84 Campervan Tips To Succeed In Australian Van Life
No matter how idyllic the social media photos might seem, van life comes with a lot of challenges. This is especially true when travelling a country with the inescapable heat and high expense of Australia. Before I began my current four-month tour of the country, starting in Perth and due to end in Adelaide, I had no idea of the number of campervan tips and hacks I would need to be successful in this lifestyle.
Seriously, every day I need to be aware of how to save money on fuel, ways to avoid heat exhaustion, how to ensure a good night’s kip, keeping the small space I now live in hygienic, staying safe on the road, and generally not losing my sanity!
Here I am though, four weeks into the adventure, and through trial and error, I’ve already figured out 84 tips for succeeding at van life in Australia *fist pumps air*.
So, in the spirit of sharing all the essential van life information I can with you over the course of this crazy four-month journey, here they are; my campervan tips essential to a successful road trip around Australia. It’s worth mentioning that some of these tips are designed for those that own a self-converted van, like my partner and I, but most apply to those renting too.
84 Campervan Tips For Your Australian Road Trip
- Save Coles and Woolworths receipts – most contain fuel discount vouchers
- Apply for a cash back or rewards scheme credit/travel card and use this when buying fuel
- Keep as far left as you can when passing oncoming road trains to avoid crosswinds
- Find the sweet spot for your engine to travel at the most efficient speed limit
- Be strategic about sightseeing to avoid retracing your route and using additional fuel
- Install the Fuel Map app to find the cheapest petrol stations on your route
- Use fuel injector before you leave to clean the injectors and increase efficiency
- Try driving without air conditioning turned on when you can to use less fuel
- Check that your tyre pressure is correct to avoid extra fuel consumption
- Carry two jerry cans of fuel so you will always be in a position to fill up regardless of the next petrol station. If you use a jerry can, fill it up at the earliest opportunity
- Start driving as early as possible, even with air conditioning the heat can seep inside
- Always try to park in shaded spaces, even during 5-minute rest stops
- Install side window sunshades and use them
- Use a windshield sunshade whenever you park up and leave the vehicle
- When parking at campsites position the van for the best air circulation
- Stay hydrated! Carry lots of water (3L per person plus a backup reserve of 10L)
- Buy mesh fly screens and use them at night so you’re not forced to close your doors
- Invest in a good battery-operated fan
- Attach a quality awning to your van for protection from the sun
- Prepare for differing seasons across all of the states and avoid extreme weather
- Keep a reserve of basic non-perishables at all times
- Carry a good sandwich spread (can’t beat a jar of sweet pickle)
- Store cereal in an airtight container rather than in the box for freshness and fewer spills
- Carry a cool box to keep meat and pasteurised milk in if you don’t have a fridge
- Plan your meals and know when you’ll next find a supermarket using Google Maps
- Avoid buying fresh veg more than 2 days in advance unless you have a fridge
- Keep food boxes stored out of the sun, particularly for bread and fruit
- As mentioned in the heat section, drink plenty of water and have an emergency stash
- Forfeit alcohol if you’re on a budget or it’ll fast become your biggest expense
- For a hydrating drink, add a Berocca or other flavoured hydration tablet to water
- Use a cereal container as a bin in the front of your van
- Always take the carrier bags from a food shop and use them for storing rubbish until you have the opportunity to bin it properly – includes loo roll!
- Ensure every single item has a place it belongs
- Have a small box up front to use for essentials i.e. sun cream, hand sanitiser, toilet roll
- Keep outdoor furniture stored separately from clothes and food
- As much effort as it seems, keep the van tidy (2am torch hunts are not fun)
- Get a secondhand roof box from Gumtree and store bits you won’t need as often
- Use a soft shelf storage system and support it with wood
- Have a secret safe and store valuables and important paperwork here
- Store clothes in vacuum bags, pack and roll for space-saving and organisation
- Invest in a toiletries bag that hangs, essential for using public and camp showers
- Have a space up front you can put dirty shoes to avoid spreading dirt throughout the van
- Stock up on baby wipes, useful for sticky fingers, days without showers, muddy faces etc.
- Carry plenty of toilet roll
- If you’re female, invest in a she-wee to make relieving yourself in public less conspicuous
- Carry hand sanitiser
- Use the CamperMate app to find public showers and toilets
- Dispose of any rubbish whenever possible
- Cover the first step into your van with artificial grass or a rug to wipe your feet
- Keep dirty laundry in a separate bag or box (perhaps in your roof box)
- Use a dustpan and brush to keep the van relatively clean
- Carry cleaning cloths and spray for the occasional deep clean
- Know when the public holidays are in each state and pre-book campsites for these dates
- Use WikiCamps and CamperMate to find budget-friendly campsites
- Don’t forget to check the rates of hostels with parking, sometimes they’re cheaper
- If there’s two of you, ensure your bed is wide enough to lie without touching
- Avoid sitting in the van too far ahead of sleeping if it’s warm inside
- Go to bed early as you’re bound to wake with the sun
- Use a rope pulley to secure your door ajar when using bush campsites
- Keep the bed clear of duvets and blankets if it’s hot but keep a light sheet nearby
- Always have a first aid kit easily accessible, carry rehydration sachets in this
- Don’t drive tired, Australian roads are long and straight, it’s too easy to nod off
- Avoid driving in the dark due to wildlife crossing
- When driving at dawn, keep your speed low and keep your eyes peeled for kangaroos
- It’s the third time I’ve mentioned it but it’s so important, drink plenty of water!
- Don’t wander into the bush, it’s the habitat for creatures you might not want to meet
- When entering the van at night, put shoes inside the door or on the roof rather than the floor
- Plan your travel times and rest stops using the maps.me app which works offline
- Don’t sleep with a gas canister inside your van
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm inside the van just in case of a fault with the gas canister
- Don’t leave food outside during the night, it attracts animals (like dingos!)
- Carry a map, don’t rely on phones in case something were to happen to your valuables
- Don’t overtake on corners/hills (common sense but we’ve seen a close head-on collision)
- Most road trains will indicate left to let you know when it’s safe to overtake
- When overtaking in general, don’t pull into lane too close to the car behind
- When heading into the outback, let somebody know how long you intend to be off-grid
- Have good breakdown cover
- Take something you can watch films, series, documentaries on in the evenings
- Buy an external hard drive and download plenty of the above before you go
- Carry cheap iPods and load them full of different playlists
- Invest in a pack of cards, UNO, and Yahtzee if you like dice games
- Play games whilst driving to pass the time – you’re in for some long days of driving!
- Charge electronics using a USB port cigarette lighter/radio USB port
- Install a Power Inverter to charge items requiring regular plug sockets whilst driving
Phew, that’s a long list of campervan tips!
I’ll round this post up with the biggest piece of advice I can give for your own campervan trip of Australia. Whilst taking off when it suits you, with no real route planned, might sound like the ultimate freedom, you do still need to do some basic research about the wet and dry seasons in each of the states. Otherwise, you may find what I did; that you reach a destination only to find the roads or activities are inaccessible (I’m talking to you El Questro Wilderness Park 😒). I arrived in the Kimberley region of Western Australia just as everything was closing up for the wet season, which meant some of the best things to do weren’t possible – serious bummer.
Still, I guess that just means I need to return when the dry season hits, right?
Always wanted to convert your own van into a cosy camper? See the before and after photos of my own renovation! If you found this post helpful, share it with friends.