What to take on a lap of Australia, and leave behind

We’re no strangers to packing our 4WD and camper trailer for weeks, and even months away from home. This time though, we’re doing one big pack to travel around Australia, and choosing what we are taking with us has been an interesting process.

We are packing up for a year or two, and travelling with our two sons around this amazing country in a normal size 4WD, and a hybrid camper. Both have their limitations, and we’re conscious of only taking the items that we need, and nothing more. What constitutes ‘need’? Well, we’re working on that, and here’s what we consider:

Loaded Reconn R2
What do you really need on a lap of Australia?

Weight and distribution

The biggest, and most important factor to consider when packing for a lap of Australia is weight. Every single setup has weight limitations, and unless you are in a bus, truck or motorhome you are going to need to be very careful with what you throw in. Our Isuzu Dmax and Reconn R2 are only just legal, and that’s despite having a GVM upgrade, a low tow ball weight and a light weight Hybrid. 

We know this, because we had a mobile weighing service come to our house, and weigh our setup when we were loaded to the hilt, ready for 6 weeks through the Pilbara and the Kimberley. You should 100% do this exercise, or make use of a weighbridge and get it done. If you are overweight in any of the 7 categories, your insurance can be null and void, and that’s a pretty bad position to be in.

So, every single thing that we put into the Camper or Dmax is thoroughly considered for weight. On this trip, I’ve gone far more hardcore in weight reduction, and just as importantly, weight distribution. Dual cab Utes in particular often have a much higher rear axle weight than the front, and that’s not a good place to be. 

Tow ball weight of our Reconn R2
We have to be pretty careful of what we take, or we’ll be overweight

New battery system

One of the bigger changes I made to the Dmax before our lap of Australia was to remove the 43kg AGM deep cycle battery, and replace it with a much lighter DIY lithium battery, that fits better.

Not only do we save a huge chunk of weight by doing so, but it removes some extra weight from the passenger side of the vehicle (which is heavier due to accessories on that side) and gives us more room to put heavy items across the front of the canopy. 

AGM vs lithium
Our new DIY Lithium Battery is much larger in usable capacity, and a lot lighter

A storage box at the front of the canopy

After putting the 12V lithium battery in, I realised I could probably get a new space case that would sit at the front of the canopy, and I could load it up with all the really heavy items. In the past, we’ve had bags, tool boxes and lots of other items floating around the canopy, and it gets old really quickly. 

Now, we’ve gone for a big space case that isn’t too heavy, which houses all of our heavy items; tools, nuts and bolts, oil, some recovery gear, ratchet straps and other bits and pieces. I’ve kept anything light weight out of the box, and further behind the rear axle. This means all of the heavy items in our canopy are either over, or in front of the rear axle, which we are pretty happy about.

Isuzu Dmax loaded
I’ve gone to a space case with all the heavy gear in it, over the rear axle

Repacking and selecting tools and spares

I spent a long time going through our tools and spares, and taking only what I thought we’d need, and nothing more. I had multiple rolls of steel strapping, a heap of electrical cable, tape and all sorts of items that I’d thrown in on various trips over the year, and the weight was starting to add up. I removed the tools that I wanted from our Stanley tool set (which was very convenient), and put them in a small canvas bag.

Yep, they’ll be harder to find, but I’ve saved a heap of space and weight, and I’m not taking duplicates of spanners and sockets, like we used to because they were doubled in the sets. In my actual tool bag, I emptied the whole lot and started from scratch, just putting in what we need. No more copper hammer, big steel drift, wedge and several other heavy items.

Tools for your 4WD
I went through our tools a couple of times and now carry a lot less


Next on the list is space, and whilst we have a fair bit on our Dmax canopy and Reconn R2 storage box, there’s not much inside and we have a fair bit of gear to take. If it wasn’t absolutely necessary, we ripped it out. 

How often will it get used?

In all of this, you have to think about how often an item is going to get used. We thought about taking things like crab pots, but they are going to be used a handful of times and then you’ll be lugging them around the country. 

I seriously debated whether to leave my dive gear and spear gun at home, and in the end kept them in. We purchased a second portable toilet that will live in the Dmax, because I’m sure its going to get used a lot on day trips, and as extra storage as needed.

Portable fire pit
We took our fire pit, but so far in 4 months its never been used

Is it necessary?

Some things are necessary when you travel around Australia, and others are not. Our kids are starting distance education, which means we need to carry some schooling material that we’ve not had to do before. 

I could save a heap of weight in removing 4WD recovery gear, but its a necessity for when things go wrong. Likewise, you wouldn’t leave your PLB or satellite phone home to save weight, as they are a necessary safety device. 

Space case for our Satellite phone
Some things are a must, and we’d never consider leaving them at home, like our Satellite phone

How much do you really need?

When you start thinking about the quantities of items that you take, it gets interesting. We have a heap of fishing gear, but it rarely gets used at the same time, and whilst we enjoy it, its not something I’m ecstatic about, and these days I’m just as happy to fly the drone, take photos or spend some time with the kids. 

We’ve got it down to 5 rods and 4 reels, and have left the giant beach rods at home, because they just aren’t worth taking.

Coffin Bay fishing
You can take a fishing rod for every occasion, but its just not practical

What have we taken out?

It feels good when you remove something from the 4WD or camper trailer, and we’ve taken a heap of items out.

We’ve been through a number of times, and ditched anything that hasn’t been used on a regular basis. That included a giant plastic serving plate, and we decided to remove our kettle all together and just heat water up in a pot. I threw out a heap of imperial and duplicate tools, extra ratchet straps, electrical cable, steel strapping, camper trailer U-bolts, extra wheel nuts, old camper trailer wheel bearings and basically anything that was no longer relevant.

Yes, I did add some extra things in (like more nuts, bolts and screws), but for the most part we’ve slimmed down quite a bit.

Tools and spares
I did increase our spare nuts, bolts and screws!

It’s a work in progress

At the end of the day, you have to give yourself some leeway, and understand that choosing what you need, and how you pack it has to be fluid. You will get part way along a trip and realise you don’t actually need a few things, and likewise probably pick a couple of extra items up. 

By the end of your trip things flow better, you have what you need and everything has a spot to go. It doesn’t have to be perfect when you leave, but good is better than not good!

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