With approximately 34,000 kilometres of coastline and over 10,000 pristine beaches, Australia really is an epic playground for anyone who loves the great outdoors and spending time in and around the water.
Being complete four wheel driving novices when we first hit the road, getting some expert advice and tuition was a great way for us to learn the basics and build up some confidence to hit the sand for an adventurous family day out.
Since then we’ve enjoyed four wheel driving on many beaches around the country and absolutely love it! From the spectacular 80 Mile Beach in Western Australia, the world famous Cable Beach in Broome, or the truly incredible environment of K’Gari Fraser Island, there is nothing quite like the feeling of freedom that comes with accessing these special places.
If you’re keen to get your 4×4 on the beach, check out these quick tips on how best to prepare for sand driving, from our good mate Tony at Australian 4×4 Treks:
1. TYRE PRESSURES
Drop your tyre pressures to 10-12 psi – this helps to make a larger footprint and stay on top of the sand, as opposed to sinking down into the sand.
2. KEEP MOMENTUM
Keep a controlled momentum when driving on the sand – not too fast, but fast enough to stay on top of the sand, not sink into it.
3. CONTROL STEERING
Keep your steering controlled and stay as straight as possible. Resist the urge to turn the wheel to avoid resistance from the sand against your tyre walls.
4. TURN OFF THE TECH
Turn off your vehicle’s technology – the vehicle stability control and traction control will work against you when driving in the sand.
Check out our Fraser Island Part 1 episode including the full Sand Driving Masterclass by clicking the image below:
Driving on the beach can be a thrilling and rewarding experience, however it is necessary to make sure that you are fully prepared for it. Check out next week’s blog that details the 4×4 and recovery gear recommended, and everything you need to prepare before hitting the sand.
Remember not to drive above your limits, stay alert, and above all else, take some time to appreciate the beauty of Australia’s beaches while enjoying your four wheel driving adventure! Happy trails!
Cleaning. It’s certainly not on the top of our favourite list of things to do however one thing is for sure – it doesn’t matter whether you get away for a few weeks a year, are embarking on your own lap of Australia, or are living full time in your RV like us, looking after and maintaining your vehicle’s interior is key to healthy and happy travels.
You’ve got your standard cleaning routine down pat, but what about those trickier items like window screens, fans and drains? With a few clever hacks up your sleeve not only can you avoid potential issues that may arise, you’ll also save heaps of time and money when cleaning up!
We’re sharing our top 7 cleaning hacks plus some bonus natural cleaning recipes that will have your RV shining like new in no time.
* The following information is a guide only and is not intended to take the place of professional advice. We would recommend you speak with your RV manufacturer for specific maintenance advice relating to your set up and associated products.
There’s no getting around it, grey water is stinky! Your RV drains and pipes can easily be forgotten about… it’s the old ‘out of sight, out of mind’ scenario. However, this is one area of your RV interior we would encourage you to regularly maintain, in fact we do this little routine once a week. Not only will this help keep your drains smelling better, it will also help reduce the build-up of nasties and bacteria in your pipes. Sprinkle some bi-carb soda on your kitchen, bathroom and shower drains followed by a good splash of white vinegar. Let the bi-carb and vinegar bubble and react, then follow with 500ml to 1L of boiling water to flush your pipes.
WINDOW FLY SCREENS AND BLINDS
Window fly screens are probably one of the hardest parts of an RV to keep clean. Not only do they get dusty and dirty from the environments you camp in, they are an easy trap for bugs and insects to get caught in.
We use a hard bristled small head brush to gently clear away any bugs, dust or debris that get caught in the mesh, followed by cleaning wipes or a damp microfibre cloth to wipe over the entire screen and blind. You’ll be amazed at how much dirt and dust comes off your screens, even with regular cleaning!
Our hot tip is to make sure you clean both sides of the fly screens and blinds, inside and out, as regularly as you can to avoid heavy build up that is harder to remove.
