Learning to camp with a trailer can sometimes feel like you’re wading across the deep end of the pool. What seems simple often involves a process of ongoing learning, and when you arrive at a campsite where others are set up, instead of proudly unfurling your new camper, you may find yourself proceeding with caution, lest you reveal your novice status by making some fundamental, rookie mistakes.
So we’ve gathered together a bunch of tips to help increase your confidence and pleasure when camping with a trailer, and to help improve relations with your fellow campers, regardless of your level of experience.
USE YOUR CHAINS ON A SLOPE
Even light camper trailers are heavy pieces of equipment and, on a slope, they can gather sufficient momentum to make them unstoppable if they get away. And a heavy camper can be unstoppable from the start!
When setting up camp on sloping ground, keep your camper chained to the towbar on your vehicle – even after disconnecting the hitch – until you have it properly chocked and levelled, to avoid that sinking feeling as it disappears in a cloud of dust, shattering camp equipment and scattering campers.
COOLING YOUR THREE-WAY FRIDGE
Three-way fridges are less capable than compressor (two-way) fridges. The most you can hope for is about 20°C below the ambient temperature.
To boost their efficiency, especially on very hot days, keep the fridge out of direct sunlight and drape it with a wet towel, keeping the heat flue clear. The evaporation of the water from the towel creates an artificially low ‘ambient’ temperature and, even in mid-summer, it’s possible to freeze items overnight.
LEVEL YOUR THREE-WAY FRIDGE
Three-way fridges operate best on gas when level, where heat from the flame travels straight up the flue. Otherwise, heat corrosion can cause the sides of the flue to flake off and block the gas jet. If the unit is uneven, the liquids in the cooling system won’t circulate correctly, causing that cycle to stop.
Glue a small bullseye or two-way builder’s level to the top of the fridge and carry a few small wedges to prop up the low sides. Absolutely level is not necessary, and a few degrees either way is acceptable but the closer you can get it to level, the better.
TOWING LOGS A NO-NO
It’s useful to have enough fuel on hand to keep your campfire going, but some travellers use their cars to drag large lumps of wood or even logs to their site, gouges lines in the soil.
This may seem harmless, but in areas of low or infrequent rainfall, these lines funnel water the next time it rains and, over time, will cause soil erosion at camp.
KEEP SOAP OUT OF WATERHOLES AND STREAMS
When water in the outback is scarce, daily showering is often put on hold. That’s why when you find a clean waterhole or a spring, taking a wash is an absolute joy. But think before you do it. Even using it to top up your water supplies for washing dishes needs careful thought.
These scarce water reserves are often used by wildlife or stock, and when you add soap to that water many animals turn away from it, even in the face of death.
So keep at least 10m away from the waterhole or spring when you’re washing with soap, and make sure all traces of it are removed before lying down in the water to enjoy its cooling touch.
STAY ON SET TRACKS WHERE POSSIBLE
One of the joys of the camper lifestyle if you have a suitable trailer is travelling down little-used tracks and getting right away from civilisation. But crashing through virgin scrub, forging your own trail, is destructive to the environment and potentially hazardous to your vehicle and trailer – sharp, freshly broken trees can spike tyres and stone shields and scratch paint.
Even when walking up that enticing gorge, travel along existing tracks to minimise the impact on the terrain. Forged tracks promote erosion, hinder the growth of plants, spread weeds and discourage wildlife movement.
RETAIN YOUR AWNING POLES
Travelling over long distances on rough and winding roads causes everything in your camper to shake and move around, sometimes violently. This relentless pounding and movement can cause awning poles stored in poly storage tubes to break through the end caps of the tubes and spill out on to the road.
To avoid this, pad the inside of the end caps with hard rubber foam or a cut section of plywood, and extend the poles to match the internal dimension of the tube so they can’t hammer their way out in a lateral direction. Marking your poles at this length will make this task routine.
COLLECT FIREWOOD OUTSIDE OF NATIONAL PARKS
If you’re heading for a camp in a national park make sure you take in your supply of firewood from outside the park.
Woody litter usually forms an essential part of the local ecosystem, so it’s important not to disturb it. What’s more, taking it with you will not only save you time when you arrive at camp but will guarantee your supply. When you compare your campsite to the side of a well-used track outside of the park, it’s easier to appreciate the reasons for this rule.
Check out the full feature in issue #96 January 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.