I’m going to do a series of posts looking at the type of gear you need to take with you to make camping comfortable when out exploring in you 4wD. As they say – any fool can be uncomfortable camping!
To me there are 3 main types of lighting needs you need to consider:
General Camp Lighting
That’s the ambient lighting around the camp site. In Australia camp lighting has a big problem- it attracts the insects like you wouldn’t believe! You may want to think about that before you set up your camp! Keep the lighting a reasonable distance from tents and the cooking area. Although some swear by the old-fashioned gas mantle lights I find them annoyingly fiddly to set up and damage prone. I prefer the new low power LED lights which run on batteries or power and are cool to run, have low power requirements and don’t attract the insects as much
Tent Camp Lighting
Inside a tent I found that you only needed a small tent light- which run on batteries and clip onto the roof using its own magnetic strip. Not enough to read by good enough to find your shoes.
This is where LED camping lights come into their own. I prefer a headline style torch – which keeps the hands free and works well for both reading in bed and cooking. I also found for a computer you can get LED lights which power of the computer’s USB port – though of course this will drain your battery a bit.
I split costs into up front set-up costs and on-going on the road costs.
Up front set-up costs
The difference in vehicle purchase price and resale.
Stamp Duty 2-3% of the car’s purchase price
Insurance allow say $300 pa and bring evidence of your claim history.
Registration varies between states but can be up to A$700 for a 4WD – you should take this into account when negotiating the purchase price. This includes 3rd party injury but not 3rd property. Continue reading
One of the issues buying a vehicle brings up is how to transfer a reasonably large amount of cash to Australia, even if you hope to get most of that cash back at the end of the trip.
The cheapest way to large amounts of money internationally is to pay a set fee per a transaction rather than paying a percentage of the cash transferred. Using an international credit or debit card means that you will be paying up to 2% on money received – that adds up to a lot. A better option is an international transfer which charges a one-off fee, but this will require you to have an Australian bank account to receive money into Continue reading
The vast majority of visitors arrive and depart Sydney. This is not always the best idea, particularly if your trip won’t bring you back to Sydney. Finishing a trip in Perth only to fly back to Sydney to fly to Singapore means a 4 hour flight to Sydney to take a 8hr flight to Singapore rather than just taking a 4hr flight to Singapore direct from Perth.
Some distances to get you started:
Sydney to Perth 4110km or 2550miles (4 hours flying time), Sydney to Cairns is 3143km or 1950 miles (3 hours flying time)
Sydney to Melbourne is 9 hours if you drive up the Hume Highway, and see, well highway, or you could take a couple of weeks and actually see the gorgeous coastal scenery along the NSW and Victorian coasts on the Princess Highway.
Which is to say planning a trip across Australia and ending up in Perth doesn’t necessarily mean that you should return to Sydney for your international flight. Now that mainstream airlines have started to price tickets as two one-way tickets its no cheaper in general to buy a return ticket.
Note you don’t even need a tent to use these – they can be a very good deal if you are staying in cabin or similar accommodation. We often found as a couple that we could get a cabin for the same price as a double room in a hostel complete with our own TV and kitchenette. Given the convenience of parking the truck next to the door they tended to win hands down compared to the hostel and there are more of them too . There are sometimes different areas for tent camping away from the caravans, RV’s and motorhomes – the tent area tends to have more grass and to be closer to the bathrooms.
If you are actually camping for $20-$30 for 2 adults you will get a a camp site with or without power, a common ablutions block, almost always with free hot water, occasionally hot water requires a gold coin ($1 or $2) and almost always a coin operated washing-machine and a washing line. The site will often have a pad of concrete on it for the annex next to caravans – though less dusty for tent camping as well. You may or may not get grass depending on the cost of water locally. Continue reading
Driving in the outback of Australia is a lot different from driving on the east coast or any of the main highways. The key difference is you may go days without seeing another vehicle and longer if its not tourist season or you aren’t on a main road .
There are some universal rules which have developed which will keep you a whole lot safer:
- If you break down do not leave the vehicle. There are numerous cases when someone decided to walk for help and by the time the vehicle was found their body was as well. A vehicle will provide shelter from the sun and is lot easier to see than a person. It has things you can burn (like tyres) if someone flies overhead.
Well I hope not! Having just traveled over 30,000km in Australia including many of the iconic four wheel drive (4WD) tracks I thought we had picked up some useful tips on how to do the trip without spending a fortune. We spent about A$10,000 setting ourselves up with 1985 Landcruiser plus A$1,000 of camping gear, but most people seem to spend a lot, lot more. We’ve parked our next to rigs which would give you no change from A$250,000 Some of the more sophisticated setups even claimed to be able to go off-road as well – just like we could with a tent!
Why this blog
When I was planning this trip I found a real lack of information for the beginner who wanted to 4WD in Australia. There are several print publications and forums which will help you decide between the current model Land cruiser or Explorer, but little info on how to buy a decent second hand vehicle and how to choose what to put in it. No one told me that the $2 plastic striped bags would last 3 months even when overloaded, but that a top of the line camp bed would fail within 2 months. In some way it reminded me of the situation nearly 30 years ago when I started backpacking – then only one guide book catered for those who didn’t want to stay in hotels and take taxis every other book assumed that you had money to burn. The 4WD industry seems to be in the same place today. Even the Internet doesn’t provide much information for those who aren’t yet looking for a impermanent lifestyle i.e. the grey nomads but who aren’t hardcore off-road driving enthusiasts. So I’m hoping that this blog will fit a bit of niche for those who would like to get away into the great Australian outback but who don’t really know where to begin.