Budget Equipment for the Camper
  |  First Published: April 2009

In recent issues I have looked at camping gear that is designed to offer value for money. This month the list continues with a very natty style of extra quick set up shower/change tent, a well-made icebox that represents value for money, and some purpose designed ice packs that will last for days.

Outdoor Connection Pop Up Shower Tent.

There's no denying the value of a workable shower system on a camping trip, especially if the family comes along.

All of my previous extended camping trips involve a shower tent serviced by hot water provided by the Glind Aussie Shower unit set up within the engine bay of my car. And although the shower tent I use does an excellent job, it just can’t possibly compete with the quick set up of the Outdoor Connection job, nor is it as large.

The Outdoor Connection model is truly instantaneous in every sense of the word – It really does, well, pop up!

Packaged into a 3.5kg near flat disc for transportation, it can be assembled in literally seconds as the strong but pliable spring wire frame will push the unit into shape as soon as it is unfolded. It kicks straight out into a double sided affair that can then be unfolded further to assume an upright, vertical, shape.

Once it flicks out into shape, you can either leave it free standing or use the four inbuilt stay ropes to stabilise each corner. As ropes and pegs usually only take seconds to set up, I'd opt for the latter every time.

The shower/change tent is well constructed and offers both weather protection plus complete privacy, thanks to its material. Size is quite realistic at 2.1m high, and 1.4x1.4m in width. It features two side windows plus a large zip-opening door, and inside there are Velcro tags to attach the external shower unit's hose. Internal pockets are provided to take care of soap and personal items. And last but not least is a removable floor and roof, both certain to be appreciated if the weather is cool.

Storing the tent after use is as simple as removing any stay ropes and then folding one side against the other until it's an entirely flat. From there it is twisted –the same as folding a sunshade for the windscreen of a car – to halve it. Once halved it starts to resemble its old circular shape and one simply rolls the two sections against each other until it's just the right size to go back into the bag.

It might sound complicated but trust me, I got it right first go – and I'm the sort of fellow that steers well clear of Ikea furniture.

Best of all, the price is right at $99.

Ice Kool Ice Box

The Ice Kool box is 90cm long, 29cm wide and 28cm high, which is just the right size for long weekends or extended use if there is an ice supply available. It has ample capacity that allows for a fair bit of food stuff.

This quality made product is a big step up from the cheaper and similarly sized lighter built iceboxes, whereby things may go in cold but don't stay cold for very long despite the ice supply. Moreover, these latter jobs often have no proper hinges and rely on a flexible strip of material as a hinge, which of course results in breakages.

The Ice Kool 47L polyethylene box comes with a five year warranty and features large non finger-crushing grab handles, very robust hinges that just cannot break with any sort of normal use, a decent rubber seal where the lid meets the main lower body section plus – to assist sealing even more – the lid has a large protruding inner section that actually slips snugly down inside the main body to assist sealing initially.

Lastly, they have quite strong but easily managed rubber hold down clips to keep the lid down tightly on the box to ensure that there is no loss of cold from within.

The Ice Kool box is strong, so much so that the manufacturers suggest that users can stand on it at sports events and such. Now that's confidence in a product if I ever saw it. Retail price is around the $199 mark.

Downunder Arctic Ice Packs

I've used these ice packs and have no hesitation in recommending them as a great aid to campers. They are filled with a special refrigerant gel that stays cold for days once properly frozen. The ice packs are available in several sizes depending upon proposed use.

The gel within the Arctic Ice packs is contained within a heavy-duty bag but I would caution against dropping fish directly on top as spines could puncture it. Common sense, not always common, should prevail here.

The manufacturers make no secret of the fact that these special ice packs can take some time to freeze right down to the -20ºC mark and suggest a three day freezer spell before use. And remember, the shape the pack assumes in the freezer is the one it will retain as it comes out so flat stacking is the go.

Available in three sizes, up to 4kg, the packs are reasonably priced given their capability to remain frozen for several days. Retail price of the 4kg Arctic Ice Pack is $16.95.

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