Caravanning is an absolute art, especially when it comes to free or low-cost camping. You want to get to the places far less travelled, but these spots are rarely perfect when it comes to the campsite orientation, level or even proximity to basics like water.
Owning a caravan means you can camp in style, but just hitching up that new or ‘new to you’ caravan and heading off into the unknown isn’t the end of it. If you want to make a success of your weekend or a longer getaway, here are our 10 must-have items for a successful camping trip.
1. Spirit level or levelling device
You’ve found the perfect spot. You might have even got the compass out to check the sun’s path over your new found campsite. The caravan is backed in perfectly, but wait…there’s a problem! The caravan is on a lean and the shower door won’t stay closed. The water you have been able to keep in the shower cubicle just won’t go down the drain. You’re not level, and you really need to get it right.
Of course, when it comes to level, there is such a thing as ‘too level’. You will want to have a gradual fall to allow water runoff from your roof or awning, but overall you will want a fairly level caravan to ensure doors close and stay closed and the water in the shower exits well.
A spirit level to check your left to right, and front to back levels will pay for itself. There are also some fancy pieces of technology available now that enable you to digitally see your caravan’s position.
2. Levelling ramps & chocks
Attaining that level caravan is the next bit. Sure, you could dig some holes and drive into them, but really all you are doing is damaging the campsite for the next users. Perhaps the caravan is positioned on a bit of a hill, so getting it level and then staying there is going to be important.
You have a number of options when it comes to levelling ramps, there are kits that include chocks, multi-part ramps or devices for gradual adjustment. Your goal is to lift your left or right wheels up to match the other, and by having a levelling ramp you can get it right with the help of the levelling device as previously mentioned above. Once in position, use a chock to make sure nothing moves.
3. Jockey & stabiliser supports
Always check the ground where you plan to position your caravan. If it’s a little soft, or perhaps rain is threatening, your jockey wheel or stabilisers might sink into the ground. This can cause problems for keeping your caravan level, or even when it’s time to hitch up again your jockey wheel may have sunk deep down into the sand or mud.
Use a broad support pad to support your jockey wheel and even your stabilisers when required. This can be as simple as a piece of wood to distribute the weight over a broader area, or you can purchase some great UV stabilised plastic pads.
4. Hitch lock
Some of the best campsites we have been to with our caravan have been pretty remote. No campground manager, no ranger and sometimes no one else around. You’re going to want to explore, but what steps can you take to ensure your caravan is where you left it when you return? A hitch lock is an inexpensive device to deter amateurs or opportunists. Lock the hitch lock and this will prevent someone just hooking up and taking your home away.
5. Guy ropes or ratchet straps & fixings
Australia is really a giant island, and some of the stunning campsites overlook some of our many beaches. This puts you right in the path of some pretty strong winds, and this goes too for some of our mountain ranges and outback camp spots in the middle of nowhere.
We’ve had friends who have lost their awning to strong gusts of winds, basically bent over the top of the caravan! You should secure it, using guy ropes or ratchet straps to ensure your awning stays where it should. We like to use two at each end and have seen our awning withstand some pretty strong winds.
If you’re avoiding caravan parks and heading into the unknown, there’s a good chance your front doorstep is going to be either sand or mud! Having a good quality matting for out the front of your caravan is the perfect counter to a dirty/sandy caravan.
7. Hose connections
If you are staying at caravan parks, be prepared! When it comes to water and waste connections, we haven’t seen one caravan park the same in our nearly 6 months on the road. Some are positioned close, some are far, some are at the back, the front or the side.
Some have small outlets, high outlets, small or large tap connections. Having a variety of hose lengths and connections will mean you can hook up your water and drain your grey water with little trouble.
8. Water filling thingy
If you are remote and plan to stay there, you will need to be able to bring water onsite to your caravan. That might be jerry cans, a bladder or even a larger water tank in your car. Even just filling your caravan’s water from a tap is an art in itself.
When we first got our caravan we ended up with water all over ourselves when first filling it up. Enter the ‘water filling thingy’. This little device can take a number of different forms, but what it does it allows you to get water into your caravan tanks without wastage.
We’ve seen them made of watering connections, rubber stoppers, different pieces of hose and everything in between. The premise is a longer piece of hose that enters deep into your water tanks, allowing air to escape and water to go in without coming back up until the tank is full.
9. Wheel bin bag
Entering into our national parks or low or free campsites, a key requirement is to take your rubbish with you. So many times already we have been to some magnificent sites, only to be disappointed by other people’s rubbish strewn around.
A wheel bin is perfect to add to the back of your 4WD or your caravan. We use ours to store our caravan hoses and connections to keep them draining and dry, and then when we are remote use it for secure rubbish storage.
Kangaroos and our other native animals are very clever, so having a strong bag with zips is essential to stop them from getting into it. Then when you head out of the site, it’s easy to pull up and dispose of your rubbish correctly.
When we first purchased our caravan, we were told ‘you have to have a ladder’. Our instant thoughts were, ‘surely not!’. But as we’ve travelled the ladder has become a must-have item and the final one on our list.
There are two main uses for our ladder. The first is for cleaning our solar panels. When off-grid camping, solar is a must. We use it to run our fridges, power devices, cool us down with fans and to run all of our lighting at night. But a dirty solar panel is really ineffective, and around Australia, it doesn’t take much for them to get dusty. Every 2 to 3 days we get up and clean our solar panels. This means we have the best chance to maximise our power capture.
We also use the ladder to help us keep the car and caravan clean, allowing us to get up to those hard to reach spots. It’s also come in handy for various maintenance tasks, fixing the odd lost screw in an awning or reaching a stuck skylight.
None of the above comes with a new caravan, and more often than not a ‘new to you’ caravan will be missing what we see as essential must-haves for the perfect caravanning trip.