Long Term Travel
In a Tvan
Can you believe Ausventure has now been on the road for 12 months? We do stay two or three nights in some spots but most mornings we are on the road again that very next day. Somewhere to go and something to see. We’ve talked to others, shifted items around the van, added a couple of things, and copied ideas we have seen. And after 12 months of travel, living out of the Tvan, we have a pretty good idea of what works and how to be efficient.
When some people think camping, they think hard work: living in the elements, packing and setting up all this gear in an attempt to have the comforts of home. Uh-uh. The easiest way to camp is to be organised and simply bring less – most items you will rarely use anyway – and you will still have a great time.
It’s true that the star of our touring setup is the Track Trailer Tvan. This trailer can make anyone look like the world’s most well seasoned camper and really is the ultimate setup. Those who are familiar with the Tvan know that it only takes a few minutes to set up the canvas area onto the fold down hard floor. But what a lot of people are not aware of is that you can sleep in the van without setting up any of that. Our van is fitted with the Skyward lift up deck which means with one button the whole rear hatch and deck can be lifted up like the back of an SUV. We then just attach the rear fly screen and setup is done! This is how we use the van roughly 80 percent of the time. There is no other off-road camper trailer you can sleep in that quickly, even the quickest roof top tent is no comparison.
Sure we do still set up the tent area on occasions, mostly when we are around other campers, bad weather, longer stays, or when we need a bit of extra space to sort washing or shopping. But we have been spoilt with great northern weather thus far, so even the quick cover awning probably doesn’t get as much use as you would think. We don’t pull up stumps until after 3pm most of the time so the sun is already on its way down. However, it is handy for lunch stops because it’s so quick and easy; no poles, no ropes, just unzip the bag and out she folds. Each end can be clipped onto the Skyward deck and the drawbar so nothing else needs to be setup. Even in light winds the self supporting awning can be used with no poles. If it’s a bit gusty we have three bent end poles with peg holes in the bottom, not requiring any guide ropes. The most time consuming set up for lunchtime is connecting the gas, which on our van simply needs to be screwed onto the bottle.
Travelling around we see all the setups, some people still banging in pegs well into the dark. Others in roof top tents flapping around so loudly in the wind, it’s keeping us awake. It’s true, a caravan with a front door is the ultimate house on wheels, but trust me, even when they say “we go everywhere you guys go”, this is simply not possible. It’s not just about the suspension, the weight, the departure angle, or the fact the Tvan follows the Jeep around the tightest of corners. Most of the time it’s the height; every time we go down some beaten little track to some great location branches are rubbing on the roof and even people with large roof racks are struggling. If it isn’t the height it’s the weight; we have travelled large distances on beaches, and although it is possible with a big van in tow, you would want to be very competent and well setup to risk it.
Below is how we have our van organised and it comes in at about 1400kgs with the 108L water tank full. Normally there’s around 165kg ball weight but it can get up to 180kg when we start running low on water (less water = more ball weight). We only run one 4kg gas bottle on the front instead of the normal two, this saves 8kg on the front and lasts us well over a month. With a gauge on it as well, the levels can easily be monitored.
The front box on the kitchen side has the long slide and is fitted with a 47L ARB fridge. One thing we’d love to add in here is a slide out pantry above the fridge. You can have these added by Track Trailer, or if you’re lucky enough to be ordering a brand spanking new van, be sure to get this included! But for now there is some room around the fridge which also holds:
- Gas hose
- Cooking oil
- Paper towel
- Select food (cereal boxes, coffee, bananas – some stuff we use all the time)
- Food scrap bucket (which we then donate to community gardens or personal compost points found on the app Sharewaste)
- Sleeve for collecting all our soft plastic packaging waste. When it’s full we simply drop our collection off at Woolworths or Coles at a Redcycle drop point when we do our shopping
The front box on the drivers side is what we call our laundry, fitted with the short slide and a shelf, it contains:
- 2nd 20L petrol jerry
- Portable toilet (simple bucket toilet with seat/lid from Elemental. No chemicals, less weight, and we can still access ‘self contained only’ camping areas)
- Rope for clothes line
- Clothes washing items (detergent, bicarb, vinegar)
- Hot plate for fire
- Camp oven and accessories
- Small chunks of fire wood
- Paper recycling (food for the fire or recycled when we find a drop point)
…but wait, there’s more!
The locker opposite the kitchen contains:
- Poles for the quick awning when windy
- Quick awning canvas walls
- Sail awning
- Bag of tent pegs and ropes
- Sand pegs
- Extension lead
- 10m water hose with connectors and filter
- And still some extra room!
There’s two jerry can holders on the van; one on the drivers side, the other opposite on the passenger side next to our water pump. A simple flick of a switch allows easy flow of the water with the electric pump, or you can quickly fill your drink bottle with a few pumps of the handle. Newer vans even have a selection to draw water from a creek for washing dishes and having showers.
