The caravan industry has blown up today, like never before. More and more people are buying Caravans, Hybrid Camper Trailers, Camper trailers and that means there’s lots of Caravan accessories also being purchased.
This is fantastic; we firmly believe exploring Australia is one of the best thing that you can do. However, before you head off on your next adventure, you should make sure you are adequately prepared, and that means knowing what caravan accessories are actually worth getting, and what’s just fluff.
You can get away without having all of this gear; grab what is going to work for you, and leave the rest.
What Caravan accessories do you need?
Drinking water hose
Water is one of the most important things you carry when camping, and if you fill your tanks up with a regular garden hose I’ll bet that the taste will be different, and you’ll notice it. We carry two 10 metre drinking water hoses, and join them together as needed. These ensure the water going into our water tanks is clean, chemical free and that it tastes as good as its going to.
Hot tip – get a fitting from Bunnings that allows you to turn the water on and off at the end of the hose, rather than the tap. We use this all the time to stop water being wasted, and to slow the water going in as needed, without having to walk back to the tap!
I’ve slept in campers that haven’t been well levelled, and you regret it the following morning. You can get away with these and use rocks or bits of timber laying around, but they make life much easier and you can chock the wheels to stop the caravan or camper trailer rolling too. We wouldn’t be without our levelling ramps.
One of the most common complaints from caravan owners is that they hate their mattress. I suspect in general a Caravan Mattress is just made as cheaply as possible, but there’s an option without tossing the entire thing in the bin; you can get a mattress topper. These are basically an egg shell foam top that sits above your mattress, and for a lot of people hugely improves the nights sleep that they get.
Having a reversing camera on the back of your van is a huge help, and it will pay for itself very quickly in terms of reduced stress, but also as it hugely reduces the chance of you backing into something.
The large majority of people travelling will have a water filter installed, to filter the water that they drink. Some people filter the water going into their tanks, and others filter it going out. There’s all sorts of nasty bugs that you can pick up from different water sources, and a good water filter puts an end to this.
We’ve never had one, and whilst its been on the ‘to-do’ list for some time its probably something I should bump up!
Grey water hose
You 100% need a grey water hose when travelling Australia in a camper trailer or caravan. If you have a grey water tank you’ve got more choice, but the key to where you can dump grey water is doing it respectfully. That means not leaving your camp site with a huge puddle of water right in the centre; be respectful and run the water away from the camp, to a bush or some grass.
Grey Water Tank
Despite what many will tell you, a grey water tank is not an absolute must. They can be useful, and for the cost to install one its often worth doing, but the large majority of camp sites in Australia do not require you to contain your grey water.
In WA, we’ve come across 3 sites over decades of travel that have asked us to contain grey water. One has since closed, one we used a portable grey water tank that we knocked up and the other one we just filled a bucket and tipped it down the caravan parks grey water drain.
Second toilet cassette
If you like to do more remote travel, you might find the need to have a second toilet cassette. This very much depends on how many people you are travelling with, and how long you get out of a tank. For a family with kids though, you can be needing to empty every 4 days, and if you aren’t near a dump point this can be frustrating.
We’ve just gone out and bought a second portable toilet, so we have a toilet with us in the car at all times, and so we have a second cassette available, as it will be a limitation for our more off grid adventures.
In Australia you can often follow good weather around, but inevitably you’ll still hit colder patches, and nothing is nicer than being able to retreat into a warm caravan or camper. Diesel heaters have exploded in use in Australia, and for good reason. They are cheap, easy to install, heat incredibly well and cost very little to run.
You can get a portable diesel heater if you prefer something removable, or mount it inside your caravan, RV or camper.
Fast drying towels
Whilst a good bath towel at home might feel much better, they are hopeless on the road as they just take far too long to dry. We’ve moved to fast drying towels for everything, including beach towels. Being able to hang them for an hour and know that they’ll be dry even in average weather is a huge help.
One of the more challenging parts of travelling is washing your clothes. A lot of people just pull into a caravan park for a night and smash the washing out which is perfectly fine. Others use a bucket and plunger, or an Ezy wash, or Scrubba bag.
A huge number of full time travellers have a washing machine inside their caravan, and they pay for themselves pretty quickly, and make life much easier. You can get portable washing machines that will comfortably run off an inverter and mild battery system, or you can get something entirely mechanical like what we have.
Cordless drill and adapter
You don’t see too many people travelling these days that don’t have an 18V drill with them. These are great for general repairs, but also make putting your stabilizer legs down much easier (just don’t overdo it!), and you need them for putting in the screw in tent pegs.
You don’t need a Caravan Mat, but it can make life a lot more enjoyable especially when the ground is sandy, or dusty. We’ve gone for a Cgear mat which is one of the premium brands, as it allows sand to fall through and not come back up, but there are a heap of different products on the market.
Spare wheel bearings, hub or wheel studs and nuts
Carrying some suitable spare parts for your caravan and 4WD is basically a must. Ideally, get a spare hub that comes with the wheel studs, nuts and wheel bearings, and make sure you have grease and basic hand tools (and the knowledge of what to do) should your wheel bearings fail.
Trying to get wheel studs, or bearings in parts of Australia can be extremely difficult. My dad was unable to get direct replacements in Broome of all places, and that’s a big town.
