Ignoring The Brand Bigots

I’ve not been having a great time with caravan / camping forums and groups lately. It seems when i proffer information for essentially altruistic reasons, some bigoted old prick wants to go me for no reason other than affirming their self importance. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I appear a little angry. I probably shouldn’t get as angry as I do about the topic of this post, but I really have been driven to being incensed by a prevailing attitude on caravan and camping groups and forums. Campers Way is designed as a resource for low income survival and as a place where alternative views can be expressed. However, this blog has to reach those who it’s relevant to, or else I’m just wasting my time

I post on groups and forums as a means of trying to get useful information via Campers Way posts, to those who might be struggling on low incomes. Many low income earners use such groups and forums, which is certainly a good thing. I also must add that the people who run them, generally do so with very good intentions. Unfortunately they have no effective means of eliminating the bullies and ‘brand bigots’ and empty vessels make the most noise. So there lies the problem. People who don’t rely on low incomes, can very often act like complete arseholes and unfortunately their disdain appears to be firmly focused on those who are on low incomes!

Let’s take an example:
Question – I’m a single mother with a 3 year old, travelling on a budget. Fridge space is limited. Can anyone recommend a reasonably priced “Esky” in which I can keep fresh vegetables at a reasonable temperature.

That seems like a very reasonable question. Some vegetables perish very slowly in cool dark conditions and their gradual deterioration does not promote the growth of harmful bacteria. A good, frugal way to economise on fridge space.

Enter Over 65, Akubra Wearing Bearded Man!

Answer: We have a 96ft Ozbastard  semi lunar surface caravan with a “Megacool 2000, 872 Litre fridge, which runs from it’s own dedicated nuclear reactor and sends me a text when I need a beer!!! If you can’t afford one, you shouldn’t be on the road. It’s Un-Australian!!

So I exaggerate somewhat, but you get my drift.

A lot of us are on the road because it’s our only choice. I’m not complaining about my own situation and I’ve managed to forge a good life by understanding frugality and through resourcefulness. There’s an increasing number of people who can’t possibly afford to be in the housing market. The Commonwealth Government refuse to soil their statistics by recognising us as homeless, whilst at the same time many financially buoyant people who travel by choice, think we’re on ‘holiday and shouldn’t be, because we can’t afford to be.’ I’ve commented on innumerable groups and forums about reasonably priced camping. Time and time again I’ve met a wall of ignorance; “If you can’t afford to be on holiday, stay home.” They have absolute no idea of the……..and the…. Well, they absolutely no fucking idea to be perfectly frank! 

There’s a mean spiritedness in this country that belies the Australian character that inspired me to call this country home. There was a time when people really did respect “the battler;” those who survived contrary to what the system threw their way. These days the idea of “the battler” is one who battles to be part of the system. One who drowns in a stagnant pool of debt for things they don’t need. Debt that does absolutely nothing but prop up the banking system and lavish the wealthiest 1%. There are a lot of angry people whose anger is elicited by their struggle to maintain a lifestyle that they don’t actually need. Instead of blaming the system, they blame those who manage to traverse it.

How can people who are forced out of the housing market, possibly stay at home when they don’t have one. We can’t live in non existent public housing. We can’t “camp” (as it’s often called) in one place, because of ridiculous time limits. That’s why we travel and why the hell shouldn’t we. Many of us are disability pensioners, others are itinerant workers who work where they can. Whatever we may be, there’s a mean spirited middle class who not only don’t get it, but don’t want us around them. These are often the people who frequent online groups and forums, utterly incapable of proffering advice to anyone who’s economic resources are limited. 

A lot of people are lost in time. Many still believe that brands still mean something. Indeed some still do, but the sad reality is that since the global manufacturing shift, many are simply just names. Regardless of what the reality may be, people develop emotional attachments to brand names and nothing will convince them to shop around. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s indeed their choice, however their advice can be somewhat misleading, when it comes to value for money.

Let’s look at fridges. Whilst I won’t delve into the Megacool 2000’s thermonuclear technology, I will look at better known and equally lauded brand; Engel

Engel and Honda in the “do as I say, not what I do configuration

The first point I should make is that I personally believe that Engel products are indeed excellent. I have owned the same 40L fridge for over 20 years and it’s still humming away in the back of my Land Rover.

The first thing many people associate with Engel, is that it’s an Australian brand. Engel is indeed an Australian company, but they have never manufactured a fridge in Australia, which is probably why they were so good in the first place! Engel were smarter than that and contracted production to Sawafuji Electric Co Ltd, Japan. Whilst there were once urban myths about the inferior quality of Japanese manufacturing, the truth is that the Japanese have been close to the world’s best manufacturer of electronics for decades. Classic Engel fridges are testament to that.

Japan is a first world economy and like most manufacturers around the globe, Japanese manufacturers saw the economic benefits of off shore production. Like many other Japanese companies, including motor vehicle manufacturers, Sawafuji Electric also moved production off shore. Now Engel fridges are not only an overseas product, they’re also one of many Chinese manufactured products.

Now let’s have a look at Chinese manufacturing. I’m in no way a fan of the manner in which Australian manufacturing industries have been reduced to virtually nothing, but I’m not going to generally condemn Chinese manufacturing. This is a culture of master craftspeople we’re talking about. They were crafting fine furniture and erecting complex architecture when the average Western plebs were starting the shave the right-angles off early wheel designs. 

