Campervan Essentials: Australia Edition (Items and Apps)
Vanlife is amazing and Australia, with it's vast amount of landscapes and experiences, is the perfect place to become immersed in it. To make sure you set off in the right gear, we have listed all the campervan essentials we found handy during our 4 months travelling around Australia in our trusty campervan, Nelson Vandela. This includes items and the best apps to have on your phone.
Folding Camping Table + Chairs
These will form the basis of your outdoor kitchen and are both super easy to pack/unpack, making them perfect for a kitchen on the road.
We would recommend buying both from K-Mart.
Camping Stove + Gas
Camping stoves are the best way to cook your meals on the road. We went for a 2 burner, butane gas stove. They are light and portable, so it makes it easy to cook wherever you want, whether it's on your camp table or a picnic bench on the beach.
The butane gas stoves require little bottles of gas to run, which can be found in most supermarkets, service stations and even in K-Mart or Big W.
Crockery + Cutlery, etc
What's a kitchen without stuff to eat on and with?! So, of course, you will need your standard kitchen equipment such as plates, bowls, pans, mugs, a colander, etc.
The main difference with having kitchen equipment in a campervan is that your kitchen is constantly shaking! Because of this, it is best to have mostly plastic or enamel equipment so that it doesn't break easily.
A must-have accessory whilst travelling in Australia are tongs! Always great for the public BBQ's.
We would also recommend Tupperware to store any leftovers.
We found a good set of plastic bowls and plates in IKEA. There are also great deals on cutlery and pans in K-Mart. We would suggest having one frying pan and one saucepan.
To make your life easier, campervan food is best being the type of food that doesn't need to be refrigerated. Canned food is your best friend. That being said, sometimes it's nice to treat yourself to some refrigerated goods. This is when an Esky comes in handy. An Esky will keep your food good for 2-3 days and is even better if you fill them with ice.
You can buy bags of ice on the road from most service stations and supermarkets.
One of the downsides to cooking outside is that you are vulnerable to mozzies and other bugs.
It is best to spray yourself with mozzie spray before you bring out your chef skills and if it's particularly bad, burning mosquito coils near your van help too.
Top tip: To avoid bugs, it is best to cook before the sun goes down. Once it is dark, the bugs will be attracted to the light around your cooking. If you can't avoid dinner after dark, it is best to use a red light.
Packing Cubes are an absolute lifesaver and once you have them, you won't understand how you ever lived without them! We always recommend these for general travel and backpacking but turns out they're just as helpful when it comes to van life too.
There's not much space in the van to store your clothes so the packing cubes make it simple to be able to fold your clothes and store somewhere easy to grab.
Smaller ones are also useful for storing toiletries and underwear.
Storage is key to you having a comfortable van life. If things aren't stored well or with easy access, it can make things more difficult.
The easiest way to be able to access your belongings under the bed is by using storage boxes. We had separate boxes for our food, electronics and cleaning products.
Behind the seat, organisers are a perfect way to use the vans assets to your advantage. We always found this to be a great place to put anything you need every day, as it gives you super easy access.
The key is to find anything that works well with what is inside your van. For example, ours had poles running along one of the walls so we had storage baskets with hooks that could go over the poles.
It gets dark in the van at night and the comfort of a simple lightswitch has gone, so you need a way to bring in some light. Fairy lights are always a favourite and there are plenty of solar-powered options.
Bunnings is a great place for all your lighting needs.
We found some great battery-powered lights we could attach to the wall in K-Mart also.
Australia can get HOT. Especially in the North and that 40/104 degree heat does not feel great in the van. Car fans are an option but we found this fab little USB aircon system to help keep us cool.
Another way to help to keep cool in the van is to keep the sliding door open and let the wind do its work. However, an open door means an open invitation for some unwanted visitors. Putting a mosquito net over the door is a great way to get some air and be able to sleep knowing no creepy crawlies can join you.
Top tip: We used large crocodile clips to clip the net round the door of the van.
As mentioned earlier, a lot of things shake around in your campervan so a good way to help things stay in their place to line the surfaces/shelves with non-slip mat. This can be found in Bunnings or IKEA.
Flip flops (thongs) will do, but you do not want a life where you want the toilet in the middle of the night and need to spend 5 minutes just putting your shoes on.
Always handy for finding your way around campsites after dark and for doing anything at night that requires your hands, such as cooking.
Coldwater Washing Powder
Washing clothes on the road can be very simple and cost-effective by simply using a dry bag like a washing machine! It is one of the best hacks we found on the road and especially in hot countries like Australia, your clothes will dry in minutes!
