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Caravanning Questions and Answers

 Here we list common questions and answers for those starting out on their caravanning adventure. These are the kind of questions we asked before hitting the road.

We researched for 4 years before immersing ourselves wholeheartedly in to the full time travelling life and are still learning new things.

Like most things in life there are multiple ways to do everything so the below is not the golden rule… it’s a guide.

As we always say “everyone is different”

With that in mind, please check out our Q & A’s and see if you find any helpful info in there.

Click A Question To Show/Hide The Answer

General Caravan Questions

What Size Caravan Should I Buy ?

What size van to buy actually comes down to personal circumstances along with what you can afford, what tow vehicle you have and what you plan to do when travelling.

 

If it’s your first time towing, I’d suggest not going too big first up, the bigger you go the more you have to deal with when backing and driving and also some caravan parks have limits to the size of a vehicle/caravan setup.

 

In saying that, if a van is going to be your full time home, you might want to get the size right for you, the first time. We personally find a 21ft van ideal for the two of us.

 

As much as we would love to say “this size” will fit everyone, it’s not one of those cases unfortunately. Visit as many caravan yards as you can and do your research before deciding.

 

First,

work out what weight your vehicle can tow, that will narrow down some of your choices.

 

Then,

go to every caravan show possible. Sit on all the seats, lay on all the beds, get a feel for what you like.

whizbanger

Photo: Larry & I  Trying out a wizbanger in New Zealand.


 

Ideally if you can rent a van for a week/month that would be a great way to see what you like and what you don’t.

 

As for motor-homes, similar principles apply. Do you want to be sitting in the swivel driver seat rather than a comfortable couch? Do you want an oven, do you have enough storage, do you need a shower and toilet etc.

 

There’s alot to consider so check out the shows or ask around at caravan parks. Remember,  what suits one person may not suit you.

What Made You Choose A Caravan ?

We went through several stages when looking at what RV we should buy. Motor-home, caravan, slide on camper, 5th wheeler etc. For us, our decision to go with a caravan had several factors.

 

Practicality

Although a motor-home would have been a good choice for us, it would have meant selling the ute. We would then have the difficulty with no way to drive to work etc.

A motor-home would of been a option, had we been able to afford both a motor-home and a tow vehicle. Realistically we just couldn’t afford the lot at the time.

Photo: We Needed A Van To Go With Our Tow Vehicle


 

Price

The price of a caravan was obtainable, where-as a 5th wheeler or a motor-home + trailing car was out of our price range.

 

Small camper van was not a space option for our full time travel. Same with a slide on camper and same with a tent. Again, others are happy to travel with these set up. It’s an individual choice!

5th wheeler

Now this would of been nice but again,  price stopped us from doing it. 5th wheelers are great as they apparently tow like a dream and you get more space for your length .

In the end, you do need to either buy something to suit your existing tow vehicle or upgrade the tow vehicle to match what you want to buy.

For us to upgrade the tow vehicle was another $20,000+ to find, so it wasn’t a option when we already had a $30,000 ute, therefore we matched the caravan to what we could tow.

What Upgrades Do You Recommend ?

Here are the upgrades we have and why…

Extended Draw Bar

Not for everyone but it helps with reversing and gives you the opportunity to fit a stone guard, tool box etc. We thought we would buy a stone guard but never bothered in the end. If we had an off road van we might have bought one.

Reverse And Rear view Cameras

Priceless!! They are super handy if you have them. Whether you’re wanting to see cars and trucks behind you on the road or backing into a site, they come in handy.

Fresh Water Tanks

We have two tanks as we free camp a lot and like to be as self sufficient as possible for as long as possible.

Grey Water Tank

An on board Grey water tank puts you in the category of self-sufficient (depending on who you ask) which allows you into a lot more places than those that aren’t. We have needed it on many occasions over the last 6+ years, but you might not ? National Parks are places you will 100% need one.

Solar

Absolute must in my opinion unless you plan to only be at caravan parks on power. Make sure you have batteries to suit and get as many solar panels as you can afford and mount. For those wanting to free camp and be off grid the more the merrier.

Check out this  Solar and battery calculator to help you work out what will work for you.

Photo: Our 3 Lithium Batteries For iTechworld


Lithium Batteries

In early 2019 we upgraded to Lithium batteries. Although still fairly expensive they have come down in price alot. We couldn’t afford them when we first set off but we are very glad we have them now.

Here’s why we swapped to lithium.

  • Lithium batteries almost double the available amps when compared to AGM
  • They can be run down to %20 or more, safely, unlike AGM’s which you should not run down lower than  %50
  • Lithiums maintain their voltage until almost flat.
  • They charge quicker
  • They last several years longer than a AGM
  • They are Super light weight
  • and several more advantages but you get the point i hope.

Water Filters

For your drinking water tap and for the hose that fills you fresh water tanks. We have stayed in places where there is only bore water or just simply not on town water. Water filters give us piece of mind that the water is cleaner than non filtered water.

