Try before you buy
  |  First Published: October 2004

IN EVERY area, at least once a year, the caravan and camping circus comes to town. Camping and outdoors trade shows are great events, with a multitude of new items and ideas on display for the public to see. I try to get to at least three of these a year, as I seem to always find something there that I just can’t go camping without.

The local caravan, camping and fishing show at Kariong was just one such occasion. Being an avid camper, I love taking advantage of these shows to upgrade some of our gear, and the displays never cease to amaze me. The variety of camping gear available these days is a far cry from the days of the old marquee tent.

At all the different stands, the vendors had on display a variety of tents and associated items. This type of display means that you can see the tents fully erected – a big advantage over just browsing through a catalogue. Looking at a picture and trying to judge whether the sleeping stretchers will all fit, and whether there is enough room for the table and chairs, is really the hard way to buy camping gear. When the tents are displayed out in the open it is quite easy to walk in and around them and make an educated decision before you buy.

Another big advantage of browsing the displays at camping shows is that you’re able to see the difference between dome, safari and cottage tents. Walking around inside erected tents and seeing a variety of camping gear arranged, ready for the camper, is a real eye-opener.

Feeling the difference between cotton, canvas and nylon fabrics, comparing the different sizes and styles of screen tents – all these things are possible when there is a large collection of different brands on display in the same area.

The camping area of these shows or field days is the best chance you’ll get to compare most of the brands of camping accessories in the one place. As well as tents being on display, there is always something new in the cooking arena. Australians love the outdoors and any excuse to enjoy a BBQ or cook a damper over an open fire is welcome. The last show was no exception, with a vast array of new ideas to tempt even the basic camper.

The Quick Boil Kettle puts a modern spin on the traditional kettle design, and is made of more durable materials to make it last longer. The idea is to burn a few twigs and leaves down the centre and the water in the billy around the outside comes to the boil quicker than if the billy was placed on top of a campfire.

Then there were the new two-slice toasters for use over the open coals. These toasters worked quite well and are a bit more upmarket than a coat hanger bent to shape for one slice.

Another piece of Aussie ingenuity is the variety of poles designed to keep the campoven at just the right height above the hot coals.

The various camping stores also take along everything that you could possibly need on a camping trip so that you can see it out in the open and try before you buy. Chairs, tables, beds and even the kitchen sink is on display.

Most of the larger refrigerator/freezer suppliers are there so that you can compare the different types of units that are available. Again, you can see them running so you can get a good idea of which ones have a complete cool zone and which models are cool only where the elements are. This is the best opportunity you will get to see all these types of units in open-air conditions, just like it will be when you are camping.

Another advantage of visiting a camping show is that most companies sell their products at a discount price at these shows, so there is always the chance to save a few dollars and pick up a bargain.

You’ll frequently find smaller stands selling goods at a greater reduced rate than the usual retail outlets. There are also some that only sell direct to the public and not through the retail market, and some of their ideas and products can be very useful. You never know what might be at the next stall until you get there. In that respect, it’s a bit like the next camping site!

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