Coldwater washing powder is available at most supermarkets; we found the Aldi one worked well.
Australia has many toilets on the road but they rarely have any soap. We couldn't live without our soap and anti-bacterial gel to keep us feeling clean on the road.
To help keep that freshness up on the road, cool down on a particularly hot day, or clean away any mud or dirt; wipes have so many uses! Always keep a pack of baby wipes handy.
This was one of our best purchases for our trip! We loved being able to have a proper shower whenever we liked and we often used it with the most amazing backdrops of beaches, gorges and mountains surrounding us. It also comes in handy to do dishes on the road, which is a lot more enjoyable with a beach sunset to enjoy!
There are some cheaper versions in K-Mart but for this, we would highly recommend this antastic, more reliable Summer Shower.
Everyone should have a travel towel in their lives, whether it be to chill at the beach, go swimming or travel the world. There is nothing easier and simpler than a fast-drying, compact travel towel, need we say more? We love our towels from Dock & Bay!
In a compact vehicle, it is very easy to misplace clothing on the go. We loved our eco-bags similar to these for our washing, as you could also hang them in an easy to reach place for everyday use.
Away from the Camper
Australia is full of opportunities to have fun in the water!
We noticed that all the Aussie travellers were relaxing in the water holes and beaches with a noodle to keep them afloat. This is a great option on the road, as they're very cheap, take up little room in a van and are quick to use rather than a blow-up floaty.
Noodles can be found in many bargain shops all over Oz for less than $5, although K-Mart and Big W will always be the cheapest option.
You'll want to enjoy some snorkelling during your trip to Oz - with caution! It is very important to abide by the warning signs found across Australia! Most tours will provide snorkelling equipment, however, particularly on the West Coast, there is ample opportunity to enjoy a snorkel straight from the beach!
K-Mart has affordable snorkelling equipment but we would recommend trying it on before heading off, as some masks come up small.
When on the road, sometimes it's nice to enjoy a workout on the empty beach you've come across. We loved having our mats ready to use when we wanted them and they also doubled up as a great camping mat for a tent too!
K-Mart is the shop for these too.
One of our most used pieces. We loved sitting on the beach eating our breakfast or chilling in the park doing work on our much loved K-Mart blanket.
The best blankets are ones with waterproof material on the bottom, these can also be found in the car section of K-Mart.
Who doesn’t love the idea of having a hammock to set up wherever and whenever you like? A travel hammock is the best companion for travelling on the road! We enjoyed sunsets between two palm trees, gazing at the stars between a tree and our roof rack and we even had an amazing set up in a camp with a picnic bench and a roofed area to relax, just like a kitchen and living room!
We loved our double hammock from The Hammock Co. so we could chill together, taking in the scenery, reading a book or even playing a game of cards.
Reef shoes are most definitely an Australian campervan essential. There is always an opportunity to jump in the water, which makes reef shoes perfect for climbing over the rocks and seaweed. We even used ours for hikes in Karijini National Park, which at times required wading through waters. Whilst everyone else had to go home in soggy trainers, we were all good in our quick-drying reef shoes!
We bought ours from a bargain shop in Vanuatu but we’ve also seen them in K-Mart and on Amazon too.
Thermal Water Bottle and a 10-Litre Tank
Australia gets hot so water from a 10-litre tank is not cold by midday. We found putting our tank outside overnight made it the coldest and dispensing the water into our thermal bottles first thing helped to extend our cold water supply for the day.
Thermal bottles can be found everywhere, we got ours from K-Mart but there are also really nice souvenir ones you could get on the road too.
Water tanks can be bought empty from Bunnings and K-Mart, however, we opted to buy a full tank from Woolworths for $4 and refill it.
Road trips can be very long in Australia, so having the entertainment to enjoy after a long drive is essential.
We loved having our pocket wifi, as it meant we could enjoy Netflix, new Spotify playlists and generally browse the Internet on the road without killing our mobile data.
We used Australia Wireless Rental, which is a great option, as they have really good coverage across Australia, even in WA and most of the Red Centre too.
As above, it is always handy having a tablet or laptop to enjoy Netflix and if you’re digital nomads like us, to also have the opportunity to do some work wherever you are.
Playing cards are an easy item to take on any trip. We also brought along our favourite travel game Dobble and Cards of Humanity to enjoy with fellow travellers too!
The roads in Oz are huge and it is easy to go for hours without seeing any cars at all! It is therefore essential that you have a mobile phone with credit to use in an emergency. We were fine with our standard mobiles but those who have been caught out with mechanical issues have said they were very grateful to have a satellite phone, which can be very pricey. Depending on how long you’ll be in rural Australia will determine how essential this item is.
