Big Trip Decision Made. Now What?

Kylie and I have been talking about embarking on a trip around the country for a number of years now but the time has arrived to commit to it and get prepared. With that in mind, we have decided that we will be going for a minimum of 12 months and that we will be leaving by end of April 2018. This has now been communicated to all the other important people in our lives so they can now start to prepare for what it means to them. In many ways, our lives change from this point onwards.

Repairs to one of our fences. It was rotted to the point of collapse.
Making the actual decision and sticking to it is probably the first thing you need to do if you’re going to do this. Without a commitment, there’s no incentive to get prepared, and believe me, that is the single most important and complicated thing to do. This is the point reality starts to bight, and you realise just how much stuff, none of it terribly pleasant, that you just have to work through. To give you an idea, here’s what our thinking has lead us to consider:

1. What are we going to do with the house while we’re gone?
2. How much money are we going to need while we’re away?
3. What income can we rely upon and for how long will it last?
4. What contingencies will we have in place for dealing with emergencies?
5. Preparation of the rig (car and van).
6. Communications capabilities while were away.

Tackling the first question is probably the most significant as it potentially involves leaving us without somewhere to come home to. The options are:

1. Sell the house.
2. Rent out the house.
3. Get in a house sitter.

To make this decision, we have had to consider our actual overall financial position and to consider how we would cope with all the options on the predicted income we expect to have and how much of that will be left over with the ongoing financing of the trip. This is complicated by the need to pay out the lease on the Landcrusier and selling our other car, the Patrol, before we go. It turned out this wasn’t terribly difficult as our financial position is not all that complicated. We don’t have children to consider which makes it considerably easier. Getting a valuation on the house from several real estate agents has also provided us with a lot of guidance. At this stage we are reserving our final decision but the preparations for the house, regardless, are the same. Clean up, perform maintenance and get rid of everything we no longer need.

Now things start getting really scary and confronting, but, tackled with the right attitude, they end up being quite good experiences.

Modifications to the house have been limited to essential items only.

1. Change the carpet throughout the home and re-paint neglected areas.
2. De-clutter by removing old and unnecessary furniture.
3. Throw out anything that hasn’t been touched in years.
4. Sell any unwanted items of value.

Just a portion of the ridiculous amount of stuff we’ve accumulated.
Over the last couple of weekends, we’ve been ruthless with deciding what to throw out and have, thus far, removed 6 trailer loads of stuff and filled a 4 square metre skip with rubbish. It’s amazing what you accumulate over time…! We gave a lot of useful electrical items, books and other stuff to a local charity and much of our rubbish was recyclable, reducing the expense of tip fees.

We’ve started the maintenance on the house. All upstairs has been repainted and we’ve got a start on the exterior. A plasterer is coming to fix a few bits and we are replacing all the toilets. The bathrooms are getting a freshen up. The garden is being simplified and made presentable.

We still have a very long way to go but, for the first time since we decided to do this, it actually feels like it will now be a reality and we are actively working towards this goal. No more stuffing around.

Safe travels.

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Independent Caravan Safety Weigh-in.

Here RVeeThereYet.com we take towing safety very seriously and we have been working hard to promote awareness of the safe towing message.

Following on from the success of the Caravan Safety Operation in Newmerella, Victoria, back in January, we have been supporting our friends at Everything Caravanning and Camping who are organising and running a series of Weigh-Ins in South Australia and Victoria over the coming months.

These will be run independently from Police and Roads Authorities. No fines will be issued if your vehicle is found to be overweight.

The objective of the weigh ins is to provide drivers with data about their rigs that they can use to ensure they are compliant with the weight restrictions of their vehicles. Drivers will also receive information about towing safety and can seek advice about ways to better manage their loads.

The first of these weigh ins will be held in MT GAMBIER on 8.30am Saturday the 17th of June, at the old Masters complex, Mt Gambier Market Place, 204 Penola Rd, Mt Gambier.

This will be a great opportunity for anyone towing a caravan or any large trailer to check their actual weights and find out if they are actually legal. There will be no charge for attending.

