Even more nights in Araluen – March 2024

After telling everyone about the lovely little campground we found at Araluen Creek, some friends of ours were heading down this Canberra Day long weekend to check it out. They originally wanted to go to the tried-and-true Wee Jasper Reserves, but their high surge prices and their stupid 6-month blanket fireban meant that we ended up going to Araluen instead.

Rosie had a relative coming over that weekend, so Ollie and I left her in Canberra and headed down to Araluen that Saturday morning after a fairly lesiurely packup session. The only unusual thing we were taking for this trip was an extra 20L of water – it turns out our friends had forgotten to fill up their caravan water tank before setting off on Friday night. With our water and the use of some spare jerry cans from other campers, they managed to scrounge up enough water to last them the weekend.

The trip down to Araluen was fairly uneventful, with only a bathroom stop in Bungendore to break up the drive. It takes about 1.5 hours to get to Araluen Creek from our driveway, and most of the drive is on the Kings Highway with plenty of overtaking lanes (used by people going around us mostly!). Once we got to the campgrounds it was pretty easy to find our friends caravan as Ollie recognised the colour-changing bike of his friend on the back of it.

Massive caravan, some issues with the cruiser

We found a spot nearby and set up without issue, then it was time for a bit of lunch and a beer. We had a look over the caravan electrical system to see if we could find what some issues might be. They’d been running out of battery life recently. We also checked out their cruiser to see if their car was sending enough power to the caravan, but found weirdly damaged fuses for their car’s onboard power circuit. They still worked, but they were mangled and melted which is never a very good sign.

Simple setup.

Our friends had also noticed some faint smoke coming from one of their rear wheel assemblies on their cruiser after their last trip in town. Seems like even non-Delica’s can have issues!

After a bit of poking around the cruiser and caravan, beers in hand, the two dad’s went to search for some more firewood on the side of the road while the kids went down to the creek for a play, under the careful eye of the only mum present. While we didn’t find any firewood, we did find a few beers at the local pub.

Not a lot of firewood in the area

When we got back we got changed into swimmers to go take over looking after the kids, but found they had been playing happily together for 1.5hrs with limited supervision required. We’d brought some beers and wine with us and happily sat in the river watching the kids play.

Once we got back later that afternoon, the kids got fed and we headed off further up into the mountains to look for firewood again. The entire area was fairly picked through, and we had to settle for some basic looking logs and a stump on the side of the road in the foothills.


I did get to use my new Ryobi battery chainsaw to get the pieces into a manageable state, and it did a really good job even on logs much bigger than it was designed for. The chainsaw was bought mostly for gardening tasks at home, but I think we might just leave it in the camper from now on based on how quick and easy it was.


Once back at camp the kids helped us set up a campfire. Our friends had brought a bunch more meat than they needed, so we all had fire-cooked sausages, potatoes, steak and chops for dinner, with a greek salad side. Ollie had 2-minute noodles and marshmallows.

Great feed

After a big day the kids went to be fairly early, and the adults sat around the fire before a fairly early night as well.

The next morning Ollie woke up early and the Nintendo Switch took care of parenting for another half hour. Bacon and eggs for breakfast for me, and fruit loops for Ollie.

It was a very hot morning, even before 9am, so we all headed off down to the creek early on. The two blow up crocodiles were a big hit; so much so that I was forced to go back to the camper to get the extra lobster for the little sister in order to make things fair.

After two and half hours of playing around and checking out the various ‘Crokky Islands’ in the creek, we headed back to camp for a feed of sausages.

Cheap little bbq is still going strong

It was still pretty hot, so we went back in the camper and chilled out for a bit with the 12v fan doing its best to cool us down. I almost managed a nap, but Ollie put a stop to that. I got the kids playing on a big picnic rug with some Paw Patrol toys and that kept them out of the sun and entertained for at least an hour, even with the little sister ‘playing the game wrong’.

Tiny fan provides just enough airflow

As it cooled down a bit more the kids started playing on their bikes. Fortunately there was a spare balance bike for Ollie, but we’re going to need to start bringing his bike along on these trips.

He’s gonna have to learn how to use pedals eventually

That nights dinner was more sausages and 2-minute noodles for Ollie, and a fire cooked lamb roast for the adults. Again, my friends had too much food and insisted on me joining them for dinner. I promise I did have several meals ready to go in the fridge!

Ollie lives on these – he’s basically a uni student

That night was a much later night as the temperatures cooled down and the beers around the fire turned into wine around the fire. Great fun.

The next morning everyone woke pretty early and started packing up immediately. Ollie even helped a little for a change. We were back on the road by 10am and back home by 11.30 with no stops.

A big thank you to our friends who invited us on this trip. We hope to do it again soon, next time with Rosie!

Boring technical stuff

Prior to this trip I decided to pull out the fridge in the camper to see if I could find anything wrong with the wiring or back of fridge cooling system. See if you can find anything wrong with this photo:

Clogged condenser radiator

The condenser was almost completely clogged with 10 years worth of dust and grime. The fans back there seemed to still work okay, it was just struggling to cool anything through the clogged radiator. The floor and gap under the fridge, the primary and pretty much only airflow path for the back of fridge cooling, was also completely filthy and clogged up with grease. These were all fairly simple to clean up, though getting the fridge out was tight.

While back there I also found that one of the connections for the fridge was either loose or badly crimped as I ended up needed to replace a broken 2-in connector with another one. I also included an extension cable to make moving the fridge in and out easier.

Extra black power cable added by me to make removing the fridge in the future easier

Compared to previous trips where the camper was using around 60-70% of a 120AH battery in 24 hours, these figures are much better. My efforts also means that the fridge isn’t drawing up to 6 amps when running – this has fallen to a much more consistent 3.75 amps. I’m not sure if this is due to the cleaning or if the dodgy terminal was to blame, but that figure is much more in line with what the fridge manufacturer suggests this model of fridge should draw.

Big feels for the caravan next to us in the morning

In real terms, this meant that I’ve gone from about 1.5 days to 3 days of camper power in 33+ degree heat with no external power sources. With solar panels, charging from the van battery and charging from the alternator while driving, there should be no issues even for long stays in shady locations. Adding another battery would double that amount again, for up to 6 days in shade or rain without needing additional power sources. The goal is to stop me stressing and checking my battery monitor app regularly by having enough power to get us through even the most unlikely scenarios.

After cleaning and fixing up the back of the fridge, I reinstalled it into its original space. This camping trip was the first trip after this fix and the fridge was using much less power. Actually, close to 40-50% less power was being used. The compressor was cycling less and it was on for less time before it got to the fixed temperature, even on 30+ degree days. Overall with heavy use (opening and closing the fridge a lot, not using any solar, putting warm cans in the fridge to cool down, Ollie sometimes leaving the fridge door slightly open etc) on the first day the camper used 48AH (leaving about 60% of the battery left). On the second day I put a single solar blanket out and by nightfall the battery was at 70%. Waking up on the final morning, the battery was only down to 40%.

3 year old tantrums are epic

Petrol use was around 19.5L/100km on 91RON which is fairly standard. I over-inflated the rear tyres of the van by a few PSI this time to see if it made a difference. There wasn’t much of a change in fuel economy, but it wasn’t worse either so I’ll probably do that more often.

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