For those of you who may know, I spent 4 months of my time in Australia, living out of a 4X4 Jeep, driving up the West Coast and cutting through the Outback. I know many of you are saying, “I could NEVER do that.” But for those of you who are tingling at the thought, but aren’t sure where to start, I’m here to help. It took months of trial and error to discover what was really necessary, and what wasn’t. (For instance, blow up furniture will rarely be used. Too much hassle. But it SEEMED like a great idea!) So I’ve cut out all of the trial and error for you, and compounded a detailed list of what you’ll actually need for a long-term road trip.
This does not pertain strictly to camping in the outback, but for all long-term, long distance camping. These things are not all necessarily necessary; but I found a use for all of these items and at some point of another found that I absolutely needed them.
Portable Stove: This is maybe one of the most vital things you are going to need. Many parts of Australia are extremely dry and at high risk for bush fires, and camp fires are strictly prohibited. Also, you don’t want to rely on always having to a build a fire to cook your meals, lets be honest, it does take work. After a long day of hiking or driving, you may not feel to keen on building your own. That’s why these nifty little stove tops are so helpful for quick, convenient cooking. Just be sure that you’re always well stocked on propane tanks, and have some kind of wind blocking system in place.
Daul-Battery System: Just a heads up, I’m probably going to stress that each item is the most important. Because they’re all so important! But this is definitely one of the tops. You’re living out of your car, so you don’t want the car battery to be the only power source that you rely on. They’re actually very easy to set up, you just need some power tools and a bit of electric knowledge. This way you can always keep your electronics charged and powered.
Extra Fuses: Just from my personal experience, you NEED to have these. Have them for the dual battery, and have them for the fuse box in the car. If you have an old car, or an electrically redundant co-passenger who might hook up the battery the wrong way and blow a fuse, you are going to need them.
Bed: Duh. You need a place to sleep. Depending on which kind of transportation you have, a van will most likely fit a bed inside of it, leaving plenty of room for storage either above or below the mattress. If you are traveling by 4×4, then you want external sleeping arrangements. An old fashioned tent is fine, and is certainly the cheaper option, but it’s not the best. There are lots of poisonous and hungry critters who may stumble into your sleeping quarters, causing you all sorts of anguish. My suggestion: The Rooftop Tent. It’s a bit pricier than a normal tent, but makes up for it in convenience and safety. It pops open, and folds up with ease, making your camp set-up a breeze. And nothing can compare in terms of safety (except for a caravan). I can’t tell you how grateful I was to have the roof tent, when I woke up to a CROCODILE in my campsite. And unlike a caravan, you can bolt this to the roof of your 4×4 and take it off roading to camp wherever you wish!
Mini Fridge: If you have a dual battery system hooked up, then this is the next step to decking out your ride for long-term travel. It may seem unnecessary, but you don’t want to spend the entirety of your trip eating packaged and canned foods. It is cheaper and easier to store, but your body will eventually hate you, and you’ll eventually get sick of it. So bring along a little fridge or powered cooler to take along some fresh ingredients. You’ll be so glad that you did!
Handheld Battery Pack: For us, this was a Godsend. If you’re driving an older car, the chances are that your battery is a bit shotty. If you don’t want to rely on the kindness of strangers, (although I have found that there are many helpful strangers who will go out of their way to give you a hand) But for $99 we got a battery pack that held the charge for 3 car battery jumpstarts, it had a USB port for charging phones and other electronics, it also had a hammer edge, and a flashlight. The survival jump-pack! I have a soft spot for multi-functioning survival tools from when I was young. My father never went anywhere without his survival shovel, and we never went anywhere without our handy-dandy battery pack!
Tire Pressure Pump: Some of the more touristy areas may offer tire pressure services for long term driving on deep sand or corrugated roads. That’s why it’s important to relieve your tires of some of the air and lower the pressure enough, so that your car can travel through the terrain as smoothly as possible. You’re a lot less likely to get bogged this way, and it helps to maintain the condition of your car. And then when you reach paved roads again (hallelujah) you want to be able to fill them back up so you don’t destroy the tires by driving on them with low pressure!
Water: Okay, the other “most important things” fall to the wayside when it comes to this key element. (Literally). You actually can’t survive without water. You’ll need it for your dishes, cleanliness, and most importantly, to drink. Absolutely make room for a very large jug of water, holding AT LEAST 40 liters. The more you can fit, the better. And always monitor your use. You don’t want to go for an off-road adventure, and end up running out of water. More likely than not, if you come across a water source, it will not be treated and unsafe to drink. Always, always overcompensate for water.
Jerry Cans: Same as with water, you never want to run out of fuel. In the more remote areas, you can go hundreds of kilometers without passing a petrol station. If you decide to take any detours, you will probably run out of gas. Save yourself the stress and anxiety, and bring extra. If you never have to use it, you may come across someone else who needs it. Always be prepared!
Tools: Of all kinds. Basic handy tools, and specific car tools. It’s also helpful to have additional parts, tubing, and electrical tape for any necessary quick fixes if you can’t get to a mechanic right away. The aim here is to get stranded as little as possible, so educate yourself on basic handy work and mechanics, and bring the tools you might need (or not need, but just to be safe). Extra batteries of all sizes fit in this category as well.
