Gear list for camping or sleeping in a car or 4WD

Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of suggested packing lists for backpackers or light-weight travelers but the list is a little longer if you are car or 4WD camping

Keeping Food Cool

Its not optional given Australia’s weather – you need to have some type of cooling either a fridge set up (which will probably require a second battery to be fitted to the vehicle) or an ice box, a cooler or esky as it’s known locally. We found a 65litre cooler was about right for 2 of us and we bought a plastic box with lid to fit inside to keep delicate stuff like cheese and vegetables from getting wet or crushed. The mid-range Coleman rated to 5 days (in practice about 3 days) worked well at can be bought for less than A$100 on sale.


Something to cook on gives you a lot of options even if you aren’t camping every night. The main options is either a 2 or 3 burner gas stove running off a standard LPG cylinder or a butane stove running off butane cartridges (1 burner only). A LPG cylinder can either be swapped at a petrol station or re-filled at a caravan park or camping store. The butane cylinders need to be purchased from a camping store and are not refillable. The 2 burner gas stove proved robust and the wind shield is useful for increasing heating efficiency. I like to have at least 2 burners for cooking. The cheapest 2 burners start at around A$40 but the more expensive models $80 have a stainless steel bottom which reflects a lot of heat and makes cooker faster, and cleaning easier!

Cooking Gear

Minimum list would be

  • a frypan – with good sides so that food doesn’t go everywhere;

  • a billy with a spot, boils water a lot quicker and can be had for A$10;

  • a small pot to cook vegetables, pasta, rice etc in

  • A BBQ slice, tongs, miscellaneous cutlery and some plates, cups and (plastic) glasses.

  • a decent sharp knife, can opener, bottle opener

  • a basin to wash dishes in tea towels, pot scrubber, sponges, paper towels

  • a couple of stubby holders


If you don’t have a second battery in your vehicle than you have some other options for power. An inverter in the vehicle will power gear such as laptops while you are driving. Another option solar panels originally designed as RV solar panels there are now variations of this product which will suit the camper to.


You can buy 10 or 15 liter water containers at the supermarket for $5 or $7. They can be re-filled and are a good size to lift when full, I find the 20 litre one a bit heavy to lift when full. More smaller containers are easier to back and are less likely to all break and leave you without water.


In cooler areas, and particularly in the desert in the winter, you will need all the warm sleeping gear you can get – I would recommend a good sleeping bag and a 4WD camping mat which has both insulation and inflation to make it a bit more comfortable. In warmer climates we used a fitted sheet and a light duvet or sheet on top. You can get blow-up pillows but I prefer the real ones which can be bought for about $10 each and left behind when you leave. Even if you are staying in cabins rather than camping you will often have to provide your own bedding or pay extra so its a good thing to either bring some old stuff from home, expecting to dump it at the end of the trip, or buy something cheap at Big W or Target

Lighting and Electrical

If you are going to stay in commercial campgrounds then buy a portable light used by mechanics when working on cars (cheaper at car maintenances stores such as SupaCheapAuto) which come with a cable and sometimes a battery (though watch the re-charge time) for around A$20. These give excellent light and can be hooked up inside or out.

Gas lights run off the same LPG cylinders as stoves (and you can get an attachment to run both at the same time) but can be fiddly to light. We also each had a torch which ran on re-chargeable batteries, and tent light which attached to the roof by magnet and ran on re-chargeable. Which meant of course that we needed to bring a battery charger, extension cord, and a power box for when we needed to recharge the cell phones, computer or digital camera.


In fact you don’t necessarily need a tent, traditionally a single traveller in Australia used a swag, which these days are sophisticated bags which include a waterproof outer, a mosquito net over the head and are waterproof.. If you are only going to warm or hot dry areas you may only need a mosquito net and you can get self-supporting mosquito domes which are very light to carry. If you are going to cooler, wetter areas you will need a tent and again you pay anything from $50 to $1000, but a middle of the line tent with not too many poles to put together should do for most people.


A couple of fold up camping chairs can cost A$5 (and they lasted the trip – not undamaged but usable) or A$100 – personal choice – but make sure they fold easily. You need a decent size table which again there are numerous versions.

Personal Gear

Obviously personally clothing and toiletries, towels. Make sure you have strong sun screen, insect repellent up north and a sun hat. If you don’t have gear appropriate for the climate you will be able to buy it easily enough along the way.

Then we need to ad maps, guidebooks and vehicle gear but that’s another post! What have a missed out, what do you take camping?

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