Sirocco Fan

We started with one and now have 3. They are not cheap and seem to get more expensive each year,  but they are worth every penny when you’re free camping in 40 degree heat. Fit it yourself if you can, as it’s much cheaper.

Caframo fan Sirrocco Fans for caravan full time caravanningPhoto: Sirocco Fan


Check out our more in depth post on vehicle accessories here

How Long Does A Gas Bottle Last?

There are a lot of variables in this question which will change the answer dramatically. For example, a three way fridge can take its toll on your gas consumption, especially if you free camp a lot like us.

 

3 Way Fridge – A common comment is a 9kg gas bottle will last about a month if using a 3 way fridge and free camping. By the time you cook as normal, heat your hot water and cool your fridge gas is being used each time.

 

 Needless to say, if you’re free camping a lot and cook a lot you will use more. If you’re set up on a powered site you will use a lot less!

 

Motor-homes normally have smaller gas bottles (around 4kg) and if you use your oven for the likes of baked spuds or you BBQ alot also, then your gas might run out quicker.

218 liter Waeco RPD218 compressor caravan fridgePhoto: Putting Our Compressor Fridge Back In After Cleaning The Compressor


 

Compressor Fridge

We have a compressor fridge and our gas last’s about 3 months. It mainly runs off our batteries/solar. We have a great solar set up and Lithium batteries providing our power.

 

Alternatively the compressor fridge uses 240v if plugged into the mains. So we tend to last longer before re-filling than those with 3 way fridges.

 

We use gas for hot water and cooking only (if free camping that is).

Swap Gas Bottles Or Refill ?

The Question is, what date is on your gas bottle?

 

Refill

if you have a relatively new gas bottle. Gas bottles have a life of 10 years before they need retested. If you’re choosing to swap your gas bottle when it’s got a few years left, you might end up picking out a bottle that only has a few months left.

You can check your bottle dates by looking at the date stamp on the bottle handle.

Often with swapping you end up with someones elses almost expired bottles. On top of that when I watch the person fill our bottles I know we are getting full bottles not 3/4 full ones.

Kamarooka Tourist Park St George Queensland gas bottle refillPhoto: Gas Bottle Refill In Caravan Park


Places like BCF and Anaconda are relatively cheaper then other gas refill places.

Find the cheapest gas bottle swaps and refills in Australia on the website gasbottlerefills.com

What Are The Main Expenses When Fulltime Caravanning ?

Full Time Caravanning expenses are obviously different depending on if you’re a couple, family or solo traveller.

 

For us and a few others we have spoken to, the top 3 expenses are :

 

Groceries

This is often the number 1 expense. However if you’re frugal or like your beans on toast you will spend less. A meal plan is a good idea to help regulate costs and save on wastage.

Eating habits do change when on the road so it can take a while to get a average of your food expenses. A meal plan is a good idea to help regulate costs and also not forgetting to go for a walk during the days so the happy hour hips don’t catch up with you 🙂

 

Fuel –

Fuel came second. Fuel prices rise depending on location such as the outback. Additionally, with overseas issues happening prices increase. 

Dirranbandi Retreat and Caravan Park QLD old station pumpPhoto: Old Gas Pump In Garden


 

Accommodation

Free camping , showgrounds and pub camping are our go to camping locations. These places save you buckets of money on accommodation while travelling.

 

However, If you prefer caravan parks your accommodation costs might be more.

 

Alcohol –

Alcohol costs obviously depends on your consumption, or not. How often you hit the happy hours and how social you are etc.

Is Levelling Your Van Important ?

Levelling your van is important in some cases yes.

 

For example, if you have a 3 way fridge, your van needs to be level to allow it to work properly. Compressor fridges have no problems if you’re not level.

 

You’ll also find that if your van is not level then when washing your dishes the water from the dishes may also run off your draining board the wrong way.

 

Most importantly though, when cooking the morning bacon and eggs it’s annoying when the eggs run off to one side of the pan because you’re on a lean 🙂

 

We suggest a small T shaped level from Bunnings be attached to your draw bar ( or somewhere you prefer) so that when setting up you can easily determine what you need to do to make the van level.

 

Also, we have been known to tip some water on our draining board to see if water runs into the sink or down the bench top.

How Much Should I Budget Each Week ?

For us, a weekly spend usually comprises of food, fuel, social drinks and spending money in the towns we visit. This changes when we pay for sites at caravan parks or showgrounds etc.

 

For you, it will depend entirely what your lifestyle on the road will be. Are you a family or single? Will you be staying in caravan parks all year? How much is your insurance?

 

On many of the FB pages the general consensus is you’ll spend around $1 per 1 km. This changes with fuel costs as the world changes. Anyway, I guess it comes down to how good you are with money ?

 

Start with the largest cost scenario that will cover your annual expenses, as well as insurance, rego’s and the likes. I’ve read before one person gets their grocery bill down to $50 a week, we haven’t mastered that one yet.

 

To help see how much you are spending check out our Budget Tracker Spreadsheet

How Far Do You Travel Each Day ?

