THERE’S nothing better than packing the 4x4 with gear and the family before heading off for a summer break in the bush or at the beach.

The key to a successful holiday getaway is to be prepared and to pack your favourite gear. For our family 4WD getaways there are 10 pieces of equipment I always have ready to go. With these items, I’ve got all the camping essentials covered.

Equipment that can also perform double-duty when at camp is one of my basic requirements – having gear that is used for more than one thing around camp means you save packing space, plus it’s easier on your wallet.

With these 10 essentials, your end-of-year holiday is guaranteed to be a cracker.


BASIC is nearly always better – especially in terms of luggage for camping. The North Face duffel is probably the most famous travel bag on the planet, and with good reason. The duffel is built for all sorts of abuse, with its outer laminated nylon material thick and strong. It’s also double-stitched and has extra bartacks to keep it from bursting if overloaded. The tubular shape of these duffels actually means you’ll find a nook or cranny for any item of clothing or gear, so there’s no wasted space inside.

The bag features compression straps to cinch down the gear inside, plus its shoulder straps make for easier carrying.

As well as these shoulder straps, there are two top-hand straps and two end straps – all overbuilt to withstand rugged treatment – and the zips are lockable. Speaking of which, the zips are YKK jobbies, so they’re tough, and the seal on them is pretty damn good. I have never had any dusty clothing when stored inside my various TNF duffels.

Yep, I have a couple of these. My 95L large duffel is now 10 years old (a relative youngster – I have heard of some being close to 30) and, barring a few scrapes and stains from being loaded in dirty ute trays and on the back of mules (don’t ask), it’s still going strong.

Website: RRP: $160-300 Sizes: 31L, 40L, 60L, 95L, 135L, 150L



I HAVE been asked a few times why I use a seemingly flimsy, lightweight tarp when camping. The answer has always been the same: because the XL I-Overhang tarp ain’t flimsy, but it is lightweight and it packs down small, making it the ideal additional shelter to keep stored in our camping box for the annual Christmas-holiday getaway.

Weighing a paltry 2kg, this thing punches seriously above its weight in regards to its overall performance (the 4.5m x 2.95m Large is only 1kg, RRP $199). The tarp is made from 75-denier ripstop polyester, with a DWR (Durable Water Repellency) treatment for full waterproofness. It has an impressive 14 guy-line attachment points, with the ones on the XL featuring double-shock cord loops for extra stability. Speaking of stability, the guy attachment points (with acetal rings) are a unique tear-drop shape, which is designed to optimise strength at the attachment point.

The acetal rings assist in reducing the strain/stress levels where the guy-lines attach as well. Yes, it all sounds like mumbo jumbo, but after seeing this thing, fully pegged-out off the side of our vehicle, providing enough shelter in a howling southerly storm for us to still cook – plus enabling the kids to have enough space to play – I rate it very highly. Of course, like any tarp, you have to peg it down properly, and against the prevailing wind, but it will work just as well as a ‘traditional’ tarp, every time.

Looking at how bloody big, heavy and awkward those ‘other’ tarps of an equivalent size are – and the fact they aren’t much cheaper – I am happy to keep on answering questions.

Website: RRP: $249 Size: XL (4.5m x 4.5m)


YOU WANT gear to be quick to pack and even quicker to set up. This six-person tent is the perfect combo of being relatively light in weight (11.5kg), while not sacrificing weight for quality. Strong 16mm and 13mm aluminium poles, a tough 300-denier nylon PU floor and tapesealed seams are all welcome features.

There is plenty of floor space (4800mm long, 2400mm wide and 2000mm tall) and an excellent, roomy vestibule to store gear in. The roof-height is brilliant; any adult will relate to how much more is fast adult will relate to how much more enjoyable it is being in a tent when you can actually stand up, rather than being crouched over the whole time.

Other Tuff Dome features that make it a brilliant all-seasons weekend accommodation are the many windows (with No-see-um mesh) and ventilation points, with a bonus that the windows are gusseted on the outside – which means even if you cop some rain, you can still leave the windows open as the gussets will ensure the water flows out and away from the window, not into the tent. Set-up is fast with the two pre-bent main poles, which are easy to slide through the inner’s provided sleeves.

The two 13mm poles are used to extend both the fly and the rear of the tent and are also quick to thread.

Then you just clip the fly over the top, adjusting tension via buckles at the base, and you’re in and comfy in around 10 minutes, max. Dismantling is about the same time – perfect for that weekend escape.

Website: RRP: $880


I HAVE used various-sized ARB fridge-freezers on various expeditions and I’ve found these units very reliable and easy to operate. I would go for a 47L model as a minimum (preferred size would be 60L, but this is vehicle-dependent).

The ARB fridge-freezer includes some cool features: the dairy compartment is handier than you would think, and the détente hinge makes removal (and re-fitting) of the lid in lowroofline vehicles a doddle.

