4×4 Gear Guide: Summer Camping Essentials

4x4 Gear Guide: Summer Camping Essentials and Camping Checklist Australia

With summer upon us, we’ve listed our pick of the camping essentials you’ll need to make your next off-road adventure a cracking one…and with some top tips too.

There’s no better way to see the country than by four-wheel drive. Load up your rig with all your camping gear and hit the road. But if you’re planning a trip in summer, maybe to Fraser Island, then there are a couple of camping essentials items to make your trip a whole lot more enjoyable. When you’re planning any adventure, make sure you set out a camping checklist to ensure you’ve got the gear you need. Here at A247 Gear we’ve got a range of camping and general adventure gear to get you out the back of beyond in comfort and in this guide, we’ve hand-picked some of the “bigger” things you should definitely have in or on your rig for a summer 4WD adventure. So, in general this article will cover off the basics like awnings because no-one likes spending their day sitting in the sun, tents and swags, fridges (preferably with a battery pack to make your fridge portable), recovery gear and some general accessories to make camping more comfortable.

Awnings – What’s right for you?

This is one of the must-have items for any and every four-wheel driver or caravanner. And that’s because an awning increases the amount of outdoor living space you have, and will keep the sun and rain off you. Now, depending on how often you get out and about will influence the type of awning you need and how much you’ll need to budget. Let’s kick off with the types of awning that are out there.

There are essentially two different styles of awning, and the most common is definitely the side awning. This is basically just a big square of material hung off the side of your fourby, then there are 270-degree style awnings (sometimes called batwing or foxwings by some brands) that wrap around the side and rear of your vehicle.

So, some of the things you need to think about when buying an awning are, the length of time it’ll take to set up. For instance, you don’t want to spend ages setting up a complicated awning on your own when a simple side awning with two poles would have done the trick. Take a look at the quality of the product (here at A247 Gear we only stock the most reputable brands), you want an awning that’s UV resistant with a +50UV rating. That means it’ll keep the sun and heat off and keep you cool underneath. And while most quality awnings are already waterproof, make sure you double-check that the one you’re keen on is actually waterproof.

And in terms of the weight of material for your awning, you should only be choosing something with a 300gsm weight; this is strong enough to handle our harsh conditions but light enough not to be a pain in the neck when you’re setting it up. And, while we’re talking about quality, check that the poles and fittings are all stainless steel; it means they’ll last ages and won’t rust. And make sure the poles on the awning you’re looking at offers twist-lock poles. And check the bag on the awning, can the zippers be tucked away and is it easy to get the awning back into the bag when you’re packing up.

Most awnings can be mounted directly to your vehicle’s roof racks but we reckon accessories like the Racks Brax Hitch which allows you to easily mount or remove your awning are a must-have. And even if you don’t need them right away, take a look at the sort of accessories offered for the awning you choose, most brands offer walls and extensions to turn your awning into, essentially, a tent, which brings us to…

Roof Top Tent, Swags or Tents – Which one should you choose?

An awning is great for increasing the amount of outdoor ‘living’ space your rig offers and are great for impromptu stops where you need a bit of shade before you keep going to your camping spot. But, once you’ve decided to stop for the day then you’ll need to choose a tent and there are plenty of different styles but here at A247 Gear we prefer rugged touring style tents, both on-ground and rooftop. And swags too.

When it comes to choosing a tent, you want to ask yourself a few questions, like how often will you be going camping, how many people does it need to sleep and what’s your budget. Here at A247 Gear we’re huge fans of the OzTent RV Series tents and that’s because they’re 100% waterproof, can be set up in about 30-seconds (no joke) and will last you a lifetime if looked after. One of the things we like about OzTent RV range is that they all feature an awning or, as we prefer to call them, a verandah and that means you can butt them up against your vehicle’s awning and get plenty of undercover space when you’re camping. Probably the only downside to them is they don’t pack down as ‘compactly’ as, say, a dome-style tent, so will need to be stored on the roof of your fourby.

Speaking of the roof, what about a rooftop tent… the great thing about these is that they’re easy to set up and are ready to be used at a moment’s notice. But they do add weight right up on top of your 4×4 which raises the centre of gravity and will impact on fuel economy, although some like this Front Runner rooftop tent are designed with a lower profile to help with fuel economy. Most rooftop tents are available in different sizes but all usually only sleep two adults or two adults and a small child in a pinch and you’ll need to climb up a ladder to access them. And that means they’re generally considered better at keeping critters out of your tent although very few creatures in Australia are able to access a zipped-up tent. In terms of accessories, we reckon the Front Runner Quick Release Tent Hitch is a great idea as it allows you to quickly remove your rooftop tent from your rig and store it away when you don’t need it. So if you don’t want a full-size tent well, a swag is a great idea, especially if you’re a solo traveller. Generally speaking, they come in two different styles, flat and domed, single and double.