How far you travel each day is a personal preference . A fellow traveller once said to us ” we don’t travel any more than 200km a day or you end up missing half the country” and that philosophy made sense to us. So now we generally follow the same structure.

In saying that, if we find a camp 5Km, 50Km or 500Km away, that’s where we stop.

 

Longer hours and distances are sometimes essential. Heading to a farm sit, a job or trying to get to a safe place through COVID have all been situations to travel longer distance. Just go with what’s best for you on that particular day.

Ensuite area

How Do Caravan Toilets Work ?

Caravan toilets are normally a cassette type. By cassette type I mean a removable but sealed container which once full you can take to an abundance of specific dump points. These dump points can be found all around Australia, in caravan parks or in RV friendly towns.

 

We have a Thetford model 17.5 Ltr toilet that flushes using water direct from our water holding tanks. It  has a light to let you know when it’s full so you know when to empty it.

 

caravan cassette toiletPhoto: Our Toilet Cassette 

 

Most caravan toilets require chemicals to help breakdown the waste and decrease smells. We have been using SCA portable toilet chemical from Super-cheap Auto, this works well for us.

 

Dump points have living microbes that break down your waste. Consequently, if you use a chemical in your toilet that kills those microbes, on emptying your waste they will die. In addition the microbes can’t break down the waste and it will continue to smell.

 

We find if we use the toilet as normal it can last about 3-4 days before needing to be emptied. Obviously this depends on how much fluid and solids we put in there. More importantly how much water we flush with.

 

We can make it last a lot longer with some of the tips we wrote in our 10 Toilet Tips & Tricks Post

Do You Use Special Toilet Paper ?

Just the special type of toilet paper that prevents your finger going through when wiping 🙂

 

Ideally thinner is better because it breaks down quicker but in general it’s no different to what you use at home. Remember to take into account the more paper you use the sooner you have to empty the toilet.

 

Please DO NOT! put wet wipes in your toilet cassette as they will block up dump points

Are Onboard Washing Machines Worth It ?

Our 3kg sphere washing machine was an added extra for us when we bought our van. We are 100% happy we made that decision.

Having our own machine saves us heaps, especially when you think about how much a couple of dollars in each machine you use mounts up over a year.

ironing at eighty mile beach
Photo: Ironing over my dead body

To give you an example, when working on farms and stations clothes get washed every day. Sheets & towels once a week. A trip to the laundry would be so boring and inconvenient. 

Lastly, when off grid, we often use the washing machine only for its spin cycle ( via a 300w inverter) which comes in handy  🙂

How Often Do You Empty The Toilet ?

On average for the two of us it’s roughly every third day. Like everything there are variations to this for others.

A few obvious things are:

  • Being in remote areas males tend to go into the bush for a pee.
  • When flushing if you get to trigger happy and flush a lot that will fill it pretty quickly
  • If you use too much toilet paper that will also do it etc.

But in general about every 3 days for a couple.

 

For a more in depth look at caravan toilets, check out our post “10 Toilet Tips & Tricks

Any Shower Water Saving Tips?

To save water when free camping and having a shower, use a 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner to save washing your hair twice.

When showering,

  • Get wet
  • Turn off the shower
  • Soap and scrub up
  • Turn on Shower and wash off.

 

You’ll be surprised how much little water it really takes to have a shower when compared to how we used to do it in the city lifestyle 🙂

 

Alternatively, you can put some water in the sink and use a wash cloth. Only doing your face, pits and important bits. Also, dry shampoo can be your friend!

 

Living in a caravan makes you think twice about water consumption. That doesn’t mean you have to be a scrooge with water. Being water smart however, will  allow you to stay free camping longer before needing to top up your water again.

 

Our post “22 Water Saving Tips‘ has a heap of ideas for saving water in all areas of your van.

Bedroom Area

What Size Are Caravan Beds?

Caravan bed sizes will vary depending on what caravan you buy and what floor plan it is.

 

My understanding is that if it has a slide out like our Jayco, then it’s most likely sized between a double and a queen.

 

Photo: Our Jayco Starcraft Slide Out Bed

 

 

Caravan beds mostly come with specially made mattress with corners cut rounded. This is to help not bumping into it when walking past.

 

We use queen size sheets as we like the top sheet and doona a bit longer. You can buy clips (they look like suspender belt clips) to hold the corners of the bottom sheet tight.

 

Double sheets fit fine but do not cover the bolster cushion. This is the top part of the bed that you can remove for travelling  and put back when in use.

 

A TIP: Put the bolster cushion at the bottom of the bed as this saves you leaning over the bed each time.

 

No need to go and get especially made sheets but I believe you can buy them if that’s what you’re after.

Are Caravan Matresses Comfy ?

Caravan Mattresses like any mattress are a personal preference.

 

The standard Jayco mattress took us a bit to get used to. We were used to a king size bed for a start.

 

Our Jayco already come with an innerspring mattresses. Due to weight and space they are a lot thinner than our standard household mattress. Therefore, for us not as comfy.