Cleaning Supplies: ALWAYS, have a stack of clean wash cloths handy. For your own personal cleanliness and keeping your area clean. Have a little handheld brush and duster to keep your car and sleep quarters free of sand and crumbs. A pack of antibacterial wipes along with your basic dish and hand soaps, and scrubby sponges should always be on hand as well.
A fan: For the love of Pete! You will not survive without one of these. In the outback, you must prepare for extreme weather. It is HOT during the day, so you want to be prepared. Some of us like to sleep in, and don’t want to be roused by the suffocating and sticky heat. Invest in a cheap ceiling fan, it will severely alter your quality of life for the better.
Seating/Tables: You may at the beginning of your trip decide that you’ll make due sitting in your car seats and eating that way. But trust me, it will get old real fast. You want to feel at home when you finally post up, and have the room to eat, play cards, or wash up comfortably. Foldable camping furniture is cheap and easily stored. It’s another one of those little details that will make a world of difference.
Storage: Storage cubes are a must! There are few things worse than having to unpack and repack your car every time you need to find something. Organization is key for happy camping. Separate your cargo into categories. Pack them up, and put things back where they are supposed to be. This simple element will make a world of difference. Oh, and when you watch a DVD, put it back in the correct case! My boyfriend liked to mismatch them and play the find-the-DVD game. Unless he was playing. Then he saw the importance of putting them in the correct case.
Mozzie Spray/Coils: Some of us are born with the extraordinary gift of naturally repelling bugs. Unfortunately for me and others like me, I have sweet blood. If I show even a square of untreated skin I will get eaten alive quicker than you can say Mozzie! Not only are bug bites annoying and uncomfortable, but you can also contract diseases this way. Save yourself some grief and stock up on bug repellants and coils. Always go natural when you can, but for short term safety from mozzie contracted diseases, sometimes you need to resort to the heavy duty chemicals. As long as it’s not long term use. But there are many effective natural repellants available, especially in Australia!
Swim Gear: If you’re not much of a water baby, get over it! Australia offers hundreds, maybe even thousands of beaches, ripe for exploration! Even if you don’t like swimming, definitely pack some water shoes for trudging through water ways, or exploring tidal pools. Trust me, those things are covered in jagged little oysters and shells, and when they break and stab into your foot it HURTS. So take care, and put on those dorky shoes. Not only will they keep your feet safe, but they will also help you to keep from slipping. In addition to this, bring snorkel gear. You must! Especially in the more remote areas, the ocean is flush with marine life. The only way you’re going to see it up close is to get out there and see it for yourself! Don’t opt out of this way, because you’ll miss on a whole world of sights and experiences.
Rain Gear: This includes umbrellas, ponchos, and tarps. Keep track of the weather, and try to keep yourself and living/sleeping quarters as dry as possible. Camping can be uncomfortable at times, and you don’t want to live in a constant state of mildewy dampness. Always think ahead, take care, and keep dry towels in the car to relieve yourself after getting caught in the rain, having to make a mad dash to pack everything quickly escape the weather.
First Aid: This seems like a given but I wanted to go over this point anyway. You need to prepare for any type of emergency. Obviously without medical knowledge or skills, you only need very basic supplies. But be sure to have burn ointment, aloe vera, band aids of all sizes, antibacterial ointment for cuts, basic medicine such as Tylenol and Alka-Seltzer, an ace bandage, and gauze. If you want to take it a step further, include a splint and sling. But that’s up to you. You just want to have the basic necessities for any minor injury, and enough to facilitate a major injury while you make your way to seek medical treatment.
Books/DVDs/Entertainment: I know you went on this trip to disconnect and to become one with nature. But at some point or other you’re going to be trapped inside due to bad weather, or just too hung over to move. You need to stimulate (and sometimes) distract your mind to ensure a healthy mood. We bought a cheap laptop, and picked up $5 DVDs whenever we could, downloaded movies if we had enough wifi, and always picked through book exchanges when they were available. You’re going to have a lot of downtime on the road. Much of it may be spent contemplating your thoughts and exploring your surroundings. But at some point you’re going to want to unwind. So bring entertainment. And always, ALWAYS have a pack of cards.
Awning: In addition to camping furniture, this may seem like one of those things you don’t really need. But really you do. You can turn your campsite into your very own outdoor living room in a matter of minutes. This is a nice way to take a break from the sun, and the mild elements. But make sure to pack it in incase of heavy rain or wind! They’re not as sturdy as you may like them to be.
Solar Panels: In addition to the dual battery, this is a great, sustainable way to acquire energy without draining/damaging your car battery. There is tons of sun in Australia, so your power source will never run out! If you plan to stay put for a bit, then take these suckers out and let them bask in the sun while you do. Any forms of back-up power are always positive, and should always be considered.
Misc: Flashlights, sunscreen, bug-bite ointment, speaker for music, blankets, garbage bags, fly swatter, knife (utility, we also had a machete), cooking and kitchen supplies, spices and dry food goods, fresh food whenever available. A quality camera: you may think that you’ll keep the memories stored in your minds eye, but it’s always nice to have a reminder. Keep a journal for the same reason. Buy a prepaid data box, so that when you do come into civilization and internet connection, you can plug-in to let your loved ones know that you survived the Outback!