Odds and sods
  |  First Published: October 2003

For the past few months I’ve been writing about camping spots, vans and campers, so this month I’ll mix things up a bit. I’ll take you though a few things you need to do before you go camping, and look at some items that may come in handy during a trip.

So what do you need to do before you go camping? There are a multitude of preparations, some that need to be done well in advance and others just prior to a trip to make it more comfortable. Some are simple while others may prove critical to your survival. To keep this article simple I’ll assume you’re only attempting a family holiday for a week or more just up or down the coast. Even if you are only travelling a few hundred kilometres there are some things that must be done and others that will give you peace of mind while you’re away.

Tune-up time

Your vehicle must be up to the trip. Book it in for a tune-up or, if you’re confident the vehicle is in good shape, at least check the water, battery, tyres and oil.

Brakes are often overlooked or taken for granted. Heavier holiday loads mean the brakes need to be up to scratch as you often need to stop in a hurry on country roads.

If you are towing, check the trailer bearings before you make a long trip. Most bearings can handle a 10-minute haul to the local ramp and back, but the friction generated by poorly lubricated bearings on a trip of 200km or more will generally see the bearings go into meltdown in the first 100 clicks. If you have family in the car, things can get pretty ugly when someone has to be left on the side of the road in the rain to look after the boat or van while you charge off in search of a new bearing or hub (things can get even uglier if it’s the weekend and everything’s shut). Even if you have the forethought to carry spare bearings, you’ll still have the prospect of a dangerous job on the side of a busy road messing with grease and seized metal. Not everyone’s idea of a fun holiday!

Equipment checks

Have you checked the tent? After you finally reach your destination you don’t want to unfold the tent only to find a mouldy rotten mess! It’s at this point you’ll remember how you were going to air it out as soon as you got home after the last trip when it rained while you were packing up.

Have you got all the poles and pegs? It’s a major embarrassment and could prove expensive if you have to buy more! And do you have all the other sundry items that you need for a successful trip? It helps to make a list well in advance of the trip, and tick things off the list only when they go into the vehicle or the trailer. Ticking them off as they are put in the garage or on the veranda ready to be packed doesn’t count, as they will still be left there when you go – even when you check your list twice.

Now you are ready to go, have you notified the milkman? cancelled the letters at the post office? cancelled the papers? arranged with someone to feed the pets?

It’s also a good idea to arrange with somebody to collect your junk mail and put it in the recycle bin. A heap of junk mail hanging out of your letterbox, particularly during the Christmas break, notifies the scum of this earth that your house is ripe for the picking and no-one will be about to stop them. Get someone to go around to your house every few days or so and check all is well, or if you have excellent neighbours as I do, they can keep an eye out every day for you – and heaven help anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time.

You can even put a light timer in the house to turn your lights on at different times to look like it is still occupied or even get a house sitter. Mowing the lawn a few days prior to a holiday helps to make things easier when you get back and doesn’t make the property look like it’s unoccupied for too long.

Final night

Now for those who are still willing to leave for a holiday there is one thing you must get, particularly if you’ll be driving – and that is a good night’s sleep before you travel. Working all day then packing and driving all night, or getting up early after only a few hours’ sleep, is a recipe for disaster. Getting there late is better than not getting there at all. There are too many accidents caused by tired drivers falling asleep, often killing their passengers or an innocent person coming the other way.

So get plenty of sleep, slow down and drive to the conditions, and have rest stops. If you get even the smallest bit drowsy, stop and sleep or let someone else drive who isn’t sleepy.

One last thing – make sure you turn off the iron and put the cat out and you’ll have a trouble-free holiday.

Handy items

Now let’s have look at a few useful items that might come in handy on your trip.

The first is something the driver can use on the trip. It’s a strange concept but a good one: A Cancer Council sun sleeve.

“A what?” you say?

Well, they are a good idea particularly during the Summer months when you can drive for a few hours with the sun streaming through the driver side window, burning your arm to a cinder. A sun sleeve provides better protection than sunscreen, and doesn’t make you hot like a long-sleeved shirt. This device is exactly what it sounds like – a sleeve made of lightweight, protective material that simply slips on your arm and protects that vulnerable part of your body from sunburn. It’s so light you don’t even know you’re wearing it and you’ll arrive at your destination with both arms the same colour. Sun sleeves fold into nothing and can be kept in the glove box for when they’re needed. One sleeve costs around $14.

You can also get lightweight driving gloves that protect the back of your hands. These are also available from your local Cancer Council shop where you know the profits are going to a good cause.

Now let’s have a look at some transportation for when you get to your destination. These days, being the environmentally conscious people that we are, we know motorbikes and cars in some places spoil the ambience of the area. That is where an electric scooter can come in handy.

You can spoil yourself with one of these or, if you are getting on a bit and find it difficult to walk to the shops, this could be a godsend. It is new and distributed by Mercury/Quicksilver and will be a hit over the coming months, you can be sure. It’s called the 705 Pacelite 200W electric scooter and it’s a ripper, costing around $1280.

One option is to stick a couple of rod holders on it and get to your desired fishing spot with a minimum of fuss and exertion. The Pacelite is silent and gets along at a cracking 25kph over flat ground, and has a range of around 16km before it needs a recharge.

It comes with adjustable seat and handle bar heights and has a large foot rest area. The seat will fit the broadest of bottoms and is very comfortable. It has twin rear suspension and will carry 100kg, including 15kg on the rear carry rack, and has a nifty stand for parking.

It comes with a power supply indicator on the handlebars, battery and battery charger and folds up neatly so you can put it in the car boot. It runs on a 24-volt battery and the whole lot (including the battery) weighs only 23kg.

After ten minutes on the Pacelite I wanted it, and you will too. There are two things to remember though. First, don’t take off too fast on your test run because it burns holes in the showroom carpet, and second, you must never ever under any circumstances let the kids know you have it because you’ll never get another turn.

You can make enquiries or get one from Leisure Coast Marine on (02) 4284 4803.

That’s it for another month. Happy camping!

1) A letterbox full of junk mail is a dead giveaway to would-be thieves that the house has been vacant for a while.

2) The Quicksilver electric scooter is just the ticket for getting you around while you’re on holidays. INSET: The scooter folds into a small, 23kg package that easily fits into the car boot.

3) The cancer council sun sleeve is light and cool and keeps the stinging rays of the sun at bay while you are at the wheel.

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