We love our Maxxfan for keeping the van ventilated and cool even during raining weather, however it doesn’t take long for the screen to get full of dirt and dust and look atrocious! A great design feature is that the screen can easily be removed by swivelling the small clips, and we find a rinse under running water quickly and easily removes the crud.
A dry microfibre cloth is a great way to clean off excess dust from the fan blades and housing, followed by a damp microfibre cloth or cleaning wipe to bring it up sparkling clean.
We wouldn’t be without our Sirocco fans! The clever gimbal design allows 360% directional airflow that really makes a difference when travelling in hotter climates. While traditional fans can be painful and time consuming to clean, having to navigate the cage, fan blades and housing, the Sirroco’s have small plastic clips on the back side that allow you to completely remove the cage and fan blades for super easy super quick cleaning!
We give the cage and fan blades a quick rinse under running water, followed by a quick wipe over with a dry microfibre cloth. And we wipe down the housing and all other parts again with a dry microfibre cloth, before putting the fan back together. It honestly doesn’t get any easier than that!
AIR CONDITIONER FILTERS
Again, we use a dry or damp microfibre cloth to dust over the entire unit and vents.
We suggest referring to your RV Air-conditioner manual for advice on cleaning the filters as all models seem to differ slightly, however all are usually very easy to clean or replace. Take care when removing your filters as most AC units use small plastic clips and parts that are a pain to replace if broken.
WASHING MACHINE DRUM CLEAN
We have a 2.5L Camec teardrop washing machine in our Zone RV Sojourn and absolutely love it! It’s a great little workhorse and given we do a load of washing most days, it does the job in only 25 minutes, using as little as 14L of water! Great for our off grid lifestyle!
Constant use of your washing machine can mean build-up of grime on the drum, so doing a drum clean every now and then is a great way to keep your machine maintained and working well. Most machines have a drum clean setting or refer to your manual for best advice regarding your make and model… just ensure your washing machine is empty (that means no clothes in the machine during your drum clean cycle!).
Another great way to keep your machine sparkling clean and smelling its best is to do an empty wash using vinegar. White vinegar is a great natural cleaner and deodoriser, is very inexpensive and can be purchased from your local grocery store! Too easy!
No matter whether you have leather or PU leather (AKA pleather) on your upholstery, a great natural way to keep it clean and looking its best is to make up a mix of water and white vinegar and use a damp microfibre cloth to gently wipe over the material. If you find you have greasy stains, a small sprinkling of bi-carb soda left to sit for a little while will help lift any marks, before wiping of.
After you have cleaned, you will need to condition. A natural oil such as lemon oil or flaxseed tend to work best. Just dab a small amount on a dry microfibre cloth and rub into your leather or PU using small circular movements. Wipe off any excess with a clean dry microfibre cloth.
NATURAL CLEANING RECIPES
If chemical-laden cleaners are not your thing, here are some natural cleaning recipes to get shining results without harsh chemicals.
Glass & Mirror Cleaner:
– 1.5 cup white vinegar
– ½ cup water
– 8-10 drops of lemon essential oil
*You can add a small amount of rubbing alcohol or witch hazel which helps the solution evaporate
Soft Scrub/Cream Cleanser:
– ¾ cup baking soda
– ¼ unscented liquid Castile soap
– 1 tbsp water
– 1 tbsp vinegar
– ½ tbsp On Guard Cleaner Concentrate
– 5-10 drops of lemon essential oil
* We recommend using only the highest quality, purest oils available. We choose dōTERRA Essential Oils for this reason.
Check out our full Cleaning Hacks Episode for more tips, tricks and advice!
Are you ready to hit the open road? Or perhaps you are already out there enjoying an RV lifestyle? No matter whether you’ve been travelling the country for years or are just dipping your toe into caravanning, having a reliable and well-maintained RV is fundamental if you want it to last the distance, keep you safe, and continue to run smoothly along your travels.
