LIVING OFF THE GRID
DRESS FOR ‘SUCCESS’
I find nothing more relaxing than being in a free camping environment – miles away from the bitumen and seemingly ‘light years’ from the hustle and bustle of city life. And not a jam-packed freeway in sight!
As part of this chill-out process, I’ll invariably unwind with a trek through the natural habitat. But these bushwalks, along with simply putting my feet up at base camp, haven’t always been so mentally calming.
In my formative days of life off the grid, I didn’t have the remotest about remote camping when it came to appropriate attire. I was often decked out in outfits that would appeal more to a French tourist, rather than donning the garb of an experienced faraway traveller.
I recall spending a wintry week at Whitfield in the King Valley, on the outskirts of Alpine National Park in north-eastern Victoria. I’m sure the wind was blowing off the Arctic, and there were monsoonal-like rains to boot which had our campsite akin to a miniature Indian Ocean.
I’d left the wet-weather gear at home, including rubber boots. Subsequently a pair of soaked sandshoes didn’t cut the mustard when I actually needed galoshes.
Obviously I was ill-equipped for the icy conditions that prevailed. Needless to say, my water-logged body put a dampener (so to speak) on what should have been an enjoyable break.
But nowadays I go into camping ‘climate control’, and adapt my clothing and footwear according to the weather and surroundings. In other words, I dress for ‘success’ rather than to ‘impress’!
It’s said you learn by your mistakes, and items (depending on the season) such as shorts, trousers, socks, underwear, shirts, jumpers, raincoats, work boots, sandshoes, hats, fly nets – and yes, rubber boots – are now staple issue while I’m off the grid.
OBEY THE ‘LAW’
“Murphy’s Law” regularly rears its ugly head while voyaging off the beaten track. In other words, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” – particularly with the tow vehicle and/or rig.
Consequently I carry several essential ‘tools of the travelling trade’ while bush camping. You just never know when rudimentary maintenance or repair is required while living off the grid.
But I haven’t always been the ‘sharpest tool in the shed’ in this regard. I remember free camping at Dargo – nestled in the foothills of the legendary Dargo High Plains – when I decided to take my 1991 Mitsubishi Pajero, a trusty old steed, out on a 4WD expedition.
I was half way up the steep “Billy Goat Bluff Track” at Crooked River (read: no turning back) when a tyre punctured. Basically, I was stuck in the middle of two boulders; I was caught between a rock and a hard place, if you’ll excuse the pun.
But this wasn’t a time for comedy as the car’s wheel was embedded in a deep rut, which I reckon was more like a sinkhole, and I had no offroad jack or recovery gear on board. Fortunately a couple of savvy 4WD enthusiasts travelling behind came to the rescue.
After I was ‘recovered’ (from the initial embarrassment), it got me thinking.
And now, like my American Express credit card, I don’t leave home without requisite offroad preservation equipment such as a hand drill, spanners and screwdrivers, sockets, multigrip pliers, electrical and gaffer tape – and of course, a hi-lift jack and recovery gear.
I’ve become a “Murphy’s Law” abiding camping citizen!
In my youth, I wasn’t one for getting involved with The Boy Scouts Association… Just the thought had my stomach in knots.
But when it comes to packing for any trip far and away, I’m more than happy to employ the Scout Movement motto: “Be Prepared”.
Its founder, Lord Baden-Powell, has been attributed with these words of wisom: “A Scout is never taken by surprise; he knows exactly what to do when anything unexpected happens.” “Life without adventure would be deadly dull.”
And so it goes for the free camper who packs for life off the grid in a prepared manner.
I’m no ‘packing perfectionist’, but I’ve always been prepared to listen, read and adopt the invaluable advice that’s come my way in relation to arranging my mobile digs prior to departure.
Subsequently I’ve come across these dos and don’ts that would be high on my packing hints list:
• Items susceptible to damage should be separated with wadding (i.e. foam plastic; non-slip matting) and all containers should be well labelled
• Primarily utilise break-resistant plates and containers
• Storage jars should have tight or screw-top lids, not snap-on lids
• Don’t allow aluminium cans (i.e. soft-drink and beer) to rub against each other as they will quickly wear through
• Wrap cartons (i.e. long-life milk, custard etc.) and wine casks as they too can wear through and burst
• Thin plastic bottles (i.e. cooking oils, cordials, disinfectants) are prone to splitting; choose the thicker and smaller bottles or decant into stronger containers
• Containers predisposed to leakage should be placed upright into Zip-lock plastic bags
Additionally, I wouldn’t recommend a microwave for outback travel, and I’d store eggs in their carton and milk in a screw-topped container while in the fridge. Also, check the fridge is firmly closed and don’t place heavy items in its door.
And I suggest packing items such as a first-aid kit, maps, insect repellent, can opener, bottle opener, matches, clothes line and pegs, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, cameras, toilet paper, spare keys, and a bucket, spade, torch and hose, on any remote camping journey.
Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell would be impressed!
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