You don't need a big vehicle and a tonne of gear to get out into the bush.
It's easy to get carried away with the camping kit you come across in shops and at camping and outdoors shows, but it's possible to have a successful camping experience without carting the kitchen sink with you.
Back in the 'good old days' the only 4WD vehicles were short-wheelbase wagons - Land Rovers, Patrol G60s or Land Cruiser 40 Series - and there wasn't space to fit much camping gear. These vehicles had very little power, so they couldn't tow more than a lightly loaded 6x4 box trailer.
Today, we're spoilt for horsepower and towing options and it's not uncommon to see people towing a house on wheels behind them. But it doesn't have to be like that. You can see at least as much of this great country - probably more - use much less fuel and have fewer hassles if you lighten up a bit...or a lot, actually.
To prove the point we borrowed a three-door Suzuki Grand Vitara - the most capable small 4WD on the market - and loaded it with all the necessities for two people on a camping trip. This kit is ample for a short trip - a weekender, for example - or for months on the road, if you don't mind roughing it a bit.
Obviously, on a longer trip, the food boxes and the fridge would need topping up when you pass through towns, where you'd also need to buy more water packs.
If the vehicle needs to carry two adults and a couple of kids, you'd need a larger wagon or ute, extra sleeping gear, a larger folding table and probably a larger fridge.
The camping gear list
Fridge - a 12V/240V 20-litre unit is compact and can hold a surprising amount of food.
Cooker - a $20 butane unit is light and compact, and cans of fuel are available along the way.
Ground sheet - a rubberised, perforated sheet won't blow around when you try to spread it.
Chairs - folding three-legged Primus stools are compact and comfy.
Tent - a self-erecting tent folds almost flat, yet is roomy enough for two. (OZTent's Malamoo Mega is the best we've seen.)
Mattresses - thicker, self-inflating foam mattresses are comfy and roll up.
Pillows - blow-up types are light and squash down flat for packing.
Sleeping bags - easy to pack and are warm in minus degrees.
Table - a slatted, folding table is compact and eay to erect and pack.
Lidded boxes - ideal for stowing a nest of saucepans, stove, plates, cutlery and cups.
Water - the easiest way to carry water is in 10-litre carboard bladder packs that are available in all supermarkets.
Clothes and toiletries - pack into soft bags or lidded boxes.
Seat-back organisers - ideal for stowing small items such as inspect repellent, head torches and multi-tools.
Camp lights - small, bright Hella or Narva LEDs are the go, either rechargeable as you drive, or battery types.
Power pack - a battery in a box that can be charged while you drive, to provide overnight power.
Solar panel - a Projecta folding unit can be deployed when you camp to charge your power pack.
First aid kit - a compact one can hold bush-travel necessites.
Recovery kit - light-duty snatch strap, shackles, folding shovel, tyre foot pump and puncture emergency plugs.
All this stuff fits easily into the back of a three-door Grand Vitara, with the rear seats folded flat.
A five-door model can easily acccomodate a couple of kids and their additional gear.
There's no need for a roof rack and no need for a trailer, if you're happy to pack light and tight.
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