Nearly a year ago we left Perth, Western Australia, to embark on our epic adventure around Australia. We rolled out of Jahla’s grandparent’s driveway at 5am in the morning. We were both utterly exhausted, both physically and mentally, after spending the previous year researching, planning, designing and constructing for our adventure. After spending the first couple of nights in the Margaret River region, one of our favourite places in Australia, it felt like the stress and strain was all worth it. A couple of weeks later the stress and exhaustion was a distant memory. We realised how our effort in preparing and going the extra mile would serve us well on our daily activities.
After all this time on the road we can now reflect on the things we bought, the things we shouldn’t have brought, and the things we should have bought with us. Having never done such a long term trip before, aside from week-long camping trips, we have found that we had some misconceptions about what was needed and what we could have done without. Of course everyone is different, everyone will visit different areas and pursue different interests. This list is just our experiences, and might help others who are planning an extended adventure like ours rationalise what gear is important and what isn’t.
- Portable gas stove: We have a Coleman camping stove with dual burners running off a refillable 1.25kg LPG tank and also uses disposable 500g canisters as a backup (pictured). Cooking food or boiling water is fast, easy, cost-effective and portable
- Folding chairs and table: Inexpensive, lightweight and compact units allow us to sit back and relax
- LED headlamps: Bright, light and convenient. Light where you need it, when you need it. Much better when cooking or doing vehicle repairs/maintenance
- 12v fridge: Our 47L ARB fridge/freezer, mounted to an aluminium slider, has allowed us to keep our produce fresh. Having fresh and good quality food impact on morale, so for us it has paid it’s self of many times over already
- 60L water bladder and in-line water filter: Like our fridge, having a supply of clean, fresh tasting drinking water keeps us happy and healthy
- Axillary battery with outlet board: Our 100Ah battery and outlet board allows us to keep our devices charged on the road. This is critical as we use our phones and tablets daily to maintain communications with friends and family, search for camp sites and research attractions to visit
- Solar panels: While solar panels have limitations, being that mild and clear weather is needed for them to operate efficiently, we definitely have appreciated having our portable 120w solar panel kit to keep the battery topped up to extend our stay while we’re stationary for a few days
- Dual sensing Volt Sensitive Relay (VSR): Well worth the effort and expense as it rapidly charges our batteries every time we use the Delica. As above, we rely on a source of power for our devices and solar panels aren’t reliable as a sole source of power.
- Portable toilet: We bought a Thetford Qube 365 portable toilet with the idea that we’d be camping in remote areas for a week at a time, but we found that everywhere we went has amenities anyway and haven’t used it once. It’s not heavy, but it does take up a large portion of our valuable storage space under the bed. We’ve kept it for now, as an emergency backup, but it is definitely something that sounded like a good idea but was unnecessary
- Toilet/shower tent: As above, this was bought to use with the portable toilet. We’ve never used it. When we use our solar shower we just hang it off a tree branch or the roof bars and wear our bathers. Usually we use the solar shower as a post-ocean freshwater rinse-off anyway
- Awning enclosure: Another good idea that did’t eventuate. We simply haven’t stayed in a place that we don’t need to use/move the car every couple of days. We used it only once when we stayed at Cactus in South Australia. The main disadvantage of an awning enclosure is that it is attached to the awning and adds extra complication and time to set-up and pack away when we move on. We have seen other van campers use a tall, square, non-attached tent on the side of their van that provides extra living space and shelter from the elements, but they are still able to use the car as needed without having to pack everything away each time.
Luxuries that we do occasionally use, but could live without:
- LED lantern: Expensive Coleman unit that uses an old-style battery that is heavy and takes a day to charge fully. Doesn’t put out much light either. LED headlamps are far more effective and easy to use
- Hammock: It has been more difficult than we expected to find free bush camp sites with trees suitable to set the hammock up. Subsequently we’ve only used it a few times over our entire trip. That said, however, it has been very comfortable and nice to use on the few times we have had it set up. There’s nothing nicer than reading a good book while laying back in a hammock in the forest or next to a beach. It’s pretty small and lightweight, so we’ll hang onto it for now
- Foam core roller and PVC pipe: At home I used a foam core roller and a large section of PVC pipe twice a day on my back and legs. However since we’ve broken free from sitting at a computer for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, we’ve both found that our backs, necks and shoulders are noticeably more relaxed. As a result we only use the rollers on odd occasions when we’re feeling a bit sore and tight
- Yoga mat: Same deal as the rollers above. Karl just uses the picnic mat for the occasion when he wants to use the foam core roller instead of a yoga mat
- Multiple surf craft: With the idea of versatility and having a backup/spare, we brought two bodyboards, a small soft-surfboard, three pairs of swimfins and a bodysurfing handboard. It was nice to have these on hand, but a pair of swimfins each and a good quality bodyboard would have worked just fine as this was all that was used for most of the trip. A single board would have provided much more internal space, as the boards were stacked against the wall next to the mattress.
Things we regretted leaving behind or not getting before we left:
- Tools: We left two full boxes of tools behind, including our crimping pliers, wire cutting tool, socket wrench set and more. Originally we thought that we wouldn’t need them any more and they were just weight and bulk we couldn’t afford to have in the car. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake after we’ve needed to perform a number of small repairs and modifications to our electrical system and camper setup on the road; a task that is challenging (but still doable) without the correct tools
- Stainless steel insulated mugs: We bought a pair of these on sale just a month ago, previously using giant, unwieldy, uninsulated enamel mugs instead. Should have bought them from the start, as they’re fantastic!
- Aluminium roof rack: Originally we didn’t want the fuel-economy penalty of a roof rack, but after a few months on the road we realised that having the large, heavy portable solar panels bouncing around inside the car wasn’t fun. We desgned and constructed our own low-profile, light weight aluminium roof rack while staying at a friend’s house. We semi-permanently mounted the solar panels on it, as well as a pair of Max Trax recovery treds and a rear facing 36W LED flood light to use when reversing in the dark. This allowed a constant, always connected supply of solar power and provided less clutter inside the vehicle. We also found that our fuel economy was not noticeably affected, due to the low profile design and minimal load.
I’m sure there’s plenty of other things we’ve forgotten to mention, but these are the main ones. You’re welcome to leave a comment below if you have any other tips to other road travellers about what gear you love, what you got rid of, and what you wish you’d brought along on your epic adventure.