Our day on a plate – a typical day’s menu when camping in the bush

Breakfast: Boiled egg with toast, baked beans and toast with butter and honey.  Cup of tea or coffee.

Notes: Good to get a serve of vegies in for breaky. Tinned baked beans are a camping staple and can be eaten for any meal!  Also like to add a few fried tomatoes or smoked salmon if we have it on hand.

Lunch: Tinned tuna (another camping staple), avocado on toast, carrot or cucumber sticks with cheese and/or peanut butter.  Any leftovers from last nights dinner still in the fridge.

Notes: make sure you have a few Tupperware containers with you.  Carrots, cucumbers and avocados are great as they don’t have to be refrigerated.

Snacks: Handful of nuts with a piece of fruit, fruit with yoghurt.

Dinner: Pasta with tinned tomatoes/sugo, garlic, any vegies we have on hand, olives if we have them, cheese on top.

Notes: We try to use the pasta made from beans, it boils quicker and means you are getting more vegies into your day.  You can find it in the health food aisle at any supermarket.

After dinner: chips or popcorn with beer, or wine and cheese if it’s cold, sometimes just tea and some biscuits.  Marshmallows melted by the fire if it’s cold.

Notes: I keen making the same mistake of buying chocolate biscuits like TV snacks which of course end up a melted mess…don’t want to waste valuable fridge space!

(No nutritional commentary please!)

 

WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T TAKE THESE THINGS CAMPING WITH YOU: 

These items are often packed and seldom used, so save yourself the regret and storage space for more important bits and pieces by NOT taking the following items on your next camping trip: 

  • That book you bought and never read but think you’ll read it if it sits in your campervan.  Take it to the opp shop instead! 
  • Hair styling appliances.  You can’t use them unless you are plugged into 240 volt power and even if you were, you are camping – who cares how your hair looks! 
  • Too much makeup, too many moisturisers, too many cosmetic products – the less the better, just take the absolute necessities.  No you will NOT need 1 let alone two different lipstick colours or eyeliners!    
  • Too many items of clothing.  As per previous blogs, the beauty of campervan travel is to learn to live with LESS.  Simplicity means less choices in the morning.  If you only have two Tshirts to choose from you can focus on other things. 
  • Accessories for every single hobby you use to define yourself but never have time to partake in.  Will you really have time to go surfing, mountain bike riding, kitesurfing and guitar playing in the two weeks you are on the road?  Choose one or two and save yourself the disappointment that comes with seeing the un-used items in front of you taking up space.  Because there are only a certain amount of hours in every day, and when you are camping some should be reserved for doing absolutely nothing. 

Remember when packing: one of the beauties of campervanning life, the freedom of living simply. 

Why I always hate the first week of camping 

My non-camping friends when I tell them we’re going away with our campervan and toddler: 

“Oh how relaxing, have a lovely holiday!” 

 Is it relaxing?  Some of the time. 

Is it a holiday?  About as much as backpacking is a holiday.  Or a stopover in a random city.  It can be the time of your life.  It’s an experience.  It’s the essence of travel.  But relaxing?  Mmmm not all the time. 

 I just don’t think these people who truly believe you are away having a relaxing holiday have any idea of what you are doing in that van most of the time. 

The amount of times I’ve been on the road and have had the thought pop into my head, if today was a normal day at work I’d be having a better day.  Why?  Because sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it would have been much easier to just stay home. 

But it’s not bad, it’s just different. 

And I always need a week to get into the new schedule of campervan travel.  My mind needs a week to move down a gear from normal everyday 15-minute-timeslots to get-shit-done to ‘this task is going to take a lot longer than it should but that’s ok because you don’t have much else to do anyway’.  And eventually I’ll get to that place where I start walking slower, stop wearing shoes and read whatever crap I can find just for something to do. 

Sure you have more time, more time to sit on the beach, more time to read a book or just talk (the beauty of not having a TV) more time to spend with your loved ones.  And let’s be honest, these are the photos we’re putting up on Facebook.  But it’s hard in the beginning because everything takes longer in a campervan.   

