They say that the most important thing is just to ‘get out there’. Whether it’s with a tent, a camper trailer or caravan – just getting into nature is what counts. And I agree – up to a point.
But we’re all humans with basic needs that have to be met. Any trip into the bush will quickly become an exercise in frustration if they aren’t. Having just spent a few nights camping by myself in a tent on Victoria’s Ninety Mile Beach, I couldn’t help but reflect on why I’d opt for a caravan or camper trailer any day of the week.
There’s a reason I put this first. Caravans offer unrivalled convenience, whether you’re in the High Country or on the Coral Coast. Regardless of how extensive your tent-camping setup, the ability to simply unhitch and have everything you need at your fingertips, without having to rifle through tubs or dig a hole for a toilet, makes any trip much more enjoyable.
COOKING AND REFRIGERATION
Cooking over a campfire has plenty of appeal. I’ve done it many times and thoroughly enjoy it. However, who among us wouldn’t prefer to use an actual kitchen, even if just once in a while, when on tour? No smoke to contend with, no bugs to battle. Just you and the cooktop. Oh, the oven too, because let’s not forget many caravans have those.
If you’d rather barbecue, remember: barbecues are readily available for caravans and campers. Sure, if you’re tent camping, it’s possible you brought a compact one or two-burner stove with you, but wouldn’t you rather just pull out the barbie on the side of the van, hook it to the bayonet coupling, and start cooking? Much easier than fiddling around with a portable unit and those disposable gas cartridges.
What about keeping your perishables cold? Ice inside a portable cooler is great, but what happens when it’s melted and you’re 250km from the nearest store? You won’t have that problem in a caravan fitted out with a three-way or compressor fridge.
So you think your stretcher bed is pretty comfortable. Fair enough. But have you ever slept on a pillowtop mattress inside a caravan? During my recent camping trip, I opted to sleep on a stretcher bed inside my tent. The cold air coming up from below made the experience almost intolerable – and despite my attempts at insulation, I couldn’t help but regret leaving the van at home.
There are, of course, ways around this. Opting for an air mattresses instead of a stretcher should help, since trapped air is an excellent insulator. But have you ever slept on an air mattress that’s more comfortable than a proper mattress inside a caravan?
Regardless of where you are in Australia, it’s likely you’ll experience some cold nights. There’s no getting around that. Camping in a tent offers very few options to combat the nighttime cold, other than rugging up and climbing into a properly rated sleeping bag.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather switch the caravan’s reverse-cycle air-con to ‘heat’ for an hour or two before getting into bed than sleeping with a beanie on. Or perhaps your van has a space heater of a different sort. The point is, it’s much easier to regulate your body temperature and stay comfortable in a van than even the most well-made tent.
If your caravan has an ensuite, you’re already well ahead of the game in terms of keeping clean. Or perhaps it’s a camper trailer with only an external shower setup. Still, that’s not bad. Tent-camping, on the other hand, puts you at the mercy of a portable shower (assuming you have one) or the public amenities block (assuming it’s clean and not chock full of other campers).
Further, in a caravan you’ll have lovely hot water to look forward to. Can the same be said of your tent-camping setup?
Okay, all of this makes me seem like a caravan snob. I understand that. But having camped in all kinds of ways over years, I’ve concluded that staying in a caravan or camper trailer translates to a more enjoyable trip and better memories, not to mention the desire to stay out there longer.
Less time and effort spent mucking around to meet your basic needs means more time enjoying the trip.
I am absolutely not against tent-camping, especially as a way to get into the touring lifestyle on a budget, or for just a few nights away with mates. But as a long-term proposition? No thanks. There are reasons that caravanning is Australia’s pastime – and I’ve just listed five of them.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Max Taylor has been caravanning since he was a kid and was the editor of some of Australia’s most well-known RV publications for almost 10 years.