There is certainly no reason to doubt the Chinese ability to make some really good stuff. Where Chinese manufacturing has come into question, is by means of very dubious products  that were made primarily for their massive, not very well paid domestic market and of course a growing export market via online sales. The reason that many such products are indeed of dubious quality, is because they are made using extremely low end manufacturing processes and with virtually no quality control, in order that they’re very, very cheap.

Sawafuji Electric on the other hand, would certainly contract much higher end manufacturers to manufacture Engel fridges, under fairly strict supervision. I’m sure that there’s also strict quality control procedures in place. Whether this manufacturing shift is a success, remains to be seen. The newer Chinese made Engel fridges appear to be of exceedingly high quality. The question is will they still be humming away in the backs of cars, more than 20 years after they were purchased. 

It’s interesting that products such as Engel fridges, haven’t come down in price, despite their manufacturing costs being reduced to a fraction of what they were when they were manufactured in Japan. One can hardly blame them for that. Another aspect of the global manufacturing shift has been a huge increase in competition. When I bought my Engel in the 90’s, there were possibly 3 noticeable players on the portable fridge market. Twenty odd years on, there are scores of them. If a company like Engel dropped it’s retail prices in accordance with manufacturing overheads, the product might not be able to withstand the inherent reduction in sales figures brought on by increased competition. I’m not sure what their sales figures are compared to the 90’s, but today’s market is significantly bigger and my hypothesis is based on market share. 

Engel’s top range tends to be a fair bit more expensive than their competitor’s products, but they have also retained a very good reputation. At the end of the day however, not everyone can afford to pay for reputation.

That brings us to the manufacturing buzzword of the new millennium: OEM.
Original Equipment Manufacturers are companies that have contracts with branded companies, to manufacture and badge products. Let’s stay on the subject of fridges. For some manufacturers it might not be economically worthwhile contracting a Chinese factory to custom make their fridges in the manner that Engels are made. OEM manufacturers make products in huge quantities and sell those products to better known companies, branded as their product. The greater the buying ability of the branded company, the more economically viable it is to pay OEMs to customise the appearance of their fridges enough to make them appear somewhat more unique. However, customisation is generally no more than cosmetic and under the surface the fridge is indeed the exact same model as those sold under a number of different brand names. 

One of Australia’s biggest selling portable fridge “brands” is manufactured in exactly this manner. From what I can gather, their products are as reliable as they might have been in the past. My point is not about quality. Let’s not be unfair to OEMs; some of them make quality gear. There’s an example of an OEM compressor fridge being sold in Australia under the name of Lumik via ebay. The Lumik 50L fridge retails for around $450, whereas the same fridge, equipped with the same Danfos compressor, sells for over $700 as a better known brand. over $250 is a big chunk of cash for absolutely nothing, especially since in some cases, Lumik’s Australian distributor offers a longer warranty. Brand Nazis will tell you that the Lumik product is “Chinese Rubbish,” whilst singing the praises of the same product, branded differently. My recommendation is do your research and save your money. 

Brand loyalty is a funny thing. I once owned a brewery. I often had people come into our retail outlet and ask if we had anything that tasted like VB. On the rare occasion that I didn’t possess enough energy for a sarcastic response, I’d question why they might have such a loyalty to VB (Vile Brew). Time and time again, middle aged men would tell me that they drank it because they always had and it’s what their father had drank. I’d ask them from whence they and their fathers had hailed. Being located in NSW, the answer was most often Sydney. The trouble was, VB was a very minor packaged brand in Sydney until the 1990’s when Carlton United re-launched it as an age old brand and distributed it on tap for the first time in NSW, to claw back from the disastrous failure of Fosters as a domestic brand. A lot of middle aged men’s father’s must have done a lot of searching around inner Sydney to find the beer to which they developed such loyalty all those years before it was widely distributed and heavily marketed. 

Fosters itself is an interesting story. Following the success of a barely similar version brewed under licence in the UK, Fosters had a brief taste of success on the domestic market. Even after it’s domestic demise, Carlton continued to brew it for export, largely to Asia and the USA. I have had many conversations with people pertaining to how terrible Fosters is and that ‘foreigners think it’s Australian beer, but Australians would never drink it’: “It’s un-Australian!”

On more than one occasion, that conversation took place between myself and someone drinking their favourite beer, Crown Lager. What incidentally was Crown Lager labelled as for export at that time? You guessed it.

There are very few western nations in which there’s such a strong beer drinking culture amongst men with such a dire lack of beer knowledge. Yet Australian’s will gladly exalt the virtues of quite possibly some of the worst mass produced beers on the planet. American beers get the biggest hammering, yet the USA has developed the best small regional brewing culture on the planet over the past 30 odd years. The one that grates at me, is “Pommy” beer bashing. Not only is there the widespread myth that it’s drunk warm like tea, there’s also the near obsessive belief that it’s of inferior quality. A centuries old tradition of artisan brewing, maligned by middle aged men who eat Chiko rolls and drink VB!

Much of this applies to the equipment that people rely upon on the road. It’s all very well to recommend the most expensive brand because owning such a product makes a middle aged man believe he can piss higher, but if you can’t afford to purchase such an item, there are endless alternatives that will not result in your social inferiority. It might see you being omitted from the “happy hour” invite list, but that’s probably a good thing. You might be handed a VB and feel obliged to drink it through politeness. Oh my god NOOOOO!!!!