Add in the excellent Secop compressor for fast cool-down times, the low current draw (a claimed 0.87amps/hour for the 47L), the rugged exterior case and sturdy tie-down points, and it’s easy to see how these fridge-freezers have become so popular.

Website: RRP: $1249


GASMATE’S three-burner stove is near bulletproof in terms of durability, reliability and construction. We’ve had ours for about 14 years and it still looks pretty much the same.

The standout with this unit is the three burners and the space between them. Having the versatility to run three pots/pans at different heat/simmer levels should not be underestimated.

The design is simple, but effective; having three windshields means most of the heat is going to stay directed on the base of the pots and pans. Being able to pull out the cooking trivet quickly is also a bonus, as is the simplicity with which it folds up. When packed up, the stove takes up minimal space.

Website: RRP: $110



THESE robust storage boxes range in sizes from 74L up to 196L and are easy to secure in the cargo area. There are cheaper plastic boxes, but where the Space Case wins out is in its far superior heavy-duty build quality.

The thick UV-stabilised polyethylene plastic outer shell with built-in rubber seals in the lid and bottom ensure they are weatherproof, making them ideal for putting up on roof racks or in cargo areas.

We’ve had two big boppers for about seven years and they’ve been tied down in box trailers, ute trays and dragged around camp with the contents inside always staying protected. The tough metal handles double as tie-down points, and you can padlock them shut via the metal latches along the front of the box.

For those worried about gear banging around and getting damaged during transit, you can cut foam padding to put inside. That’s what we’ ve done for our camp kitchen gear and it works a treat.

These Space Cases, regardless of size, ain’t cheap, but you’ll only buy them once.

Website: RRP: $256-$426



THE SEO 7R is the flagship model of a new series of head torches from Led Lenser. It features a white High End Power LED that pumps out 180 lumens to a distance of 120 metres, for up to seven hours. You can lower the output to stretch lighting time to 25 hours. There are three light modes, each differing in intensity, plus a flashing-light mode.

It is IPX6 water-resistance rated, comes with a red LED with blink function and has Optisense Technology. You can also focus the light beam from a spread to a pencil beam.

Power is via a USB-charged lithium-ion power pack, or three AAA batteries.

Website: RRP: $185



THE SteriPEN Pure+ is a UV purifier that’s claimed to destroy 99.9 per cent of bacteria, viruses and protozoa.

What people tend to forget when camped beside that pristine waterway is that, upstream, there is likely to be pastoral land with livestock. The many diseases that can be carried in water from dead livestock and/or faecal matter makes purifying/ filtering your water a must.

The Pure+ filters 500ml of water in 48 seconds, and it’s reusable for a claimed 2500 litres. UV light destroys the germs’ ability to reproduce, which is what makes you sick. All you have to do is wave it around inside the water (inside a container).

Website: RRP: $159.50


THERE are camp chairs, and then there are “real” camp chairs – ones that don’t collapse after a few weekends of camping. ARB’s camp chair duo, the Air Locker and the Sport, sit firmly in the second category. These bigboppers (rated to hold 120kg) reflect the company’s quality engineering background and offer plenty of the usual things you expect in a camp chair, as well a few nifty improvements.

The fold-flat design is not unique, but the set-up process is. Once out of the carry bag, simply unclip a small locking mechanism at the rear of the chair-arm, then extend that arm to its full length, which opens up the chair and allows a clip-lock at the rear of the arm to lock into the rear vertical metal tubing of the chair’s back.

Packing the chair up involves reversing the procedure. The clips simply lock into the chair leg, which ensures the legs – and the chair – are locked down so they cannot move during transit. It protects the chair and any surrounding gear.

The chairs take up slightly more space than the “roll-up” cheapies on the market, but this small negative is balanced by the benefits of having a chair that is tough and very supportive.

This robustness continues throughout, with the nylon Oxford weave material of the padded seat and side pocket feeling up to the task of repeated usage. And yep, there’s a mesh pocket for your beer.

Website: RRP: $81 s lips ir ove hair ies ative ving pportive. oughout, aterial ocket ted h



THE STS Basecamp BCII sleeping bag contains 750-loft Ultra-Dry Down fill and a dual-zipper design. Its warmth rating (from -3°C to -23°C) covers pretty much all seasons in Australia. It is expensive, but construction is top-notch and the bag (like the mat and the pillow) can easily do double, or triple, duties.

The BCII combines with the Comfort Plus rectangular sleep mat via a small pocket at the bag’s foot-end, and then the top half of the bag and mat are joined via a strap and loop set-up. The Air Sprung mat uses two separate layers of air cells to ensure maximum comfort and insulation.

The Aeros Premium Deluxe Pillow can be attached via a strap to the BCII. This ‘system’ is a fair investment, but it can all be used for other activities and it will last for ages. The Aus-based company knows how to make tough and comfy gear that compacts down for stowage in your 4x4.

Website: RRP: $549 (BCII bag); $219 (CF Plus mat); $39.95 (fitted sheet); $79.95 (Premium Deluxe Pillow)