It doesn’t matter what your set-up or camping style is, this guide is full of tips, tricks and advice on how best to look after your RV. From simple fixes and preventative tips to more detailed advice on specific areas, these are the things that you can manage in between getting your RV serviced by the professionals. And on that point, if your RV is still within its warranty period make sure you keep to the service schedule so you don’t potentially void any of your manufacturer’s warranty.
* The following information is a guide only and is not intended to take the place of professional advice. We would recommend you speak with your RV manufacturer for specific maintenance advice relating to your set up and associated products.
Wiring can become frayed, pulled out or broken over time. However those little wires have pretty important jobs, particularly when it comes to your RV tail lights and the breakaway system. Keep your wiring clean and protected from the elements – we use a small wet bag to store and cover our cables and wiring when not in use.
Wiring to regularly check:
– Anderson plugs, towing plugs, trailer socket, connectors and adaptors
– Reverse camera connector
– Breakaway system
– RV driving lights
As a side note, we check our driving lights every time we are hitched up and ready to travel!
HITCH & COUPLING
There are many moving parts on the hitch that can stiffen over time that will benefit from a regular light lubrication. Make WD40 your best friend and regularly spray your:
– Hinges (inside & out)
– Jockey wheel
– Chains & shackles
– Hitch coupling
TOOL BOX & EXTERNAL BOOTS
Storing heavy items low and centred in your toolbox and external boots is not only great for weight distribution, it will also help avoid excess movement during travel (or nasty surprises when opening boot doors after travel!). We always lock our boots, toolbox and any external doors before travel, and make it a habit to walk around the van prior to driving to double check everything is in place.
Avoid using occy or bungee straps to tie items down as they can flex and become loose during travel.
Regularly check your toolbox and boot seals and clean with a light going over of silicone spray to help keep the rubber seals in tip top condition.
Turn off gas bottles prior to travel. When arriving at camp, ensure your internal vents are open, clean and unrestricted to provide ventilation when gas appliances are in use, before switching your gas bottles back on.
Check the condition of your gas hoses and bottles every time you swap and go or refill!
We would recommend traveling with your stabiliser legs in a backwards facing position. In the unlikely event that a stabiliser leg drops during travel this position will drag the leg along the road, rather than digging it in. Do a walk around every time before travelling to ensure all stabilser legs are correctly locked in place for travel.
Regularly lubricate stabilser legs with a light spray of WD40.
WHEEL & TYRE MAINTENANCE
Maintaining your RV tyres is one of the most important things to keep on top of. Not only do they keep you rolling, your safety on the road depends heavily on the health of your tyres.
4 C’s of tyre maintenance (thanks to the Tasmanian Fire Service):
1. Check your tyres when they are Cold.
2. Check your Caps are in good working condition and are not cracked or allowing dust into your valves.
3. Check the Contents (tyre pressures) of your tyres are spot on at all times.
4. Check the Condition of your tyres across the tread to see how they are wearing.
Use a torque wrench to check and adjust the tightening torque of your wheel nuts, to your manufacturers predetermined recommendation.
CLEANING THE CARAVAN EXTERIOR
For a composite caravan like our Zone RV Sojourn, handwashing the exterior with warm mild soapy water using a soft cloth is generally quick and easy (especially if you are washing regularly). If you are heading to a commercial car wash be sure to keep the high pressure washer away from windows and doors, seals and decals, as too much high pressure over time can impact the integrity of these parts of your RV.
Avoid using brushes or bristles on acrylic windows as they can easily leave scratch marks, so opt for a soft or microfibre cloth instead when cleaning these areas.
Regularly check window and door seals and clean with a light going over of silicone spray to help keep the rubber seals in tip top condition.
Another tip is to phone ahead to the vehicle wash bay to check the height clearance against the height of your caravan (including air conditioners and other accessories located on the roof of you set-up).
