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Travelling with a Roof-Top Tent

Got your trusty Outback or Forester, maybe a Patrol or even a new Cherokee?  Then you’re likely ready for a bit of an adventure!  Haven’t we got the country just for you?  Australia is filled with many wonderful things to see, places to explore, and amazing wildlife and flora to enjoy.  It’s surprising how many decent vehicles we can actually use to get around Australia; space and practicality being the main factors contributing to the type of vehicle we end up using.

Of course, the other factor will be how 4x4ish and AWDish you’ll want/need the vehicle to be – because the further you go off-road, then the more likely you’ll be driving an SUV with 4WD ability or even a true blue 4×4 brute to get you anywhere.

Next question I’d be asking would be: Will you want to be staying in motels and B&Bs, towing a caravan, or staying in a tent?  If you want to ditch the vacancy/no-vacancy signs for a lot more freedom and a lower price tag, then caravanning and tenting are very decent options.

What I wanted to focus attention on was the types of tents that can be mounted on the roof of a vehicle.  Roof-top tents are a means of accommodation that are great while you’re on the move around Australia.  They keep you up off the ground and away from the creepy crawlies, or at least minimalizing their access!  A pop-top roof tent is a neat and inexpensive way of giving you your sleeping space while travelling around Australia.

Some of the advantages of having a roof top tent include:

You can camp in as many places as your vehicle can take you – think off-road and a rugged 4×4 vehicle!

The roof-top tent is usually designed to be fast and easy set up and store away at a campsite.  Usually, they can take as little as 1 – 5 minutes to set up.  This is a brief!

The roof-top tent is off the ground, thus keeping you off the wet ground and mud, and away from insects, snakes, and other animals.

Many pop out roof-tents are designed with the mattress already included in the fold out design.  This makes camping life even easier.

The biggest disadvantages of a fold out roof tent would include:

Older folk may struggle getting in and out of the tent via the ladder.

The tent’s maximum body capacity and height are limited, so there’s no way for you to stand up to your full height.  You also won’t be able to hold a party of any great number inside.

Lifting the tent to the roof of the car can be a little more challenging depending on the set-up and weight involved.

Unfortunately, not every vehicle is made for carrying a hefty weight on the roof, and some simply cannot handle the additional weight.  As a general rule of thumb, your car should have cargo racks and be able to withstand at least 80–100 kg of weight. They should accommodate for the weight of your tent and everyone inside.  However, if you’re thinking of buying a four-person roof top tent, you’ll need a sturdier SUV or a pickup truck/ute.  Some sedans and town cars may be able to handle one- or two-person pop-top roof tents.

Roof-top tents have been an Australia thing for many, many decades, but the first one was invented between 1957 and 1958 by Giuseppe Dionisio.  Roof top tents are now available right around the world, and the variety of roof-top tent models is staggering.

For your first ever roof top tent experience, a softshell tent might be the best choice.  It is lighter, cheaper, and more familiar to most people for setting up at a campsite. However, if you’re ready to go all in and have the money to spare, a hard shell roof top tent is a more luxurious (and usually more convenient) option.

Thule and Kings roof-top tents would be a great place to start if you want to take a look and try out the camping lifestyle with a view.  Camping life with a bit of freedom is hard to beat!

A Shout-out To Formula One

Formula One is an exciting motor racing competition that races the fastest regulated road-course racing cars in the world.  It has been one of the premier forms of racing since its first official season in 1950.

Australia hosts one of the current racing locations in the Formula One Championship, the Australian Grand Prix, which is contracted to host Formula One up until 2035.  Although the Australian Grand Prix has been held at many different locations since it was first run at Phillip Island in 1928, currently the Australian Formula One race is held at the Melbourne Grand Prix circuit, Albert Park.  The next race scheduled to be held at the Melbourne Grand Prix circuit will be on 30th March – 2nd April 2023.  Get you tickets now!

Albert Park, Melbourne F1 Grand Prix Circuit

There have been various changes to the Formula One racing rules since the races began.  A major rule change in 2014 axed the 2.4-litre naturally-aspirated V8 engines in favour of the smaller 1.6-litre turbocharged hybrid power units.  This change prompted Honda’s return to the sport in 2015, where they were the championship’s fourth engine manufacturer for the competition.  Mercedes has emerged as the dominant force since that major engine rule change.

Renault came back as a team in 2016 after buying back the Lotus F1 team.  In 2018, Aston Martin became Red Bull and Alfa Romeo became Sauber’s title sponsors.  Sauber was rebranded as Alfa Romeo Racing for the 2019 season, while Racing Point’s part-owner Lawrence Stroll bought a stake in Aston Martin to rebrand the Racing Point team as Aston Martin for 2021.

In August 2020, a special new Concorde Agreement was signed by all of the ten competing Formula One (F1) teams, which further committed them all to the sport until 2025.  This agreement also included a $145-million budget cap for F1 car development, which also supported equal competition and a sustainable journey of development into the future of F1.

Formula One has also launched a plan to become carbon neutral by 2030, and by 2025, all F1 events should become “sustainable”, which will include eliminating single-use plastics and ensuring all of the race’s waste products are reused, recycled or composted.  2022 sees all F1 cars increasing the bio-component of their fuel, using E10 fuel rather than the 5.75% Ethanol fuel that is currently used.  The percentage of ethanol in the fuel is expected to increase again in the future.  By 2026 we should see a fuel with 100% sustainability; this occurring at the same time that the new engine regulations come into force.

