Our number 1 Australian camping spot is…

It’s the blog you’ve all been waiting for – our number 1 favourite camping spot of all time! And the winner is…..Green Patch in Jervis Bay, NSW.

This oasis is 2 hours south of Sydney, has amazing mountain bike and hiking tracks and the most beautiful beach we’ve ever seen.

Picture white sand, green blue ocean clear as can be with a gumtree framed river running into it.

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The camping is extremely private with each spot being in its own hidden area of lush forest. Facilities include hot water showers and drinking water which make this spot all the more attractive. It’s a large camping ground with areas for groups and many many private camping spots. We weren’t there during a busy holiday period but it was still half full and the beauty of this layout is that you won’t see any other people if you don’t want to.

Oh and did I mention the wildlife? We made friends with wallabies, kangaroos, possums and kookaburras.

Methylated Spirits camping cooker – product review

It seems that all the campervans for sale these days come with the same camping cooker – the Origo 3000 2 burner alcohol stove (available in Australia from Dometic). For those who have only ever cooked with gas we’ve got the lowdown on cooking with metho and why it seems to be the way of the future.

At about 10 times the price of a gas stove and the same size, you would be excused for doubting it’s value, however this cooker’s major benefit is a big one – No gas. No gas means no fumes, completely safe for inside cooking and no carrying around heavy and potentially dangerous gas bottles.

Fill up your alcohol cooker with 2 litres of metho before you leave for your trip and you’ll have enough fuel for a week of cooking. Don’t be deceived when you open the top of the cooker to fill it up with metho, it fits A LOT of liquid in there!

 

Pull out cooker in campervan conversion

The only downside that we’ve encountered is that they’re very slow cooking in windy conditions. If you are cooking outside, there’s a breeze and your water is taking AGES to boil then you’d be best to move the cooker inside out of the wind. We also supply a wind/weather protector with the cooker so you can use it outside in all conditions!

How does the leisure battery work in my campervan?

With an Achtung Camper campervan and most other campervans you will be fitted with a second leisure battery to run your campervan electrics from. This works automatically and ensures that your main car battery will never run flat.   The leisure battery automatically charges whenever the car is running and usually only needs about half an hour of the car running to get it back up to a nice point to be able to stay another night somewhere and run all your 12 volt appliances without a problem.

When stopping somewhere without power for a few days in your campervan (or if you don’t have a 240 volt connection in your van) you’ll be able to run your fridge, lights, TV, charge your mobile phone and laptop without a problem. You will be able to stand parked with your van and not turn it on for about 2 days if it’s colder weather and about a day if it’s quite hot. After a certain amount of time if you haven’t started the van and have been running all of these appliances your leisure battery will go flat. You will notice if it’s flat as the internal lights in the campervan will not turn on or will play up when you try to turn them on. The fridge will stay cold for a good 8 hours even if the power is out so this is not something to be worry about.

If you have noticed your leisure battery is flat have two options:

You can either start your car up and run it for 30 minutes or so to re-charge the battery or you can get your solar panels out and connect them which will recharge the battery.

You’ll need to have your solar connected for about a day to fully recharge your leisure battery if it’s completely empty.

If you are free camping and plan on spending longer periods in the one spot we’d suggest getting out your solar as soon as you arrive and placing it in a nice sunny position so you can forget about it and have unlimited power.

If you’ve got a 240 volt connection fitted in your van all you’ll need to do if you start running out of power is plug into a Caravan Park’s 240 volt outlet as opposed to getting out your solar panels.

Camping essentials – the products you need for your trip

So you’ve looked at caravans and campervans for sale, you’ve bought your mode of transport and mapped out your route. What next? No matter where you are going or what your camping style, don’t leave home without these products!
o 2 x camping chairs (preferably the ones that fold together to store in a thin rod like shape as opposed to those that fold in half or otherwise).
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o A small fold out bench chair/table for your cooker. You can get something like this from any of the camping shops such as Aussies or Rays. They are cheap and have many users including a platform for your cooker when the table’s full, or a third seat if someone wants to join you for dinner.
o A bottle of metho/gas to fuel your cooker.
o Cooking essentials: a pot and pan, chopping board, cutlery and preferably a camping dish set with plastic mugs, cups, plates and bowls. Picnic sets are good for this too,
o One or two nice sized Tupperware containers. Because how happy will you be tomorrow when you find that left over pasta in the fridge!
o A bottle opener.
o Bedding.
o A board game or two.
If you have any other items to add to the list let us know!

Caravan Park Camping VS National Park/Free Camping

We love National Park camping, but that’s just us. We also have a lot of clients who will only stay in the comfort of Caravan Parks and I do have to admit, the lure of a hot shower and a camping kitchen close by to wash my dishes in is often very appealing. Here we detail the highs and lows of each option.

