12 Jan Oh The Stuff You Must Buy…
As a family gap year suggests, our family was going to be away for a year, perhaps more and when it comes to the stuff you must buy for said trip, that was going to require some serious thought. Well we didn’t have time for that, so we bodged up our purchase list and started buying “stuff” like there was no tomorrow. Most of it would prove to be useful, some not so, but hopefully you’ll be able to learn from some of our wins and mistakes.
Our major purchase list items included the following
Caravan and Car Electrical
What did we buy? Brake controller, extra Anderson plugs, fridge switch, dual batteries, additional wiring and stuff!
Was it worth it? Yes, plus it’s largely unavoidable. Whether you buy a new car and new caravan, a secondhand car and caravan or a mixture of both, you’re likely to need to get the car and caravan wired to connect to one another. The lights need to work, the brakes need to work, the stability control needs to work (if your caravan has it), the fridge needs to run from the car, the batteries need to charge from the car; the list goes on. Much of it is required (think lights, brakes, etc), some is personal (fridge, batteries, etc), but the best you can do is quiz the people you’re buying your caravan off and your car if you need one like we did and find yourself a good auto electrician, preferably one that specialises in caravans and camping.
What did we buy? Milenco (then Clearview)
Cost: $110 for the Milenco (sold for $80) and $300 for the Clearview
Was it worth it? Yep – it’s the law so it’s a no-brainer, but we should have considered getting the premium Clearview product on day one. We bought Milenco originally and they were more than adequate, however we ended up getting a set of secondhand Clearview because we learned that it was illegal to keep clip-on mirrors attached when not towing. This meant to comply with the law we’d be going through the whole setup process of the mirrors every other day and while not hugely laborious, it was a pain. The Clearview product could stay connected permanently.
Weight Distribution Hitch (WDH)
What did we buy? Hayman Reese Premium WDH
Was it worth it? Absolutely – While not required, I was told I’d be mad not to have one based on the weight of our caravan (3.5t). I’d never even heard of one, but after speaking to a few folks in the know and checking a few forums, it was another no-brainer. It’s a safety thing and makes your entire setup more stable and less prone to instability by distributing the weight of the caravan more evenly to the car.
What did we buy? Engel 68 litre Fridge/Freezer (secondhand)
Cost: $1250 (this included a Sunbeam vacuum sealer which we’d also been looking for)
Was it worth it? Absolutely – unlike the vacuum sealer this fridge is used daily. Fridge/Freezers in caravans are typically quite small (180l or thereabouts) and just don’t accommodate the stuff you’re used to having at home. We also have a coeliac daughter and needed to make sure we always had her food on hand in remote areas where it isn’t as easily accessible. It’s also handy for keeping food and drinks cold when you’re daytripping away from your caravan. Finally like your second fridge at home, it’s handy place to stash a few cold cans, because when you’re on a year long camping trip, you can’t have too many cold cans.
What did we buy? Sunbeam Top-‘O’-The-Line Vacuum Food Sealer
Cost: $100, but included with the Engel Fridge/Freezer
Was it worth it? No – we didn’t use it at all, not once. The main reason for this is that we weren’t cooking and buying stuff in bulk as we did in our previous lives; we simply didn’t have room. And when we did have leftovers, there wasn’t a great deal and we aimed to eat it in the short term. This was one of our first send-back items<LINK>, that stuff you think is really important, but end up using next to never. If it doesn’t get used, it get’s sent back (at great expense I might add – our first send back was $160!).
Vehicle Rear Suspension
What did we buy? Pedder’s Springs and Airbags
Was it worth it? Yes, yes, yes – After 15,000 kms we decided this was a must. Without the WDH, the car bumper bar was nearly touching the ground when connected to the caravan. It wasn’t quite that bad, but when we were doing a 25 point turn in a small street in Melbourne we noticed it was pretty bloody close and decided this was a good course of action. Apart from being well priced and backed
What did we get? Honda 2Kva
Cost: $1650 (after rebate)
Was it worth it? Yes. On our setup, it’s the only way to push out a good coffee and it helps boost the batteries on days when solar panels alone ain’t going to cut it.
What did we get? 2000w Enerdrive ePower Pure Sine Wave Inverter
Was it required? Yes, absolutely – Given both Yas and I are working as we go around plus even educating our kids encompasses computers, iPads and the like, we’d be shot without one.
What did we get? SmartSpace 3 pack + frying pan
Was it worth it? Hmmm this is a tough one, yes it is space saving and it feels like it’s really good quality, however at the same time it’s pretty heavy and was quite expensive too. I’d still say yes, but I think more research would have yielded space saving and weight saving, but maybe not dollars saving.
What did we get? Corelle
Was it worth it? Yes it’s pretty good stuff, I prefer to eat from a proper plate and it’s virtually unbreakable (although we’ve managed to break one plate).
Camping Chairs & Tables
What did we get? Wanderer (BCF) Director’s Chairs with folding table plus 3 x Officeworks folding tables
Was it worth it? Yes – all these items were light, sturdy and well priced. We actually bought different chairs to begin with, but after our weight debacle<LINK>, we had to take them back as they were too bulky and too heavy. These aren’t as comfortable (the originals were 2 x moon chairs and 2 x recliners), but they’re more practical and lighter!
What did we get? Telstra Netgear Cradle
Cost: $450 inc 4GX Router with 5GB data
Was it worth it? Yes – We can’t live without wifi for work and education plus this runs nicely on 12v and provides a good signal in and out of the van plus it connects to an external aerial on the caravan. NB: This was our second attempt at this concept. We got the RV Wifi product originally, but while it was 12v compatible out of the box, it wasn’t getting the speed we expected from a modern product and we returned it for a full refund.
What did we get? Weber Baby Q + accessories
Was it worth it? Totally – The Baby Q was our only option if we wanted to keep the BBQ in our front boot. I was concerned about the size and single burner, but it works a treat. The pizzas via the pizza stone are devine; better than a shop anyday and the roasts are awesome. NB: I think we’ve only traditionally BBQed once or twice in 3 months, but use it multiple times a week for other things.
Standup Paddleboards (SUP)
What did we get? Fanatic Inflatable Standup Paddleboards
Cost: Farkin expensive ($3000)
Was it worth it? Totally – We (I) wanted SUPs from the moment we left, however I wanted to make sure we got the right product as it was an expensive purchase. Nearly 3 months into the trip we decided inflatable boards would suit best and we set about buying the best, which we eventually got in Melbourne. ISUPs or inflatable standup paddleboards suited us best because they were easy to transport, setup, etc but provide all the fun of a SUP including surfing when available. Lots of fun to had and to come on these.
Extra Solar Panel
What did we buy? Premium 150w panel
Cost: $300 + installation
Was it worth it? Yes – Because we’re focused on free or low cost accommodation options, plugging into power doesn’t happen very often and therefore the only way to keep the batteries charged is via the sun or the generator and I know which I’d rather use plus you can’t just use the generator where and when you please. NB: Not everyone will need this, but if you’re modern folk with modern needs (think iPads, iPhones, laptops, etc) you’ll need to consider your power requirements from the outset and action accordingly with solar, batteries and generators all being valid options.
Purchasing these types can be daunting; they’re often expensive, they’re specialised and if you get the wrong thing or don’t buy something you need, it can cost you in the long run. I’m still not certain we’ve got everything we need and I am certain we’ve got plenty of stuff we don’t need, but when I write this we’re 100 days into the trip and haven’t wanted for too much beyond these items. If you’d like any advice on buying stuff for your trip, feel free to email or Facebook message me/us.