What type of traveller are you?
It depends on what people want. Is it the annual holiday by the beach with the kiddies and an old caravan that just makes the trip each year without falling apart? That was my childhood holidays, but luckily, the campground was well spread out amongst trees, and we had no neighbours in sight and returned to our spot a very short walk from the beach year after year. There is a big resort there now.
Or is it like us now, touring this mighty country, and enjoying the sights, and camping in peace and solitude with the wildlife and a view?
As a general observation, and most agree with me, the camaraderie in the free camps (and the remote national parks camps) is very different to that of caravan parks where people are less inclined to spent time socialising with others they have just met. There are of course exceptions in both circumstances.
Why do I go to a caravan park? Occasionally we need to stay in a town to see tourist features in that town. It may work out cheaper that commuting some distance from a bush camp. We do like to go to a caravan park around once a week for a good shower and shampoo and to do the washing (alternatively a pay shower at a servo and use the town Laundromat then head back out in to the bush). We make new friends on the road, but they can be met along the walk to a waterfall, at a free camp ground, and just sometimes in a caravan park in a town.
Where do I prefer to camp? Somewhere well away from traffic, noise
and lights. An old gravel pit tucked away in the bush is ideal for an overnighter. Some of the best nights we have
had were spent in similar out in the outback desert with no-one within many kilometres under the bright stars and the colours of glorious
sunsets and sunrises. Some spots, such as by a river or lake (where we may have to share) are worthy of spending a few
days. For example, at Armidale in the beautiful
What type of camper are you? This will determine whether you want something like a strong off road van with shower and toilet and solar power, or a bitumen only caravan to go from park to park using powered sites and caravan park bathrooms, or something in between. Because of long distances when travelling in much of Australia, sometimes you need to be able to bush or rest area camp overnight.
Weight is the biggest issue to consider, although room can also be a problem unless you have a big caravan. Use lightweight equipment and utensils when possible, and try and use ‘multi purpose’ items.
If it is your first time out, take only the basics. If you really have to have something else and buy it along the way add that to your list. If you find you didn’t use something, take it out and off the list unless it is a vital spare part. For most of us, we started out camping with a tent or something small, and the packing needs are really just the same when you have a larger caravan or motor home.
Click on this link for my basic packing list. We can travel indefinitely through most climates, but for someone with a big van as their sole home, they would probably want a lot more home comforts.
I save plastic covers that sheets and quilt covers are purchased in. These thick plastic bags usually seal closed with zips or tabs and are ideal for keeping sheets, towels and tea towels clean, tidy and compressed to take up little space. I also use these plastic packs for a set or two of 'good' clothes, such as used for going out in the evening or to a special function.
When researching which type of camper you really need, the best way to find out is “try before you buy”. Most people don't get it right first time around. Either progressively hire a variety of rigs and take short camping trips, or buy second hand and be prepared to sell if not suitable for your needs. When you get out in you trial rig, look at everyone else’s rigs and ask them questions. Most travellers are happy to show off their rig, and tell you about the good points and pitfalls, and this is where you really find out what works and what doesn’t.
There are many options to hire small campervans or vehicles and camper trailers, but be sure you can take the camper you hire on the type of roads you intend to travel, otherwise you could end up with a costly bill for the vehicle in the case of an accident if you are on a dirt road with a hire vehicle or camper which excludes this type of road.
If you are coming to Australia from overseas for an extended time, purchasing a camper and reselling may work out cheaper than hiring, but there is always the problem of selling before you return. You will also need to be sure that the vehicle you purchase is reliable and won’t leave you stranded in the outback. Insurance needs to be considered, and the fact you have no fixed (garaging) address in this country may make finding suitable insurance harder.
Most modern caravans and motor homes have hanging space and for those living in their vans may be considered essential. If dust might be a problem, enclose the clothes in zip up suit bags which can be purchased from Cheap type stores. If the road will be rough, use wire coat hangers and twist the top around the rail. Clothes pegs on the shoulders will ensure the clothes don’t slip off the hangers in transit.
For those just taking holidays a wardrobe is not necessary. We have converted our hanging space into more useful storage as it was not used for clothes which pack well on shelves and in the overhead cupboards above the bed. I keep a set or two of good non iron clothes sealed in plastic bags to keep them compact, clean and neat. For me these are usually a pair of black slacks and a couple of nice blouses to suit different seasons, and a non iron Bali print fabric sarong or two for skirt occasions; casual or semi-formal. For my husband; dark jeans and a nice non iron shirt or two.
Caravan clubs are a good way of learning from others as you start out, as well as for going on group outings both as a social experience and to give you confidence if you are a raw beginning to caravanning and camping.
See how to find a caravan club near you here.
Smaller items such as socks and undies are kept organised in small plastic mesh trays kept on the clothes shelves.