Test Camping

I’ve pitched a camp to test that I’ve got all the required things. The lists are great, but they don’t necessarily match completely with reality.

It is still a few months before my vehicle and pod trailer are going to be available, so my old station wagon is serving as the test mule. I loaded everything in and transported it to the camp. It took two trips as I’m minding an extra dog, and have to allow space to transport dogs rather than equipment.

Of course the weather doesn’t play nice, and it is raining continuously as I try to set up the camp. And, since I’ve pitched camp about 80m from the closest approach, everything has to be carried in through the rain.

Pitching camp in the rain.

The first job is to work out where the table, and cooker work best. I’ve decided to put the table into the middle of the gazebo space, and then use one side for cooking, and later the other side for sitting / reading / writing. Putting the kitchen in the far corner allows me to empty water, coffee dregs, etc onto the grass, and keeps the inescapable ants away from the tent.

Very happy with the old Primus stove. I’ve inherited many pieces of my kit, including the tent, cooker, and quite a few tools and whatnot. So it is the first time that the 1970’s stove has been used in a long while.

Kitchen in the rain.

Similarly, my Terka Tent from Czechoslovakia also looks to be performing well. It hasn’t been out of the bag since the early 1980s. Yet, after standing in the rain all day, it still looks to be fine inside. But time will tell.

As I’m minding an extra dog I had to build a bivouac for her. Using a cheap tarp found in the local supermarket pegged out with 1/3 under and 2/3 over, a piece of 10mm insulation board to get her off the ground, and her own blankets from home, I was able to make her a dry and warm place to sleep.

Dog camping in style

General Impressions

I’d forgotten how slow it is to get things done. In a house there’s hot water on tap, and boiling water from an electric kettle, and food straight out of the refrigerator. Living in the outdoors, things are not so time efficient. To make a coffee requires preparation, and cleaning up. A choice has to be made as to whether to clean up first, and have cold coffee, or to enjoy the coffee, but then have the chore of cleaning up after the relaxation of consuming the coffee. Similarly, preparing toast, making tea, or any other process around the kitchen needs extra steps that either add time, or reduce the “enjoyment” value of the activity.

Over the weekend the weather got better and better, and once things had dried out the ease of doing everything increases. Fortunately, as it wasn’t too windy, the gazebo provides 9m2 of living space protected from the rain. So, it seems that at least in still weather the gazebo is a valid alternative to a vehicle awning.

Proving to myself that there is no real benefit to a vehicle awning is a big thing. Vehicle awnings are expensive, are heavy high on the vehicle, and they increase fuel consumption because they rely on having a roof rack to mount them. They also force you to limpet yourself to the side of your muddy or dusty vehicle and they need to be closed before the vehicle can be moved.

I used some extra guy ropes looped through the gazebo frame and anchored to the ground, to hold it very stable. The gazebo roof is only held onto the frame with Velcro. Should a strong wind gust take the nylon roof off, the frame will remain tied down. A piece of nylon material floating or flapping about won’t do any damage, and will probably come back down to earth quickly as it has no form holding the wind. Alternatively, attempting to hold a 9m2 “sail” to the ground in the face of a strong wind gust is a pointless endeavour.

Camp on Day 3

I am pretty happy with the kitchen set up. The stove, and substitute Engel refrigerator are easy to use, and effective. I purchased some wicker (plastic) boxes, which I used to store 1. Food, 2. Crockery, 3. Pans and Utensils, and 4. Cleaning and Utility products. These are much easier to use than plastic shopping bags (which would have been the temporary alternative), yet they’re not perfect. The issue is juggling them from the ground (in the rain), to the 5’ Lifetime Table or the top of the Engel. If I build a kitchen storage in the back of the Rubicon, then that may solve the juggling of containers, but it may create an issue where things are hard to access. Another alternative is to organise the boxes by process or task or by frequency of access, rather than by topic as I’ve done now.

The Night

For the sleeping arrangements, I’ve got it generally right, but I’m still not totally happy. The combination of the stretcher and mattress makes for a very warm and comfortable bed. However, the way I’ve organised the YHA Bedsheet together with antique woollen blankets is uncomfortable. They slip around on the mattress, and become tangled quite easily. One very pleasing accident with the YHA Bedsheet is that the pillow slip serves to hold the pillow from slipping off the end of the bed. As the stretcher has no “head” this can happen easily, so it is very useful that the pillow is retained by the sheets.

As I’ve prepared the bedding into a rolled swag, with an 6’x8’ tarpaulin outside the self-inflating mattress, sheets, and blankets, the idea of storing everything together has worked well. The plan is that having all the bedding rolled together will allow the bed to be dropped anywhere and used, and stay dry until unrolled even if it is carried in the rain.

Useful Things

Because the Engel refrigerator is very heavy, as an exception I used a handcart to move it from the vehicle to the camp site. And, because I had it with me I was also able to use it to move the 12V battery, 20l water containers, and other heavy items. A handcart is not something that I’d previously considered taking along, but now I think if there’s space then it will come with me. It will be useful for moving water, firewood, and many other backbreaking tasks.

I didn’t bring a broom. I should have. A hand brush is useful to sweep standing water, meat ants, and leaves off the ground tarpaulin, and to clean the tent and generally around the site. But I think that a broom would work better and be much easier on the back.

I’ve taken some pictures of the things that worked, to remind me what comes with me.

Stadium Seats for chairs are very comfortable, and weigh nothing. They can be used anywhere. The handcart is a very useful addition. Not sure about collapsing water containers. Sure they’re easy to store and keep handy, but they’re not easy to use when half full. So, it is best to transfer their contents into a “working” container. The kettle was used more often than any other utensil. Hot water is essential.

And finally, the Australian bush just loves to come home with you. This “little” guy was hitching a ride in the cutlery container. He joined with the meat ants roaming around the campsite, and mosquitos swarming everywhere, making this camp a 3 of 6 wildlife expedition. Fortunately no scorpions, or snakes. And no centipedes.

Hitchhiker with Artline Pen for scale.

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