If you blow a tyre, how are you picking your caravan up? Most caravans don’t come with jacks, and a good portion of 4WD jacks aren’t rated to pick up the weight required. If you blow a tyre, you don’t want to be figuring all this out on the side of the road.
Head to your local auto shop and buy a big jack that has the stroke needed to lift your van up. We grabbed one for Supercheap for about $70, and its been used once already when we blew a tyre up.
You don’t need a vacuum sealer, but we’ve found it helps hugely with keeping food fresh, pre-making food and portioning it to suitable sizes. We tend to vacuum pack in bulk, and shop less often when possible. Our Dometic vacuum sealer is a 12V and 240V unit, which makes it handy to use all over the place.
Portable fire pit
Again, you don’t need a portable fire pit, but some places only allow you to have fires off the floor, and we like to cook on ours. They can be extremely heavy unless you get a mesh one, which is not suitable for cooking on. We’ve been running a Darche 450 Firepit, which works well, but if we had to trim down on weight we’d probably leave it at home.
A good folding table
You can get away without a table, but extra bench space, and a place to eat your food at is a huge winner when you are travelling long term. We’ve just purchased an Oztrail Ironside table for our kids to do their school work at, to eat dinner at and for me to work at as needed. It’s got adjustable legs, which means we can set it up for different applications.
Inevitably, you’ll have to do washing on the road. The ultimate solution is a couple of stainless steel wires running across the front of your awning, as this sets up quickly and easily. If you don’t have an awning, or its not suitable, then you can move towards a portable clothesline like the one below, which we use extensively.
If you intend on staying at one place for some time, or going more remote where there is no water available, a water bladder is a good addition. You can roll them up and pack them away when not needed, but when you want to take extra water, or fill your caravan tanks up without moving its easy to do. Many of these can sit on the floor of your 4WD, in front of the rear seats and can be gravity fed, or pumped out.
Portable solar panels
12V technology has come in leaps and bounds, and unless you are plugged into 240V power, you’ll likely need something to top your batteries up. Permanently mounted solar panels are best, but you will camp in shade from time to time and having portable panels is a much more efficient way of charging the batteries.
You can get solar panels or blankets, and there’s pro’s and con’s to both, but being able to stick a panel away from camp in the sun is hugely helpful. Make sure you get a few Anderson extension cords too, so you can run them out far enough.
In the combustion process, Carbon Monoxide is generated, which is very dangerous. This comes from using your gas stove, if something goes wrong with a diesel heater and any other combustion processes.
Your caravan should have suitable vents to allow the CO to disperse at a safe level, but a CO monitor will still detect when something is running indoors and producing the gas.
You can buy a CO monitor for $40, and they last for years; they are cheap insurance and are well and truly worth getting.
15 amp extension lead
Most caravans have a 15 amp inlet, which means you need a 15 amp lead to connect to caravan parks. You can use an amphibian electrical adapter with a 10 amp supply if there’s no alternative, but most parks are 15 amp too.
You can get away with a normal 10 amp extension lead, but its not ideal if you are running high wattage appliances (aircons, kettles, electric stoves, water heaters etc).
Feet cleaning mat
When you are travelling Australia, its inevitable that some of Australia will make its way into the caravan with you. When this is red dirt, or sand, or even mud the more you can leave outside, the better. There’s a range of cleaning mats that you can get from Bunnings, or you can go with the popular Muk mats, or Tidy turf mats.
We’ve just picked up a new Muk Mat (and we paid for it) and will be giving it a whirl, but playing with it in store I was quite impressed.
If you travel on gravel or dusty roads regularly, you’ll want to ensure no dust is getting into your van. If its been well sealed this is a great start, but a lot of manufacturers are installing dust suppression, which takes air from outside, filters it and pressurises the inside of your van, so no dust can get in.
You can do this with a simple filtered scupper vent, or you can get fancier products like the carafan, or Dometic dust reduction system. If you haven’t done much driving before, I’d suggest you check very early on that no dust is coming inside; its a nightmare to clean and will do a lot of damage.
One of the most common caravan accessories are fans to move some air inside. Sirroco fans are the most commonly raved about, and come with a price tag to match. Alternatively, there’s a heap of 12V fans on the market that can be wired into your van, or you can go with a portable option. When its hot, air flow is a must, and trying to sleep if its really warm and you don’t have air moving can be quite unpleasant.
Fans don’t use much power at all, and are greatly appreciated. For us, we just use an 18V Ryobi fan, and have the windows completely down in our Reconn R2, which provides enough air movement.
Keeping a van clean has never been easier than today with the number of portable vacuum cleaners around. All of the tooling brands sell them (Makita, Dewalt, Milwaukee, Ryobi etc) in an 18V unit, and you can get plenty of other options online too.
Do you really need one? No. Do they make life much easier, and are they probably worth the expense? Yep, if you get a decent one. In our experience the Ryobi vacuum cleaner is woeful, and we wouldn’t recommend one.
Get what you need, and find the gaps
You can spend a small fortune on caravan accessories, and the reality is you can do without some of them. Get the basics, and then find where the gaps are in terms of ease of use, difficulties and frustrations, and then get accessories or modifications done to resolve them.
Have we missed any caravan accessories you should get?