Lumbering out of the driveway on day 1 of our Big Lap we quite simply had WAY too much gear on board. In fact, as you may have seen in our film, we were trying to work out where to put the last bag and I joked about holding it on my lap . . . not a good idea given I was driving and also doing most of the filming!
So at our first camp in Bright we set up the camper trailer and unpacked our gear and stayed a few nights but when it came to leave it took us fully 4 hours to pack up everything and get going - not ideal!
The problem was twofold.
Obviously we simply just had too much stuff, a lot of things ‘just in case’ - extra bedding, extra clothes, an extra small fridge etc.
I think we’d packed with the view that we had to take everything with us that we might possibly need in the next year and were afraid to leave anything out.
The result was that we were literally at 110% of capacity because we had stuff piled up between the girls on the back seat and between the front seats and had loads of other bits and pieces either cable tied or ocky strapped to the trailer and boat rack.
Besides the extra weight, the biggest problem with filling every available space is that it dramatically increases the time it takes to set up and pack up camp because getting everything back in is a bit like a 3D jigsaw puzzle.
You have to get the boxes of food in first and the right way around, the boat motor goes in this way . . . the camp lights battery only fits in once everything else is in place . . etc.
We soon realised that having so much stuff with us was much more of a liability than we’d every considered and it was detracting from the enjoyment of the trip.
We started leaving things out.
On the drive from Bright towards Echuca, Jen’s fold up sun lounger which was strapped to the top of the roof rack, blew off and ended up on the side of the road. We heard it come off and I pulled over and went back to retrieve it but on the way back to the car I had second thoughts and left it leaning on a power pole on the side of the road to be picked up by a more needy traveller.
After our crash that had us stuck in Melbourne for 10 weeks or so we left a lot of things out like the spare room for the camper trailer, the second fridge, the spare bedding, about half our clothes, a box of books and a lot more.
In fact when we headed off again the camper trailer, back of the Landcruiser and roof rack were not completely full.
This is where we came up with the 80% rule.
The idea is to only fill your available storage to about 80% of capacity, rather than filling every available space - and a place for everything and everything in its place.
The result was a dramatic improvement in setup and pack up times because things fitted in easily.
The reality was that we didn’t miss any of the things we left out and we appreciated the ease and freedom that came with the new lighter load.
During the trip it fluctuated a bit, but by the time we were 12 months in we had it down to a fine art and we could setup in about 20 to 30 minutes and pack up in less than an hour.
So, use the 80% rule when planning for your trip and you’ll be happier for it.
And when it comes to deciding what to leave in and what to leave out, if you have to stop and think about it, you can probably live without it . . . ‘If in doubt, leave it out!’
Check out The Big Lap Film Series to see what it's REALLY like to pack up your life and spend a year or more driving around Australia.