Keeping the load in your caravan or camper under weight limits is an ongoing struggle especially if you intend to be away for long periods of time or if you travel into remote outback areas. You will need to carry more equipment and supplies than you normally would for a week at a seaside caravan park. Add to that the likely problem your caravan weighs considerably more than the plated TARE or empty weight, and you will have a serious struggle even just to be able to carry the barest necessities.
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to attend a caravan weigh in organised by the Caravanners’ Forum and I can tell you that almost everyone that attended had a bit of a surprise when their weights came in. At the time I had our Nissan Patrol and River Eliminator and it was fairly close to being fully loaded for an extended outback trip. The van came in just under ATM but our GCM or combined weight was just over the Patrol’s maximum. This got me thinking seriously about what we were carrying and what I could replace with lighter items. But where do you start with such an exercise?
Well….I figured the best place to start was with the obviously heavy items. Here are the details what we changed over and how much weight we saved as a result.
Everyone will have their opinions on whether or not you really need to carry a generator, and I suppose if you have a good solar and 12v system, a generator may not be absolutely necessary. But for us it is an important backup to ensure we have sufficient recharging ability should we run into a long period of bad weather. Our previous generator was a Fuji Micro 4.4 KVA unit. It’s quite compact for a generator with this capacity but as portable generators go, it’s no lightweight, coming in at a fairly hefty 29kg. At 4.4KVA, it could handle just about anything I could throw at it but in reality it was more capacity that we actually needed. It was also a bugger to store and remove from the front boot. Switching to a smaller 2.5KVA generator weighing just 19kg saved us 10kg. Testing of the smaller X-Plorer unit showed it will handle running the caravan air conditioner and 25 amp battery charger simultaneously which is about has heavy a load as I would ever expect to run.
The Camp Chairs:
When we first got the River, we thought it would be nice to have some new, more comfortable chairs than the standard folding chairs we carried in the old camper. So we went and bought huge reclining chairs from Rays Tent City. They were really comfortable but they were cumbersome and the only place we could store them was under the bed inside the van. They also weighed 12kg each…! That’s 24kg just for 2 chairs. During a recent visit to the Melbourne Caravanning and Camping show, we decided to look for alternative chairs. They had to be comfortable but light weight at the same time. We eventually bought 2 Jet Tent Pilot chairs from OzTent. These are very similar to your basic folding camping chairs but are better constructed, have an in-built lumber support and extra padding. The carry bag stores in a pocket in the headrest to provide some additional padding. They are very comfortable and weighing in at just 5kg each, a total of 10kg for both, we’ve saved a massive 14kg…!
The Camp Table:
I was a bit surprised to find out that our old trusty wooden camp table that had served us many years actually weighed 12kg. It certainly didn’t feel that heavy. It suffered the same issue as the chairs in that, even with the legs folded away, it was quite large and had to be stored on the bed between stops. We shopped around and found a Wild Country aluminium collapsible camp table at Rays Tent City. This is a fantastic table that folds away into a package not much bigger than a folding camp chair. It’s a clever design that is both strong and very light weight. At a mere 7kg it saved us another 5kg.
12v Umbilical Anderson cord:
If you intend to do any extended free camping or outback travel, you’re going to want a lot of battery capacity. The problem is that batteries weigh a lot, up to about 30kg for a 100ah sealed battery. We already had 2 batteries in the River but if we wanted any more capacity, adding another battery was going to add a lot of weight. I realised that we had another perfectly good 100ah deep cycle battery in the tow vehicle and, for the most part, it was just sitting there not being used for anything except perhaps a car fridge. By making a 3 meter extension cord with an Anderson plug at each end, we could connect the car and caravan together using the car’s seconds battery to augment the caravan’s batteries, giving a combined total capacity of 300ahs all without adding any more weight to the van, effectively saving 30kg. The same cord can also be used for attaching an external solar panel. Best of all the cord is very lightweight and can be stored in the tow vehicle.
Webber Baby Q:
By simply switching over to one of these brilliant units, we were able to ditch 4 separate cooking items. The Webber Baby Q weighs 10kgs in total. We removed the 2 burner Gassmate cooktop with its associated folding stand, a total 10kg, the glass convection oven weighing 8kg, a cast iron camp oven also weighing 8kgs and a 7kg folding hot plate. All up we saved a mind boggling 23kg…!
So…let’s add up the lot and see just how much we were able to save:
|Webber Baby Q
Yep…..we saved a jaw dropping total of 82kg…!
In my opinion that was a staggering result.
There are probably a few more items we could look at and save even more, but these changes were pretty basic and just about anyone could easily replicate these weight savings without too much effort and without sacrificing any comfort or convenience.
We could've gone even further if we were prepared to accept some compromises along the way.
We could do without the generator and just rely on solar and battery power alone. That saves another 19kg.
It is possible to find even lighter chairs and table. The range of camp furniture from Helinox offer remarkably light weight options. True, they may not be the most comfortable option in the world, and they certainly arn't the cheapest, but when we can get 2 chairs and a folding table weighting less than 3kg, it’s an option worth considering. The Helinox gear packs down to very small sizes and by storing them in the tow vehicle, we could eliminate the weight of chairs and a table from the van, saving a further 17kgs.
If we really wanted to be tight, we could conceivably remove one of the caravan batteries and just rely on the remaining one and connecting to the second battery in the tow vehicle using the umbilical cord we made, retaining the original 200ah capacity but saving another 30kg.
All up, by going down this extreme weight loss path, we could reclaim a total of 118kgs from our original total weight or 148kg if we include the reduction in one more battery. That could mean the difference between travelling with or without a full tank of water and in the outback that could be a very critical choice to make. Reduce some other ancillary items like say 1kg bag of potatos instead of 2kg and packing anything in glass jars into plastic containers and you could easily take 150kg off your load.