Trip Preparation – Car and Caravan

Memory-Map

26/07/2015  OK, if there is one thing that I cannot do without on our travels, it’s my Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 tablet. Take that away and I’ve had it; I won’t know where we’re going or where we’ve been.

It’s not used for email, or as a camera, or to play games, though it could do so quite capably. I have a laptop to do those kind of things.

The tablet’s primary use is as a navigation and campsite tool. With built-in GPS, it doesn’t rely on mobile cell coverage and will pinpoint its current location anywhere in Australia, direct from the GPS satellites overhead. To supplement the 16GB device memory, I’ve added a 32GB SD card, and for a little added protection, it’s fitted into a cover. Though it can take a SIM card, I haven’t bothered fitting one, and just connect through a Telstra 4G WiFi or one of our mobiles if an internet connection is needed as we travel; rarely necessary though.

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The tablet sits nicely in a spot on the centre console that was almost made-to-order for it, and stays put except on very corrugated roads or rough off-roading.

The navigation app I use is Memory-Map which is a free download and comes with a standard set of basic maps of Australia. I’ve added to these by purchasing HEMA 4WD Australia (full set), Australian Outback Tracks, and EOTopo 200K, using the in-app link to the Digital Map Shop. Together, these maps provide me with very detailed coverage of every part of the country. The topographical maps are useful to get an idea of the incline of the country coming up.

These various maps were downloaded at home while I had the extra bandwidth to work with; it can take some time to pull down the complete data. The maps download either as a full set first time (haven’t mastered that for the big maps yet) or in chunks of data on-the-fly as you scroll around the map, which is OK but you need to be online to pull these data chunks down. So I pulled all the data down for each map by scrolling systematically around every part of each map – takes a little time for the whole country but that way I knew that I had the total data set in my tablet for all the maps and available when offline or travelling.

Each map is like a layer on an onion, with three or four zoom levels each. As you zoom, you might leave one map of that area and go to a different map of the same area, enabling you to select the one that suits you best. It’s all very seamless.

I been using Memory-Map for three years now, initially on an Aldi android tablet for a 4WD trip to Cape York, and have found it to be very, very accurate. We’d be driving along the Telegraph Track in the middle of nowhere, and the map would show a track coming in on the right just around the next bend…and sure enough, there it was, exactly on the mark. That tablet died last year and I was able to transfer all my maps onto a new tablet via my account at http://memory-map.com.au/.

A nice feature of Memory-Map is that our track is overlaid on each map as we go along, providing a visual record of where we’ve been so far. It also features Route Planning which I haven’t used in three years, and Way Points that I sometimes use to flag upcoming points of interest.

Other really useful travel apps loaded onto the tablet are:
WikiCamps AU – Indispensable for deciding on campsites (updated by users).
Just In Time – Indicates nearby public toilets. Great app for the ladies.
Fuel Map – Indicates nearby fuel outlets and latest prices (updated by users).
Music – Plays music or audiobooks loaded onto the SD card.
Various vehicle diagnostic apps that bluetooth into the Land Rover’s various control units to monitor and diagnose performance and faults.

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

Categories: Product Review, Trip Preparation - Car and Caravan | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Snow Peak Tent Pegs

16/06/2015  It may sound a little odd, but I’m stoked about a tent peg. I do like something that’s well made, does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and does it well. I need to say right now that I’m not affiliated at all with Snow Peak who made them, nor with the supplier that I got them from, Drifta Camping & 4WD . I just buy their gear because it’s so good. These pegs are made in Japan and individually hand forged and finished. I reckon they’re the Samurai Sword of tent pegs. If you’ve ever tried to hammer a standard tent peg into really hard ground, you’ll appreciate just how difficult that can be. The peg bounces all over the place, doesn’t penetrate the ground very well, and tends to bend along its length. So instead of the peg, you end up using something heavy like a sand bag or a rock, and hope for the best. After seeing the videos on the Drifta website about the Snow Peak Tent Pegs (or Stakes as they call them), I bought some to try them out. And they are terrific. I’ve hammered these puppies into some really hard ground, and they’ve gone in straight and without any fuss. Just as importantly, they easily come out as well when I’m breaking camp. I started off with a few of the large 40cm pegs first, and have since purchased some of the 30cm and 20cm ones as well. These have set me up for whatever peg I might need. All the other standard type tent pegs I’ve had have since been tossed as they were nowhere near as good as these Snow Peak ones. These pegs rule… Snow Peak 40cm Tent Peg By the way, check out my tent peg driver/puller. Serious piece of kit. I call it “Thor’s Hammer”. Just show it to a peg and it’ll jump straight into the ground by itself from sheer panic…

Categories: Product Review, Trip Preparation - Car and Caravan | Tags: , , , , ,

Snow Peak Fire Pit

6/06/2015  One of my favourite bits of camping gear is my Snow Peak fire pit that I got a couple of years ago from Drifta Camping & 4WD. I love a camp fire and have one going every chance I get, so we’ve used the fire pit a lot in our travels. Not only does it work well, it’s also a good looking bit of kit and I’ve had people coming over to find out what it is and where I got it from.

It’s well constructed from good quality stainless steel and very tough. I reckon it’ll be a family heirloom that our kids and then the grandkids will use. It’ll definitely outlast me.

The fire box sits up off the ground, so it won’t burn the grass and I’ve been able to use it in places where only enclosed fire containers are allowed. The first picture below shows the cooking grill removed and on the ground while I get a good bed of coals going.