Many RVers are finding out that their rigs are overweight, some by hundreds of kilograms. Apart from being illegal, it is unsafe both for themselves and for other road users. We strongly urge you to take advantage of this free service.

For more information visit Everything Caravanning and Camping Website

Until then, safe travels.

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Caravaners the Subject of Police Safety Operation

We can now confirm that as part of the current Operation Roadwise, police in the East Gippsland area will be out in force over the holiday period to educate road users on caravan safety.

Local police, with the assistance of VicRoads and the Sheriff, will set up a site at the Newmerella Rest Stop on Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th January from 9.30am where, amongst other tasks, they will educate travellers about caravan and tow vehicle weights, general safety around towing and how to manage fatigue on long journeys.

Location for the Police Operation in Newmerella Victoria. Image curtesy Google Maps.

Acting Sergeant Graeme Shenton said the objective is not to fine every driver with a caravan that may be overweight or non-compliant with vehicle standards, rather they want to use this opportunity to educate and generate discussion around towing safety and road safety in general. Obviously, if there are any major issues with your registration, road worthiness or if you have any outstanding fines, you can expect a little more than a ‘discussion’.

We also understand representatives from various media outlets, forums, magazines, clubs, blog sites and Facebook Groups will be on site to provide first hand reporting on the operation itself. This open approach will ensure that an ongoing positive discussion about towing safety takes place in both mainstream and social media.

Again, we would encourage travellers not to avoid the area but to take advantage of the opportunity to find out whether or not they are, in fact, legal. It is rare that you can openly discuss towing safety issues with the officers who are actually tasked with enforcing the law. It will certainly be better than some of the advice and opinions shared on forums and social media.

Victoria Police will release a small media piece on the morning of the 4th on their news website and their Facebook page with further details about the Newmerella operation.

Merry Christmas and Safe Travels.

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Christmas Holiday To-Do List

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by and we are fast approaching the holiday season. Like many others, we’ve planned to take the van away for a quick trip to the coast and our thoughts have turned to getting the van and car ready for the trip. It has reminded me that we have quite a few handy hints ant tips on this site that are extremely useful at this time of year. 

I thought it would be a good idea to put them all together in one post so that they can be used as a sort of To-Do list before you head off. 

We hope you find this useful. Safe travels.

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Avoid Buying a Lemon Caravan..!

The internet is littered with stories of people who have bought a new caravan or camper that is so riddled with faults, that their dream RV is best described as an utter nightmare.  Its very sad reading these stories and they do make you wonder why there is not more regulation in the RV industry in this country.  I have often wondered what prospective buyers could look out for when shopping around for a new caravan or camper that may help them spot a potential lemon.

You can only imagine what has led this owner to physically label their caravan a lemon.
There are some very basic things you can do as part of your research.  Searching internet forums, product review sites and social media groups is one way to educate yourself about what brands have good reputations and what brands don’t. Be careful about believing everything you read.  Some people will sing the praises of their purchase all day despite having experienced many issues while others will rant and rave about the smallest problems that could have been resolved with a little diplomacy.  What will become clear is that some brands are over represented and we would advise you to steer clear of them.

Strong underpinnings are key to a caravan's longevity especially in Australia. Vans made for the European or US markets may not necessarily stand up to these conditions over the longer term unless they have been specifically modified. Water stains on plywood flooring as well as exposed plumbing/wiring are further concerns in this case.
In addition to the internet, you can get a pretty good idea about a caravan manufacturer’s quality by having a real close look at what they have on display in their showrooms and sales yards.

We live in an area that could literally be described as Australia's Caravan Central. The northern suburbs of Melbourne, especially around the Campbelfield area, are home to a majority of the Australian caravan manufacturers and, given their close proximity to where we live, it is all too convenient for us to waste an hour or two checking out the latest vans on display. On occasion, friends may ask us to checkout a particular van they may be interested in which we are more than happy to do. It gives us a unique insight into the current state of caravan manufacturing in the area and we get to see the good, the bad and the ugly of what’s on offer.

