Grey nomad tips: How to pack your caravan properly

Jul 18, 2020
Packing your caravan right is a necessity for any grey nomad trip.

More Aussies are expected to pack their bags and set off on a holiday closer to home in the coming months, as coronavirus restrictions ease and interstate borders are reopened to travellers throughout the country – and caravanning and camping getaways are soaring in popularity.

In the past month South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory have opened their borders to (most) visitors, and caravan parks have already reported a surge in travellers looking to escape the confines of their homes after months in self-isolation. For many, it’s their first big holiday since perhaps the start of the year, and experts are urging them to check their vans and equipment before heading off.

Although Aussies are no doubt eager to hit the road, Dave Strutton, owner of Howard’s Storage World in Adelaide, said one of the biggest mistakes travellers make is failing to pack or plan properly. He said if you haven’t travelled in a caravan before, or it has been a while since your last trip around the country, it’s easy to forget how to store your goods. And when you’re on the road for perhaps a month or more a disorganised caravan is the last thing you want.

“Getting the right caravanning and camping set up can be a bit of a trial and error process, but you can avoid having your relaxing retreat turn into a caravanning or camping catastrophe – if you take the time to get organised,” Strutton said. “You’ll be living in close quarters with each other so it’s important everyone knows where everything is located in the van, tent or cabin and can get to these items easily.”

Prevent movement

The last thing you want is to have items moving around in the caravan as you’re driving along. But, you can minimise this by using products such as containers with leak-proof lids that can be stacked on top of each other, dividers or organisers that keep loose items together and products with suction pads that you can secure in place.

The fridge is perhaps the most common place for items to move around, with jars of preservatives and sauces banging against each other throughout the trip. To avoid this occurring, use fridge baskets to keep everything grouped together and nicely contained for travelling.

Meanwhile, for smaller items such as your toothbrush and toothpaste, sunscreen, and your broom you can use i-hooks. It’s a popular type of suction storage which sticks to any smooth, sealed surface and can be easily removed and placed somewhere else in the caravan if needed. They come in many variations, with options for bathrooms, kitchens and lounge rooms. Plus, they are heat, water, sun and cold resistant and aren’t bulky.

Save space

Items that allow you to use available space more efficiently such as storage boxes that fit under a caravan bed, packing cells which can be used to store clothes tightly together, fold-away clothes airers and collapsible washing baskets and buckets are perfect for long adventures on the road. They help to avoid clutter, meaning there’s more room to walk around freely in your caravan. Feeling cramped in a small space is the last thing you want!

“What we recommend is obviously buying quality plastic storage which will then last for many years and take the rigours of being on the road,” Strutton said. “We do recommend sticking to the one size if possible because it makes everything very modular.

“Keep your food stuffs in one, cooking equipment in another, odds and ends in another, things like torches, ropes and mallets. But, you may also find that an under bed type storage tub may work very well in your van as well.”

Packing cells on the other hand are very effective in keeping clothes stored away. Although you may not be putting them in a suitcase, they can still be placed in under bed storage containers when not in use. Strutton said you can store as many as six shirts and three pairs of pants in one small packing box, so there’s no need to leave your favourite clothing items at home.

Buy once, buy well

While it may cost you more to begin with, it’s worth buying good quality camping and caravan products that are built to last and come with a long-guarantee. For Strutton, the tent he got for his 21st birthday is still going strong 25 years later!

But, no one likes spending big only to realise it’s not right for the caravan. So, to avoid this, Strutton suggested taking advantage of ‘try before you buy’ services.

“I’ve had customers park their car and caravan outside my store, come in and pick items and then physically take them back outside to try out for size,” he said. “Regardless of where you’re travelling, chances are you’ll be a long way from home and nowhere near a store – you won’t be able to easily go find something you’re missing or replace a poor quality item that has broken.”

He added: “It pays to get it right from the start so all you have to do is relax when you get to your destination.”

Swap to sustainable products

Keeping organised on your caravanning adventure isn’t just about having the caravan packed effectively – it’s also about managing your funds correctly so you can enjoy your holiday without financial worries. Bees wax wraps and reusable straws are eco-friendly products that will minimise the waste you create while away and allow you to save money because you don’t need to keep replacing them.

Other easy swaps include bringing reusable shopping bags, instead of purchasing plastic bags each time you go to the grocery store. This helps the environment and your back pocket. Meanwhile, forget buying a plastic water bottle at every stop and instead invest in a stainless steel bottle that you can fill up along the way.

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Are you planning a caravanning holiday? What tips do you have for packing your caravan properly?

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