On the Road: Lee Hutchings

Scott Heiman — 11 April 2017

Some campers constantly search for their ‘place’ in the outdoor recreational space. Are they out for the fishing, the family time, sightseeing or catching up with friends? But when we met Lee Hutchings, it was clear the outdoors was all about the family and the surf. On his campsite at Pretty Beach on the South Coast, the campers focused uniformly towards the shoreline and it was telling that Lee was in the water with his surf ski before breakfast every day during our stay at this national park campsite. When he wasn’t in the water, Lee was sitting back and relaxing with his daughter and her partner camped in the adjoining site.

Lee has enjoyed this style of recreational camping for years. He is a die-hard surfer with a longstanding love of surf clubs and family trips to the beach. With four kids, he and wife Frances had camped in vans since 1985 – starting out simply with a 1982 Coleman camper trailer before investing in a Jayco Penguin Outback a couple of years later. He described this change as being to a “grand quality canvas” setup with the associated creature comforts. As he said, the Jayco is “comfortable and easy”, and now the couple are retired they’re really capitalising on the opportunity to enjoy the van as a “home away from home”.

While he clearly enjoys the Penguin, and it’s given him decades of family fun, Lee is aware of the potential problems with pop-tops. He’s had issues with cables and the setup and feels it’s time to move on and look for another, although he hadn’t yet settled on other desired specifications. He did say, however, he’s learnt not to “buy an offroad caravan if you don’t need it” – so we’re assuming that he’ll be following his own advice when he re-starts his market research.

Regardless of the direction the couple take, their main priority to set themselves up out in nature to enjoy in the fresh air and in close proximity to the surf will remain. 

As Lee told us, it’s a balance between camping in comfort and maintaining simplicity. And we reckon that Lee and Frances will enjoy the range of options that the camper market is now able to offer to meet their needs, 32 years after their Jayco Penguin Outback was built. From the introduction of hybrid trailers, to the evolution in kitchen set-ups and beyond, there’s a lot to think about.  But with a company such as Jayco producing a new RV every 12 minutes (C. James, SMH, 20 Jul 2015), we’re sure that Lee and Frances will find their perfect match without too much difficulty.

You never know it might just be a brand new 2017 Penguin that takes their fancy…


Name: Lee Hutchings

Where’s home: Vaucluse, Sydney

Home on the road: 1985 Jayco Penguin Outback

Camper mods: Nil

Tow vehicle: Ford Territory, diesel

Vehicle mods: Nil

Favourite Destination: Pretty Beach, Murramarang National Park and Bendalong, Shoalhaven. Obviously the South Coast has what it takes to keep a vintage surfer interested.

Scariest moment: Perhaps the reason that Lee and wife Frances favour the South Coast is that the surf beaches are so readily accessible. Certainly, we learnt that accessing the back-beaches of the mid-north coast have challenged Lee with some “hairy roads” and some of his scariest moments.

Lessons learnt: Lee offered us an eclectic mix of lessons learnt – all of which hinted at experiences that he and Frances would rather not repeat. His top three lessons were: 1. always have a back-up plan for when things don’t function; 2. always check electricals are in order (ie. trailer connections, etc.) before you set off; 3. don’t lend to family or friends and expect that everything will come back the same.

While Lee had an ironic smile on his face when he shared his third lesson, there’s clearly some truth to what he says.


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