What astounds me is that, with the level of technology available to manufacturers today, some really don’t seem to have kept pace with customer demands and continue to produce what I would regard as a very average product. What’s more, their display vans seem to showcase a general lack of attention to detail, poor design and shoddy workmanship.  If prospective customers could see past all the glitter and fancy interiors and start to look for the telltale signs of poor workmanship, they may be able to save themselves a world of heartache after parting with their hard earned cash.

With this in mind, I went around to a couple of caravan retailers in the area and had a look at what was on offer.  Here’s is a selection of photos that I took when visiting the ‘showrooms’ of three quite popular brands of caravans.  What I found was really shocking.  Some of the issues I saw would be classes as simple design faults that could have been rectified with a little more thought. Others issues, like those shown below, were clearly poor quality workmanship.  They are real world examples of the sort of things that prospective buyers should be looking out for when shopping around for a new caravan.

Poorly Designed Storage

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Tunnel boots should be capable of carrying all your dirty outdoor gear.
While the tunnel boot in this particular van is quite large, its use is somewhat restricted in that it is clearly not water resistant or fully sealed. Further there are electrical components and exposed wiring that could be damaged by the movement of stored items like the rafters in this example. Personally I like to see a tunnel boot that is fully sealed and lined with galvanised steel sheeting and no electrical fittings except perhaps some lighting. It is much more practical for this type of storage given the sort of stuff that will be packed in here.  It would also help prevent moisture getting into the caravan's frame.

 Sloppy Application of Sealant

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Gone a bit heavy with the silicon sealant.
There are some things that just look terrible on a brand new van and this picture of overuse of silicon sealant on the roof join is a prime example. Apart from looking absolutely horrible, it just shows a lack of care and attention to detail during the manufacturing process. Not a good look on a showroom floor. However, with water leaks being the biggest issue with new caravans these days, you definitely want the manufacturer to take extreme care in this part of the build process. In this case, you would have to question whether or not the sealant had been properly applied throughout the entire build of this particular van.

Poor Quality Control

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Please don't open the drawers...!
I found this drawer half fallen off its rails and no amount of adjustment would make it fit back properly. I tried to fix it but this is as good as I could get it without dismantling it completely. Granted this is easily fixed but for it to be like this on the showroom floor is pretty ordinary. Again, you would have to question the integrity and strength of all the internal cabinetry.

Poor Dust/Water Sealing

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Dust in the van is a badge of honor.
The pipes and hoses in this photo are routed inside one of the cabinets and down through the floor of the van. With no sealing around them, daylight is clearly visible through the holes. This means any dust or water thrown up while driving can easily get inside the van.  If you were driving on a dirt road, the whole inside of the van would be covered in the dust that comes through holes like this. The screw left lying in one of the holes near the water pipe is more than a bit of a concern....! When looking around at display vans, have a good look inside the cupboards and check to see the holes for routing of plumbing have been properly sealed around the pipes themselves.

Poor Weather Sealing

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Nice gap in the edging.
This door provides access to the front tunnel boot of this particular van. Apart from the latch not being adjusted to ensure the door shuts tightly (there was about 1.5cm of free play in it) there’s a nice crack at the corner where the metal trim meets that could easily result in water and dust ingress into the boot area. A little extra care during the assembly process would have avoided this.

Weak Door Latches

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Is plastic the best choice for this latch?
This outside entertainment box looks pretty good however the door latch is made from fairly light plastic. When I went to open it, it felt like the latch would easily break if I wasn’t gentle with it. Ok....it’s a small point and probably more a design issue, but if it did break it would be a fairly expensive fix as the whole cabinet would need replacing.

Slap-Stick Workmanship

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This is a display van isn't it...?
The padding above the door to this van had fallen off completely and it's little wonder why. It was held on with just 2 strips of cheap double sided tape and a few blobs of silicon sealant which is not a suitable adhesive for this purpose. As difficult as it is to believe, I can assure you this photo was taken inside a display van that was on a showroom floor.  I suppose you could say that the manufacturer was not trying to attempt to hide their poor workmanship from prospective buyers...!

