As we didn’t have much pre-trip caravanning experience we relied on recommendations from family and friends when it came to touring gear, as well as doing our own research. Compiled below is the list of stuff we set out with and why. We’ll report back over time with feedback on each item.
Toilet: Porta Potti Qube 335. We almost decided to leave without one of these but then figured the day we regretted this decision would be a pretty bad day. We chose Thetford because they’re a reputable brand and the small Qube 335 model because that’s the size we were limited to (our shower room has a cut-out into which the toilet slides).
What we like: good quality, compact, easy to use, reasonably priced (look for sales)
What we don’t like: the seat is super small and not at all comfortable, small holding tank (of course this is relative to the compact size), needs to be emptied every 3-4 days (though this is standard), emptying and cleaning isn’t fun
Should you buy one? If you are going ahead with buying a port-a-loo this one is compact and good quality. If seat comfort will be an issue for you then we’d suggest buying a larger model.
If you are trying to decide if you need to take a port-a-potti with you then have a read of this post.
BBQ: We thought about purchasing a Weber Q, but in the end went with a Bodum Fyrkat Picnic Charcoal Grill. The Fyrkat is about on par in size with a Weber Q but weighs much less. Coals take longer to heat than gas but Jono’s convinced that the taste with be worth the wait.
What we like: the Fyrkat cooks pretty well
What we don’t like: there’s only a grill (no hot plate: though we solved this by buying a cheap oven proof pan from Vinnies), the round shape and legs make it pretty awkward to transport and store, our model (a silver one) shows up a lot of dirt and has rusted quite a bit, the coals need their own dedicated box so they don’t dirty everything else.
Should I buy one? If we had our time again we’d go with a BBQ which was a bit easier to pack down and transport and also had a hot plate. If sitting around a campfire is important to you remember that lots of campsites only allow fully contained fires, so perhaps look into getting a fully contained fire pit which will also act as a BBQ. If you’re handy you could even make one yourself. Like this!
UPDATE: We recently found a secondhand Coleman Eventemp stove for sale on Gumtree and decided to buy it. It came with a stand, bag etc and was a really good price. We’ve used it a few times with great results so we’re getting rid of our Fyrkat and we’ll do a review on the Coleman once we’ve had it for a while.
Thermomix: We splashed out recently and purchased a second hand Thermomix (the superseded model). The generator should be able to power the machine with relative ease and we hope its many uses will make up for the space it hogs.
Inverter: Giandel pure sine wave inverter. Though we have a generator, we thought it would be handy to be able to use our 240 volt appliances without having to rely completely on the genny.
Entertainment (besides the great outdoors!)
TV: Kogan 19″ LED TV (HD) with personal video recorder (no DVD player). We weren’t going to take a TV but as our van came with a pre-installed bracket, decided to spend a small amount of money and purchase a TV that could run on 12 volt power. This will use much less power than our laptops when watching movies on rainy days.
What we like: it works on 12 volt power, has a USB input so that we can connect a hard drive, cheap
What we don’t like: the viewing angles aren’t very good. You really need to be straight on to get the full range of colour, the TV had some static pixel problems right out of the box, (granted, they faded over time and we haven’t noticed them for a while).
Should I buy one? As far as budget TVs go the Kogan works fine. As for whether or not you need to take a TV with you: this depends on your needs. Lots of people we’ve met just watch movies on their laptops. However, when you’re off-grid these can require regular charging. We didn’t get one with a DVD player, though you might think this is worth it. For example, if you’re staying in one place for an extended period you can join the local library and borrow DVDs for free. We rarely plug our antenna in and so don’t often watch normal TV. However, it is nice to curl up with a movie on a rainy day.
TV Aerial: The van came with an external aerial connection point and we figured it might be nice to be able to tune into the occasional sports match (after all, the Rabbitohs are the reigning NRL champions and it will be satisfying to watch them continue this winning streak). We ended up going with a Banten TV Whip Antenna (25cm), which is actually designed for boats. It’s short (only 25cm) and designed to be permanently screwed in, but Laura’s ingenious dad bought a couple of metres of plumbing pipe and a screw-in fitting so that we can rig the aerial up as needed, with some reasonable height (and hopefully reasonable reception).
What we like: doesn’t take up much space
What we don’t like: we usually only receive a few channels and the reception is pretty dodgy
Should I buy one? If you enjoy watching the TV on a regular basis we’d recommend doing a bit of research and buying something else.
External hard drive: various USB powered external hard drives. These are pretty small and light in size nowadays so we will take a couple loaded with movies and TV series (and another for backing up Jono’s photos – of which there will be many!). We’ll attach some velcro to the hard drives and attach these to the TV when required.
Insect proofing: We toyed with making a homemade flyscreen for our front door but in the end decided to purchase a Bug Off Screens Oz one. The idea is that it will be superior in quality to anything we could have put together with our abysmal (non-existent) sewing skills.
What we like: the door closes well without any gaps
What we don’t like: the quality of this item wasn’t as high as we’d hoped: The bottom stitching came apart pretty quickly and needed repairing, one of the plastic magnet covers broke and had to be glued, and then it ripped at the top (we fixed it using extra Velcro)
Should I buy one? We definitely recommend having some kind of insect door on your caravan. We have seen lots of good reviews about Bug Off Screens Oz so we may just have been unlucky with our one. We’ve recently learned that you can buy insect doors for approx. $10 from Red Dot, although they can be a bit “gappy”. One lady we met fixed this by buying two, removing the magnets from the second one and attaching them to the first so that it closed without any gaps.
Washing machine: Ezywash manual washing machine. We thought long and hard about getting a small electrical unit (or going the other way and using a bucket and plunger) but in the end decided that the Ezywash was a happy medium. It’s smaller and lighter than a powered machine and will be less of a drain on our resources. It remains to be seen whether we’ll actually have clean clothes, but in principle it should be able to handle all our washing (bedding included), saving us the time and expense of regular visits to laundromats and/or caravan park facilities.
For our smalls, and for when we go camping sans caravan, we have also been gifted with a Scrubba Wash Bag (big thanks to Shell and Dan). It’s extremely small and light and should be able to handle small loads of clothes.
Koh-i-noor spin dryer: this was a last minute panic purchase by Laura, who suddenly thought she wouldn’t be able to handle washing clothes and sheets manually if she didn’t have some kind of drying assistance. As the machine spins rather than dries, it doesn’t use much energy. However, it does take up a lot of space in a 16 foot caravan. A LOT. In fact, Laura had to give it a name (the idea being to humanise it so that Jono wouldn’t throw it out). We have the larger model as we got it at a great price but we really should have the smaller, plastic model.
Ezyline washing lines: these lines are easy to set up and put away and negate the need for pegs. If you need to get your washing down in a hurry you can pull everything off in one quick swipe.
Chairs: As we’ll be using these a fair bit we chose comfort over space-saving and purchased two Wanderer Deluxe Moon Chairs. They’re bigger (and heavier) than your standard camping chair but we hope they’ll prove themselves worthy over time.
– Lightweight aluminium folding table from Aldi. This model has slats that slot into place and is very easy to set up and fold away
– Fold-up camping table with screw on legs. You can never have too much table space!
And of course we have surfboards (four, plus one SUP board), camera gear (a Nikon D3100, a GoPro 3 and a Phantom Vision drone), fishing gear and camping gear for if we leave Claude behind (a tent, sleeping bags and mats, tarps, lots of rope). As well as a number of completely ridiculous items, most of which were packed by Laura.