CLEANING THE AWNING
The awning is probably the trickiest part of your RV to clean. Unfortunately, with regular use it can end up pretty dirty over time which can increase the chance of mould growth. Pulling the awning out to give it a good clean and letting it air-dry in the sunshine before being put away is key. Avoid using a high pressure cleaner on the awning fabric as this can delaminate the material. Instead, opt for a citrus spray cleaner (diluted if necessary) and soft scourers to spot clean as required.
Remember to regularly lubricate the awning arms using… you guessed it WD40!
CLEAN THE SOLAR PANELS
To make sure that your RV’s batteries are always being maintained and performing at their best it’s important to keep your rooftop solar panels clean. No need to use harsh chemicals or expensive cleaning products, warm mild soapy water and a soft cloth will do the job perfectly. Remember to stay safe when accessing the roof of your RV!
CHECK YOUR PLUMBING & PIPES
It’s certainly not our favourite job as grey water can be super stinky, however keeping your plumbing and pipes clean and in working order can avoid much bigger headaches down the track.
Regularly inspect the plumbing under your van to ensure there are no cracked pipes or leaks, and clean out the no-return valves as these can get blocked with built up gunk and hair over time.
A few great tips to reduce what is being flushed through your RV pipes is to:
– wipe off dirty dishes with paper towel prior to washing up
– use smaller quantities of personal products such as shampoo/conditioner and body wash to reduce residual build up within the pipes
– choose natural cleaning and personal care products over harsh chemicals
A great natural alternative to a chemical based drain cleaner is to use bi-carb soda, vinegar and boiling water.
FLUSH YOUR WATER TANKS AND GREY TANK
It’s really important to clean out and flush your water tanks and grey tank regularly (every 6-12 months) to keep them in their best condition, and avoid the build-up of any nasties. Camec sell a tank clean product that we have used in the past to clean our fresh water tanks and that does the job nicely. A great and easy alternative is bi-carb soda. Use 1 teaspoon for every 500ml of water in your tanks, leave to sit for 30 minutes then flush out.
Check out our full RV Maintenance 101 YouTube Episode for more tips, tricks and advice!
RV maintenance and cleaning doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Remember, preventive maintenance is key when it comes to looking after your rig. Taking the initiative now will not only save you time, money, and stress later, but can help create many incredible trips over the years that are safe and smooth!
So don’t shy away from getting your hands dirty – with these tips, you can have confidence in tackling those routine RV maintenance and cleaning tasks! If you’re interested in the WD40 story, check out this great post – WD40 Myths, legends and fun facts
There’s nothing worse than having your camping trip spoiled by pesky midges and mosquitos! And if you’re anything like us, avoiding the nasty chemicals and toxic sprays can be really hard when the bugs at are their worst!
Thankfully we have a number of go to essential oil blends that can be applied (diluted with Fractionated Coconut Oil) directly to your skin to help keep the bugs at bay, and others that provide soothing relief for bites and itching.
This DIY Midge and Mosquito Buster is a great and simple recipe that can be used to spray around your campsite, on the ground, mats and camp chairs to deter the bities from entering your environment, ensuring your camping trip is the best possible experience!
3 x flat beers (leave the lids off overnight)
1 bottle of mouthwash
1 cup of Epsom salts
Add all ingredients to a bucket or large container, and stir well. Fill up a spray bottle/s and store excess solution in an empty bottle or air tight container.
Spray around your campsite as often as needed to keep the bugs at bay!
We are all very aware of the dangers of fire here in Australia, particularly with the recent bushfires that have been labelled the worst fire season on record, claiming many lives, loss of property and a reported 1 billion animals!
We were in Yeppoon, Queensland, in November last year when the reality of these fires hit home. Finding ourselves in the midst of a very scary situation prompted us to create an emergency plan and grab bag, two things we hadn’t even considered when we set off on our adventure around Australia.
