Any form of travelling requires more strength, agility and mobility than just staying home. Even bending down to the ground can be difficult for those who are aged or carry injuries. And not everyone is a strong, adult male – many are shorter and lack upper body strength.
There’s so much in camping and vanning that ideally requires a fit, active body; roofrack access, changing tyres, putting up the heavier tents, changing gas bottles, folding a RTT, driving tent pegs into the ground, rolling up sleeping bags into carrybags and more.
One good general tip is to buy lightweight gear, something hikers know well and I’ve described some examples here:
Don’t be thinking that a camper trailer will always require less effort than a tent. A small hiking tent will never require a lot of effort to construct…but many camper trailers can be a real effort with pulling flips over, poles and more. Same for pop-top caravans, mine requires a fair effort to raise the roof and all my height to unlatch the top.
I also asked my readers on Facebook and here’s what they said:
Look after yourself first
This is a great general-purpose tip; lots of injuries happen when you’re rushing!
Janine Sarai George Before unpacking after a long drive, do some stretches, loosen up, wallk around. Dont have too long a day and have a rush before it gets dark to get your set up, set up.Kick back, relax, calm down, then do it nice and easy. Many injuries happen because a person is tense, rushing and anxious. Use your brain, bend your knees, have a sturdy step stool. Also don’t be afraid to ask for a hand. Practice stuff at home, before take off. Preparation is everything. Be prepared.
Marcus Tuck I have a weight lifters belt I wear before changing or doing tyre rotations (wheels are 80 kg each).
Chris Pedlar First rule of camping, don’t get cold, especially if you’re of more mature age but also for the ladies in our lives. Cold evenings sat round the fire you get cold from behind and below (unless you use superior grade camping chairs with padded back/base). Buy a cheap insulated roll mat and cut it into 4 and use one piece on the back and base to prevent cold. Can also be used on the ground or anything you might want to sit on that might be wet/damp. Cheap, simple and light weight.
David C Lovejoy Sleep comfortably. Nothing worse for a bad back. Pack into manageable containers. Use a support strap for the back/knee/shoulder. Think about manual handling
Mark Wood I have an old bonnet prop (8mm rod with a hook on the end) to drag stuff from the front of the ute tray to the tailgate where I can reach it, saves me having to climb up there all the time.
Helen Mandziejewski Leverage and positioning as well as something to stand on. I’m 156cm, no muscles and not that far off from being 60. I climb on top of the camper so I’m pulling the lid up rather than pushing the lid up to open it. To pack it up I use the ladder at an angle so that I get maximum leverage. I also have to jump on the top of the camper to close it. The day I can’t climb on it will be the day I will have to sell it. All other things that might be too high I use a step stool or I find a work around. Rule of thumb for everything for me which is big or heavy is to find some way of leveraging it.
Roofracks are great for storing light, bulky items but they’re high up and that can make them hard to reach.
Shaun Lesslie I carry a small step ladder to access the roof of the car & zips on the camper.
Wilt Longyard Replace the spare with an alloy rim & a smaller tyre, but with the same diameter as your 4 main tyres EG 235 instead of 285. Also if possible purchase new tech tyres & not the old tech 10 ply tyres. New tech tyres are lighter than the old tech. This will give you a lighter spare wheel.
This is a great tip! The 235 will have pretty much the same contact patch size as the 285, but be cheaper, lighter, offer greater payload, stress your drivetrain less, and mean better fuel efficiency.
Sherry Mayo A friend had two spare tyres on the back of her 4WD Ute mounted fairly high on the canopy – she had a little pulley and rope set-up to help get them up and down.
Jamie Stretton We take an extra long 1/2″ drive torque wrench which serves 2 purposes being a breaker bar and to ensure correct wheel nut torque settings.
And you can take a impact wrench too – electrical tool to undo wheel nuts. But, when putting them back on, always start them by hand to avoid risk of cross-threading!
Tents & camper trailers
Mark Wood The other game changer is screw in pegs. And a brace bit for the outriggers that goes in the battery drill/impact driver.
Nathan Ari Not old, under 30.. just weak back after long drives and particularly lazy after a day or 4wding. I like tents (swag / rv1) that have the quickest setup /packdown. I also use drill in pegs, particularly good for hard ground. Also oztent camp chairs that have lumbar support.
Got any more tips or equipment? Comment below! And you people who run businesses that manufacture equipment…what are you doing to help the less than perfectly fit?
Final reader story:
Tex Acola You do what you have to do to try and live your best life. I’m 64 and have lived on/off road for the past 27 months in my Troopy and PodTrailer camper trailer on this my 8th trip around Australia over the past 8 years. Both of my knees, right hip and left shoulder are shot and need replacing, an aortic aneurysm my cardiologist just told me yesterday I would need to get open heart surgery to replace if it grew to 5.75 cm from it’s current 5.45 cm size, plus an atrial fibrillation which messes up my heart rhythm sometimes, diabetes, high blood pressure and a swollen leg (oedema) which hurts 24/7.
And yet I wouldn’t swap my lifestyle for anything but a lotto win, and then only long enough to buy new gear to hit the road again Yes I do it tough sometimes, if there isn’t someone close to my campsite it can take up to 4 hours to strike camp as folding the awning walls kills my knees something chronic which slows me down a lot.
I have done a lot of things to my Troopy and camper trailer to make my life easier. One was to add a longer bolt to the top of each wheel carrier so when replacing a tyre on there I can lift it to the tow bar, get a better grip and lift onto the bolt which makes it much easier to then rotate it to the wheel lug holes and simply slide it on then. Luckily during the past over 400,000 kms around and through Australia I have only had 3 flat tyres on goat tracks, one of which was Frenchmans Track Cape York.
You just learn to make do, or else get ready to retire and die I guess. When I get tired from packing up I just sit down in my camp chair that is the first thing unloaded and relax and have a bit of ice cold water from the fridge and let the heart rate slow a bit before getting up and doing what has to be done.
I mostly have to do everything alone because I mostly do stealth camping nowadays and no one finds free camping areas like I do. Right now as I type this in the cool of the evening in WA I’m camped about 7 km’s outside of Geraldton about 100 metres from, and completely invisible to, the highway and have been here undetected for about 3 weeks living my best life