Need to wash your dishes?  If you’re staying at a campground you’ll have to work out how to get your dishes to the camp kitchen, then wash them oh so slowly (all the while thinking about how much you love your dishwasher at home) then dry them, then get them back to the van, hopefully without dropping a knife on your foot.  Or a clean dish in the dirt.  But let’s be honest, doing dishes in a camp kitchen is a camping luxury.  Try doing day old dishes in 40 degree heat in a tiny sink with only cold water.  Oh and the water tank is kinda low so you need to RATION that stuff, do NOT waste it on rinsing dishes!   

Have a baby, or toddler, or child under a certain age who might sometimes have a tiny accident in bed or in their pants or in their clothes or on their favourite beloved blankey that then urgently needs to be washed?  This presents another issue while camping.  Doing the washing.   

Been to Europe?  You’ll find yourself walking a kilometre to reception to pay for a token to take to the laundry room (that you need a key for, also from reception) that houses the washing machine, instructions definitely not in English.  It’s probably going to rain just as you’ve finished hanging the last towel on a spare tree branch nearby.  Ah, the luxuries of home that we take for granted. 

And I haven’t even started on the real issues.  The two weeks of uncharacteristically bad weather, cold weather, rain that doesn’t stop, no phone reception to find your camping spot, no map (Melways are SO 90’s!), nowhere to fill up clean drinking water (thanks Kangaroo Island), sick husband or cranky toddler (cranky husband and sick toddler are another good combination).   

Crescents Head campground in campervan

Oh and we can’t forget my primary camping hate – noisy camping neighbours.  So paranoid am I, I won’t camp within 100 metres of another person – OK slight exaggeration but I do search for surrounding P plate cars and then leave the vicinity if there are any, even if we’ve just taken 30 minutes to check in and set up. 

So why do I do it?  Why do I love it so much?  Why do I spend my working days selling and building campervans, my holidays and weekends living in campervans and my nights watching movies about people in campervans?  I’ll tell you why.   

Because those people who have no idea what we DO in a campervan really have no idea. 

They’ve never had that feeling of elation when you roll up at an isolated, pristine and completely empty beach on a perfect summer’s day. 

They’ve never opened their eyes in the morning, opened the curtain and had the feeling of gratitude that you’ve slept IN a beautiful rainforest, on a breathtaking clifftop, the list goes on. 

They’ve never tasted tea or boiled eggs eaten on camping chairs looking over the clifftop, into the forest, watching the sunrise, with the wonderful feeling that there are no other human beings on earth but you.  When the most beautiful places in the world are your doorstop it doesn’t even matter if you forget the sugar for your tea or salt for your eggs. 

They’ve never felt the lightness that comes with only having 2 Tshirts to choose from, no reason to look in the mirror or comb your hair, no housework to do but sit outside. 

They’ve never had the feeling of freedom that you get when you’ve got your van packed and you set off down the road to check out the next beach/town/it doesn’t really matter because you don’t need to book accommodation because you’re like a tortoise or a snail or a gypsy and you are truly free because your home travels with you.  

What can you tell someone whose about to buy their first campervan?  Well it’s the same as having a child really.   

It’ll be hard at times, but it’ll be worth it.  It’s a different way of living, but once you’ve done it you would never go back to the old way.  And although sometimes you’ll be angry and frustrated (at the teenagers with loud music at 4am) the other times it’ll be so great you’ll never want your journey to end.  