Generators are a classic. You must never dare buy anything but a Honda. Advice often given by people who’s fault it is that generators are a waste of money, because they’ll be the first to whinge every time you crank one up. There’s no doubt that Honda generators are indeed excellent. They’re no longer manufactured in Japan, but Honda do have their own factory in Thailand. I own one, which I was lucky enough to purchase second hand at a ridiculously low price. I’m very happy with it. However, I hardly ever use it. If my choice was to buy a Honda at the market price, or buy one of a number of pretty good Chinese OEM generators that are available for a significantly lower price. Well it’s a no brainer. 

Generators are a back up. The idea is to use them as infrequently as possible. There’s nothing sensible about buying a very expensive brand if you use it infrequently. Yet some people in groups and on forums are vehement in their support of Honda generators. The price difference between a cheap perfectly reliable generator and a high quality Honda, could actually be more than the difference between the price of an unpowered and a powered site for a year. We have to budget sensibly and buy what suits our budgets practically. It really pisses me off that some cashed up people bang on to an extent that they make low income earners feel that they’re inferior, or worse still that they “shouldn’t be on the road!” Those people are idiots who really just want to broadcast what they possess, online!

I’ve picked on the Webber Q barbecue obsession before. I have never known a product so universally possessed by one particular demographic. I am absolutely certain that they’re very, very good at performing the task for which they were designed. I’m also quite happy to accept that they are well built and will last a long time. I have absolutely nothing against anyone owning one. What does shit me beyond belief is that they’re at the centre of some kind of inculcated sausage cremating cult!!! How dare anyone not have one and therefore not be “one of us, one of us, one of us!”

“Engineered in the USA!” That’s the line on today’s Webber products. That’s right. Custom made to very high standards in China. Ironically the Chinese boast one of the most ancient and highly respected food cultures on the planet. There are thousands of unashamedly Chinese gas grill products that will do the job and go the distance as good as any Western appropriation and for a fraction of the cost. That lot know how to cook!!

My outdoor cooking set up consists of an old Australian made folding table, a Chinese cast iron burner and a French cast iron grill plate. It cost me $120 to make and breaks down into easy to pack away, easy to re-assemble, individual components. I can cook anything on it to perfection and I’m bloody fussy about my cooking!

Brand Nazis are everywhere. Try driving an old Land Rover Defender. People will literally make an effort to tell me to my face that I’m “a bloody idiot for driving such a shit heap – all they do is break down!” 300tdi Land Rovers and earlier, employed no microchip technology. They’re very simple cars and extremely robust. They are celebrated the world over as one of the last of the real off road vehicles. Parts are cheap, my car has rarely let me down and it costs bugger all in maintenance, because it’s easy enough to do most of it ourselves. 

I’m not suggesting that Land Rovers are for everyone, I’m pretty certain they’re not, neither do I want them to be. I like them and having been  around them for forty odd years, I know that they are absolutely excellent at doing what their designed to do. I really don’t care what some old arsebadger thinks, just because he owns a Toyota Landcruiser. I’m fully aware that Landcruisers are excellent vehicles and also excellent at doing what they’re designed to do. So just fuck off and leave me alone, because I don’t walk up to you and tell me that you’re a dickhead for owning a Toyota. These cockwombles must have lived their entire lives somewhere that one doesn’t get punched for being a complete gobshite. I have absolutely no idea how they’ve lived so long!

I’m not by any stretch of the imagination attempting to hang shit on people for owning certain brands. As noted; I own an Engel fridge, I own a Honda Generator, I have a collection of big brand quality power tools, because I used to be able to afford them. I’m not for one moment suggesting that people only purchase cheaper brands. I’m simply saying that if you live on the road because you can’t afford to live anywhere else, maybe some of the advice that’s proffered in online groups and forums, might be taken with a pinch of salt. It’s all very well for someone who has a shitload of cash to spend on camping for recreation, to bang on about buying only the most expensive gear. Some of us need stuff in order to survive and we need it right away. That means that we have to buy what we can afford to buy, without going without luxuries such as food, medication and fuel, until we can afford what we’re told we “have to buy!” 

A Home Buyers Guide – Caravans

One of the most common questions I read in forums and groups is: “caravan, motorhome, or camper trailer?“ The question leaves me perplexed. Not perplexed as to the answer, but perplexed as to why people keep asking questions that there’s nothing like a definitive answer to. You know, I honestly believe that the purpose of the internet for some people, is accumulating the highest possible number of responses to their posts and kicking off the biggest blues!

Our 1975 Franklin Arrow

Of course there are benefits to all modes of on the road living. Caravans give you the advantage of a separate vehicle to get around in. camper trailers have a weight and access advantage and motorhomes get you invites to a higher class of happy hour – 2L goon boxes instead of 4L. I’m kidding! Motorhomes give you the advantage of an all in one package. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. What might be an advantage for one person, might be a disadvantage for another.

For all intents and purposes, Campers Way is about low income living on the road , not just touring for a given period. I tend to look at topics from the point of view of living permanently on the road. Also, I might add, not everything I say is the bottom line. I merely proffer a personal opinion. There will always be exceptions to my personal rules and there will always be people who genuinely know more about the topics about which I proffer my knowledge and experience. It’s absolutely fantastic when such experts add value to a post by offering a little bit more. It’s also great when people offer their own experiences and tales of successful on the road living, that might be quite different to my own. What isn’t constructive as far as helping people to survive is concerned, are responses that contradict for the sake of contradiction and cast wild and vehement aspersions about being “wrong!” There’s no right and wrong. As John Lennon famously sang “Whatever get’s through the night. S’alright s’alright!”