Caravan Parks

THE HIGHS…

  • The social aspect – you are more likely to meet people when you are camping close by and what better way to strike up a conversion then when washing dishes next to someone else in the camp kitchen!
  • The convenience – a hot shower whenever you want, an unlimited water supply and the ability to just carry all those dirty dishes over to the camp kitchen and wash them easily and quickly in hot water…priceless!

THE LOWS….

  • Lack of privacy – especially in busy parks and holiday periods. We hate being too close to comfort to that next group of campers.
  • Noise – backpackers and inconsiderate families blaring their music and drinking one too many beers in the wee hours of the morning. So annoying.

 National Parks

THE HIGHS…

  • Nature – nothing comes close to camping on the waters edge or on a cliff face with million dollar views. To top it off we love the up close and personal encounters with the wildlife; kangaroos, wallabies, possums, echidnas, birds. Just don’t feed them!
  • Privacy – call us crazy but when we go camping we want to get away…from everything! We want to be alone with no one else in sight so we can sing as loudly as we want and run around naked with nobody watching. It IS a holiday after all!

THE LOWS….

  • No dogs allowed.
  • Inconvenience – it can sometimes get a bit tiresome worrying about how you are going to store and then ferry all your rubbish out of a national park. Dito rationing out that fresh water from your tank if you plan on staying in the one spot for an extended amount of time.

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To pop top or not to pop top? That is the question…

So you’ve decided on a campervan conversion and now need to make the decision of whether you want the added pop top roof. The answer depends on many different factors, all important when you are considering whether to fork out $8000 for an extending roof…

Your camping style – Do you plan on travelling or spending any time staying in cooler weather? If you actively avoid the cold weather and have an aversion to cooking inside your van then you need to have a think about how much time you will spend standing up inside your campervan. If your cooker is portable and you can sit down to prepare/cook food inside the van or don’t plan on cooking or washing dishes inside the van then you may have no need for the additional height a pop top will give you.

Your age – Without being ageist, I am going to make the assumption that the older you are, the more issues you may have with your back and the more likely you are to require the ability to stand up completely straight while moving around inside your campervan. Similarly, someone young might not mind walking the few feet from the bed to the door with their stooped slightly.

Your health – As per the above, if you have issues with your back you will most likely need a pop top roof.

Your height – Although this doesn’t have to be a deciding factor, if you’re over 6 foot you might decide the additional height is a must.

Your budget/alternate options.- If the additional $8000 for a pop top roof is going to break the budget but you’d like a bit of additional height consider the alternatives.

Re-sale – How long are you planning on keeping your van? Vans without a pop top roof are harder to re-sell as the majority of people assume they require one (even though they may not!).

The VW Transporter is also available in a mid roof. Although you’ll need to check on the internal height of your garage if you plan on keeping it inside, this is often a good option if you don’t want to pay for a pop top. Keep in mind that you can’t stand up completely upright in one of these unless you are quite short. They will however, give you that extra bit of height which will make the van feel more roomy inside and also give you additional storage space inside the roof above the front seats.

VW mid roof and low roof

VW mid roof and low roof

VW Campervan with pop top roof.

VW Campervan with pop top roof.

A motorhome/larger size van such as a Mercedes Sprinter or Fiat Ducato (think ambulance sized!) are larger sized vans both in height, length and width. This means you can stand up inside and also have more room for campervan features. On the downside they may be that tiny bit too big for those living in cities and built up areas or who aren’t the best parallel parkers…

Powering up your campervan – The difference between 12 volt and 240 volt.

Powering up your campervan – The difference between 12 volt and 240 volt

Many people don’t understand the different uses and requirements for 240 volt and 12 volt in a campervan or caravan and you don’t want to spend money on features or products you won’t be able to use so here’s a quick rundown of the two:

240 volt power is what you have in your house and run your normal household appliances from. A normal rectangle shaped double powerpoint socket that you plug appliances into at home is 240 volt. A microwave for example, can only run on 240 volt. The issue with 240 volt in your campervan is that you can only use it when your van is ‘plugged in’ to an external power source – 240 volt power in a caravan park. Without this you will not be able to turn on your microwave or use any other 240 volt appliances.

A 12 volt power supply can be used without ‘plugging in’ your campervan to an external power source as it runs from your van’s inbuilt leisure battery. Surprisingly, camping fridges, TV’s, laptops and mobile phones run on 12 volt and do not drain much power from your battery. 12 volt power outlets look like the cigarette lighter socket in your car – and to use them you’ll need an adaptor called an ‘inverter’ which is about $50, the size of a coke can and available from electrical shops like Jaycar:

12 volt

Which one’s for me?

If you hate caravan parks and know you will spend most of your time in National Parks and ‘free camping’ it may not be worth getting 240 volt power set up for your van. Then again, it’s always worth keeping re-sale value in mind, in which case making sure the van is correctly set up for 240 volt power from the beginning will mean a microwave can be added later down the track if future potential owners prefer.