Now in Tasmania the cold weather means cranking the diesel heater daily to keep the van warm, and lots more indoor cooking. When we first arrived on the Apple Isle, we had the opportunity to show a friend through our Coromal Element Evolution. Being a Tassie Fire Station Officer his first question was “Where are your smoke alarms?”, quickly followed by “Where is your carbon monoxide detector?”
Still considering ourselves relative newbies to this lifestyle, we hadn’t even thought about these safety essentials! He said we wouldn’t believe how quickly a fire in a van will escalate, as it has a high fire loading in a relatively small space. Sadly tragic caravan fires do occur, as does carbon monoxide poising, as was seen recently with a young family in WA.
These inexpensive and simple to install solutions could very well save you and your family’s lives. Recommended safety tips for RV’s:
– Install photoelectric smoke alarms with a hush button (RV models are available from hardware stores)
⁃ Check alarms before every trip or once a week if full time living
⁃ Install a carbon monoxide detector
⁃ Ensure you have a fire extinguisher and fire blanket
⁃ Turn off all gas cylinders while the caravan is being towed or campervan engine is on
⁃ Turn off all appliances not being used before going to bed
⁃ Have an emergency plan
⁃ Have a grab bag of essentials ready to go
⁃ Never leave cooking unattended
⁃ Store all flammable liquids outside the caravan or motorhome
⁃ Ensure that the extension lead for connecting electricity supply to your RV is in good condition
In a world that feels like the plot of a Hollywood movie, it’s time to pause, take stock and remind ourselves to be thankful for the things we can control.
Over the last month Paul and I have taken turns in having up and down emotionally fuelled days, as each new restriction came into play and squeezed us towards making a decision that neither of us were certain about. As a full time travelling family, with no fixed address or “home to go back to” we found ourselves (and others in the same situation) the subject of much debate… just where do we go when our home is on wheels and we are being told to go “home”?
As the shutdowns commenced, first national parks, then caravan parks, and finally state borders, we breathed a huge sigh of relief when clarity finally came around who constitutes an essential traveller. And with this news came a lifeline, an offer to park up the van and call home for as long as required. Once we made the decision to bunker down and stay put we were able to collect our thoughts and put some strategies in place to help us manage our mental health, and our 17m2 living environment.
OUR TOP 5 STRATEGIES FOR LOCKDOWN
When tensions and emotions are rising, take a break and enjoy an iso-breaker to lift the mood. Think quick and fun games for the entire family, craft activities, science experiments, treasure hunts, board games, jigsaw puzzles and so much more.
2. BRAIN FOOD
There’s never been a better time in history to access knowledge and learn. Why not start that course you’ve always dreamt of, pick up a book or listen to an audio book. If you hold a library card, download the Borrow Box and OverDrive apps to access over 30,000 free books, audiobooks, magazines and more.
3. 5-MINUTES OF MINDFULNESS
Just 5 minutes of intentional positive thinking and gratitude a day can make all the difference to how you are feeling and coping. Start and end your day with your “First and Last 5 Minutes” and give thanks for all the good things in your life right now.
Now is the time to nourish your body and mind with Feel Good food that will make the whole family happy and healthy. Why not try a new recipe or sit down together for a meal and plan that future trip.
5. DAILY EXERCISE
Let’s face it, nothing makes you feel better than exercise, and as a lock down exemption, now is the time to get outside and get that body moving. If you can’t get outdoors, check out some of the great online options available direct to your screen.
Looking for a simple, natural and safe hand sanitiser to use for the whole family? Tired of spending lots of money on store bought sanitisers that contain nasty toxic ingredients and leave your hands feeling dry and sore?
Check out our “couldn’t be easier” DIY recipe using only 3 ingredients… your hands and health will thank you for it!
– A small spray bottle or spritzer
– Good quality organic Aloe Vera Gel (purchased from your local health food store or pharmacy)
It’s hard to believe that we are already 3 months in to our 2 year journey, travelling around Australia in our 4×4 with #coromal caravan in tow! As total caravan (and camping) newbies, we’d received some good advice early on that it generally takes the first 10 weeks to adjust and become accustomed to this life on the road, and whilst we’ve still been experiencing our fair share of head-scratching moments, I’m surprised at how quickly we have all settled into this new lifestyle and how much it already feels like home.
