Avoid the excuses about why you don’t camp and tour off-road as much as you’d like with these practical tips to help you get out more often.
Plan ahead of time
Intent is important, but commitment is priceless when it comes to planning for future trips. A helpful step to bridge this gap is to grab a calendar and write down your trips for the rest of the year, then put it up on the wall with a map of Australia to match. Include everything from the yearly (or more) big trip to the weekend refreshers, with as much detail and certainty on dates as you can afford. Be realistic with the amount of trips you allocate and where you plan to go, while ensuring that you move towards each one with a matching list of purchases, fixes and work that needs to be done in the meantime to bring each trip to life. Place the calendar and map in plain sight to remind yourself of your commitment, and be as strict about pursuing your recreational goals as you would be with your personal or business goals.
For epic trips (two weeks or more) start thinking about what you need as early as six months prior and start truly planning at least three months in advance. This is beneficial on three levels: it gets you excited and more invested in the trip, allows you to factor every on-road outcome and pre-trip purchase into your planning, which thirdly gives you the time and impetus to start saving the funds that come into calculation.
For weekend getaways or day trips feel free to choose locations on the spur of the moment, as long as you have allocated the time to do so. Take these opportunities to explore great places close to home that you can use again in the future when short on time, or even take a day out and explore local tracks without the intention of camping overnight. Though when you do plan on camping, it’s always easier when you…
Have your gear at the ready
One of the biggest deterrents for would-be campers and four-wheel drivers is organising to even get out the door. If you can gather everything you need for a weekend escape without it becoming a drawn-out process every time, you will find it easier to justify brief trips you would otherwise have seen as too much of a hassle to pack for and unpack from.
To ensure you’re always ready for adventure, keep your essential items grouped together at all times. Have some shelves or roller boxes in your garage or shed allocated to hold all the gear you need, or if you have a camper trailer simply keep the gear inside. Additionally, write yourself a ‘master’ camping checklist that you can come back to again and again. This is important for two reasons: to eliminate second-guessing about whether you have everything before you leave, and to check whether you’re missing anything when you come home.
On that note, keep in mind missing, broken or degraded camping gear should be dealt with after returning from a trip rather than waiting until the next one is around the corner. Doing the work to clean, pack away and take stock of everything you have will stop classic camping nightmares like mouldy tents and rusted cutlery that can derail a trip and leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
Remember you don’t need everything
Camping and off-roading can be as simple or as complicated as you like it to be, though don’t get caught in the trap of avoiding opportunities for adventure because you don’t feel prepared. The reality is that after a certain point, any additional camping gear or 4x4 accessories you want to buy should add to your trip, not decide whether you go or not.
To reach most places, a mechanically sound 4WD with a good set of tires will suffice. Additionally, a cargo barrier is an important safety feature that simplifies packing, while a bullbar is imperative for driving in rural areas where animal strikes occur more often. Beyond that, unless you’re planning to explore somewhere that requires something extra, such as a snorkel in the Top End, you could end up missing out on seeing Australia because of an unnecessary accessory hang-up.
For camping, it’s true that simple is often the best. Finding the balance between what you want and what you need will allow you to camp in relative comfort with less to take, less to set up, less to pack and less to clean. Items like fridge-freezers and dual battery systems will undoubtedly improve your camping experience and broaden your trip options, though not having them shouldn’t keep you out of the great outdoors.
To save money and perfect your camping checklist, the next time you’re camping have a look around at other people’s setups to find ideas. By doing some personal research you can gradually perfect your own setup and save money by getting first-hand reviews, finding gear that serves its purpose while receiving tips that money can’t buy.
In short, camping and four-wheel driving are recreational activities that start with planning and end in adventure in an ongoing cycle. By investing in yearly goals, honing your process and remembering to be realistic in what’s necessary to get out there, you can shorten the planning stage and live the dream more often than you ever thought possible.