Useful Road tested travel accessories for caravaners and campers.

Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 at 18:41

Member-Heather MG NSW

There are certain products which we are very happy to have paid for and which make our type of travel so much more comfortable. I've decided to try to write about all these in the one blog and then add to it as necessary, but only after the product has been thoroughly tested, with the intention that others may find some of the information helpful.

Top of the list for us has to be the 'Stone Stomper', a trapeze type of stone guard which protects the front of the van and the rear of the tow vehicle from being damaged when travelling on dirt roads. Having suffered considerable damage on our previous van we ordered one to fit our vehicles before we set out on the dirt roads with our new van earlier in the year. It cost us around $600 delivered, from memory, and there was a small amount of fitting required, as well as a modification to our exhaust pipe on the Pajero which cost another $50 or close to that amount. Compared to the cost of our new Jayco Outback StarCraft, a budget priced van capable of travelling on dirt roads, it is a very small amount to pay!
We were very impressed with the service shown us by Christian, the owner of this small business, and the quality of the product. I 'googled' it and also spoke to a friend who has one fitted to his T-Van, also read happy customers comments online and could not find one negative comment about it!
We ordered it online and it took around a week to make I think. At present, after a lot of dirt road travel in WA, which anyone who reads my blogs will already know about, it is deep dusty red, not charcoal grey, as are our vehicles! Nothing that a bit of water and hard work can't remove! It's a simple matter to hook it in place when we hitch the van up, and to unhook when we arrive in a new camp place, not at all one of those products which seem to be a good idea but are too much trouble to use.

One small and inexpensive product is named 'Happy Bowl' and for anyone who fully uses their toilet, is just wonderful, minimising that unpleasant job of cleaning. A small box of 50 costs around $15 but may be cheaper if bought online or in multiple packs although I haven't looked at that yet. It's a lightweight, fully dissolving paper liner which fits the bowl of the toilet and works best when the bowl is damp so it can 'stick' to the sides, and the slide is in the closed position. After doing the 'business', simply open the slide and press the flush button a few times and it just slides through, leaving a clean bowl.
During our almost 16 weeks on the road so far on the current trip, we have stayed in a number of places where using our own toilet was the only choice, and it's really the first trip we have done so. We haven't yet used up one pack but do have a second just in case!
We also use the Blue Thetford chemical which we find is the most effective and makes the emptying of the cassette as pleasant as it could be, given the contents, even after almost a week! What product to use is another story and a personal choice, but we have not found one place where we have been prohibited from using a dump point because of the product we use. Plenty of people are happy with nappy sanitiser and there is lots of helpful advice devoted to this topic both on EO and forums for caravaners and travellers generally.

Other products which don't need to be written about in as much detail include collapsible 20 litre food grade plastic water containers which are available at camping and fishing type stores. We have used them on this trip for carrying extra water when we travelled in areas where clean water was scarce. When on the move we put them in 'squishy' (soft) sided tubs with handles (also available in hardware shops), placing them over the axles inside the van, on the floor where they sit without moving, on the floor mats.
We have only once filled one with untreated water and have labelled it as such, but also intended using them to fill with grey water, should we not be able to let water run onto the ground. (That hasn't happened yet anywhere we have chosen to stay). Sometimes we have carried an extra 80 litres this way, in car and van, and that amounts to another tank full, very useful when travelling to places off the main tourist route. When not in use they take up very little space and weigh next to nothing.
It always is sensible and important to carry water separate from that in the van tanks just in case a stone punctures them and the water is lost along the road. We have run the tanks dry a couple of time on this trip because our tank level monitor is not working, and needed to use the extra we were carrying.

The soft sided tubs with handles, mentioned above, are also useful for other purposes. I have a bigger 60 litre one which is my laundry hamper and sits neatly on the floor of the shower. It not only holds a huge amount of dirty clothing but is also used for storing insect repellents, mosquito coils, washing liquid, pegs and clothesline....
The two smaller sized ones fit under the overhanging end of the bed and we throw shoes, boots, newspapers, and store other bits and pieces to keep the place tidy. John also uses one of the 20 litre ones to flush his outboard motor after each use as it fits neatly and takes a minimal amount of water to do it. That does require a second person to stand and hold the motor upright, a responsible job entrusted to me now lately!
Enough for now...I will try to think of additions and add them to this.

Back again.....
I have just prepared and cooked dinner and used my much used and loved frypan, part of a non stick Tefal Ingenio set with detachable handles and knobs. It, along with a wok and a saucepan fit inside a small bag (provided) and packed inside one another, topped with the lids. They have travelled safely in a bottom drawer under the oven over many kilometres of rough, dirt roads. Lids are glass and edged with silicone (loved by mice as I found out two years ago when we travelled during a mouse plague and one nibbled small lacy edges on one!) The set is stainless steel and works on induction heat as well as gas, electric, or in the oven (provided knobs and handles are removed first so are very versatile. Both the wok and frypan are great for healthy cooking, and only require a minimal amount of oil which for me is an added bonus. I use at least one piece of this set each evening, sometimes a frypan and a saucepan or wok and saucepan and often comment to John about how much I love them! They are large enough to cook a meal for two and compact enough not to take up lots of space, easy to clean with a non scratch scourer too.
I also carry a portable Eco Heat Induction cooking plate which is low wattage, has different power levels and a timer and is apparently designed with caravaners. I mostly use it when we stay in van parks, or occasionally powered by the Honda 2 generator. It is fast and efficient, heats and cools quickly so can be packed away in its carry/travel bag and is great when the weather is hot, and cooking over gas just makes it hotter. I use this at home as well, as I do with the Tefal cookware so they get constant use.

I couldn't live comfortably without the Caframo Sirrocco fan which I had wired into the vans 12v system and placed so that it moves the air around over us when we are in bed. It has been wonderful this past month as we travel north through WA and most nights lately, I set the fan on low and the timer on for either 2 or 4 hours. It uses very little power, is pretty quiet, and its enough to cool us down so we go off to sleep.
It is so good that I am thinking of ordering a second one and having it installed so it fans the dining area....
I bought it online from an Australian Marine parts company as I guess it would also suit boats very well but could probably have saved myself some money had I bought it from the USA.
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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