Pro Packing Tips for Camping
By Lynn Witteveen
From collapsible chairs to collapsible laundry baskets and washing up tubs you really can get it all these days and they save loads of space in your Camper. They pack down into a smaller version of themselves, yet they don’t take long to set up. Most of the time they are also really comfortable (in the case of the chair) or pop out to exactly the same size as the original (like the washing up tubs). These save on space and are a great alternative if you are short on space.
Bent chassis are becoming a common sight in outback workshops – don’t become another statistic. You might not have even thought about it, but the way you distribute weight through your vehicle and trailer is extremely important. If you place heavy items at the back of the vehicle, for example, it is putting undue stress on the chassis and suspension components while turning your 4X4 into a seesaw on wheels. The trick is to store heavy bits of gear as low as possible, assisting with keeping the centre of gravity down. You want these heavy loads to sit directly over the vehicle’s axle as much as possible, and this applies to the vehicle and camper too. This spreads weight throughout the vehicle’s suspension and chassis, rather than dumping loads of pressure on isolated spots.
Do you really need five recovery kits in your travelling convoy? Or even five camp ovens? Be organised in the planning stages of your trip and create a ‘Who-Brings-What’ list. This frees up interior space, reduces the stress on your vehicle and best of all, it will save you money in fuel. You see it time and time again while on trips… someone will ask to borrow a hammer, and two seconds later a handful of tools are presented from everyone at camp. Now, you still need to be prepared for any situation that can present itself – but a little communication between the vehicles on your trip before you leave just makes sense. This step will take some time to hone, but once your mates get into a groove it will become the way you camp for good.
Storage drawers are an amazing addition to any touring four-wheel drive. They allow for more gear to be stored safely and give everything a home. Looking for the tomato sauce? It is in the left drawer at the front… But if you want to reduce weight and save money, skip out on storage drawers and opt for plastic storage boxes instead. Have one for each purpose, for example, one for cooking equipment with space for pantry items, another for all the required tools, spare parts and recovery gear, and so on. This way you’re not carrying around unnecessary weight while commuting, but you’re still organised while at camp.
If you have ever owned a Suzuki Sierra, you are probably also really good at packing (and playing Tetris). One tip every master packer follows is to only bring items that have two or three uses. Instead of packing a hammer, bring an axe that can be double as a hammer. Want to bring a hammock along? Sweet! Use it as a seat cover on the trip. Don’t just throw in your stubby holders; why not store your small jars of herbs and spices in them on the way? Not only does this limit the amount of kit you pack, but it also makes you think about the things you actually use while in the bush. Maybe that TV and hairdryer can stay at home…
KNOW YOUR ENEMY… GVM – GCM
This one is especially important for those of us towing a Camper Trailer. It is all well and good to say that if you want more space, then bring less stuff. The truth is, there is only so much weight a vehicle can carry before it is deemed to be unroadworthy. This is known as the vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Mass. The point is, while it might be great to bring away everything including the kitchen sink, there is a limit to the amount you can legally carry. This limit will be printed on your rego papers and stamped on the vehicle’s compliance plate. A trip to your local weighbridge fully loaded will let you know if you are safe. Considering how little room modern manufacturers allow for these days, though, you’ll be surprised how quickly this number is reached. This is especially true if your 4X4 has been modified with barwork and other weighty accessories. GCM or Gross Combined Mass is the weight of the vehicle and the Camper combined. It is important to note that with most modern 4×4’s especially the dual cab utes that it is not as simple as filling the ute to capacity and then adding the Camper as a lot of the time the ute will not be able to carry its full payload if it is towing the Camper. It is always best to take the time to understand these weights to ensure you are legal whilst towing the Camper.
Most magazines and books are available in digital formats these days, so leave hard copies at home and opt for a Kindle or iPad, or download audiobooks onto your phone. This saves loads of space while also reducing weight. Download the books you wish to read before you leave, and swipe through them at your leisure. You also have the advantage of being able to store music and take images with the same device, and even run your navigation software while on the road. Remember that point we made about bringing one item that performs multiple tasks? A good tablet is the perfect example.
ACCESS ALL AREAS
There are nooks and crannies all over your vehicle, which are just begging to be utilised. Think about the amount of space under just one of your front seats, and you will notice it is the perfect spot for a fire extinguisher. The rear panels in a wagon are another example of wasted space, which could be used to house recovery gear or even a small water tank. One place that is completely wasted is the inside roof area. A good trick is to use a mesh cargo net to hold any light yet bulky items such as clothes and sleeping bags. The cargo net can be tied up to the roof grab handles, allowing for more interior space while keeping those necessities high and dry.
TOO MUCH FOOD
This is something we’re all guilty of: we bring too much food! Often the allure of a roadside burger or pie is too hard to ignore, meaning the food in the fridge for lunch is now sitting around idle. But it isn’t just the amount of food we take; it is the way we carry it that causes issues, too. Vac-sealing meat is a smart idea for concise storage, too, instead of bringing away the bulky packaging supermarkets insist on using. It all adds up, and if you put in the effort here it just might make it easier to say no to the roadside burgers. Try pre-made meals such as those from Happy Camper, as they are quick and easy to prepare without taking up much storage space.
SEAT AND DASH ORGANISERS
An excellent way to make the most of unused space is with a few ‘organisers’. As we all know, the little things tend to add up rather quickly, so by grabbing a few seat or dash organisers you can de-clutter your interior simply and easily. Dash organisers are perfect for sunglasses and other items you need to keep close by. Seat organisers are perfect for your kids’ toys, or other small items like sunscreen, torches, umbrellas or cutlery. For the minimal outlay, they really are an excellent addition to any touring vehicle. They don’t weigh very much at all, and they will enhance your camping experience. Imagine searching for that torch you always lose and actually finding it where it should be? Road trip Nirvana right there, folks.