An evening in a camp isn’t complete without some music to enjoy whilst watching the sunset, playing cards or simply cooking dinner.
We have travelled for the last two years with our Comiso speaker from Amazon. The sound and bass are great and it's no bigger than a can of beer so we’d highly recommend it.
Having music downloaded for the road is essential in Australia. Whilst most towns and campsites have signal, the roads can go for miles with no signal at all.
An aux cable can be found at a great price in our favourite shop, K-Mart!
We love reading a book together on the road, taking it in turns to read a chapter here and there. We love ‘What Would Boudicca Do’, a book full of short stories about empowering women in history but of course, any book is great to enjoy, especially in a travel hammock!
Some campsites will have plugs you can use to charge up all your devices and whilst we also had a deep cycle battery in our car to use for charging our devices, it was always handy to have a power bank for long days on the beach or hiking the gorges and mountains.
There are plenty available in stores and online and in K-Mart, of course.
USB Cables and In-Car Charger USB Outlets
USB cables go without saying, we all use them everyday to charge our phones, speakers, tablets, drones and everything else!
We would highly recommend buying in-car chargers with multiple USB outlets to extend the number of devices you can charge at a time in your campervan.
There are plenty of options on Amazon, we particularly liked this style of an outlet with the extra cable length.
It’s the boring part of the road trip but always essential to ensure those little mishaps can be fixed up as smoothly as possible, ready for more fun!
No road trip should happen without roadside assistance! Although we had very few troubles on the road, having the option to call roadside assistance was amazing. We used them for a jump start, help with getting our jammed lock fixed and simply providing us with water when our Nelson had drunk it all driving through the dry outback. Put simply, don’t go anywhere without it!
RAC provides good value annual roadside assistance, which works nationally across all states.
It is essential to have car insurance in Australia but the great thing about Australian car insurance is that it is bought per vehicle, rather than per person.
We got RAC insurance and roadside assistance in one for a discount price.
Top tip: if you're planning to travel around Western Australia, you can get a discounted Parks Pass with RAC.
Fuel on the road can become very costly so to avoid raking up high fuel bills get a few jerry cans so you can extend those better-priced fuels for longer and not get stuck in the outback.
So important, we've mentioned it twice! You must always have at least 5 Litres of water per person in your campervan. Bunnings and K-Mart sell empty tanks to fill up on water, but we opted to buy a 10-litre tank of water from Woolworths and continued to fill it up on the road.
Top tip: Leave the tank outside at night to ensure it is at its coldest in the morning, ready to fill your insulated bottles for the day.
First Aid Kit
We rarely used our first aid kit, although a bandage for a sprained ankle, some small scissors and plasters came in handy! We were fortunate to not have any dangerous animal encounters during our trip but it is better to be safe than sorry in Australia.
A tyre changing kit is essential in outback Australia and also learning how to do it too! Not only is the outback rural and very isolated at times, but it also has many dirt tracks, which Google deems as structured roads. A word of warning for those in 2WD vans, we’d highly recommend always sticking to the bitumen/tarmac wherever possible - even if it seems longer to go another route, trust us that it will be much longer bursting a tyre or going at a snail's pace for 15km to avoid it!
Cash is imperative in the outback and on any road trip, electrical blackouts are frequent in rural towns so your Apple Pay will not help you in the fuel station. We kept a heap of cash hidden in our bag of bikinis in case of emergencies.
Whilst it is great to be off the grid and with little data, sometimes a trip is just better with some technological help! These were our essential apps which made our trip a truly epic experience!
Gasbuddy is the best app for finding the best fuel prices on the road. The outback fuel prices can get pretty hefty, so definitely check this regularly and use jerry cans too. It is only available with data but you can input your final destination to see the best fuel prices on your route each day before you head off.
Campermate is a free app, which provides filtered searches for free camps, showers, wifi, water, day parking and so much more.
We loved using these to help find the best camps, which provide both comments and TripAdvisor information too.
WikiCamps is very similar to Campermate, although it comes at a price. The only benefit was sometimes Wikicamps had free camps which Campermate didn't and vice versa. It also provides a free power outlet filter which was very handy too.
We all know about Google Maps and if you don't know about all the savvy travel tools it can do, check them out here.
Waze provides navigation with the additional feature of alerting where speed cameras are on your route. Radarbot is a similar app, which focuses solely on the speed cameras if you'd rather use it in the background with Google Maps running.
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