The whole thing cleans up quickly which is great, and folds flat and packs into a heavy duty canvas bag that I tuck away in the footwell behind the driver’s seat when we travel. It’s a little beauty and I love it.

“I travel light. But not at the same speed.” ― Jarod Kintz

Categories: Cooking - Photos, Product Review, Trip Preparation - Car and Caravan | Tags: , , ,

Kimberley Kruiser – Stone Stomper

31/05/2015  The places we intend going in the Kruiser, we’ll be striking gravel roads of varying condition. I fitted a Stone Stomper rock guard to protect the front of the van and back of the car from stones and rocks thrown up by the tyres.
20150513_094751As each Stone Stomper is made specifically to the dimensions of the rig, I had to supply these to the company so it would be right for our car and caravan set up. (While measuring it up, I tore a muscle in my lower back and was laid up for a few weeks! Crazy how things happen…)

When the box arrived, fitting it was very simple and took about thirty minutes, thanks to the very detailed fitting instructions that came with it. It’s made of strong truck mesh with thick vinyl sections where added protection might be needed (such as under jerry cans), and attaches to the two front corners of the van, two points under the storage pod, and then to six points on the retaining bar that is bolted to the Mitchell Bros tow hitch on the car.
20150513_095018When unhitching at camp, only the six clips at the vehicle are released and I fold the Stone Stomper back under itself and clip it to the front corners of the van. This keeps it up off the ground and out of the way.
20150513_095031I’m very pleased with it. It’s well made and should work well to protect the van and car.

Categories: Product Review, Trip Preparation - Car and Caravan | Tags: ,

Our Tow Vehicle – Land Rover Discovery 3

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10/05/2015  When Di and I decided in 2012 that we wanted to go caravanning, the search began for a suitable tow vehicle. Our requirements were that it must have good fuel economy, be comfortable on all road surfaces, be capable of towing 3,500kg, and have a good reputation as an off-road vehicle. After much research, we narrowed the choices to a Land Rover Discovery 3. A 2008 model was located that had led a very quiet life with only 40,000kms on the clock. After purchase, the next two years were spent choosing a caravan, and during that time the Disco was our daily driver.

In 2013, I went on a 6,500km three-week Boys Trip with our two sons from Brisbane to the tip of Cape York and back to test how the Disco would perform under rough conditions. To prepare for that trip and our forthcoming extended caravan travels around Australia, the Landy was modified with the following to turn it from a lazy urban shopping trolley into a serious expedition vehicle:

  • Opposite Lock bullbar
  • VRS 12,500lb electric winch
  • Safari snorkel
  • Sump guard
  • Front Runner roof rack with twin jerry can mount, shovel mount, axe mount, hi lift jack and mount
  • 2.5m x 2.1m rack-mounted side awning
  • Swingaway rear wheel carrier (for second spare wheel)
  • Goodyear Silent Armour 65/60R18 tyres x 6
  • Mitchell Bros tow hitch20130720_154143
  • Auxiliary battery system with extra 12V outlets and rear
  • Anderson plug
  • Auxiliary transmission cooler
  • ECU upgrade
  • Custom cargo drawers
  • 65 litre fridge/freezer on tilt slide

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Like any vehicle, the Disco has its pluses and minuses, but after three years the minuses have been very few. The greatest of these is that it is a complex machine that very few mechanics know much about. At one time in our travels, the Check Engine warning light came on with no apparent effect on performance. An auto mechanic in the nearby small town couldn’t do much as his diagnostic tool did not include Land Rover software. All he could offer was an apology and walked away from it. Sitting in the car outside the workshop, I ran the Torque Pro app that I’d previously loaded onto a Samsung Galaxy phone before starting our travels. It connected by bluetooth to the car’s various computer systems via an OBD2 device plugged into the diagnostic port below the dash. Torque Pro performed its scans and, lo and behold, showed an error code related to fuel pressure. I was then able to call and discuss a fix with the nearest Land Rover repairer. Best couple of dollars I’ve ever spent. So, while repairs may not at times be rapid, I’ve found you can get things done eventually. Continue reading

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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: Continue reading

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Car and Caravan Preparations: Checklist

1- 2 Days Prior to Each Departure:

  • Fuel level enough for next legIMG_5929
  • Gas level checked
  • Solar panels checked and cleaned
  • Drinking water tank levels checked
  • Grey water tank level checked
  • Water tank connections checked
  • Tyres inspected on car and caravan
  • Wheel bearing dust seals tight on caravan
  • Wheel nuts correctly tensioned on car and caravan

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Categories: Trip Preparation - Car and Caravan

Caravan and Car Tools and Fittings Supplies: List

Miscellaneous:

    • Axe
    • Batteries
    • Bow saw
    • Camping knife
    • Corner jack pads
    • Doormat
    • Extension lead, 20m 15A x 2
    • Extension lead, 20m 10A x 1

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    Caravan Entertainment and Documents Supplies: List

    Entertainment:

      • snorkel and flippers
      • fishing gearPhoto 21-04-2014 4 56 16 pm
      • binoculars
      • pack of cards
      • card games
      • board games
      • notebook and pens
      • stapler, sticky tape
      • permanent marker
      • Guest Book

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      Caravan Linen Supplies: List

      Caravan Linen:

      • Oven mitts – set for both inside and outside kitchens
      • Tea towels
      • Kitchen drying mat
      • Hand towels
      • Bath mat
      • 2 x beach towels
      • 2 x light camping towels

      Continue reading

      Categories: Trip Preparation - Car and Caravan | Tags:

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