Be careful with appliances that are traditionally 240 volt but have been manufactured for the camping industry in 12 volt. Things like a 12 volt kettle will take about 20 minutes to boil and drain a lot of power from your main battery.   Some mini 12 volt hairdryers can be the same. It’s worth asking the question before you purchase any 12 volt camping items as sometimes it might just be easier (and quicker!) to do things the old fashioned way!

Campervan or Caravan? Take our quiz to help you decide.

Find out if a campervan or caravan is the right vehicle for your travelling style by taking our multiple choice quiz.

1. Circle one answer per question.

2. Mostly A’s mean you are best suited to Caravan Travel, more B’s = Campervan Travel. 

 

Will you be going on a trip for an extended period of time ie 6 months or more?

A. Yes

B. No

How much time do you plan on spending inside your caravan or campervan?

A. A lot, I would rather be inside at night watching TV etc than outside.

B. Not much, I prefer to spend as much time outside as possible.

Do you plan on staying for extended periods of time in colder weather?

A. Yes

B. No

Do you plan on doing a lot of cooking inside you van or do you prefer to cook outside?

A. Prefer to cook inside.

B. Love cooking outside.

Do you have the storage space at home for a caravan?

A. Yes

B. No

Do you have or can you afford to buy the correct vehicle with tow bar to tow a caravan?

A. Yes

B. No

Are you a confident and skilled driver that will easily tow a large trailer while driving to places you’ve never been before?

A. Yes

B. No

Do you plan on visiting/spending time in cities or bypassing them?

A. Hate cities.

B. Love visiting cities.

Do you plan on spending more time in national parks/off the beaten track or in paid caravan parks?

A. Paid caravan parks on popular routes.

B. Want to travel off the beaten track/stay in national parks. 

Have you checked the difference in cost to stay in a caravan park with a caravan as opposed to a campervan and calculated this cost for the duration of your trip?

A. Yes and I can afford the additional overnight fees.

B. Yes and I want to save $ by paying less to sleep in caravan parks and national parks or nothing by free camping.

Have you calculated the fuel cost of taking a caravan as opposed to a campervan on your trip?

A. Yes and it doesn’t bother me.

B. Yes and it works out too expensive for us with a caravan.

Why would I buy a caravan?

Campervans have ample storage space if you are 2 people and planning on travelling for up to a couple of months or even longer if you are only going to be staying where it’s warm or are a minimalist at heart! If you are taking 6 months off or longer and will be living in your van in different climates then you may decide you’d like more storage space and comfort plus the ability to do more complex cooking in your ‘kitchen’. In this case you may decide a caravan will better suit your needs.

Why would I buy a campervan?

You can sell your everyday car and replace it with a campervan, meaning a minimal expense initially. It is extremely economical to travel in, if you have a diesel campervan petrol costs are kept to a minimum and you are able to stay in free camping spots and National Parks so can keep accommodation costs down too. You may struggle towing a caravan and don’t want to be restricted to missing interesting travel spots and cities by the size of your trailer.

SUMMARY

  • A campervan is by far the more economical option, initially and ongoing.
  • A caravan might be a better option if you are a family or two people who plan on ‘living’ in your van for an extended amount of time (grey nomads we’re talking to you!)
  • Consider your skill and confidence level when driving before you purchase a caravan and whether you want to travel ‘off the beaten track’ or stay in National Parks as this will be more difficult with a large trailer.

And as a last thought…

Caravan quiz

Free camping essentials

Folding camping bucket

This is our ultimate list of  necessities for those planning on doing some isolated bush camping:

  • Lighting: a good lamp for continuing your outside activities after dark is essential.
  • Torches: we seem to have an obsession with torches. We have x4 in our campervan; 2 tiny ones easily accessible from the bed for when you need to get up at night but don’t want to wake the other person, a head torch for night time toilet trips and the newest addition: an extremely big, heavy and powerful Maglite which is half for security and half for fun when busting nocturnal animals creeping around our campsite in the dark.
  • At least 2 buckets (preferably foldable!) for dirty dishes, clean dishes, carrying dishes, washing clothes, using your portable shower etc. The list goes on.
  • First aid kit.
  • Lots and lots of large garbage bags to take your rubbish home with you.
  • Cleaning products for dishes, surface spray, sponges etc.
  • Warm clothes.
  • A big citronella mozzie candle.
  • If you can, remember to buy some dry timber before you reach your destination if you plan on having a fire there. You may not be able to buy timber when you get there (or it may be grossly overpriced!).
  • Lots and lots of lighters/packs of matches.
  • A small dustpan (for sweeping dirt and sand out of your caravan or campervan).
  • A portable/retractable clothes line.
  • Tins of food and packets of pasta, rice etc.
  • A bag of marshmallows or preferably 3.

Do you have anything to add to this list?  Please let us know below!