Painted Chassis

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And the rust is included free of charge...!
This photo is a clear example of why I do not like a painted steel chassis. This was a brand new van and, already, rust has started to appear in several spots. The paint on this van looked to be nothing more than cheap undercoat. Its also a really shoddy paint job with chips and scratches everywhere.  What really concerns me is it looks like the whole chassis was first assembled and then painted as evidenced by the paint on the brake cable, painted nuts and bolts and the flaking paint on the safety chains.  Rust is also starting to appear in some of the welds.  The big danger with this is that there a good chance there's is no paint on the plate where the tow hitch is bolted onto.  Moisture gets trapped in between the plate and the hitch and eventually rust will weaken the metal leading to failure of the hitch itself.

Poor quality fixtures

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You wont need that table.
The folding table in the dinette of this van was very poorly made. The hinges were very loose and, when stored in the travel position, the whole structure moved about 2cms in any direction. Even over good roads, this would eventually shake itself apart.  The storage shelves underneath are also pretty useless.  You certainly couldn't store anything there while travelling on the road.

Now I purposely haven't mentioned the brands of caravan in this post.  I wouldn't want to start war of the brands on this site.  And, really, that isn't the point of this article.  What we want to do is provide potential buyers of new caravans with an idea of what to look out for regardless of which brand or brands they may favor.

Spotting a potential lemon caravan can be very difficult as the faults can often be hidden from plain sight.  While that may not be the case in these vans, it is still too easy to be distracted by all the bright lights, shiny wheels and flashy features. Buyers need to be able to look beyond a the bling and have a good look at how the van was put together.

Hopefully by seeing the faults in these pictures, potential buyers will begin to understand the sort of things to look out for and, in the process, get a better idea of what makes a quality RV.  Armed with this knowledge, buyers can increase their chances of avoiding buying a very expensive lemon.

Safe Travels

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Trailer Sway Control.

Lately it seems every week there is a new dash-cam video of a caravan coming to grief on the road, usually as a result of an uncontrollable sway or fish-tail incident. These videos get plastered all over social media and they attract hundreds of comments usually questioning the skill of the driver involved or the recklessness of their actions. Some question the load distribution of the rig and whether or not the towing vehicle was up to the task. Personally I do not like these sort of posts mainly because they comments they attract are often misinformed and opinionated and come from people who have absolutely no knowledge of the facts leading up to the incident. For me it’s very easy to be an armchair expert with little regard to the effect those comments may have on the actual individuals involved.

It gets worse. A well-known current affairs program notorious for their lack of journalistic excellence, jumped onto the same bandwagon when the latest footage emerged on the net. Their comments and those of their experts we’re one thing, but the comments posted on their facebook page really only served to cast caravanners in a bad light. Nothing in the report really offered any guidance for others who might find themselves in a similar situation. It also featured footage from the UK and the US while stating that ‘we see this on our roads all the time’. One clip they showed was of a car and caravan skidding into the path of an oncoming truck. I know for a fact the incident in that instance did not result from any driver error but was due to the presence of oil on the road. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

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If the weather is windy and wet, consider pulling over and waiting for it to clear.

The truth is, there is a variety of opinions about what a driver of a car and trailer should do in the instance the trailer gets the sways. The natural reaction of the driver, especially if they are inexperienced, would be to hit the brakes. That, in my opinion, would be the worst thing to do. Many guides state that you should try to accelerate out of the sway. This, again, is not always possible and I doubt it would work anyway.

Years ago, before I had any real idea about towing and weights and such stuff, I was towing a small box trailer carrying about 12 railway sleepers with a Diahatsu Feroza. Now before you all jump on me for my obvious stupidity, I was less than half my current age at the time and really didn’t know any better.

