Back to basics camping

By: Michael Borg, Photography by: Matt Fehlberg


New to the camping scene or just after some tips to improve your experience? Here’s what you need to know to camp like an absolute pro!

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So you’ve decided you want to go camping for the first time in a long time – great idea! In fact, it’s probably the best idea you’ve had in years. But camper trailers these days are becoming more and more advanced, and if you’re a newcomer, or you’ve been out of the game for a while, it’s tricky to know where to start. Well, you’re in luck! We’ve already done the hard yards and we’ve spoken to a bunch of experts from far and wide to reveal all the essential information you’ll need to know to make your next camper trailer camping experience the best it can be. With everything from purchasing the perfect camper trailer for you and looking after it properly, to the little tricks and tips that will just make camping easy, we’ve got you covered.

So put your feet up and your bum down as we give you the ultimate crash course for your new or next camper trailer.

CHOOSING A CAMP

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If you’re a bit green when it comes to camping, there are a few very basic things to remember. Most of this is just common sense, but it’s important to get into the right habits from the very beginning – and it’s never too late to learn new ones, even if you’ve been camping forever.

First up is finding the right place to set up your camper trailer. The flatter the ground, the better! There are ways to level up a camper trailer on uneven ground but, as a general rule, you should go for the most level ground you can find. If your tent actually touches the ground, it’s very important to clear the site of sharp rocks or anything that might damage the canvas. Avoid setting up under trees where possible; the sap of fallen leaves and seeds can damage the canvas, but, more importantly, the last thing you want is a tree branch to fall on top of you.

The next thing is to ensure your spot isn’t going to get flooded in the event of heavy rainfall. For example, setting up in a gully isn’t a really good idea! Oh, and always try to arrive at camp well before the sun drops – it sure beats setting up in the dark!

SOLO 4WD AWNING SETUP

Many of us have struggled putting the 4WD’s awing up on our own in the past, so here’s how it’s supposed to be done.

The first step is to open the awning cover, roll the awing out just enough to place it above the awning assembly. Then swing out the two side support bars and extend to roughly the right position (this helps if it’s been previously marked out). Then, you can unroll the awning and swing the main support legs down and into place before securing the side support bars. This technique, while not super easy, does make it doable by one person with a little practice and a few choice words thrown in!

SETTING UP CAMP

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Setting up camp isn’t always easy. Sure, the more you do it the easier gets, but there’s just got to be something you can do to simplify the whole process, right? Yep, there sure is!

The first thing to do is to mark out your tent pole adjustment, so you know how far to extend your tent poles to stretch the canvas just right every time. A permanent marker will do the job for a while, but applying a thin sticker strip will last a lot longer.

The next tip is to keep any loose poles that are absolutely essential to the basic setup in an easy to reach location like in a canvas bag on the bed. That way you don’t have to go sorting through dozens of poles for the right ones every single time.

You can colour code the tent poles into groups to help identify what they are actually are. For example, you can stick a blue sticker on all the awning poles, a red sticker on the camper’s main tent poles and so on and so forth. If your camper has a tent pole storage compartment, you can even add some dividers to help keep the groups of poles separate.

For softfloor campers, tying a rope to the canvas corner rings furthest from the trailer to help pull the tent over will help reduce the labour involved. In fact, it could be the difference between a one man setup or needing to call for back up!

SETTING UP A NEW CAMPER TRAILER – WITH STEVE ZAMMIT, EZYTRAIL CAMPERS

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Possibly the most common way canvas gets damaged is overzealous setting up during the first couple of uses. It’s quite easy to tear stitching by over extending the tent poles and it doesn’t take much to stretch the canvas on a new tent either, so always be careful. The best way to avoid any damage is to simply adjust the poles gradually, so the canvas is taunt but not under extreme strain.

When you collapse the poles in your camper, lock them in the closed position to reduce any movement during travel. Zipping up the window panels will help protect flyscreens from being damaged when stored and wedged between the tent poles.

If storing the pole bag on top of the camper, try to avoid placing it on the fixed inner poles of the main tent. All that weight can pinch and cut the canvas against the inner poles when travelling over bumps and particularly corrugations. For similar reasons, it’s best to fold excess canvas over the top rather than tuck it in between the tent poles, too.

It’s a good idea to leave at least one canvas door open when closing up a basic camper trailer tent. The idea being it allows the air to escape easily when the tent is being compressed closed.

STRESS-FREE CAMPING – WITH CELSO PRADO, MARS CAMPERS

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Set your new camper trailer up at home, before heading out on your first camping trip. In fact, this tip goes for any new equipment you are planning to use for the first time. Make sure you read and watch any and all material provided by the manufacturer of the product you plan to use. This will save you heaps of time when at your campsite and will make any problem rectification a lot easier if there is any issues.

For hot weather camping, it goes without saying to ensure there is plenty of water to go around. It definitely worth carrying some hydrolyte tablets just in case the heat starts to get someone. Another simple but good thing to have at hand is pawpaw ointment; your lips will thank me for that one! To help you feel refreshed, keep some ‘cool cucumbers’ in your fridge or Esky – they will literally cool you down if the weather gets too hot.

To help keep you feeling fresh on the tracks, keep a bottle of hand sanitiser nearby. A great tip I learned a while ago is to pack heaps of baby wipes, especially if you camping in arid/dry locations. Also, try to wrap various personal hygiene items like your washcloth, toothbrush and soap individually when you’re packing up to ensure that the rest of the stuff in your camping pack stays dry.

THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

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You can’t beat a good night’s sleep, and while some camper trailer mattresses are quite good, nearly all can be improved. There’s several ways, but the best upgrades or methods will depend on what you’ve already got. For example, a mattress that is too hard or stiff will benefit greatly from a latex topper or foam overlay, which can literally transform its comfort level. The eggshell foam overlays are a good lightweight option for camping.

It’s important that you have plenty of light! Obviously the more conveniently located lights there are around camp the better. But if they aren’t an option, the next best thing is a quality head torch. You’ll have light everywhere you look, and they don’t occupy your hands like regular torches.

And when it comes to packing food, try and stick to similar foods that you eat at home. Sure you should definitely include some ‘camp food’, but straying too far from your regular diet can affect everything from your mood to your comfort levels, especially if something doesn’t agree with you very well.

GET OUT AND GET INTO IT

It’s no secret that camping is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable experiences ever, especially with the luxuries of a well set up camper trailer. But like anything, there are tricks to discover and lessons to be learned. Get it right and you’ll love the lifestyle your new camper trailer provides, and that’s what it’s all about, eh? 

Check out the full feature in issue #109 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.