Trip Preparation – After Four Months Travelling

5/10/2014  Introduction to Caravanning 101: Some Things We’ve Learned 

We’ve been travelling in the Kruiser for just over 4 months now, and have been treating most of that time as a shakedown cruise rather than the actual start of our travels around Australia. As with the construction of any new house, we expected to find things that might need tweaking or adjusting, so didn’t want to wander too far away from the local dealership until we were confident that the van would perform as we expected and be able to take us wherever we wanted to go, on or off the beaten track. There were a number of things that did need tweaking, and in hindsight, there were some things that we wouldn’t do the same next time, for example:

  • We had two TVs installed, one for the seating area and a drop-down one for the bed area. The one over the bed has proven to be unnecessary as we’ve used it only once in 4 months.
  • We had two sets of cordless headphones installed so that we could watch a separate TV if necessary without disturbing the other. These have base units that need recharging quite regularly if used, which seems a waste of power particularly when camping on solar. So we’ve stored these away and have been using the regular corded ear buds instead. They work just as well, take up no space and don’t need power. Besides, we watch the same TV anyway.
  • In the build, we should have had a couple more two-way switches installed to enable lights to be turned on/off from the opposite end of the van to save walking.
  • There are some lights in the through-boot, hanging closets, under-bed storage, exterior lights, and front storage pod that can easily be left on as they are tucked away behind doors, under bed, etc. Even though they are all LED and don’t use much power, it’s still an unnecessary and annoying waste of power when on solar. A small bank of LED indicator lights would be beneficial to show if any of these out-of-the-way lights are turned on.

The biggest learning curve for me has been getting my head around the electronics in the Kruiser, particularly the solar power generation and storage. I’ve always considered there is a touch of voodoo to electricity, and I find the whole amp, watt and volt thing quite baffling. But the Philippi touch screen monitor in the Kruiser provides a very good visual representation of not only the power system but also the water storage and has made it a lot easier for me to understand. If I turn something on, I can see how much power it’s using, and I can see what the solar is doing.

We’ve learned that it’s important how you use the fridge and freezer. We now try to minimise how many times we open them, to improve efficiency and minimise power use. Thinking about it, most occasions was to get the milk as we both have lots of cups of coffee or tea during the day, and we realised we were quite often opening the fridge to either get the milk or to put it back, each time losing cold air and making the unit work to compensate for that loss.

So we changed our coffee/tea making routine. We boil the kettle on the diesel cooktop first thing in the morning and put the hot water into an upright hand-pump vacuum flask that sits on the bench. While the cooktop is still at its hottest, we boil the kettle again and add its contents to the flask. When we want a cup, we pump the hot water from the vacuum flask. We now have an insulated wine cold pack sitting on the bench in which we store the milk. A freezer block keeps it cold and can be swapped for a new one after an hour or two. In this way, we’ve greatly reduced the number of times we open the fridge just to make coffee/tea, and the fridge is not working as hard. Doing the same in the early evening gives us quick hot water for cups at night.

Do a Cull
We’ve also done a cull of the gear in the van and car. When we started out, we tried to be very frugal with what we loaded on board as everything contributes to the overall weight of the rig and weight equals fuel and mechanical wear and tear. So, in initially choosing what went on board, we stuck to the principle that everything had to have more than one purpose or use. If something did only one thing, it had to be really special or important to be included. Most things have proved to be worthwhile in the past 4 months, so our planning had been pretty spot on. A few things went in the cull, though – non-potable hose; stuff from the through boot that I thought I’d use but haven’t; some clothes that weren’t needed – but mostly books that we tend to accumulate wherever we are. We’re now strictly limiting ourselves to three books each at any one time.

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