In any case, the inevitable happened and, while driving up the busy Hume Hwy, as I approached 70kph, almost without any warning the trailer started to sway quite violently. Fortunately I had some knowledge of 4wding at the time and one thing that gets drilled into you is not to panic when the proverbial hits the fan and DON’T slam on the brakes. Instead, I slowly released my foot from the accelerator and steadily slowed down, keeping the steering wheel straight, until the swaying stopped. As quickly as the sway had started, slowing down had an immediate opposite effect and brought the rig back under control.

Fortunately I have never been in a similar situation since then, however, I am absolutely convinced that my actions that day saved my life and that of my passenger, not to mention other motorists around me.

I don’t believe trying to accelerate out of the sway would have worked for 2 reasons.

  1. I couldn’t even if I wanted to, the poor Feroza was struggling with the load as it was.
  2. Even if I could, that would only introduce additional ‘energy’ into an already out of control situation and possibly would have made things worse.

Hitting the brakes would only have served to raise the speed difference between the car and the trailer leading to a worsening of the sway as the trailer tried to overtake the car.

Slowing down gradually by just releasing the accelerator enabled the energy already in the system to dissipate equally from both the car and trailer, taking energy away from the sway and returning the rig to a state of control. If I had trailer brakes operated remotely from the car, activating them would have had the same result, a controlled slowing down and dissipation of the energy in the sway.

So my suggestion is to avoid the situation happening in the first place. This is done by following some simple suggestions:

  1. Ensure both your car and trailer are roadworthy and any servicing is up to date.
  2. Ensure the load is correctly distribution across the whole rig.
  3. Ensure your tire pressures across the rig are set according to the manufacturers’ instructions
  4. Ensure your trailer connections are working especially any electronic braking system
  5. Fit a weight distribution hitch. This will ensure that control of the rig is on the front wheels of the tow vehicle, enhancing stability.
  6. Get your rig weighed to ensure you haven’t exceeded any limits on the tow vehicle or the trailer
  7. Take your rig for a test drive somewhere away from heavy traffic and gradually work up to normal cruising speeds.

You can consider fitting a sway control device such as friction arms or trailer mounted electronic stability control but keep in mind these can induce a false sense of security. You don’t want to be relying on these features. Setting up the rig correctly in the first place is far more important.

Passing large trucks can expose your rig to some pretty strong forces such as the wind turbulence coming from the front of the truck and down along both sides. This turbulence or pressure wave can have a detrimental effect on your rig’s stability as you pass through it. If you have to overtake a truck, give yourself plenty of room to manoeuvre and don’t cut back in front of the truck until you are well past it.  Give the truckie plenty of warning by contacting him/her on UHF Ch.40.

rollover
You don’t want your next big adventure to end up like this.

I would also recommend you don’t exceed 100kph especially when towing a trailer in excess of 2500kgs or if the trailer is at the limits of your tow vehicle’s capabilities.

If you do experience trailer sway:

  1. Remain calm. Do not panic.
  2. Don’t touch the tow vehicles brakes and don’t try to control the sway by steering input.
  3. Keep the steering wheel pointed straight ahead as much as possible.
  4. Gradually release the accelerator and reduce speed until the swaying stops.
  5. If the trailer is fitted with electronic brakes, activate them manually using the override feature.
  6. Once the vehicle has regained stability, slow right down and pull off the road at the first safe opportunity.
  7. Check over the rig for anything that may have contributed to the situation. Tire pressures, load balance, etc.

Something else to keep in mind is that some caravans require a load such as water in their tanks to be completely stable. It can be a sign of poor caravan design but many vans are like this. If you have any doubts, fill the front most water tank and retest your rig to see if the stability has improved. Check with the manufacturer if you have any doubts.

Safe travels

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10 Reasons to Keep a Spare iPhone in Your Caravan

Have you got an old smartphone or two lying around and you’re wondering what to do with them? Well…if you’re like Kylie and I, and you love upgrading to the latest gadgets, you’ve probably got at least one sitting in a drawer in your home. I know I find it very difficult to just get rid of a device that once cost me a lot of money. So I started to think about what use could an old, unused smartphone be to the average caravanner? Well…as it turns out, there’s quite a lot of functions a spare smartphone can be used for especially for RV use and, when compared to purchasing individual hardware for each specific task, you could end up saving yourself a substantial amount of money.

