9 Things That Make Camping Better
Words and Pics by Glenn Marshall
Camping has changed dramatically over the last few years with ingenious bits of kit that takes the camping experience to the next level with simplicity and comfort.
(A self-supporting awning provides excellent shade coverage and is super-fast to set up and pack down.)
Sick of trying to hammer a weak metal spike into the rock-hard ground and tripping over hard-to-see ropes at night? Thankfully the self-supporting awning has exploded onto the market with different versions wherever you turn. They cost more but they are worth it.
Some 270-degree self-supporting awnings have built-in LED lights or a fold-out section on the front increasing weather protection. The wingspan has grown too, providing even more shelter for your swag or a place to sit and relax. Most have provision for walls and even for aftermarket tents to attach, perfect for a young family. There are some occasions when an inbuilt leg needs to be dropped and the hidden ropes need to be utilised, especially when it’s windy or raining.
PORTABLE FIRE PITS
(A lightweight portable firepit like this one is a brilliant bit of kit.)
Gone are the days when you can light a campfire wherever you want, well in many campsites and caravan parks at least. Therefore, portable fire pits were developed as they keep the fire off the ground, protecting any grass underneath while providing a great cooking source and a way of keeping warm.
Portable fire pits have become lighter and more compact with the development of stainless-steel designs like the Darche BBQ 450 and the Red Roads Blaze-n-BBQ Fire Pit. They come complete with base plate support and stainless cooking grills that are adjustable and easily removed.
(The Travel Buddy is a great addition to any setup.)
The Travel Buddy Marine 12V oven is manufactured by a small family business in Bendigo and is an extremely versatile bit of kit. Being the larger of two ovens, it can easily handle enough pies and sausage rolls to feed a family, complete with crispy crusts. Reheating casseroles is a breeze with the adjustable temperature control and cooking a small roast, including the vegetables was a game-changer.
There are also several aftermarket mounting brackets available online, on eBay or at camping and 4WD stores that make it simple to mount your 12V oven in your 4WD, camper trailer or caravan.
(Hema's 4x4 Explorer app provides great detail online and offline.)
Crowdsourcing has revolutionised camping apps which is great because users get to see the most up-to-date information on each campsite, caravan park or farm stay. The tip is to take written reviews with a grain of salt as some contributors may have had a bad day and taken it out in the app.
The best camping apps are the ones that provide the same information when you’re out of mobile range as when you’re online. The Hema 4x4 Explorer app includes free Hema Touring and Hema Explorer maps or paid Hema Premium that include offline maps once installed. Once you’ve installed the offline maps (this must be done when you are online), the app shows the campsite name, address, contact details, GPS coordinates, description, facilities, interests and most importantly, reviews.
INSTANT HOT WATER
(An on-demand hot water system enhances your camping experience.)
Adding an aftermarket on-demand hot water service to your camper trailer or 4WD is a winner. Being able to wash the dishes with instantaneous, temperature-controlled hot water or enjoy a steaming hot shower after a long day on the road or a day on the beach, is now as easy camping as it is at home.
Units like the Joolca Hottap can pump from a water tank, jerry can or directly from a creek or a river and provide temperature-controlled hot water. Another type of hot water service is the 12V/240V Duetto 10L water heater commonly installed in Overlanding vehicles.
FAST BOIL STOVES EQUALS FRESH COFFEE
(Boiling water in less than 2 minutes is next level.)
Having fresh espresso coffee to start the heart each morning is gold-7506.jpg
Boiling water within 100 seconds is another game-changer. No need for a thermos or boiling the billy on the fire or gas stove, these compact units are lightweight, and they pack down into themselves meaning they take up very little space. JetBoil is the most common brand, and I never leave home without my JetBoil Flash 1L Hiking Stove.
The benefit of superfast boiled water is a great start to the day, especially with a cup of your favourite freshly brewed coffee. I’m talking freshly ground from the beans of your choice or an expresso blend. JetBoil has a Grande Silicone Coffee Press that works with their MiniMo and Sumo stoves, but I prefer to use the Wacaco Minipresso GR Espresso Machine with my preferred blend. Again, it is a compact and lightweight kit that packs into itself but is simple to use and capable of producing up to 50ml of expresso.
(The Redarc Manager 30 is an extremely intelligent Battery Monitoring System.)
Installing an intelligent Battery Management System (BMS) will revolutionise the way you operate your accessories. For a comprehensive solution, you only need to look as far as state-of-the-art systems such as the Redarc Manager 30 with RedVision. the Projecta Intelli RV range and Enerdrive System as examples.
These units provide charge and maintain all types of auxiliary batteries via AC, DC and solar inputs and are suitable for your 4WD. Most of your accessories can be powered from these units; lights, power, MPPT solar input, DCDC input, batteries, water pumps and even your water tanks. Everything is then controlled via the head unit or an app on your smartphone. You can also monitor the state of charge of each battery, amps being used, time until your battery runs out of charge, water tank levels, external and battery temperatures and method of input charge.
(Lithium batteries are the best option for auxiliary power.)
Lithium batteries for your camper or 4WD are a real game-changer, albeit a bit pricey. LiFeP04 lithium batteries are three times lighter, charge much faster and discharge longer and slower than the batteries already discussed.
They also have more usable power with almost 100% available, compared to only 50% with lead-acid and AGM batteries and discharging to these low levels doesn’t affect its lifespan. Under load, a LiFePO4 battery discharges while maintaining a high voltage until it reaches about 95% Depth of Discharge.
DRINKING WATER ON THE GO
(Turning freshwater into drinkable water with something like the Guzzle H2O Stream means I can camp off-grid for longer.)
Finding fresh drinking water when Overlanding can be difficult and knowing whether water is safe to drink is another dilemma. The Guzzle H2O Stream has recently been introduced to the Australian market and I’ve been lucky enough to carry one on recent trips.
This portable unit is easy to use and provides a push-button drinking water solution. It can pump, filter and purify water, from any freshwater source. It’s also effective in silty water with a one-micron pre-filter. The unit is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery and the carbon block is usable for up to 3785 litres.