 

After a couple of years we chose to fork out some money on a new mattress with another bolster cushion. Unfortunately it still doesn’t suit both of us either with comfort or size.

 

Here’s a few things we and a lot of people do to make a caravan bed more comfy:

 

  • Invest in either some eggshell foam from Clarke rubber as a bed underlay (they also do mattresses for caravans)
  • Get a specific bed topper from a store. We opted for the bed topper and it made a noticeable difference. 
  • There are companies out there that make custom mattresses specific for caravans as we did.
Can Slide Out Bed's Not Close Properly?

Yes, on a couple of occasions our slide out bed has been a bit skew-whiff.

 

To help stop this happening:

  • We make sure we raise the bed when bringing it in and out.
  • Once we hear the motor stop on the slide out, we keep our finger on the slide in button for a few seconds longer (4 to 5 seconds recommended)
  •  

Still having difficulty? Check out our post on “Jayco Slide Out Re-sinking

Kitchen Area

What kitchen Items Should I Take?

Pop a sticker on all your kitchen items and when you use it take the sticker off. In a few months time, items without a sticker are the items you will use in your van and the others you probably aren’t going to use.

 

Try and aim for most items having a dual purpose. For example a sieve for flour can be used as a colander. A large bowl or mixing bowl could be used for a fruit basket etc.

 

How many people are living in your van? As there’s only the two of us we have gone from a heap of cutlery to just 4 of each. That’s two to use and two more in case the other aren’t washed or get lost.

 

You’re less likely to be catering for family and friends for Christmas dinners when living on the road. You’ll find most people you sit down to have a beer and nibbles with are also campers and each person will bring their own chairs, glasses and plate over.

 

Bowls and pots need to have multi purposes also, there’s no need to have a family of casserole dishes as an example.

 

Photo: Our Square Pans That Stack Inside Each Other

 

We LOVE our Smart Space Pots! These are square pots that fit inside each other taking up less precious space in your cupboards. As well as coming with a detachable handle they are non stick and each pan comes with a teflon matt to use on your bench top.

 

Check out our store or the Smart Space Pots links for more.

Cooking In A Caravan

Cooking in a caravan is really no different to cooking in a house. Maybe a smaller space but you get used to it.

We chose to buy a caravan with a 3 ring gas hob, 1 electric ring and gas cooker. It has a grill but it’s useless!

 Therefore with our set up, we can boil spuds, cook a roast or bake. Alternatively getting out the BBQ and cooking outside is a great alternative.

 

Groceries and stock levels can be similar to being at home dependant on the size of your family and the size of your fridge/cupboards.

Our fridge is a 218lt compressor caravan fridge and is perfect size for the two of us.

 

Remember ventilation when using a gas appliance.

How Long Does Your Water Last In Your Fresh Water Tank?

That’s a fairly “how long is a piece of string” sort of question but let me have a go at answering it…

 

Living in the city where water just turns up when you operate a tap we have a tendency to be extremely wasteful society.

Habits change dramatically when you’re caravanning, specifically when you’re free camping.

 

It soon dawns on you just how much water you used to waste brushing our teeth, having a shower etc.

 

We can now make 160 litres of water last almost two weeks for two people. You’ll find ways of conserving water, like turning water off in the shower until you’re all soaped then rinse it off.

 

Another example if you know you are going off grid for quite a while is to use paper plates to save washing up.

 

Have a read of our “22 Water Saving Tips” for more ideas

Can I Use A Microwave When Free Camping ?

Yes but Not without assistance is the short answer.

 

You need 240v power supply (mains power) to run a microwave. With that in mind, to operate a microwave you will need either a Inverter and great batteries or a generator.

 

( see below inverter explanations under Appliances heading )

How Do I Clean My Tanks If I Need To ?

There are a few home remedies for this.

Baking soda and vinegar is one we have used a number of times as that’s what we always have on hand. This is our go to for cleaning everything.

In saying that, when we were staying on a farm for a while, we had to clean our fresh water tanks. During our stay, we had a bad batch of rain water.

  • First we used a couple of bottles of Milton (baby bottle cleaner) from the supermarket. Putting it through our tanks then leaving it for a few hours.
  • Then while driving it jiggled the Milton around the tank
  • Lastly we flushed it all out of the tanks with clean town water. It worked well.

Storage Area

Do You Have Some Space Saving Tips ?

When first putting your belongings in your van most people take way too much. After 6 years full time travelling, we still have regular clean outs.

 

Here’s a few of our space saving tips

  • Use suction storage bags for doonas and out of season clothes
  • Store less used items under the bed
  • Use hooks over cupboard doors to hang bags, towels, coats
  • use fold away boxes under the hang over at the end of the bed. Store anything from shoes, drinks to loo roll. Ours have never moved while driving.
  • Wall storage pockets come with some vans but not ours. We bought some off Ebay that are handy for bits and bobs like eye glasses, baseball caps and anything else that ends up on the table.
  • Use Smart Space Pots for your cooking. They stack inside each other to save space.
  • Buy square containers not round so they fit next to each other better and if possible buy ones that stack.
  • We have turned our cupboard hanging space into shelves. We fit many more clothes in it.
  • Un pack the groceries and store in zip lock or freezer bags or vacuum seal. The amount of wasted space the shop packaging takes up is considerable.

