Sunday Herald Sun - Escape
Our roadtrippers Lee Atkinson and Bill McKinnon reveal all the things you can live without on the road, and a few must-haves Lee said: Keeping it clean
Stroll through the accessories pavilion at a caravan and camping show and you’ll find all sorts of gadgets you never knew you needed, from portable sinks to herb slicers, pocket chainsaws and credit-card axes, night-vision goggles, wine-glass holders (for those times you can no longer hold your own, I guess), camp kitchen organisers, campfire popcorn makers, sleeping bags you can walk around in, sporks (fork one end, spoon the other), blow-up sofas, inflatable solar lanterns, battery-operated pie ovens (our mate John swears by his) and shewees – female urinary devices so you can pee standing up.
Last year I was sent a Scrubba personal washing machine to road test (thescrubba.com.au). It’s like a plastic dry sack that you take on kayaking trips, with a built-in washboard. Fill it up, rub it a few times and voila, clean socks and jocks. It packs down to pocket size so it’ll be very handy in hotel rooms with grotty sinks or missing plugs, and it came with a nifty pegless clothesline that I’ll never travel without again.
We already have the world’s best roadtrippers’ washing machine. It’s a 20-litre plastic drum with a screw-on lid. We fill it up with clothes, add detergent and water, throw it in the back of the ute and let the corrugations do the work. The rougher the track, the cleaner the clothes.
Once Bill persuaded me to buy a collapsible salad bowl. Made of lime-green silicon, the square bowl concertinas in on itself when it’s not in use, so it doesn’t take up space. Only trouble is it does the same thing when it’s full of food.
I know Bill is really keen on doing some adventure camping trips with the motorbike, but where would we fit the fridge? I’m happy enough to sleep on the ground. I can go without a shower for several days if I must. But not being able to have a cold drink – make mine a sav blanc, please – at the end of a long day? Forget about it.
A friend of ours, Murph, has a camper trailer he tows behind a Honda Goldwing, the Cadillac of
The joy of travel has nothing to do with how much money you spend … on tizz, bling and widgets
motorbikes. His wife, Anna, won’t leave home unless they can find somewhere to stash their batterypowered espresso maker. When I’m camping there’s seldom a morning I don’t think of her – or her coffee machine. I wish we had one.
Bill said: Power and glory
I’ve just finished re-reading the ultimate roadtrip adventure story. It’s Jupiter’s Travels by Englishman Ted Simon, who in 1973 set off from Blighty to ride around the world on his 500cc Triumph motorcycle.
It took him four years, 54 countries and almost 110,000km, and he didn’t do it the easy way either. Much of the story takes place in South America,
Africa and India, where solo overland travel in the 1970s was, in the true sense of the word, an adventure.
Simon carried his whole life on his bike, and as he neared the end of his journey, heading west towards Europe from Pakistan and the now off-limits Afghanistan, he reflected on how a very short list of essentials, collected en route from all over the world, was enough to sustain him on his travels.
“My teapot was bought in Victoria Falls (in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia) and my enamel plates were made in China,” he writes.
“My leather tank bags and saddle cover were made in Argentina. The tent and sleeping bag were originally from London but the bag had been refilled with down in San Francisco. I had a blanket from Peru and a hammock from Brazil. The Australian fishing rod was where the sword from Cairo once sat and an umbrella from Thailand replaced the one I lost in Argentina.”
I guess the point here is that the joy of travel has nothing to do with how much money you spend, especially on tizz, bling and widgets. I’m quite content with plunger coffee in the morning, though I’m certainly with Lee when it comes to taking a fridge on tour. It sure beats messing around with ice and an Esky, even if you’re just going bush for the weekend.
We use Engel fridges because, although they’re expensive, they’re also the most efficient and reliable on the market. The first one I bought, more than 30 years ago, is now doing duty as a beer fridge in the shed and still going strong. A 40-litre model costs about $1300.
A fridge needs power, of course, so if you want to be able to go off the grid for a few days, you’ll need
a stand-alone 12-volt power source, because running a fridge off your stationary vehicle battery for any longer than a few hours will flatten it.
Portable power is now a lot cheaper, more hightech and convenient than just a few years ago. A 100-120 amp hour AGM deep cycle battery, housed in a battery box with 12-volt and USB outlets for running your fridge and lights, and charging your gadgets, can be had for less than $500. Pointy-end tech lithium batteries are much lighter and quicker to recharge than lead acid AGM batteries, but they’re still about triple the price, so you’re looking at about $1000 for 100 amp hours.
At camp, keep the battery topped up with a lightweight, folding 200 watt solar panel blanket. These start at about $250.
That’s it. You can now go anywhere you like off the grid and be completely self sufficient in clean, renewable power. Your roadtripping options just got a whole lot more interesting.