Crescents Head campground in campervan

CAMPING WITH A TODDLER – TOP TIPS 

We’ve now spent a total of 12 months (on and off or we wouldn’t have a job!) with our toddler in our campervan.  Some of the time I wished we’d stayed home.  Some of the time I had to admit the way we travelled ‘before’ had to change.  It was tough but when we made a few changes to our camping itinerary and travelling style everyone was happier and we had a much more relaxed time, by the end we’d created a way of living that was sustainable long term (if only we were so lucky!)  Here are a few things we learnt:   

The easy bits… 

  • Always have a pack of baby wipes in the van, even if your toddler is toilet trained.  There will always be accidents, better to be prepared!   
  • As per the above, always keep a spare set of bed sheets in your van with you.   
  • This next camping hack is completely wasteful and goes against everything I believe in, but you only need to utilise it for the shortest time until the ‘learning and accidents’ stage has passed, and it has saved me A LOT of stress when on the road.  Before you leave on your trip, make a visit to the cheapest shop you can think of that sells kids clothes (it was Kmart for me) and purchase the cheapest bulk pack of undies.  I got them for 70cents a pair.  At that price a ‘big’ accident meant the undies went straight in the bin and I saved myself some messy washing. 
  • Have a stash of healthy ‘ready’ foods on hand for when you won’t be able to make dinner by ‘dinner time’ or will be going to a pub or restaurant and don’t know if they’ll offer anything for your little one.   As an example, we always have at least a couple of tins of baked beans, tuna, an avocado, wholegrain crackers and peanut butter on hand.   
  • If you are as unlucky as us and have a toddler who hates car travel, you’ll find road tripping distances in Australia a nightmare too.  I’ve also got a slight problem with utilising our ipad as babysitter so had to come up with another idea – music.  If we played ‘her’ music, she was much more likely to sit there happily for an hour than if we played ‘our music’.  How lovely, a road trip listing to the Hokey Pokey on repeat for an hour.  Enter the best purchase we’ve made in a long time: A pair of children’s Bluetooth JBL headphones.  These are so wonderful I could write a blog on the headphones alone.  No cord, safety volume feature, comfy, great sound, LONG life (I rarely charge them) not that expensive ($50).  You can play your child’s music on your phone and YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIST TO IT.  Bonus: try calling grandparents and friends and letting your little one have a ‘private’ chat = another hour gone. 

 The bits that you might not want to do but make life easier for everyone if you do 

  • This one’s pretty obvious but you may be tempted to push it, don’t bother.  Travel short distances at a time (1.5 hours?) punctuated by 30 minute playground breaks.   
  • Google maps is great.  You can open your map, show your location and then just type in ‘playground’ and they will show up on the map.  You can even see ‘ratings’ and photos if there are any, plus walking or driving directions.   
  • As we all know, toddlers are creatures of routine and familiarity and these things make them feel happy and comfortable.  Sesame Street didn’t play the same episode at the same time for one week as it’s primary marketing activity for no reason at all.  Sleep in a different location every night and your toddler’s likely to feel (and act) a little unsettled.  For this reason, we’d suggest planning to stay longer in each place than you usually would, and try to avoid staying anywhere for just one night.   
  • This one was discovered in Europe where there are more attractive ‘big cities’ that I’d traditionally loved to have visited, but it’s similarly true in Australia (1 night in Newcastle was stressful and disappointing after a few blissful weeks in tiny coastal towns).  With a toddler (and I say this with gritted teeth) sometimes it’s better to avoid cities altogether.  Cities mean it’s harder to get a carpark, there’s sometimes traffic, the campground might be out of the city meaning you have to work out ways with public transport or walking to get into the actual city centre.  At the end of the day, what do WE want to do in a city anyway?  I’ll tell you what.  We want to go shopping (or at least window shopping!), see the sights and go out for coffee, dinner, drinks.  Let’s be honest – none of these things are particularly toddler friendly.  Better to save that Sydney stopover to a weekend away WITHOUT the kids. Enjoying the Campground playground Family fun Camping in bad weather can still be fun

CAMPING REVIEW – ULLADULLA AND SURROUNDS 

One thing you probably already know about the Achtung Camper team, we prefer free/national park camping – and there’s no-where else in the world that it is easier to do this in than in Australia.   

Having said that, a great paid campground during a quiet camping period can beat a free camping spot anytime – a hot shower, easy dish washing, a playground (if you will use it!). 

We arrived in Ulladulla with a list of free camping possibilities which all looked a bit dicey upon closer inspection. 

