Have you ever bought something and started to set it up, only to get halfway through the job to think… “Why does this exist? What purpose does this product serve, and why on Earth did I buy it?”
Well you wouldn’t be alone, there are several (seven to be exact) pieces of camping equipment that we here at Unsealed 4X4 simply can’t stand. From the bizarre to the straight-up dodgy; these are the bits of kit you won’t ever find in our four-wheel drives… well, not anymore.
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1 BARGAIN BIN CAMP CHAIRS
No doubt many of you have had experiences with those $8 camp chairs you see at hardware stores, and I’m going to make the assumption that not many have been good experiences. Not only are they uncomfortable; they are weak and they tend to fall to bits after one or two uses. The hinges snap, the seat material rips, and I even had one where the drink holder mesh disintegrated. This caused my drink to spill and froth everywhere – nearly reducing me to tears in the process. Don’t risk the same thing happening to you or your loved ones; avoid the lure of the bargain bin camp chair.
2 CHEAP DOME TENTS
A good quality dome tent can be a real asset for those who enjoy hiking or perhaps require a more compact setup. But those $19 eight-man dome tents found ‘promising the world’ in certain retail chains aren’t even worth the cable ties holding the poles together during transit. They hate wind, heat and cold. They rip; some leak; and the cheap hard-plastic poles included tend to snap like grumpy toddlers at bedtime. A tent is an investment, and something that you should get years of use out of. A cheap dome tent is a disposable item that will basically guarantee a bad camping experience. In my opinion, canvas is hard to beat when looking for a long-lasting tent or swag… and it’s worth the investment.
3 SWAG BAGS THAT DON’T FIT!
WHY? WHY? WHY? This grinds my gears harder than a gearbox without oil. Why do so many swag manufacturers insist on including just enough canvas in their swag transit bags to barely fit the swag back inside. Sure, when the swag is new and there is no air inside the mattress (and no sleeping gear inside) they are OK. But once you actually use the swag for its intended purpose, things start to get messy. Here is a business idea for any canvas specialists out there: Invent a jumbo swag bag that can actually fit a swag back inside it – without causing a stress-induced mild heart attack. I’d be lining up for that product.
4 GAS BURNERS THAT BLOW UP
This is a scary one, and if you are still using a non-certified gas cooker please place it in the bin and cough up the $30 for a new one. Recently a major ACCC recall decreed the majority of lunchbox cookers (as they are known) to be removed from sale as the risk of them exploding due to faulty cut-off valves was rather real. All dodgy cookers have been recalled; and a new safety cut-off valve has been installed to prevent this issue. But be wary of purchasing old stock from a less-legitimate business. Stick with brand-name units here, folks. And ask the question: Is this a certified unit, and is there documentation included to prove it? When those portable gas bottles go bang, they do so with a huge amount of force.
5 SORRY ESKY, I’M SEEING SOMEONE COOLER
A good quality icebox is fine for storing some cans in over a weekend, but I personally won’t go camping without a 12V fridge/freezer again. The pivotal moment for me came when I was four-wheel driving on the NSW Mid North Coast and a container of pasta salad exploded inside the esky – turning the ice into disgusting slurry, thus coating the food and drinks inside with greasy goo. It really sucked! The second we arrived home, the decision was made to buy an Evakool Fridgemate for about $1,100. I have used the fridge on every trip away since, for the last seven years… and without an issue too, I might add. Now for me, that is money well spent. Do the sums: Four bags of ice a month costs, say, $12. Times that by the 84 months I have owned the fridge – and that adds up to $1,008 worth of ice. The fridge has nearly paid for itself.
6 HEAD TORCHES THAT DON’T WORK
I am often ridiculed by staff and mates for my dislike of head torches. I understand they are practical, especially for fishing or cooking; and that I am in the absolute minority here. They just aren’t for me. Basically I hate bugs flying into my mouth while I’m walking at night; and I hate it when people forget they are wearing one and blind me with their artificial brilliance. There, I’ve said it. The unnatural hatred is possibly further developed by my insistence on buying cheap head torches from supermarkets or service stations, to see if I can get over my disdain for them. This only inflames the situation, as these products fall to pieces fast. So I’m not actually writing off head torches, as they can be useful. I’m writing off head torches where the light falls out, or the straps break over my large melon. I’m writing off head torches that have adjusters that snap, and head torches that offer less illumination than a candle.
7 SELF-DEFLATING AIR MATTRESSES
Air mattresses should be seen only at childhood sleepovers, or floating down rivers. They offer a terrible camping experience in my opinion – for two very valid reasons. Firstly, they tend to let air out overnight, so you wake up with your face in your partner’s armpit (or with a rock trying to enter your spine). Not ideal. Secondly, they offer no insulation – meaning they will actually make you colder overnight. I do like the fact that they fold up into a fairly small bundle; and they are affordable. But I will personally never sleep on one again. A far better option is a self-inflating mattress (available at any camping store). Self-inflating mattresses have foam inside, which insulates against the cold ground. The foam also means you won’t ever wake up flat on the ground with an angry-looking ant two inches from your nose.
Words by Evan Spence