 

hanging shelves

Photo: Turning Our Hanging Space To Shelving

 

Added Tip: Put a coloured sticker on kitchen items or clothes etc. If in 3 or 6 months’ time there’s something in the cupboard with a sticker still on, then there’s a  chance you don’t need it.

 

Collapsible products like these from Adventure Awaits are fantastic.

Do You Store Anything Differently When Travelling ?

For us, who travel on both bitumen and gravel, we don’t have too much that has given us grief. Although, we do store our coffee machine away and bubble wrap our favourite drinking glasses and bottles.

 

Photo: Our Coffee Machine Gets Stored Away

 

In the last couple of years we bought Corelle dinner plates which we highly recommend. We don’t separate them we just stack them like you would normally. No breakage yet.

 

Our TV used to be stored on the bed, under the doona (as we were directed to do when we bought our van) We upgraded our TV to a larger one but considerably lighter. Now, after 6 years we have become complacent and leave it in place. So far so good, the TV is fine. We’re not recommending it, just saying.

 

Similarly the microwave plate. We used to put it back in its original polystyrene packaging till it broke apart. Now we just leave it (as we forget) again its been fine.

 

We have a few things stuck to the wall with Velcro such as a board, router, and hard drive. Others are stuck with blue tac to the counter such as a light weight but fake plant. Things that are not heavy tend not to move with a little blue tac.

 

Other people do extra’s, such as put the shower head in a stubby cooler

Appliances

Do I Need A Inverter To Run A TV ?

Your caravan will have a 12 volt TV that is specifically run off your caravan batteries. Ultimately it consumes less power than a regular house TV on 240volts.

 

You can be off grid and not worry that your TV wont work. The only thing stopping it is whether you get reception or not.

Can I Use My 240 Volt Big Screen TV In My Van ?

Yes, you could put your big screen TV in your van, but is it worth the extra space, weight and power consumption ? What wall do you think it will fit on ?

 

We all love big screen TV’s especially when we get older and more blind as a bat. However, coming from someone who cringed at the thought of downsizing to a 19 inch or 17 inch TV from a 54 inch, it really won’t bother you as much as you thought.

 

For starters you’ll probably spend more time outdoors anyway. Not forgetting you’re in a smaller room than a normal house so the TV looks nearer.

 

It’s a trade-off that’s very easy to get over. In saying that, we did upgrade to a 24 inch 12 volt TV.

 

You will need to be hooked up to 240 power or have a great inverter, solar and battery set up. Check out the 12 Volt Tv’s from Caravan RV Camping

 

Save $30 when you spend over $500 at Caravan RV Camping. Use our discount codeFULLTIME“ at the checkout to receive your discount.

Can I Power A Toaster Or Coffee Machine When Free Camping ?

The simple answer is yes! You can use your coffee machine and toaster while you are off grid.

 

To some these are luxury items but when you live full time in your van, why would you not have them? We love our morning coffee made by a power hungry espresso machine.

 

Obviously when on 240 volt power you have no worries but what about free camping?

 

here’s what we do..

Our larger appliances run off a 2000 watt inverter from the dual lithium battery in the back of our ute. We personally have a power cord that goes from our inverter in the ute to our van, charging specific power points that have been installed for this purpose.

 

For you however, you might have an inverter in your van you can plug in to. Some motorhomes have a button to turn on the inverter which is connected to all the power points. In this case you can just plug in as per usual. I do stress you should only use one appliance at a time.

 

Yes, they suck some power but in reality they only operate for a short period of around 5 minutes each morning so that’s not as demanding on the batteries as some folks make out.

 

Certainly a good inverter, battery and solar supply takes the worry out of these types of daily luxuries. Check this solar calculator which might help you

Reccomendations For Caravan Fans ?

Caframo Sirrocco 12v fan are our go to fans.

Originally made for the marine industry, they are now very popular with the caravanning world, us included.

 

Caframo Sirrocco fans were about $140 when we bought them and but worth every penny. We have 3 of them and they swivel in multiple directions, have three speed settings, have a timer function and only draw a tiny amount of current.

They keep you cool when air con is not available and we find them quiet enough to sleep with them on. Only downside to them is they are little bit fiddly to clean.

 

As previously stated, they were about $140 sadly looking them up today (March 2022) the price has risen anywhere from $164 to $219

 

You might want to look at a few cheaper 12 volt fan alternatives at Here At Tent World

Three Way Or Compressor Fridge ?

We can only really comment on our experience, that being our compressor fridge.

 

We have a 218 litre Waeco fridge and love it. Big enough to store enough food for easily a couple of weeks for the two of us. Noise ? It’s quiet enough we don’t really hear it.