Here we look at just 10 useful apps that we have found that you can install on a spare iPhone or similar device that will be useful for caravanning and camper travel.

maxresdefault1. GPS Tracking Device. Pretty much every iPhone and most other brands of smartphones, have a built in GPS function. Normally this is used for mapping and navigation but it is also used as a means to locate a lost or stolen iPhone using the Find my Phone application. This comes standard with iOS and basically allows you to view the location of any other iOS device you own using the internal GPS. Android phones have a similar app. The location is displayed on a map and, from what I have found, it is extremely accurate. By placing an old iPhone in your caravan or camper and having it connected to a constant 12v source, it can act as a GPS locator in the event your RV is stolen. Where ever the caravan goes, the phone will go. Obviously you will need to install a separate SIM card for the phone to work. I found that Vodafone offer a ‘pay as you go’ or prepaid account that has a validity period of 12 months for any credit you put on the card. This means you can put a minimum of $10 on the account and this will last you a year or until you run out of data credit. A dedicated GPS tracking device can cost anywhere between $300 and $1,000 dollars depending on functionality so the savings on this function alone justify keeping a spare phone in your van.
2. Video Surveillance Camera. If you have a look on the App Store, you will find a variety of video surveillance applications that turn a spare mobile phone equipped with a camera into an IP camera that can be accessed remotely from another smartphone. Some apps like Surveillance Pro allow 2 way video and audio communications. If you travel with dogs and, for whatever reason, you need to leave them in your van for a short period of time, you can monitor them and ensure they are OK and not barking. You could also place the phone in a window to keep an eye on your campsite. The uses for this are endless. Installing a similar dedicated IP camera could cost upwards of $150.
logo_big3. Caravan Levelling Device. Another unique feature of the iPhone is the inbuilt position and accelerometer sensors that are used to , among other things, detect the movement and orientation of the phone itself. It allows the screen to rotate between portrait and landscape modes automatically or for applications like the digital spirit level. Now some enterprising people have come up with an app that sends this positional data to another smartphone remotely allowing the spare phone in the van or camper to tell the driver when it is level. The app is called StayLevel. It’s a brilliant system that allows you to park your van in the most level position on a campsite before unhitching it from the tow vehicle. It should avoid one of the most common causes of arguments between couples and prevent you from rolling out of an uneven bed at night…! Again, there are devices that can be purchased for this very purpose that cost upwards of $350.
4. Remote Battery Monitor. Just about every modern caravan or camper has a 12v electrical system of some description and monitoring the health of your batteries is key to ensuring this system delivers constant power to all of your appliances. If, like me, you rely on your 12v power system to power a cpap machine overnight, knowing your batteries are fully charged before nightfall is essential to your health. Your van will likely have an inbuilt monitor of some type but imagine how good it would be if you could have that information at your side all the time? Well now you can with the availability of several devices that connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth and display all sorts of information about the health of your batteries and the rate at which you’re using power. They are not cheap, costing around $300 but the convenience they can offer can be very helpful. You can keep the phone with you outside of the van and at a glance see what state of charge your batteries are at. If they are not getting charged sufficiently, you can move the solar panels into better sunlight or consider other methods of charging. Some apps give you the ability to set alerts to prevent running your batteries too low and causing them damage.
 bmpro-battery-check-feature-image5. Juke Box. If your caravan or camper has an inbuilt stereo system that allows the connection of a smartphone or MP3 player, you can store your favourite music on your spare iPhone and leave it in the van permanently connected to the stereo so you will always have your music with you when you travel.
6. Movies on the go. Take the above one step further and, if you have sufficient memory capacity on your phone, you can also store a selection of your favourite movies that, with the addition of an AV cable, can be connected to your TV. This saves carrying around a heap of DVDs or a separate portable hard drive.
7. Walkie Talkie. How many of us love watching others trying to back their campers and vans into a tight spot and have a giggle at the antics and agreements that inventively ensue. Sadly we do and often we have offered these poor souls the use of our portable UHF radio. I’ve often wondered why people don’t have one of these useful tools for assisting with this task. Well, there is a great feature on all smartphones called push to talk and it allows phones to communicate with each other without using valuable data or phone credit turning your phones into walkie talkies. Just do a search on ‘push to talk’ apps on the Appstore. It could save you $50 or more on a dedicated portable radio.
8. Night Light/Alarm Clock. You can spend hours trolling through all the night light apps on the app store. There are literally hundreds. Some will have sound activation, others will have various functions like a night clock that is sound activated. There are probably more out there with features you may not have ever contemplated. Either way, making use of your spare iPhone as a night light and a bedside alarm clock can be very helpful.
screen568x5689. Children’s entertainment. We don’t have children but on occasion we may have people visit is when were in the caravan and they may bring their kids along. If it’s raining and there is not much for them to do , it may be handy to have a spare iPhone around loaded with a selection of games to keep them entertained without lending them your actual mobile phone. Kids have a habit of destroying things from time to time so if they do break your spare phone, it won’t be such a hardship.
10. Netflix Box. Netflix, if you haven’t heard about it, is an on-demand online TV streaming service that costs a fraction of traditional pay TV subscriptions. You can use the Netflix app on your smartphone to stream TV to a normal television using a device like the Google Chromecast. By installing the Netflix app on your spare phone you will always have a player handy in your RV and it will allow you to use your personal mobile phone for other applications. I wouldn’t recommend using a smartphone for Netflix unless you were at a caravan park with free WiFi access available.