So, caravans. As far as I see it, the best way to step away from the housing market and stay away from the edge, is by moving into a caravan. Just remember; this is all about living on the road not just touring for recreation. Here are my reasons.

  • Most people already own a car. Admittedly most aren’t perfect tow vehicles, but that will be addressed in a future post.
    Caravans provide a significantly more solid base for a home than camper trailers.
  • You get a hell of a lot of caravan for your buck, compared to motorhomes, which generally enjoy better re-sale values. You can pick up a good caravan very cheaply. Even if it requires work to get it to a roadworthy state, the cost will be relatively low.
  • Once parked, a tow vehicle becomes your everyday ride. Low income earners are generally unlikely to be able to afford to own, register, insure and maintain 2 vehicles and a T-bar / trailer to tow with. For some reason, some people have a sense of guilt about having a bit of dough and will swear that the motorhome towing a car combo, doesn’t cost any more money. It does. A lot. There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you want and can afford, but this is about surviving on as little money as possible.
  • Caravans are cheap and easy to repair and maintain. Flash modern caravans, not so much, but solid older caravans yes! Many people would be surprised by how cheap trailer parts actually are.
  • If your home is a caravan, you don’t temporarily lose your home when it’s essential to carry out necessary mechanical repairs that involve your vehicle being in a mechanical repairs workshop.
  • It might be a little bit more expensive to register a caravan and vehicle than to register a motorhome, but that’s outweighed by the other savings. Caravan insurance is very inexpensive and some insurers offer attractive packages for car / caravan insurance. If you’re a pensioner, in some states (NSW for instance) pensioners get one free registration. That means that pensioners pay to register their caravan, but not their car. If a couple are both pensioners, the car can be registered in one name for free and the caravan in the other. That is totally legal.
  • Whilst in transit. It’s not difficult to unhitch a caravan temporarily in a discreet location and go off to the shops in the car. That means easier access to car parks and narrow streets.

So, what do you look for when buying a cheap. entry level caravan?

What you buy is down to your budget. However, it’s absolutely vital to consider your ongoing financial situation. Even if you have enough money to purchase a fairly flash, all singing all dancing caravan at a reasonable second hand price, will you have the money in the future to maintain it, should anything go wrong with it? The more basic the caravan, the less it will cost to maintain and repair. Even quite modern caravans are reasonably simple, but some can get into big money when you’re talking independent suspension and highly complex electric brake systems.

This guide is essentially aimed at those who wish to purchase a good dooer upper.

The first step in buying a low cost caravan for the purpose of travelling and living in, is to decide on a budget. Once you have decided on a firm figure, add up the following:

  • The cost of new rims and light truck tyres.
  • The cost of a new set of bearings.
  • The cost of a new set of brake backing plates with shoe assemblies.
  • The cost of a tilt tray to a repairer that can fit those items.
  • The cost of the work.

You’re not going to get much change out of $2,000, so start looking for a caravan that’s advertised at $2,000 under your budget. If you happen to find something that’s roadworthy and registered within your budget, you’re laughing. However, if a seller cannot easily demonstrate that those items are in full working order. Don’t take the risk.

You will generally find that as far as a cheap older caravan goes, those items will not be in sufficient working order. The good news is, you can find reasonably good older vans for between $3,000 and $5,000, so by following this advice, you should be safely on the road for between $5K and $7K. That’s a cheap home, albeit a “renovator’s dream!”

A lot of ads state that the price is negotiable and others state that the price is non negotiable. If a price is listed as not neg. there are 3 likely scenarios: 1) The Caravan is in excellent condition and the price is extremely fair – “Oh look kiddies, there’s Peppa Pig in the ABC chopper.” 2) They aren’t that keen on selling it and are fishing for the best price. 3) They’re bullshitting!

You need to look at every seller as a Bangkok copy watch salesman. You have to act as if despite having to board a flight in 4 hours and thus your time being precious, you know that it looks fuck all like a real Rolex and it’ll stop working as soon as you’ve shown it to your mates in the pub back home, for laugh!

A lot of older caravans have been providing shade for weeds for many years. It’s often a case that they go on the market when the owner needs quick cash. That’s probably not so in the case of a van that’s been loved and maintained, but anything that’s a little shabby, tends to elicit a sense of being very negotiable. Despite the silly prices being put on “vintage” caravans (particularly Viscounts) these days, the reality is that a lot of people are fishing. Market values are finite. If it costs you more money to get it into a decent condition, than it’s actual market value after restoration, it’s simply not worth the asking price.

You also have to be aware of you limitations in regards to carrying out repairs and refurbishments. If you feel that your skills are very limited, start developing some. Otherwise there’s no point in buying a cheap older caravan. It will cost you more to get the work done by a professional than it would cost you to buy something in full working order. Another important consideration is that if your caravan is going to be your home, you probably want it to feel somewhat personalised in terms of it’s interior design. You won’t get that unless you do it yourself.

The finer points of establishing whether or not a caravan is a heap of shit!