Here at A247 Gear we’re big fans of the domed type of swag as it gives you more room to move inside the swag. And with the ones we sell offering zippered mesh and roll-down flaps for all-weather protection they’re a proper four-season proposition. Using a swag in summer means you want one with mesh sides to capture any available breeze and it can be worth considering a stretcher too as this will get you off the ground, improving airflow around the swag and helping keep you cool inside.

So, what should you be looking for? Well, as mentioned you’ll definitely want mesh sides for ventilation and star gazing as well roll-down flaps for when the weather turns nasty. You’ll want a material weight of around 400gsm and make sure it’s been proofed before you buy it or you’ll need to season it before using it, and make sure all seams are sealed. Think about the mattress too, will it be thick enough to keep you comfortable, and for all-weather performance, a vinyl floor is a great idea.

Fridge or Ice Chest – Keep Your Cool 

Like an awning, most four-wheel drivers will have a fridge in the back of their rig and here at A247 Gear, we sell stuff from brands like SnoMaster and myCOOLMAN as well as ice chests from Pelican. Having some way of keeping food and drinks cool when you’re camping is a must. Depending on how you want to roll, there’s nothing more annoying than being sat down by the beach and having to walk all the way back to your fourby for a cold drink. So, if you’ve got your fridge hard-mounted into your rig, then maybe an ice chest like one of the ones from Pelican could be just the ticket. These things boast freezer-grade gaskets and a claimed 10-day ice retention. But having a fridge and an ice chest in your rig when you go camping can take up too much room, so think about making your fridge portable with a power pack, brands like myCOOLMAN and ARB offer power packs for their fridges.   When it comes to choosing a fridge you need to think about a few things like how it’s powered in your vehicle (a topic for another article), how you’ll mount it, and the size of fridge you’ll need and whether you want, say, a fridge only or a fridge freezer.

General Gear & Camping Essentials – Everything Except the Kitchen Sink

Trying to list off all the things you should take in your rig when you go camping is a bit like opening Pandora’s Box, so, we’ll keep this tight. We’ve flicked through our camping gear page and picked out some of the things you definitely shouldn’t leave home without. For a start, think about where you’re going to sit when you’re camping – no-one likes standing around all day. Space is always at a premium when you’re camping so make sure you choose a chair that’s both comfortable and compact, and strong…sounds like simple advice but not all chairs are made equal so make sure you check the size and quality.

Never leave home without a first aid kit in your 4×4 and the kits from Survival are awesome, and there are a couple of different sizes and kit styles available, but the Workplace kit is a good all-rounder.

What about storage? Instead of just throwing all your gear into the back of your 4×4, think about keeping it in storage boxes, like the Wolf Pack from Front Runner or the storage boxes from Pelican. It’ll keep your stuff neat and tidy and protected from weather and dust. And no discussion on storage would be complete without a wheelie bag, like this one from Bushranger.

When it comes to cooking, you can go nice and simple and literally cook over an open fire with a grill, or a skillet, or on something like the Skottle Grill from Tembo Tusk.  Depending on where you’re going camping, a fire pit might be a safer option than setting up a fire on the ground and these are great for ambience and cooking.

And for getting around your campsite at night, you can’t go past a headtorch. There you go, hopefully, the above has given you a bit of an idea on the sort of stuff you should definitely be leaving home with on your next camping adventure…but there’s one last thing to think about. Recovery.

Don’t Leave Home Without Recovery Gear

No-one wants to think about getting stuck but you should always be prepared. Far better to carry all the recovery gear you need and not have to use it, than the other way around.

So, what should be in your recovery kit? Well, you definitely want a shovel and whether that’s a one-piece long-handle type shovel, or a multi-part long-handle jobbie, or even a short, folding trenching type shovel, it doesn’t matter, just make sure you’ve got one in your fourby. And everyone should have a tyre deflator in their rig to make deflating your tyres easy, as well as an air compressor to pump your tyres back after they’ve been deflated. And a tyre repair kit is a good idea too.

Recovery boards are a great idea too, and there’s a range of different types and sizes to choose from, like the compact Go Treads through to MAXTRAX. And a general recovery kit can also be a good idea and we stock some great packs, like the Saber 8K Recovery Kit which is features soft shackles and kinetic recovery ropes, or you could push the boat out and stump for the comprehensive recovery kit from Factor 55 which has got everything from soft shackles, to snatch straps, hitches and more.

We hope you found this camping checklist and 4×4 gear guide helpful. Stay tuned for more great gear guides and top tips articles from the team at A247 Gear…we provide the gear, you provide the adventure.