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You need not miss a hot shower at the end of a long dusty trip. As well as the familiar solar showers, you will find that a 4 or 5 litre plastic spray pump can make a very good one. You may have to modify the spray nozzle to be able to hang it above you in a tree. Fill the container up to the mark with warm water; pump it up and away you go.

For the really sophisticated, there are showers available with a small pump that hooks up to your 4WD battery.

Doing the laundry

Yes, you can actually do the washing as you drive along if you don’t do it at camp. You need a 10 or 20-litre bucket with a clip-top lid. Put the clothes in, add cold water and washing powder or liquid, securely clip the lid back on and chuck it in the back of the truck to rock around for a while. Rinse and dry at the next campsite. Don’t leave clothes to wash all day because you may find the colours will run.


There is no good reason why a baby should restrict you from going on 4WD day trips or even longer holidays. There are many ideas and tips to make life easier when travelling with a baby – here are some:

• If travelling any great distance, leave yourself plenty of time for feeding and nappy stops.
• Carry a Tupperware container with lid, sterilising tablets and bottlebrush for cleaning bottles.
• Always boil water for five minutes before making up formula.
• DON’T make up a day’s supply of milk mixture unless you have a fridge! Instead take a thermos of boiled water and dry formula in a sealed container and mix as required. This will prevent the milk going off and causing gastric problems.
• Take a pack of baby wipes or a wet flannel in a sealed plastic bag and a towel for clean-ups and refreshing the baby.
• Have a sun guard on the window to shade the baby.
• Take insect repellent and sunscreen suitable for a baby. Don’t apply it to the baby’s hands because it will invariably get it in the eyes and it will sting.
• Have a suitable pillow or cushion to support the baby’s head and prevent it slumping when in a car seat.
• Pack medication for diarrhoea and gastric bugs.

Camping with a baby

• A port-a-cot is a great idea, but if one is not available, a small mattress on the ground away from draughts could be an alternative. A sleeping bag suit will keep the baby warm. A good way to get a baby settled in to bed is to place a hot water bottle in to their bed to warm it but be sure to remove it before putting baby down.
• Pack a mosquito net to place over your baby’s cot. Babies are often the first targets for mosquitoes or sandflies.
• Take a wide range of clothes for your baby. Always take plenty for spares, and don’t forget the bibs.
• Using disposable nappies will eliminate the need for washing. Allow 6-7 nappies a day. Remember to take a clip-top bucket to put smelly nappies in. You can line it with a plastic supermarket bag and when it is full tie the top and dispose of it in an approved rubbish bin.
• You will probably need to wash some clothes while you are away. A 10-litre paint bucket is very good as a washing machine. Remember the soap powder or liquid, pegs and line.
• If you have room, a pushchair is useful – it makes a good highchair as well. A pushchair with big wheels is essential if you are going off road; otherwise consider a backpack.
• Take familiar toys for your baby to play with.
• A suggestion for a bath: your plastic recovery gear box, a box of similar size or even a chilly bin.
• Food will depend on the age of the child, and whether you have power at your destination. There is a great range of baby foods available now covering all the food groups and suitable for different ages. This eliminates the worry of keeping food cold and fresh. But remember to discard any food left over if you don’t have a fridge.
• Always allow extra of everything: you just might need it.


Check whether dogs are allowed where you are going before you take them. Don’t let your dog chase and harass wildlife or farm stock.


There are several insects that can cause misery when you are touring: wasps, sandflies and mosquitoes. Ants can also find their way into your food. You will have to have all food in sealed containers and if you have a chilly bin or frig you should spray a wide line all round it with insect repellent.

Wasps and sandflies are a bother in just about every bush area at just about any time. Carry some antihistamine in case of wasp stings, and a good repellent against the, sandflies. A good home brew, especially for sandflies, is a mixture of 50 per cent Dettol and 50 per cent baby oil rubbed over exposed skin.

A fine net is useful to put over food to keep flies off.


Pick a site that is near water but will stay dry. Try to erect your tent on a slight hump and avoid hollows, as they tend to collect water if it rains. Clear the ground of sticks and stones as well as tall weeds and animal droppings and chip off any humps and fill holes with your trusty shovel. Shelter and shade are important but try to avoid camping under trees in wet weather – water dripping on your tent can drive you mad and branches could get blown down in high winds.

Ensure that any fireplaces are safely away from tents and vehicles. Consider wind directions and put the back of the tent into the wind so that if there is a change for the worse your tent won’t get blown inside out. Secure the tent well, using extra tie-downs if you think it necessary. Use your vehicle to help shelter your tent and tie the tent to it if things get rough.