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with purchasing a complete piece of shit, just as long as you’re aware that it is and you are prepared for a significant workload. In the meantime there are several things you can look for in order to greatly reduce that effort:

  • Ask for the caravan to be parked on a hard, dry, level surface for inspection.
  • Check that the caravan itself sits level. That’s your primary suspension check.
  • Inspect leaf type suspension for cracks in the leaves, deep corrosion, worn eye mounts on either end, worn bushes in the case of tandem axle or “rocker roller” systems. Carefully check the U-bolts that hold the axles to the suspension, for warping and corrosion. If it’s IRS (Independent Rubber Suspension) check the rubber for wear. They are easy to replace. I suggest learning a little more about suspension from the “web of all knowledge” prior to inspection. There’s not a great deal to it. Also bear in mind that suspension is not insanely expensive for simple caravans, so even if it does require work or replacement, it could be a good bargaining chip.
  • Check the chassis and draw bar thoroughly for cracks and deep corrosion. In my personal opinion, chassis are a game changer. Unless you or a mate are highly experienced at welding and fish plating to an automotive engineering standard or you have a lot of dough to spend, walk away from a cracked or corroded chassis or draw bar. It’s not worth your while.
  • Take a trolley jack with you. If you are intending towing it away, a quick check of the hubs drums and brakes is necessary. Jack up each wheel individually until it’s off the ground and see how well it spins freely. Hold each wheel firmly with you left and right hands respectively and shake them in a forward / backward motion. If there’s significant wobble, you’re up for new bearings. You’ll be up for new bearings regardless, but demonstrating as much to the seller won’t hurt your cause and it’ll let you know how likely it is that you’ll tow it away on the day.
  • With the braked wheels off the ground, spin each wheel and get some one else to push on the brake lever at the master cylinder on the draw bar. Being brakes, the wheel should stop spinning upon activation. Fairly simple with hydraulic or cabled override breaks. With electric brakes you would need to hook up to a car with an electric brake controller and get someone to depress the brake while you spin. Unless the brakes are fairly new, you’ll need to replace them anyway. It’s much safer. Also bear in mind that old shoes will not be asbestos free. Checking them at the time of inspection is more about whether you can save the cost of a tilt tray and be able to say “these brakes are fucked mate! You’ll have to drop the price.”
  • It’s a good idea to remove each wheel and check for damage to the axle stubs. It’s a little tricky without undoing the castle nuts and removing the hubs, but it might be worth your while. On the other hand, you could check for obvious bows and check the axle fully after purchasing the van. Chances are they’ll be OK, but I’m of the school of thought that replacing axles on an old caravan is a medium term default, especially if they’re the older hollow type. Again new axles are an investment in your safety. They sound like a major component, but in relative terms they really aren’t that expensive.
  • The actuator is a sprung mechanism that has the tow hitch attached at one end and moves backwards and forwards with the motion of the vehicle, allowing the lever that activates the brakes to have pressure applied to it and to be released accordingly. The actuator shaft should be checked for sufficient grease and significant surface corrosion that might lead to it being seized. It has to move for the brakes to work.
  • Signal and clearance lights obviously have to work if you intend towing a caravan away. It can take a very long time to isolate and fix a very simple problem. It’s probably a good to take a towing board with you. You can waste an awful lot of time attempting to make the lights work as required by law.
  • Tyres and rims aren’t worth keeping. If the caravan is fit to be towed, tow it straight to a tyre supplier. Tread means nothing. Tyres that have been in the one position for a long time with weight on them will be egged. They will also be prone to cracking and perishing. Don’t risk your life for the sake of a set of tyres. Make sure they’re in your budget. A lot of older rims are also a bit of a liability. Corrosion causes them to be uneven and incapable of forming a good bead with the tyre. You risk slow leaks and blowouts. You can get around the issue by putting tubes in tubeless tyres, but at as little as $50 per new rim, is it really worth it. Be prepared to get rid of existing rims and tyres.

 

So, the leaves bushes and U-bolts look fine. I’m not so sure about that axle stub plate!

That takes care of basic road worthiness issues but there’s a whole lot more to consider inside:

  • Leaks – leaks are never impossible to fix. They can be tricky to isolate, but they can always be fixed with the right materials and some basic skills. What you are looking for is rot. Everything is replaceable, but some jobs are harder than others. Rot can be especially problematic around front and rear windows. Sills and structural timbers can end up being like sponge as a result of years of leaking. They’re usually quite easy to re-build after leaks have been dealt with. There’s usually only a small area of wall skin around large windows. Sometimes it can be saved, sometimes re-made. When buying a caravan check around sills for sponginess and look for significant staining on wall and roof skins, particularly around hatches. If roof and wall skins are just stained but still firm, they can be treated and painted. If they’re rotten, replacing them can be a major job.
  • Structural water damage. Structural water damage in a timber framed van can be pretty catastrophic. You can’t exactly pull wall skins off upon inspection, but you can sight the caravan along it’s length from outside and check for warping and outward bulging. If anything is noticeable, you’re in for trouble. If you want a full restoration project and you have the time and money to spend, go for it. If you want something to live in for fiscal reasons, walk away. Warped walls are like cracked chassis. There shouldn’t be much of a problem with aluminium framed caravans, that’s why even very old Viscounts are so popular. Whilst warping isn’t as common in composite caravan walls, problems can occur, particularly around kitchens. Timber kitchen units can get wet as a result of being insufficiently sealed. They can swell and cause the composite wall to bow outward. Keep a look out for that. Some composite vans have a structural timber frame along the bottom edge of the side walls. This can prove problematic around the water hose attachment. Hose fittings invariably leak and years of water spraying up onto that structural timber can cause it to rot. Especially around wheel arches.
  • Cupboards and drawers are generally pretty easy to fix up. The trickiest part is attempting to restore or replace original timber-look laminates. They have invariably been discontinued. Some of those laminates are indeed very decorative, particularly in 50’s and 60’s vans. To be brutally honest, most laminates post the early 70’s are as ugly as a hat full of arseholes. Originality is one thing, but what’s the point if it looks like shit! The same goes for cupboard doors and drawer fronts. There’s a lot of laminated chipboard out there. Vast chipboard and plastic wood forests were torn down in the 1970’s in order to make Australian caravans fucking ugly. The argument for chipboard was and sadly still is that it’s light. But seriously! Replacing doors and drawers with quality 10mm plywood is not going to add that much to the overall AGM. Doors can easily be re-made and there are very effective methods for painting laminates, which will be a separate post. I wouldn’t let dodgy cupboards put you off a cheap caravan.
  • Gas. It’s not going to cost a fortune to get some gas plumbing done if required. It’s not worth letting gas problems cloud your judgement too much. Check the gas regulations in the state in which you are registering the caravan and have fittings for fridges and stoves / cookers checked by a licensed gas fitter, even if they are working. Some states require a certificate anyway. The good thing about LPG is that if there is a problem that could cause you trouble inside the caravan, you’ll smell it. The most dangerous area is around gas fridge hatches, on the outer wall. There’s a live flame in the back of a gas fridge. There may be a leak around that area that you can’t necessarily smell whilst inside the van. It could still cause a dangerous ignition from the fridge. If a caravan has a gas fridge, it’s a good idea to fit a gas bottle (take a 4.5kg with you) to the van, open it up and check for a gas odour around the open fridge hatch.
  • 240v electricity on the other hand is a more serious issue. Test the lights and power points upon inspection. If they work, that’s great, but be prepared to replace the power points in due course. If supply is not reaching the lights or the power points, there’s the potential for some very expensive problems. In many vans, the sides have to be removed and replaced with new ones, in order to fix up wiring issues. There are ways of getting supply to a particular point and then running leads discretely via cupboards and trunking in order to avoid major work, but it’s all a little messy. You really do want a caravan with supply to all lights and power points. no matter what work is undertaken on 240v electricity in a caravan, it Must be undertaken by a licensed electrician.
  • 12v supply isn’t such a big problem. The worst case scenario is no supply to the ceiling lights, If that’s the case, it’s unlikely that it’s worth bothering to undergo major work to re-run supply to them. It’s easy to run a new 12v system from the house battery. It can run through cupboards in flexible conduit and even through the floor and under the caravan where necessary. If the ceiling lights remain dead, they can easily be replaced by wall or cupboard mounted lights with discreet wires.
Our first caravan refurbishment – 1969 Viscount C Royal
Inside the Viscount

What we have here is nothing like a caravan buying bible. There are a few pointers based upon my experience of purchasing vintage caravans. I’ve never bought a caravan that was built any later than 1976, so my experience is fairly limited. In saying that, Australian caravan design never changed a great deal until the mid 80s, so this advice covers a broad period. In fact many of my points apply to some fairly late model caravans.

Our Kitchen
1975 Franklin Arrow interior

Australian caravans from the 1970’s, arguably represent the most bang for buck when it comes to structural sturdiness. Franklins, Viscounts, Millards, Chesneys and a number of others were built like tanks in terms of their chassis and suspension. There are many caravan experts who argue that rocker roller suspension systems from that era, were the best ever to be fitted to Australian caravans. Mine is 42 years old, has it’s original leaves and bushes and is as solid as a rock, so I’m inclined to believe it.

Time for bed

There’s a hell of a lot of caravan to be bought for well under $10k, when you’re talking about vintage vans. We bought ours for $7,000 in very good roadworthy condition. We’ve spent about another $12k on it in 3 years. That’s a fair bit of dough, but we could never get anything like what we have, for under $40k. It’s literally fitted out to our own specification.
Over the next week or so, I’ll put up a few posts with details and photographs of specific aspects of our own project.

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Take a tour of the 2.5 million dollar RV 😍

Ever wondered what it would be like to live in a $2.5 million RV? Yes, there is such a thing. Motorhomes are getting more and more luxurious. At a recent RV show, we toured two Class A RVs that were well over a million dollars. The first – $1.5 million. The second, after taxes and fees, $2.5 million. Come tour them with us…but first, take off your shoes!

Free Camping at Lake Argyle

The best free camp we’ve had on our whole trip when it comes to views 😍

Set on the river with a mountain backdrop the views were absolutely 💯%. After we started to to set up our camp a couple of girls arrived in their 2wd van and managed to get stuck in the softer sand. Axl and Gibbo jumped at the chance to help out the beautiful Swedish girls. #mazdabt50 #totherescue. We had the most peaceful sleep. I don’t think I heard any noise other than the flowing river. Each morning Gibbo braved going for a bit of a fish while keeping a keen out for crocs that can be found in the river. We left the van parked up and day tripped to the lake where we all had a great time stand up paddle boarding and had a quick dip in the infinity pool. The huge Dam Wall was also a fantastic sight to see.
We intended on staying just one night but 3 days later we packed up due to the bushfire across the river. We loved this free camp and absolutely recommend to ALL!!!
What a way to finish our WA adventure!!