 

When off grid and free camping, no gas is used with a compressor fridge because it runs on 12 volts. Where as you might use a 9kg gas bottle in a month free camping with a 3 way fridge compared to a few months with a compressor fridge.

I believe if you have a three way fridge they require the van to always be level. This is not the case with a compressor fridge.  Not as much messing around is needed when pulling up for a night.

Can I Use My Washing Machine Off Grid ?

Our 3kg machine has been used off grid a few times. Although, unlike on power, we have only used it on a spin cycle when off grid.

Our washing machine takes about 15 – 20 litres of water to fill the tub. However on a full cycle with all the options ticked such as rinse then we use a heap more.

 

We tested it in the early days before going free camping and managed to drain two 82 litre tanks. This was probably mainly due to the machine being un-balanced during it’s spin cycle and then filling with water again.

Now we listen for the spin cycle and stand by the machine in case it fills again.

 

As mentioned, you can do some hand washing and then use the spin cycle. Check if you have the right size inverter, batteries and solar to use it off grid.

 

Added tip: Some of us use a wool wash as you don’t need to rinse and therefore save water. 

 
Why Do I Need An Amphibian?

If you’re planning on long term travel or travel to random spots other than caravan parks, then I suggest buying the amphibian. Some camps only have 10 amp power points rather than the normal 15 amps that caravans plug straight into.

 

Photo: We Use Our Amphibian A Lot

 

The amphibian lets you plug your normal 15 amp caravan power lead into the 10 amp power socket. The Amphibian also helps with any power surge by tripping it’s fuse before it gets to your van.

Electrical

Can You Explain Inverters To Me In Laymans Terms ?

Batteries can’t run household 240v appliances on their own.

A inverter is a unit wired to your batteries that takes power from the battery and ramps it up to a power that your household appliances can use.

You can then plug a normal three pin plug into the inverter to run what you need. (Please see next question for more in depth answer)

What Size Inverter Do I Need ?

There’s no single answer for what size inverter to get  unfortunately. It depends on what you want to run off it.

 

As a general rule of thumb a 300 watt inverter is adequate to run laptop chargers, battery chargers and the 3kg caravan washing machine that some vanners have.

Although not necessarily all at the same time!

 

Whereas, if you intend to run more hungry appliances such as those that have a element or produce heat then you’re going to have to get a bigger inverter.

 

A microwave could use 800 watts or more, or a jug could use well over 1300 watts “on start up”.

 

With this in mind, you need to account for the “start up” power and therefore a 2000w inverter will be better for your bigger power consumers.

 

Bare in mind that the bigger you go the more the inverter sucks from your batteries, running them down quicker. Therefore, it’s not advisable to run a 60 watt laptop off a 2000w inverter.

 

Think about what appliances you intend to use, read the labels to find out what watts they are then double it to account for start-up current. Make sure you have the batteries to back that up IE: enough amp hours to not be flat after 10 minutes use.

Pure Sine Wave Or Modified Sine Wave Inverter ?

Think of it as , pure sinewave for sensitive electronics, modified inverter for electrics that arn’t so sensitive.

 

Pure Sine Wave Inverter

Good for If you’re planning on powering electronics such as your TV, Phone, Laptops etc.

Modified Inverter

If you’re powering toasters, hair dryers etc. then modified is fine. But,  you can also use pure sine wave.

Overall, in my opinion, if you get pure sine wave you can use it for everything although they do costs a bit more.

Check out My Generator for Inverters and more

I Don't Understand How Solar Works

Solar charging is where the sun shines on your solar panels which then charges your batteries.

  • Once the solar panels see sunlight they turn the suns rays into usable electricity.
  • That electricity then travels from the solar panels to a solar regulator.
  • The solar regulator then regulates how much electricity goes back into your batteries. This is so the batteries don’t boil and get over charged.
  • Running appliance direct from solar panels with built in regulators is possible, however it has it’s downsides. There could be fluctuating power, depending on the sun and/or clouds along with other draw backs.

Most commonly, solar panels are used to charge batteries and it’s the batteries that you get the power from to run your electrical requirements.

My Generator has Batteries, solar, inverters and more

 

Any Tricks To Getting The Best From My Solar Panel ?

The idea is to point your solar panel directly to the sun.

If you have portable panels that’s easily done just by shifting them every hour or so to face the sun.

However, if your panels are mounted flat on the roof of the van like many are, then they lose efficiency. That’s one of the joys of limited space but on the upside there is no adjusting them everytime the sun shifts.

 

Periodically, aim to get on the roof via a ladder or in some cases a sky light and wash your solar panels with water. Needless to say they get dusty or covered in leaves and start to be less efficient.

 

Don’t use anything abrasive on your solar and try not to use chemicals or you’ll damage the surfaces. 

 

Also, keep in mind, that depending on how your panels are mounted on your roof, you may get shade. This could be from your AC unit or roof hatches. Try and park so this doesn’t happen IE: park north – south

What Size Generator Do I Need To Run My AC ?

Our air con unit draws 5 amps when running and can be between 1300 – 1600watts.