We did a tour of the paid campgrounds and were pleasantly surprised with Ulladulla Headland Holiday Haven, we were camping during a busy period (late December) and they had plenty of non powered camp sites free in lovely grassy, shaded areas with ocean views.   

They also had a jumping pillow, bowling green, mini golf and amazing water playground for the kids.  The staff were super friendly and we were pleasantly surprised to

All in all we loved our stay in Ulladulla for a number of reasons: 

It was a great base to explore the beautiful towns above and below (Mollymook and Burrill Lake).  Each of these spots are not to be missed with breaktaking beaches and small town charm.   

There was the possibility of free camping at a lookout above the main carpark at Burrill Lake but we enjoyed the convenience of the Ulladulla campground for it’s close location to amenities and restaurants! 

Ulladulla itself had some nice beaches and the campground was walking distance of the town centre which although not the prettiest had some great little restaurants, we ate Japanese, Chinese and Yum Cha for dinner and all were great!  

For more information visit: 

https://ulladullaheadland.holidayhaven.com.au/ulladulla-headland 

 

The differences between the TDI400 and TDI450

Recently VW brought out yet another new model for our beloved T6 – the TDI450. 

What is the TDI450 and is it worth the $6000 more you pay for this as opposed to the TDI400?  It’s another step up in power and torque (150kw, 450nm) but is more fuel efficient and economical than the others as it utilises newer engine technology. 

It also uses the AdBlue additive which gives it Euro6 emission compliance.  The AdBlue additive must be added from time to time but is not expensive, just something that needs to be added every 6000-8000 kms or so. 

The other differences between the TDI400 and TDI450 are as follows: 

  • TDI450 comes with the auto-emergency braking feature. 
  • TDI450 has buttons for cruise control on the steering wheel (instead of on the indicator stalk). 
  • TDI450 has a “speed limiter” function. 
  • TDI450 can be ordered with auto or manual transmission (the TDI400 can only be ordered in auto).   

Healthy camping recipe – MEXICAN BREAKFAST SALAD 

Another great camping recipe that ticks all our boxes, it’s super tasty, super easy and super healthy.  It also includes ingredients that can be bought almost anywhere and are mostly shelf items.   

 The recipe is from Green Kitchen Travels by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl.  Although it’s called a breakfast salad but we’ve made it for lunch and dinner. 

When on the road we’ve replaced the fresh mango with tinned and its worked just as well. 

Ingredients (serves 2) 

  • ¼ red onion, finely chopped 
  • 400 g can black beans 
  • Pinch chilli powder 
  • Pinch ground cumin 
  • Pinch sea salt 
  • 1 avocado, peeled and sliced 
  • 1 mango, peeled and sliced  
  • Juice of ½ lime 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2 tbsp pickled jalapeños, drained 
  • 1 tbsp cold-pressed olive oil 

 Method
Heat oil in frying pan. Add onion, beans, chilli, cumin and salt, and stir-fry over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Place in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, except eggs and jalapeños, and toss to combine. Divide between two serving bowls.  

Heat a drizzle of oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat and fry eggs until set but with a soft yolk.  

Serve the bean salad straight away, topped with the fried egg and a few jalapeños. 

HOW TO ALWAYS SLEEP IN THE BEST CAMPING SPOT IN YOUR LOCATION

This does require a little bit of research pre-trip and you’ll need to invest a short amount of time checking out spots when you arrive at your destination but you’ll be rewarded in knowing you are definitely camping in the best spot there is and can unearth some hidden gems in the process! 