#FANTASTIC #thatview #onedayweshould #travelaustraliawithkids #aussieoutback #thisiswa #justanotherdayinwa #wikicamps #freecamps #10/10 #thebest #camping #caravanning #lakeargyle #lakeargylecruises #standuppaddleboard #bushfire

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Do our kids get along better since starting this trip?

Do our kids get along better since starting this trip?

In short YES. Do they fight like cats and dogs too? yes. But what siblings at this age (all under 5) don’t?? It’s moments like going to a new playground we really see the closeness in the kids. They grab each other’s hands and wonder off together -looking out for one another. They left all their friends behind when we started our journey and now they only have each other.

Follow: One Day We Should

They definitely get to a point where they’ve had enough of each other and we try to separate them and do something one on one… Gibbo and I also get to this point. #completelynormal #everybodyneeds5minsalone #travellingaustraliawithkids #caravanningwithkids #siblinglove #lovehate #team #bestfriends

 

Don’t forget to leave a comment below on travelling with kids!

8 must do’s on the Eyre Peninsula

1.Talia Caves tourist drive South Australia
(just a short drive from Venus Bay)


We drove straight past this place initially as we weren’t sure if the road was suitable for us towing our 3 tonne van! In short- Definitely YES the road is suitable for those towing large vans and Definitely YES you need to stop in there! 😱 HOLY WOW. this place was incredible!

2.Murphy’s Haystacks- Eyre Peninsula SA

After a quick 2km detour off the highway. No hay anywhere to be found BUT we did find some amazing Granite boulders 😜

I think these were the highlight of Axls trip so far. We read the book ‘Are we there yet’ (about a family travelling around Australia) and these boulders are in it. So we planned to stop in and check them out. The kids ran around like crazy! So hyper and excited, climbing all over them and just loving every second! These Huge boulders are just beautiful 😍 cost $5/family to visit and the option of $10 extra if you’d like to park up for the night!

3. Pildappa Rock Camping Area (South Australia’s ‘#waverock’)

This was our first little venture inland as we’ve spent the rest of our time sticking to the coastal routes. I was worried about trekking us all inland 125kms from Port Kenny, South Australia just to see a rock that I hadn’t really heard that much about (Just seen some great reviews on WikiCamps). Well it didn’t disappoint. The kids had a ball playing on the rock with their #TonkaTrucks, walking and riding their bikes around the huge rock and climbing on top (that bit not so enjoyable for me.. freaking out having all 3 kids up there 😬😱 😰). A fantastic place to visit and a really peaceful night’s sleep there too👌#winning

4.Venus Bay – Eyre Peninsula SA

If you’re after a mix of stunning coast lines similar to GOR mixed with beautiful bays, a unique curved jetty and the most magnificent colourings in the water visit Venus Bay!

When driving into the town you get to Bay Road- if you turn left you’ll end up at a lookout overlooking stunning cliffs. If you turn right you’ll end up at a beautiful curving jetty. The jetty becomes even more magnificent when you take the time to walk along it. The colours in the water are absolutely magnificent. So many different shades of blues and greens 👌. A bonus for us was the great Playground at the start of the jetty. It’s always nice to find a fun playground to let the kids run around. There’s something for everyone in Venus Bay 😍👌

5.The #INTENSE Whistling rocks and the Blowholes (Cape Bauer Loop Drive  Streaky Bay, South Australia, Australia)

We went for a drive along the Cape Bauer Rd (loops around the coast and back to streaky) *the road is fine for those towing.

First we stopped at Cape Bauer a nice scenic lookout. Second stop was at whistling rocks and the Blowholes. We started walking along the boardwalk heading towards the sites. As soon as we climbed the brow of the hill we started hearing the intense sound of the whistling rocks. The waves force air and water through holes in the rocks, towards the cliff surface, giving us the sound of whistling rocks. I tried to capture a video of this happening but you really can’t get the same intense feeling from watching it on film. It was crazy, exciting and even a little bit frightening. This really is something you’ll have to go and experience first hand.

Unfortunately for us the tide was too far out to see the Blowholes blowing… Something to keep in mind if travelling out there to see it.

6.Coffin Bay National Park

An unexpected extended stay in the Port Lincoln area lead us to explore the National Park in Coffin Bay. For a National Park we never intended to look through. We ended up staying 4 nights and loved it! Cost $12/night to camp (plus National Park fees)

Fun filled days of driving around the coastline and through the rugged bush tracks. Playing on the sand dunes. Fishing and actually catching fish!!! Friendly roos coming to our door, emus and their babies wondering around the campgrounds. Great walking tracks and the highlight being were pretty much the only ones here except for another travelling family with kids the same age 😍.

Kids had the best of times playing together. I must admit we rather enjoyed our time spent with these guys too. Extra bonus as It’s always great having others to go 4WD exploring with.. just incase 👌

I would absolutely love to come back to this place when it’s warmer. The perfectly blue ocean water with stunning white sandy beaches was so worth the hour and half 4×4 drive! It almost made me want to dip my toes in… almost. The freezing icy winds made me think twice pretty quickly! Instead we lit a fire and watched the boys catch some fish. #onedayweshould come back! Would be amazing in summer 😍

7. Mikkira Station

Picture driving down the road and seeing stunning farmland and white sand dunes in the distance… A sheep or 2 a k-kangaroo. (Yep I went there). This very Aussie ‘Mikkira Station’ had nearly everything. Wild emus, tonnes of Kangaroos and a Koala 🐨 up nearly every tree in the campsite. After just a short walk you’ll find beautiful historic sites and buildings you can even enter . There’s a real toilet and a hot shower for those who need.

