in each state here
Want to know more? Ask us
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There are many options to reduce stone damage to the front of your caravan and the rear of your vehicle when travelling on stony roads. 

 

See a variety of very different ideas on Pictures of stone deflectors. 

 

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See more hints about how to keep warm when caravanning or camping