When you take a huge leap of faith in life, be it a new job, a new relationship, moving abroad or packing up your life and travelling full time, there are so many unknowns and questions that will most likely go unanswered until you are fully immersed in the new experience. For us, we had no doubt that spending 24 hours a day together would be the best thing for our family, in fact it was something we had yearned for since Jasper’s arrival in 2016. Fortunately Paul and I are also great work partners, our motto is “We’re better together” (thank you Jack Johnson!), and we thrive creatively when we are collaborating. So as far as time and space goes we had no doubts about sharing our 17m2 living and working space, and basically living on top of each other. We absolutely love “Orange” our home on wheels and all that she is bringing to our family – new horizons, new experiences and that precious quality time together we so longed for!
With backgrounds in television, events and production management it’s fair to say we know our way around a good planning document, and we certainly drew on these skills in the 12 months before hitting the road, mapping out the steps, actions, responsibilities and our goals. We also had many discussions around safety, and our individual concerns that come with living a full time caravanning lifestyle. For Paul, his main worries revolved around road safety, feeling confident towing a 22ft van and ensuring we had a procedure in place to manage Jasper when hitching and unhitching. What kept me awake at night were the things more out of our control including the wildlife we would inevitably encounter on the road. Now don’t get me wrong I’m a huge wildlife lover, and having worked 6 years alongside Australia’s most famous conservationist Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter) I’ve had more than my fair share of incredible wildlife encounters! However as a mum of an inquisitive 3 year old, I worried (and still do) about the unique and deadly wildlife this country of ours boasts. From snakes and spiders, to saltwater crocodiles, Australia is home to some of the deadliest (and most amazing) animals in the world!
However, the one thing we didn’t consider or even discuss, was a plan to deal with natural disasters such as bush fire, flood or cyclone – all of which are very common occurrences here in Oz. On reflection I think perhaps it is because neither of us have ever been faced with such a threat, however in hindsight I can’t believe two of the most organised and planned people could be so unprepared!
Fast forward 10 weeks into our travels around Central and South East Queensland and we find ourselves in the midst of a State of Fire Emergency, with more than 70 bush fires burning across Queensland and even more throughout New South Wales.
We were woken, in the very wee hours of the night, to a sight that was both confronting and gut wrenching. The night time sky was a glow of orange and the crackling sound of flying embers cut through the stillness of the sleepy caravan park we were staying in. After a quick and surprisingly calm discussion we made the decision to pack the car with our valuables and essentials, in the event we needed to evacuate quickly. Our new friend and camping neighbour Richard had managed a quick chat with the Fire Chief, who advised that the fire had been lit by someone on the beach (in a state of total fire ban it sure makes the mind boggle!) and that the attending crews had the blaze under control. And whilst this certainly made us feel a little more at ease, we opted to pack down and hitch the van just in case.
Needless to say Jasper was the only one to enjoy a good night’s sleep that night, and while Paul and I laid on our bed, fully clothed and wide eyed, it gave us the opportunity to discuss an emergency plan, and list through the items we needed to pack into a “grab bag” for emergency situations.
What this experience has taught us is that being prepared is without a doubt the smartest way of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of your family. Yes there are things that are always going to be out of our control – that’s life and we’re up against those risks everyday – but without a plan there are no steps to follow in those crucial moments, and without focused attention, the fear can certainly take over. Whether you live in a fixed dwelling or your home is on wheels, having an emergency plan is a must…. it could just save your life!
~ Katie Guerin
New episodes of our Family Travel Australia series are released on YouTube every Sunday 6.30pm (AEST), with weekly Podcast episodes airing Friday’s at 8.30pm (AEST).