  • Look on google maps before you leave to zoom in on any ‘green’ areas, national parks, larger parkland areas, beach carparks, dead end streets near the beach/parkland, areas that would be nice to park and sleep overnight and might not be very populated with minimal passing traffic.   
  • Take notes on directions, screen shots etc of places found above that you want to check out when you get to your destination. 
  • Google paid campgrounds in the area and read the reviews/look at some pics of the camp sites. 
  • Check out any spots in the area on the Wiki Camps app. 
  • Arrive at your location and check out the free camping spots you found on google maps and work out if any of them are actually good in reality: 
  • Do they have any ‘no camping’ signs?  This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker.  See below points. 
    • Does it look like there’ll be police patrolling overnight?  Is there a local police station? 
    • Does it look like there’ll be hoons or young people coming there at night (are there empty bottles around/burnouts?) 
    • Will there be much/any passing traffic overnight? 
    • Do the locals seem friendly ie how do you think they’d react if you stayed overnight?   
    • Are there any big bins or a collection of bins that might be picked up very early in the morning and wake you up? 
    • Is it a surfing break carpark?  Again this isn’t a deal breaker but keep in mind you’ll have loads of cars arriving early in the morning with people checking the surf.  Again, this may not be a problem if the locals seem nice and you don’t sleep too lightly! 
    • Is there a public toilet block nearby?  Always handy! 
  • Drive to the paid camping spot/s that you found online that looked good and ask to see their best/most private sites and check them out before you check in.  Get a park map from the staff and ask them to highlight any sites that are available.  Go for a walk around the park to see for yourself where the nice sites are and how full the park is. 
  • Now you have all of your information you can make a decision on where to camp that night.  It could be a paid campground or a national park carpark.  At the end of the day you are safest if it’s a paid campground to just book one night to start as with any camp spot you are never going to know how good it really is until you’ve spent the night!   

What are your tips on finding a good spot to sleep paid or unpaid in a new town? 

HEALTHY EATING ON THE ROAD

Stuck with what food to pack for your road trip?  Check out our list below for some inspiration! 

Healthy food doesn’t have to be fresh! 

  • Wholemeal or legume pasta 
  • Black rice 
  • Tins of chopped organic tomatoes 
  • Tinned beans (including black beans and refried beans), chickpeas, corn 
  • Tinned tuna (great in a sandwich or wrap for lunch or in a pasta for dinner) 
  • Baked beans (great for breakfast or a snack) 
  • Frozen spinach (great with scrambled eggs, in a curry or in a pasta sauce) 
  • Organic corn chips  
  • Tomatoe salsa 
  • Tinned olives 
  • Packet parmesan cheese 
  • Curry powder/thai curry paste 
  • Light coconut milk 
  • Homemade or supermarket organic muesli 

Fresh foods that last that little bit longer: 

  • Carrots (great snack with peanut butter) 
  • Avocado (great on bread for breakfast/lunch or mashed with tinned corn, tinned black beans, salsa and corn chips for dinner) 
  • Cucumbers 
  • Fruit 
  • Nuts and dried fruit 
  • Peanut butter 
  • Yoghurt 
  • Sweet potatoes (can go in a curry for dinner) 
  • Onions and garlic 
  • Eggs 
  • Mushrooms (fried with eggs for breakfast or in a pasta for dinner) 
  • Cheese 

 

Our Personal Packing List

This is our personal camping packing list which I print out each time before we leave and then cross off each item as it’s packed (so as not to forget anything!). It may help you create your own packing checklist or add some bits to yours that are always forgotten!

MASTER CAMPING PACKING LIST:

Pack the night before:

Books for us
Us: Shoes and clothes, bathers
Layla, nappies, wipes, toys, ball, books, clothes
Tania backpack small
Ronny Layla hiking backpack
Guitar
Layla’s bike
Tupperware
Alcohol

Pack the morning:

Layla sleeping stuff
Beauty bag with 2 x moisturiser, sunscreen, toothbrushes and paste, small makeup bits, tweezers and nail scissors
Layla food from fridge
Water bottles x3

Get from the shops:

Alcohol
Coffee
Musli, Mayo, Tomatoes, Cheese, Bread, Eggs, Tins of baked beans, tuna, refried beans, corn, Chips, chocolate/sweets, corn chips, sour cream, avocado, peanut butter, butter, jam, milk, small vegie juices, tofu, garlic, yoghurt, bean noodles, nuts, honey, tea, banana rusks, Goji berries for Layla.