This place was well and truly worth the $25/night pricetag. A fantastic place for a true blue Aussie outback experience and only 25mins from Port Lincoln!

8. Point Lowly and Whyalla, South Australia, Australia

Point Lowly Camping Area $8/ night maximum stay 4 weeks.

We found a great little spot with stunning views to park up our van for a couple of nights and who else would pull up beside us? Another friendly Tasmanian! Small world! 🌏

We drove into Whyalla (my place of birth) to have a look around. Whyalla was much smaller and much more industrial than I had pictured but had some nice views and an interesting history.

Upon arriving back to our campsite we were surprised to find a dolphin 🐬 swimming in the water right near our campsite 😍

A couple of other quick stops on the Eyre Peninsula SA worth a mention-

*Camping at Perlubie Beach (near Streaky Bay)

*Sculptures on a cliff top tourist drive in Elliston  – (this drive is suitable for those towing)

*Seal colony at Point Labatt Conservation Park (very hard to see. They blend in with the rocks. take binoculars if you have them!)

*Streaky Bay Jetty (millions of small fish at the end of the jetty, a few jellyfish and a couple dolphins)

*Port Lincoln a fantastic place to chill out and the bonus for us being the 2 large supermarkets (to stock up ready for our journey across the Nullarbor)

Australia’s Whitest Beach – Esperance WA

Cape Le Grand National Park – Esperance WA

 

We arrived in Esperance at the same time as their apparent ‘first bit of bad weather’. That did not dampen our time spent in the Cape Le Grand National Park.

The park is most well known for Australia’s whitest beaches! In the summer time, the kangaroos can be found sunbaking on the beach.

Unfortunately for us, it was not bikini weather but we were ‘lucky’ enough to see one roo on the beach. We were also ‘lucky’ enough to see a massive Sea Eagle flying overhead and a lone seal bobbing about in the bay.

 

We enjoyed fishing and playing on the beach, climbing the rock hills, climbing the summit of Frenchman Peak, a walk to Thistle Cove and short drives to Hellfire Bay and Rossiter Bay.

 

Our favourite part hands down – The Frenchman Peak. An intriguing mountain with a large cave to ‘peek’ through. The best mountain we’ve ever climbed. It wasn’t even the view from the top it was the view inside and out of the cave. We could have spent all day up there! We were lost for words. A truly unique mountain to climb at least once in your lifetime!

 

#onedayweshould #travelaustraliawithkids #caravanningwithkids #australia #travel #explore #lapofaustralia #climbingmountains #summit #frenchmanspeak #luckybay #thistlecove #rossiterbay #hellfirebay #familytime #nationalpark #westernaustralia #capelegrand

What Shocked Us About Wave Rock

We visited WaveRock today and it was pretty good BUT… I’ve gotta say we actually preferred Pildappa Rock (South Australia’s Wave Rock)

We found Wave Rock, Hyden to be very commercialised. Galvanized staircases bolted into the rock, signage everywhere telling you NOT to do this and NOT to do that. For such an iconic rock you never hear about it looking or being like this. Only ever seeing those photos of ‘that amazing wave’. I feel It’s portrayed as something out in the middle of nowhere and left untouched. The rock was bigger (than Pildappa) but the actual wave that you go to see is about the same size… so we were a little disappointed paying $10 for this one when SA’s is free to visit and has been left in its natural state.

*I’ve included a photo of the stairs, paths and signage all over the rock as these are things not often shown. We are starting to wonder if all the huge Australian Icons are like this? It just wasn’t quite what we thought it would be… We are finding we rather the places that are less often heard about. We find it much nicer being in the middle of nowhere experiencing nature in all its glory rather than fighting through crowds and seeing common sense signage ruining views and taking away the beauty of it. *We did love the sites surrounding – Hippos Yawn, The Humps Reserve, Mulkas Cave and the Hyden, Western Australia township (I will blog about those very soon).

Let us know your thoughts? Did you have a similar experience or where you so amazed by the wave you could see past the added infrastructure?

Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk Western Australia

Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk / The Ancient Empire

While travelling Australia (as a family of 5) we just can’t do every tourist attraction. We like to keep our eyes out for the free and low cost attractions on offer. So when we stumbled across The Valley of Giants we were delighted to find they have 2 options.

1. A Tree Top Walk (roughly $60+ for our family of 5).
2. A #FREE self guided walk around The Ancient Empire forest.

We loved the Ancient Empire-
An informative walk explaining the history of the forest, the types of trees that grow and why the grow like they do. The kids loved running through and exploring the gigantic trees. They also have a nature display of all the bugs and creatures found living in the trees and forest. A fantastic option for those trying to spread the funds that bit further and a great spot for those #homeschooling on the road.

* Entry is via picturesque sealed roads and parking available for those towing 👌

#makingthefundslast #exploringnature #travellingwithkids #travelwithkidsaustralia #caravanningwithkids #australianoutback

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