4WDs really come into their own when you want to head off for a few days – or longer – on a camping trip. Again, good preparation is the secret. The lack of essential gear can make your trip a cold, miserable nightmare, even in summer.
On the bottom of this page there is a checklist of four-wheelers’ camping gear. It is firstly an indication of the equipment you may have to buy or scrounge if you intend to go camping, and secondly it can be used as a guide/reminder of the things you need to pack in the truck. Not all things will be needed on all trips. Feel free to print this and check off the items you think you will need as you pack.
A tent needs be a good quality little home that will keep you dry and give you shelter in all weathers. The main essentials are that it is made of good quality material that will not leak, is strong and will not blow down and has a sewn-in floor. Most other features, such as having separate sleeping areas etc, are a matter of personal choice.
Some modern tents are quite complicated to put up, so it is probably a good idea to have a practice run with your brand-new tent at home. If the seams are not sealed (ask at the shop) it is quite a simple process to put seam-sealer on them while the tent is up. Some tents require wetting thoroughly before they are used to tighten up the material so they are then waterproof.
If at all possible let a wet tent dry out in the morning sun before you pack it away. A wet tent will often leak, and this also will avoid the problems of it going mouldy. If you have to pack up in the wet get the tent out at the first opportunity and hang it out to dry, even if it means hanging it up in the garage as soon as you get home. Wash dirt and mud off your tent but don’t use detergent and a scrubbing brush as this can damage the waterproofing, as can fly spray.
When you are buying a tent insist on good quality pegs. Shatterproof plastic pegs come in 25cm and 30cm lengths and steel pegs, which need to be 10 or 12mm diameter, can be made any length to suit the size of the tent. Thin aluminium or steel pegs are totally useless in many ground conditions
Use an airbed, camp stretcher or foam mattress to sleep on. Beware of cheap airbeds, which often get leaks around the seams – and there is nothing worse that waking up at 2am on the hard ground. Consider carrying a spare. Putting a rug on the top of your bed will keep the cold from coming up from the ground. Remember that foam mattresses soak up the dampness and should be put out to dry every day.
Sleeping bags should be of good quality and have a full-length zip. In cold weather, put on some warm dry clothes and socks before you go to bed. If it is really cold, try packing extra clothing in your sleeping bag, or putting one bag inside another if you have a spare. When buying sleeping bags see if there are left and right ones available so that you can zip two bags together when it is cold and cuddle up – it’s warmer. Take a pillow, and maybe even a hot-water bottle. Bags provide more warmth if they are not rolled up too tightly when not in use – hang them up if you can.
Prepare for hot, cold and wet weather. Children, in particular, can need several changes of clothes a day.
Take a range of canned, dehydrated and fresh food. Plan meals using fresh meat and vegetables for the first few days, moving through to food that will keep, such as packet meals and tinned food. Bread will keep for up to two weeks in a brown paper bag – it will go mouldy in a plastic bag – and frozen meat will keep longer if it’s wrapped in newspaper.
On the road, eat a good breakfast each day, because quick lunches make life easier when you’re travelling. Make up hot soup and sandwiches at breakfast time and take biscuits and other goodies to nibble on while travelling. Take lots to drink and some spare food each day – you never know when you might be delayed.
Keeping food cool
Portable refrigerators are worthwhile for hot conditions and when it is necessary to preserve food for extended periods. The most versatile are those that operate on 12-volt/230-volt and LPG. Plug your fridge into a 230-volt supply about 12 hours before you plan to pack it, then run it on 12 volts while you are travelling and put it on LPG when you get to your destination. Do not run your fridge overnight on your 4WD 12-volt system – the battery will be as flat as a pancake by morning.
A 5kg gas bottle will run a 35-litre capacity fridge for approximately 3 weeks, ideal for weekends away and camping holidays.
Handy hints for refrigerators that operate on LPG
• Food packed into your fridge should be chilled or frozen, with frozen food at the bottom of the fridge
• Do not run your fridge inside your 4WD on gas.
• Put the fridge in a cool place on level ground and protect it from rain and wind the wind – the gas flame could blow out.
• Turn the gas off at the fridge so that the flame is out before you disconnect the gas bottle.
These keep food cool for only a relatively short period of time, even with slika pads. Keep bins in a shady place with plenty of breeze blowing around. If you put a wet towel over them the evaporating water will help keep them cool. Better still put them in a stream with some rocks on them to keep them down – but keep an eye on water levels or you may never see them again!
There are plenty of good plastic storage bins and drawers available for keeping packet and tin foods tidy, so you can find your next meal without having to turn the place upside down. If you put cans of food in deep bins you may find it convenient to write the name of the contents on the top of the can with a felt pen so you don’t end up searching forever for a can of beans.
Take water from home and replenish your supply from a town source if possible. If water quality cannot be guaranteed you should boil, filter or chemically treat drinking water to avoid intestinal upsets.
It’s amazing what you can conjure up on a simple two-burner gas stove, when at home we’d use four elements and the oven. Some people take only the bare minimum of a gas barbecue and a thermette.
Because they’re bulky, cooking utensils are always a challenge. Do we pack the steamer and the wok and the pressure cooker and the fry pan, to cover all eventualities? Each utensil has advantages and disadvantages, and to some extent the type of cooker you choose, or own, will dictate the best types of utensils to cook in.
The LPG that you get from the service station is made up of a mixture of two gasses, one of which is more flammable than the other. The more volatile gas burns first, so if you just keep topping the bottle up eventually you are left with a lot of the less volatile gas. Bleed your gas bottle right out before refilling it. Do this in a very open area on a day when there is a strong wind to blow away the gas. In cold weather or at high altitude the less volatile gas burns poorly, meaning that water will barely boil and food will take a long time to cook.
If you are using water from a stream, river or lake for washing yourself or the dishes, you must dispose of the contaminated water at least 20 metres away from the waterway. Detergents, toothpaste and soap contaminate waterways, harm fish, fresh water animals and stock – and wild animals will not drink polluted water.