You know that saying, ‘all the gear, no idea’? It really rings true when you have all the camping gear, but no idea where to put it all in your car. Here are ten points that’ll help you pack your vehicle like a pro.
Pack safely and efficiently with these handy tips.
Collapsible chairs from companies such as Helinox and Oztrail are great and save loads of space in your car. They pack down into a bag the size of the pencil case you had in high school, yet they don’t take long to set up. They’re also really comfortable and make for fantastic conversation pieces around the campfire. This concept is quite new in Australia it seems, but there are increasingly more options appearing on the market.
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 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, too. This spreads weight throughout the vehicle’s suspension and chassis, rather than dumping loads of pressure on isolated spots.
Get organised to ensure your group doesn’t end up carrying four Webbers between you.
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.
Inbuilt drawers make use of all available space in your car, while plastic storage tubs are the cheaper, lighter and more flexible option.
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 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…
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.
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.
It’s all well and good to load up your vehicle, but is your load legal?
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.
Factor in country town pie stops to avoid packing 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.
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.