Do not camp on private land unless you have permission.

Camping grounds and other official campsites

Most towns and cities have a camping ground of some sort. These usually provide fresh water and toilets. During peak times space may be limited so check if you can before you arrive. There are usually camp fees and these along with camp rules will be posted on a notice near the camp entrance.

Portable toilets

A port-a-loo is very handy if you are staying at a campsite for a few days or you are a long way from the toilets at an official site. Empty chemical toilets into caravan dump points or into a system connected to a town sewage system. They must not be emptied into composting toilets or systems connected to a septic tank; the chemicals kill the good bugs in the system.


If you don’t have a port-a-loo, dig a 200mm deep hole at least 50m from any water source and then cover it after use. Make sure the rest of your party, including children, know this procedure. If you have a large group, consider building a long-drop.

Around the camp

Keep vehicle use, including the running of motors, to a minimum. Noise from radios, children, dogs and vehicles can upset others. Above all, be considerate of other bush users, most of whom are there to get away from it all.


Keep your rubbish bag up out of the way to prevent cats, dogs, hedgehogs and possums tearing into it while you are away or at night. Take all your rubbish home or to a rubbish collection centre when you move on.


Always check for local or seasonal fire restrictions before lighting a fire.

Any campfire should only be as big as absolutely necessary. Dig a depression in the ground about 100mm deep and put the sods of earth aside. Put a ring of big stones around the fire and keep a bucket of water handy. If the only wood supply you have is wet you can get a fire going by setting some strips of old inner tube alight. You could use a cup of diesel to get a fire going but never use petrol. When it is time to move on make sure the fire is out, put the stones back where you found them and put the sods of earth back so that there is no sign of any fire having been there.


Along and at the end of many tracks there are huts. Some are owned by government authorities and are for public use; others are privately owned by organisations or high-country stations, whose permission must be gained before you stay in them. You should not rely on huts for regular accommodation because you may not be able to locate them in bad weather, should an emergency arise. When you travel in mountain areas it is essential that your party be self-contained. Carry tents, stoves, sleeping bags, food, maps etc. Usually if a hut is open you may use it but there are a few basic rules you are expected to follow.

Use of huts

The use of huts is a privilege, not a right. All 4WD travellers should be equipped to camp out at all times and in all conditions. Even when you arrive first, you should expect to share the hut with others. Make them welcome. Use a hut by all means if it is empty, but if trampers turn up, be prepared to move out into your tent.


Instructions for the use of the hut will generally be found in the front of the logbook. Use the logbook responsibly, as a record of the party’s visit. Please do not allow children to scribble notes in logbooks. Before leaving, log the date, with information on the country traversed, names of members, and the party’s intentions. If the logbook is missing or full, please inform the authority responsible for the hut and they will replace it.

Hut food

Some private huts contain a small store of food for musterers etc which should not to be touched unless in an emergency. You must inform the hut owner if you have used any food and pay for its replacement.

Hut fireplaces

Fires should be avoided unless necessary for warmth or if there is an emergency. Keep fires small and never leave them unsupervised. Make sure that the fire is out and cold before leaving the hut. Replenish the wood supply with an adequate supply of dry firewood, including kindling. Don’t destroy live trees by collecting green boughs for firewood. Use your stove at all times for cooking.

Campfires outside the hut

Observe all fire regulations. Campfires are not permitted in ‘fuel stove only’ areas. All fires should be of a minimum size and confined to existing fireplaces. No fire should be left unattended, and all inflammable material must be cleared for at least three metres in every direction. Do not light your fire against a stump or log or on peat. Take particular care in the danger period, December to March. Make sure that all fires are out and cold before leaving camp. Extinguish with water.

Hut damage

Please report any damage to a hut to the authority responsible for it. Leave the hut securely closed, and replace any equipment. If you use a locked hut or hut emergency rations in a crisis , or if you take hut equipment, report what you have done to the owners and provide replacements.

Use of toilets

Toilets have been built at high-use sites to help speed the natural decay of our wastes by bacteria. Don’t kill off their helpful bugs with antiseptics or oils. Do not throw rubbish into the toilet. Where there are no toilets, bury your toilet wastes in a trench dug to a depth of approximately 20cm at least 50 metres from the nearest streams, hut, lake or campsite and down-stream of water collection areas.

Safeguard water supplies

Don’t pollute water or wash dishes or yourself directly in any creek – others may drink from it downstream. Do not waste tank water: water is precious.

*Article is courtesy of the New Zealand 4WD Handbook by Ken Sibley. Available in NZ from most book stores, or in Australia from 4WD1.com

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