 

As a general rule of thumb, taking into account it’s “start up” current draw,  a 2kva generator should do the job in most vans.

Why Install A Anderson Plug On The Back Of My Vehicle ?

The Anderson plug is used to help charge your caravan batteries while driving.

You can also plug in portable solar panels to the vans anderson plug to help charge the batteries when parked.

 

In addition, you can use the vans Anderson plug as a 12v battery source if you want to power something externally like a spot lamp or what ever

Mechanical

Is it worth Getting A Slide Out In Our Caravan Or Motorhome ?

In our experience yes, we love our bed slide out.

Slide outs add a lot of room to an otherwise small area, it can make a lot of difference especially if it’s a lounge slide out.

 

There are some “potential” downsides to them such as:

  • The extra weight 
  • It’s mechanical and some things mechanical can break
  • There’s potential for rain and dust to get in once parts are worn

 

Overall they add the much needed space and we love ours

How Often Do Our Van's Wheel Bearings Need To Be Serviced ?

Our Jayco states wheel bearings should be done every 10,000km or once a year whichever comes first.

 

This is actually not a bad guideline to go by and would recommend the same.

Our Slide Out Doesn't Close Evenly

Our slide out has done that once or twice so you’re not alone.

 

 I wrote a article on how you can try and fix it. You can view it here https://fulltimecaravanning.com.au/jayco-slide-out-re-syncing/

Plumbing

Any Tips To Helping Stop Grey Water Smelling ?

Yes, add a cap full of laundry soaker powder to the grey water tank every couple of days, this seems to do the trick nicely.

 

Once the tank is empty we have also used bicarb and white vinegar.  Then we have driven to our next camp and emptied it.

 

Remember that grey water tanks aren’t meant to store grey water for longer than 24 hours so regular dumping in the right areas is a good thing.

My Water Pump Seems Noisy

Before going to replace a water pump because it’s noisy take a look at the hoses for rubbing against any of the body work.

 

It’s very common for the harder plastic pipes coming from the water pump to vibrate against the interior cupboards etc and cause things to get noisy.

 

Some foam insulation around the pipes from Bunnings might help fix it.

My Water Pressure Is Worse When Connected To Mains

Under the middle of our van is a bronze pressure reducing valve. It’s a bit under rated and /or can block up.

 

You might find it’s worth pulling this valve apart and cleaning it out. Then re fitting to check pressure has returned before looking at everything else.

 

A replacement valve at a higher rating can be purchased from a plumbing store if you feel it’s needed.

How Do I Heat The Water In My Van ?

There are three standard methods.

 

  • One is to heat the water by turning on the gas heat button. This will use gas from your LPG bottles to heat approximately 20 litres of water (will vary based on models).

 

  • Secondly connect to mains and use the element in the bottom of the hot water cylinder to heat the water. NOTE: there is a sacrificial anode in the hot water cylinder that needs checked and replaced each year. If you don’t replace the anode then you run the risk of killing your element.

 

  • Instant hot water system that runs off your batteries
Should I Fill My Water Tanks Before Travelling ?

Filling you water tank before travel depends on a couple of things.

 

If you’re just travelling to a caravan park, then you’ll have access to water when you get there. In this case you’re best to fill when you’re there. This will save you in weight and therefore fuel costs.

 

However, if you are going bush and free camping you’re best to fill up before you go, providing it doesn’t put you over weight.

 

You’re also best to travel with full tanks not half filled tanks. A full tank is less likely to slosh around causing your caravan to sway.

Do I Need A Special Hose To Fill My Water Tanks ?

Need is probably not the right word but what you’re best to have is a “food grade” hose.

 

Food grade hoses eliminate the bad tastes that some people mention when using regular garden hoses.

 

Using a garden hose is not wrong and can be done. In fact we do it often, when on farms. However, our water goes through three filters, four if you count the fresh water tap filter in the van.

 

When talking about drinking water, you’re far better off getting a food grade hose just in case

 

You can get Fresh water hoses from places like Bunnings, Caravan RV Camping, Tent World 

Can I Let My Grey Water Out On The Ground Anywhere ?

The short answer is No, you can’t put it on the ground anywhere.

 

Some sites and especially National parks do not like you emptying grey water on the ground.

 

National parks require you to be self sufficient (everything on board). Whereas, other places almost rely on caravan grey water to keep their trees watered.

 

An on board grey water tank is one way to eliminate the hassle. Alternatively some people drain directly into 20 litre water containers and remove from site.

 

You can then empty it at the next dump point, if it caters for grey water.

 

If in doubt ask the owner or local council before dumping.

Vehicle and Towing

Will An Extended Drawbar Help With Reversing ?

Yes, a extended drawbar makes reversing a little less sensitive and therefore easier to back as you’re not having to over correct as much.

 

On a side note :

If you’re thinking more space on your drawbar means tool boxes, generators and other heavy items. Remember, this will add a considerable amount to your tow ball weight. so you’ll needs take that into account if you plan to utilise that space.

 

Remember safety first 🙂

Any Tips, To Prep My Vehicle For Towing ?

