Expert tips on budget touring

By: Michael Borg, Photography by: Camper Trailer Australia


Scraping the bottom of the barrel? Check out these tips for touring on a budget.

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Australia has got some utterly spectacular locations to visit and regions to tour. It is home to some of the most mesmerising country on the planet, and when it comes to wide open spaces and epic 4WD expeditions, well, we’re in a league of our own. The only problem is, this island we call home is pretty darn big, and getting to all of these awesome places we keep hearing about can be an absolute mission. Ask most people why they haven’t explored their dream destination yet and the answer is probably the same...money! Adventuring isn’t always cheap, and it’s the fear of the unknown costs involved that usually keep those epic dreams at the bottom of the too-hard basket.

But the good news is: we’ve got you covered. We’ve been hot on the heels of some of the most trusted experts in the industry to expose some tricks of the trade that can help save you money on your camping trips.

So, if you’ve been dreaming of an epic adventure on the cheap, here are some proven tips and tricks that’ll help save you a few bob.

SCOTT HEIMAN, HEIMAN HABITAT

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Understanding your usage allows you make savings in unexpected ways, as Scott Heiman explains.

Water works

"Most of us fill up our water tanks at home or only in more densely populated areas to avoid dodgy water. But by adding a good quality water filter to your camper, we can fill the tank up with water at a location closer to our destination, which saves you dragging 100-200L of water half way across the country and reduces your fuel bill."

Take what you use

"How many of us fall into the trap of packing the same gear every time we head out on the road? In reality, we should be taking only what we need for each particular trip. If it’s not recovery gear and it hasn’t been used in the last 2-3 trips, maybe it needs to be left behind. Efficient packing saves space, weight, vehicle wear and tear, and fuel."

Slow it down

"By slowing down and sticking to the peak torque range of our vehicles, we’ll drive more economically and efficiently. If we’re on dirt and sand, we can save up to 40 per cent on fuel by staying within a 60-80km speed range. On these figures, we may be able to save as much as a quarter of a tank of fuel a day for the cost of an additional 30 minutes in travel time."

MARK RUE, TERRA TREK

Good communication can yield savings when you’re touring with a crew, says Mark Rue. Here’s how...

Clarify expectations

"Have a think about the financial capacity of those you are travelling with. The last thing you need on a big trip is the more financial friends adding in costly exercises like helicopter rides, splurging on local restaurants or pubs and spending up on chartered fishing trips, when others in the group prefer (or can only afford) to camp out every night and steer clear of luxuries. There’s no right or wrong way to travel, but it’s best to work out your expectations before you go."

Share the vehicle costs

"Have a think about sharing a vehicle and the running costs if the opportunity arises. You need to get on really well but it can actually make the trip a whole lot more fun. A little trick to split the costs evenly is to each put an even amount of money in the glove box at the start of the trip, and use these funds for anything group-related like fuel, food, camp fees and so on. Top it up as required and split the difference evenly at the end!"

Spread the load

"Try to travel light. If you’re sharing vehicles, try not to double up on your camping equipment. You won’t need two camp ovens; one will do. If you are travelling in a group, make a plan about who brings what to spread the load across several vehicles. The trick around this is to keep some flexibility just in case the groups separate for whatever reason."

EMMA RYAN, TRAVEL IN EDITOR

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A little forethought delivers budget savings in the bag, says Emma Ryan.

Cook ahead

"Cook your first few nights’ meals before you leave home, or cook double if you’re on the road long-term. Then freeze the appropriate number of portions, and pop them in the camper fridge the day of departure. They’ll stay mostly frozen in there and you can grab them out an hour or two before dinner time to defrost properly. Stews, casseroles, satays and stir-fry work well, as these can be reheated in one pot. This allows you to use the contents of your home pantry which saves you buying basics like herbs, spices, flour and rice on the road, and reduces food wastage as it is portion controlled. It’ll also save you time, water and stress."

Camp shower savings

"If your main motivation for caravan park stays is the shower block, come up with a camp shower solution of your own. If your camper doesn’t have an on-board shower, invest in an Aquacube or, my personal favourite, a trusty $15 camp shower bag that can be warmed in the sun in the boot of the car while you’re driving to camp. That sure beats $50/night fees for the pleasure of a communal shower block! I’ve had mine for in excess of five years and I love it."

Healthy car snacks

"I know what you’re thinking: boring! But the truth is stocking the car with healthy, low GI snacks means you and the family will stay fuller for longer, saving you money on expensive junk food from the servo. Make a big scroggin mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruit before you go (add a few treats like dried cranberries and chocolate buds to keep the kids interested), divvy it out into zip-lock bags (one per person) and watch as once sceptical mouths graze with relish. It’s delicious and will keep cravings at bay."

LAURA GRAY, CTA EDITOR

Counting your beans can sustain you for longer on the road, finds CTA editor Laura Gray.

Track your spending

"Yes, it’s boring; yes, it’s a little time-consuming but you’ll quickly see what’s eating up your hard-earned and it’ll make you actively think about what you lay down your dough on.

"You can go old school and use a notepad and pen, or download an app for your phone like Goodbudget."

Go vego!

"Camping and barbecues go together like white on rice but swap your tasty T-bone a few times a week for some juicy tomatoes, corn on the cob and meaty mushrooms, and your hip pocket will thank you in the long run."

DAN ‘STUNT MAN’ EVERETT

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Saving a buck is all well and good but servicing is an essential cost, reckons CTA’s resident tow tester Dan Everett.

Spend where it counts

"Make sure your tow-tug and camper trailer are both going to make it there and back in one piece. All the vacuum-sealed dinners in the world won’t save you a penny if you need to pay some bloke to tow you out or fix your breakdown."

SELF-SUFFICIENT CAMPING

Hands down, one of the best ways to slash the cost of camping is to be totally self-sufficient. Having the ability to bush camp means you can avoid the more expensive campsites and save a few bucks on fuel by having more campsite options closer to where you need to be. Let’s face it, the cost of a solar system and a camp shower will pay itself back in no time at all and totally revolutionise the way you camp in the process!

CHEAPER COOKING

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You can save some big dollars when it comes to camp feeds. The funny thing is that it’s not so much what you cook, but how you do it. One great way to reduce your gas bill is by using a thermal cooker. It basically recirculates its own heat to maintain cooking temperatures without the need of a constant fuel or heat source.

If that’s not your cup of tea, cooking over the campfire can be a very cost-effective option too, but it could require a bit of thought to avoid the need to buy wood these days. Your best bet is to grab yourself some well before you get to camp, where it’s likely to be scarce.

To help your wood last longer, try cooking in bulk! So while you’ve got the fire going for the evening sing-along, why not bung the camp oven on for dinner and knock up some tucker for the next few days, too?

GET OUT THERE

You don’t have to be a millionaire to see Australia; not even close! With a bit of prior thought and planning there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t hit the road and have an absolute blast in the process. The funny thing is, in most cases, it costs less than most people think. So if you’re keen to hit the road, it’s time to get serious about it; plan where you’re going, work out a budget and make it happen! The more money you can save along the way, the further you can go in the long run!

Check out the full feature in issue #112 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.