So there you have it. Ten very practical uses for a spare smartphone that you can keep in your caravan or camper that can make life on the road just that little bit easier.

Safe Travels

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Why I Love Caravan Parks…!

I just know there are going to be a great many caravaners and campers out there who are going to be mortified by this, but I have to admit it, I really do love Caravan Parks. To pinch a line from Forest Gump, they are just like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.

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The caravan park at Cresent Head NSW is in an ideal location but like many parks, it can be a bit cramped at times.

Take the park we are at right know. It’s at a place called Cresent Head, NSW. It is right on banks of an estuary and beach and is an ideal location to get away from the city and enjoy a seaside getaway. It’s also a fairly big park and the layout ensures you have only just enough space for yourself. That said, some sites are quite cosy so you will have little choice but to say hi to your neighbors. I don’t really mind this as more often than not, fellow RVers tend to be kindred spirits and we generally really like the people we meet.  There are times when that’s not the case but you make the best of the situation. Right now, our current neighbors are lovely and we have shared a couple of happy hours and afternoon teas with them. We had a very windy night a couple of nights ago and I made sure they were OK in their roof top tent. They were appreciative of my concern. I really get a lot out of this sharing and caring attitude that seems to exist in caravan parks.

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When this is your view from your site, there’s little to complain about…!

Caravan parks are also a great opportunity for a sticky-beak at a plethora of other caravans and RVs of every size, shape and age.  Most RVers are only too happy to show off their rigs and share the modifications they’ve made and the accessories they have had success using. We have learnt so much from talking to other park residents over the years.

Theres so much you can learn just by introducing yourself to others at the caravan park.  Where to go to get a good meal, where the fish are biting, what are to better attractions around the area and, most importantly, where else they have been on their travels that might be included on your next itinerary…!

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The sheer variety of rigs at caravan parks is a great source of information if you’re prepared to go say hi to your neighbors.

Of course, there is always the regular entertainment of watching people packing up and leaving and, more importantly, the new arrivals as they attempt to park their massive rigs into the smallest of spots. Kylie and I just love Witching Hour…!

As I said at the beginning, there’s a lot of travellers out there who don’t like caravan parks. Yes they can be expensive, amenity blocks can vary greatly in quality and cleanliness, park rules can be a bit restrictive and, sometimes they can be occupied by undesirable tennents. But these days there is so much information available online to give you a good idea of what a caravan park is like and, using applications like WikiCamps, you can see what parks are available in a set location, compare prices and even read comments from past tennents. There really is no excuse to not find a great caravan park in any location these days.