The jerry can holder on the driver’s side has been fitted with a Webasto diesel heater. This heater works a treat and runs on the smell of an oily rag. With an 8L tank in there it’s still over half full and has only been used a dozen times or so in 12 months. We don’t have the diesel hot water on our van but for some extra luxury you can get this fitted as part of the heater on new vans.
We have the premium kitchen and it’s one of the largest fitted to any camper trailer. It slides out the passenger side on Track Trailer designed rollers bolted directly through to the chassis. This means no annoying support legs and a very sturdy structure. I probably wouldn’t sit on it but you can certainly lean on it! The wind deflector slides up in one movement and automatically locks into place. As the kitchen is where people spend a lot of time it’s important to have everything organised and on hand, and every little bit of room is wisely used in our kitchen.
The back side of the kitchen where the gas connects stores all our spices and sauces and pretty much anything else we can fit in there – it runs the full length of the kitchen so it’s surprising how much you can get in there. There’s a long shallow drawer on the end which houses our toaster, fry pan, foil, baking paper and other kitchen implements. It is very much suited to those awkward long shallow items. Next to this is the fire blanket nook, standard to all premium kitchens. In front of the 3 burner cooktop is our big drawer which fits 2 pots, 1 lid, 2 plates, 2 bowls, 4 mugs, and assorted Tupperware containers. In the cutlery drawer we removed the plastic cutlery tray to allow more room for all of our utensils. With just the 2 of us we only have 2 of everything; knives, forks and spoons. The weight all adds up!
Inside the van is our little house and allows us to have a bed area fully organised all the time. All our stuff doesn’t have to be moved, assembled, or crushed when packing away, it’s simply set up ready to go. Above the bed on each side are roof nets, stuffed full of lightweight bulky items, probably at least 50L of items per side. There’s an empty camping backpack, roll up camp mattress, sleeping bag, some other sheets and drop cloths as well as the fly screen for the back of the van stored on my side. While Cassie has more than I can list and loves shoving clothes up there and a big box of craft stuff!
Next to the head end of the bed are our side pockets. Mine stocked full of manly electronic stuff like headphones, a hair trimmer, torches, dvds, and laptop. Over the road Cassie has hers full of books, papers and some beauty products. Under the bed is where most of the storage is. We have four 50L tubs which fit perfectly. The front two are our clothes tubs (one each), and the rear two are the food tubs, easiest to access for snacks. This way, we work out of the food tubs when cooking or you can simply remove them to access the clothes tubs at the front. We don’t need access to the clothes tubs as often, as everything we use regularly is beside the bed. The food tubs have shallow cardboard boxes on top of heavier cans and jars to allow two tier levels for better organisation. We also have a hanging organiser with toiletry items used all the time. Above the bed are two conventional caravan roof hatches that allow ventilation and a romantic view of the stars while laying in bed, as well as the 3 speed fan with timer.
On top of the power system we’ve velcroed some cords and chargers in an attempt to keep them organised. With only one battery in our van, we have an empty hole in the floor on the left with spares and tools, including a few heavier items (bottle jack, pulley block and heavy hand tools) keeping weight out of the car and reducing load on the tow ball.
That’s pretty much the list of what we have in our Tvan. Because it’s such a well thought out product there’s nothing we needed to add with a dodgy bracket or piece of rope. There are no annoying stabiliser legs or fold down steps to get ripped off as soon as you head off-road. All the important electrical items are sealed inside in the one spot, the lockers all have little LED lights that come on when you open them. We have Maxtrax pins on the rear deck with a lock. The rear hatch has two locks on it and all compartments have a special key lock. The setup works hand in hand with the Jeep, which has a small load capacity. Less weight in the car means less load on everything. We also discovered you don’t have to spend a fortune setting up your 4WD with every accessory under the sun. The Tvan contains the bulk of our power system, we don’t need an awning on the car, and we are able to keep the roof rack clear. Most of our ‘camping’ needs are stored in the van, meaning the back seat of our Jeep can be clear for passengers, while the boot storage is mostly tools, spares and two 20L water jerrys.
It’s true that these vans are at the more premium level of the market and are more than double the cost of imported campers. Yet, when this is your home for 12 months or more, the decision is more than justified. Do you really want to be setting up a canvas village with ropes and pegs every day? One thing we have noticed is travellers struggling with their broken campers; things like suspension breakages, power and water failures, or generally just falling apart. Some of those vans are more than half a ton heavier than our Tvan, meaning more load on everything and more fuel usage. It’s kind of like living in a new house vs buying the cheapest dilapidated shack you can find. The shack is going to be work (and money!) all the time, but the new house requires nothing, you can just enjoy life. And with a Tvan, we’ve got all the choices for the all important location, location, location!
Our next blog will be from: Arnhem Land
Until our next update - see you on / off the road 😉
Cassie and Micky