Of course your tow vehicle should have it’s basics, like it’s roadworthy and be legal.

Aside from that:

  • You’ll want to make sure your rear suspension is rated to cope with a constant load such as a caravan being put on it. In a lot of cases if a 4wd ute is being used you’ll probably want to get at least 300kg constant load rated rear springs fitted.
  • You might need new shockies as well. Bearing in mind the quantity of travel you’ll be doing and that safety should be right up there on the list.
  • Also, keep in mind that fitting air shocks and pumping them up to max, to reduce the sag in the rear when loaded, is not the correct way to update your suspension. This could result in overloading chassis components. I strongly suggest expert advice.
  • You’ll also need an Electric brake controller fitted and a Anderson plug fitted to the rear of the vehicle.
  • I would recommend also a secondary fuel filter system in your vehicle  for when you’re filling up in remote areas. Today’s common rail diesel engines hate water from some random outback fuel station. Can be quiet costly compared to $300 or so dollars for a secondary fuel filter/water trap
  •  A snorkel is a good option during the dusty road trips.
  • Lastly, have a look at https://fulltimecaravanning.com.au/weight-distribution/ to help determine if you’ll need a weight distribution hitch or not.

 

Otherwise most other extras for the vehicle come down to how much weight you can carry and is it really important to you.

 
Do I Need Mirrors ?

YES, unless you can clearly see the centre line of the road with existing mirrors while van is attached.

I recommend the Milenco Side Mirrors, several people swear by the clearview mirrors which is fine if you have a spare $900 to spend on them. Milenco’s are around $150 a pair. We have had ours for over 6 years and have had no problems.

Photo: Our Milenco Side Mirror

Also, I highly recommend if you have the opportunity to have rear view and reversing cameras fitted then do it.

full time caravanning Turning Our Rear View Mirror Into A Rear View Camera

Photo: Our reversing mirror is now a rear view Camera

I love our rear view camera which has a LCD display that attaches to our existing inside mirror. It assists in knowing what’s going on around you and also helps when backing.

 
Tent World and Caravan RV Camping have Milenco and other varieties of towing mirrors to choose from.
 
 

My Anderson Hitch Is Squeeking

The Anderson weight distribution hitch in general is designed to be quiet and not squeak like some other brands.

However, the odd one or two have been known to make a noise randomly which sounds like metal on metal.

 

This happened to us and the fix is simple.

 

We emailed Titan Brakes in Brisbane who are the Australian distributors,  explaining the situation. They sent us, free of charge, a bottle of T9, a product made by Boeing. It’s basically wd40 in a small liquid bottle. well its not really but… it repels dust and water and lubricates at the same time. It goes around the tapered shaft of the towball and the brake cone of the Anderson hitch. Works well

 

I suggest searching google for it if the company you purchased yours from is not so giving.

To apply.

1. Undo the circlip at the base of the towball.

2. Turn towball assembly upside down.

3. Place block of wood on the now upside down towball and hit wood with a hammer to allow towball to fall onto the ground.

4. You may find small bits of the brake lining material stuck to the metal towball tapered shaft. This is potentially causing your noise.

5. Use a wire brush and clean that all up. Wipe any the dust and moisture from the brake cone and apply some T9 product to it.

6. Rub the T9 product in to the brake lining until totally covered the wipe off any excess T9

7. This will embed T9 into the material and leave a light wax film on the surface that won’t attract dust or moisture.

8. Reassemble into the housing and re fit circlip

I have done this around 3 or 4 times in the last five years.

General Questions

How Do I Keep Track Of My Budget On The Road ?

This is a easy question because we’ve done the hard work for you.

On our spreadsheet page we have our budget tracker which will track what you spend and show you where all your money is going .

What's The Best Way To Find Free Camps?

The single best investment you’ll make as a traveller is to get the WikiCamps app for your phone/PC.

 WikiCamps is around $8 but but it is priceless.

You’ll find masses of free camps listed all around Australia. As well as caravan parks, user reviews, amenities and photos to name but a few of it’s applications.

 

We love that it also has offline maps for those out of range moments.

 

Don’t forget you can check out “All The Free Camps” we have stayed in all around Australia over the last six years. Or, have a look at our interactive map of Australia to see “Where We Have Been

What Do You Do About Mail When On The Road ?
  • Change as many things as you can to your email instead of physical mail address.
  • For any remaining mail that can’t be sent via email have it sent to a family member for them to forward on.
  • Alternatively there are online businesses out there that will forward mail onto you when you specify your next destination.
  • Have mail delivered directly to a post office that we will be near in the future. Australia post will hold that mail for for you up to 30 days.
Why Are Stairs Called Stairs If Inside, But Steps Outside ?

yup … one of life’s many mysteries 😀

We also have a handy hints page with some extra tips which can be found here Handy tips

Happy Caravanning

Laz and Sue

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1 thought on “Questions And Answers

  1. Hello Larry And Sue
    Once again a very informative and not a bad read well done.
    Kevin And Tracey Howe

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