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Some parks are just awesome like this one in Halls Gap near the Gramians National Park. Nice big grassy sites, plenty of shady trees, great amenities and wildlife all around.

With the trend in free camping growing exponentially, the days of viable caravan parks may be on the slide and I admit, we are making more of an effort to free camp these days, but I think for convenience and social interaction, caravan parks will always feature on our itineraries in one way or another.

Safe travels

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Make Better Use of your Webber Baby Q

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This image shows how to fit the silicon mat to your Webber. Leave a gap at the long edges to allow heat circulation as well as allowing fat to drain away.

Everywhere we have travelled we have seen many campers using a Webber BBQ, usually the Baby Q. It seems to be the perfect size for portability as well as being capable of cooking a sufficient quantity of food for two to four people.  So when we ordered the new van, we opted to fit a Baby Q on a slide out in the tunnel boot.

This has proved to be an excellent choice however I have struggled a bit with it to cook basic meals like bacon and eggs or potato chips and chopped onions. These are not really suitable for cooking on an open grill and the half hot plate made by Webber is too small to be very useful.

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We like chopped onion and potatoes cooked on the BBQ and the silicon mat allows us to do this to perfection. Couldn’t be easier…!

To solve this, we purchased a set of silicon bbq mats and these have proven to be the perfect solution. They have transformed the Webber into an every day cooking appliance.

So now, in addition to perfect roasts and char grilled steaks, we can now cook bacon and eggs with ease.

To start you off here’s my method for cooking perfect bacon and eggs. Click here.

The silicon matts can be purchased from eBay or any variety store that sells BBQ accessories.

Enjoy…!

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Is the SLR Camera Obselete?

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Has the smartphone killed the SLR camera…?

I love photography and I especially love taking photos of the beautiful places we visit on our travels. For years I’ve carried a digital SLR camera with me along with an assortment of lenses and filters. It has allowed me to take some truely spectacular photos. But this comes at a price. The camera and all its accessories need a bag big enough to carry all the gear and protect it from the elements. It can also be quite fiddly changing lenses and keeping the dust out in the process.  It’s not really suited for impromptu photos. Using an SLR camera is about taking time to be creative to capture the true essence of the subject.

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The filters and editing software on many smartphones can turn an average image into something quite unique and visually stunning.

For those random moments that happen every day, the camera on my smartphone is much more usable and available when the opportunity presents itself. The images cannot be compared to those from the SLR, but they are more than adequate for sharing on social media or even publishing on the web. Add to that the sofisicated image editing software that comes standard with iOS or Android and you really do need to ask if the smartphone camera is all that we need for capturing our holiday snaps.

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Aerial photos taken from a drone are absolutely spectacular.

Now, a new camera technology is becoming popular. Drones with digital cameras onboard allow us to take photos from an entirely different perspective. I’ve been experimenting with our Parrot drone and the results are nothing short of spectacular. The problem with the drone is its not really suitable for every occasion.  You can’t just launch the drone anywhere. Trees, weather and other obstacles can make flight difficult.

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This image would only be possible with a SLR camera fitted with a powerful telephoto lense.

So what camera or cameras should we chose to take with us on our travels. Well, that’s not an easy question to answer. For many, the smartphone can pretty much take any photo we would want. For others, the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and exposure control allow us to exercise our creativity more than a smartphone can. A drone might be an added level of complexity for only the real dedicated photographer chasing a truely unique perspective.

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The panorama mode on the smartphone camera can easily produce some dramatic images like this storm cloud.

If your thinking about extending your photography beyond your smartphone, we’ve take a deeper look at what can be achieved with all three types of cameras. You can read the article here.

So, to answer the original question, is the SLR camera dead? Well that’s up to the individual to decide what they want from their holiday photographs. For me, I would not be without my SLR camera.

Safe travels…

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