Some Interesting F1 Info

The modern Formula One car is mid-engined and hybrid-powered.  They have a semi-open single-seater racing cockpit, and all four wheels are out in the open.  An F1 car’s chassis is made up using mostly carbon-fibre composites, thus making it very light but also extremely stiff and strong.  The whole F1 car, including the driver but not the fuel, weighs just 795 kg (the minimum weight set by the current regulations).  If the construction of the car is lighter than 795 kg, it can be ballasted up to make the necessary weight requirement.  Each driver may use no more than thirteen sets of dry-weather tyres, 4 sets of intermediate tyres, and 3 sets of wet-weather tyres during one race weekend.

For much of the sport’s history, qualifying sessions differed little from the practice sessions.  The drivers would have one or more sessions in which to set their fastest time, with the grid order being determined by each driver’s best single lap time.  Predictably, the driver with the quickest lap got first place on the grid, which is also referred to as pole position.

The Formula One race begins with a warm-up lap, after which the cars assemble on the starting grid in the order that each driver qualified.  This warm-up lap is often also referred to as the formation lap because the cars lap the circuit in formation, with no overtaking allowed.  The warm-up lap gives the drivers the chance to check the condition of the track as well as their car, ensuring that the tyres get a chance to warm up to race temperature, thus increasing traction out on the tarmac at high speeds.

The winner of the race is the first driver to cross the finish line having completed a set number of laps.  The points system gives 1st place 25 points, 2nd place 18 points, 3rd place 15 points, 4th place 12 points, 5th place 10 points, 6th place 8 points, 7th place 6 points, 8th place 4 points, 9th place 2 points, and 10th place 1 point.

All points won at each race are added up, and the driver and the formula 1 constructor team with the most points at the end of the season are crowned World Champions.  The points system occurs regardless of whether a driver stays with the same team throughout the season, or switches teams.  Therefore, all the points earned by a driver during the season count toward the Drivers’ Championship title.

Who is driving for which team in 2022?

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton George Russell
Red Bull Max Verstappen Sergio Perez
Ferrari Charles Leclerc Carlos Sainz
McLaren Lando Norris Daniel Ricciardo
Alpine Fernando Alonso Esteban Ocon
AlphaTauri Pierre Gasly Yuki Tsunoda
Aston Martin Sebastian Vettel Lance Stroll
Williams Alex Albon Nicholas Latifi
Alfa Romeo Valtteri Bottas Guanyu Zhou
Haas TBC Mick Schumacher

 

Formula One is a very exciting high-stakes race to watch.  High speed and loads of drama often play out in front of your eyes, so make sure you book yourself a ticket to the next Melbourne Grand Prix.  And, if you’re wallet’s plump, why not get around some of the other amazing Formula racing locations around the globe come race day.

Australia’s Best Racing Circuits, and a Bit of Porsche News at the End.

Australia is a racing car enthusiast’s haven. When professional car racing first began in Australia, it lacked the local presence of manufacturers from brands like Ferrari and Mercedes – both of which helped establish a strong racing tradition in Europe.  Despite Europe’s success, Australia was able to build racetracks down under that Australians and people around the world enjoyed visiting to watch – and even today they deliver some of the very best motor racing has to offer.

5 of the most famous racetracks in Australia would have to be:

  1. Phillip Island

You can find the Phillip Island Circuit situated about 2 hours outside of Melbourne City.  Its racing heritage harks back to the 1920s.  The current racetrack has been in use since 1956, although it has undergone minor changes during its life.  Phillip Island is a wonderfully free-flowing circuit with a stunning backdrop of Port Phillip Bay.  This famous track is loved by both motorcycle racers as well as those from the car racing fraternity.  Phillip Island is currently a permanent yearly fixture for the MotoGP calendar.

Loads of motorbikes are included in the race circuit’s fastest lap times, with a Yamaha YZR–M1 ridden by Maverick Viñales in 2019 claiming the quickest lap time of 1 min:28 sec.49.  You have to look down to 57th place before finding the quickest lap time accomplished by a car.  57th place was run in 1 min:38 sec.02 in a Porsche 918 Spyder driven by Matthias Hoffsummer.  A 2020 BMW M3 ran around Phillips Island in 1 min: 45 sec.03 – a car that may be a little more recognisable and common to the masses.

  1. The Adelaide Street Circuit

The Adelaide Street Circuit hosted the Australian F1 Grand Prix in the 90s.  This famous track saw racing icons Alain Prost, Aryton Senna, and Michael Schumacher score podiums on their journey to winning their F1 World Driver’s Championship.  Because it was regularly the last race of the F1 season, the Adelaide Street Circuit track often had high stakes drama, with its competitors looking to win the last points of the season on what is a fast and flowing circuit.  This drama added to the buzz in the air, playing host to a great party atmosphere once the final race was completed.

Although Melbourne has more recently created another famous racetrack – Albert Park – the Adelaide Street Circuit is still special.  Although F1 cars no longer rip around this circuit, the V8 Supercars event has become one of the its best series.

The fastest time (1 min: 15 sec.381) ever recorded on the Adelaide Street Circuit was performed by Damon Hill back in 1993, while driving his Williams FW15C Renault Formula One.

  1. Albert Park

As mentioned above, Albert Park is in the seaside suburb of St Kilda, just outside the Melbourne CBD.  Albert Park Circuit has played host to the Australian Grand Prix since 1996 and is a track that provides fantastic motor racing.  Albert Park is also a track that anyone can tackle a lap of the circuit in their own car.  It’s possible to drive around the circuit many times on any day of the week.

A Formula One Car called the Ferrari F1–75 driven by Charles Leclerc this year (2022) set a time of 1 min:20 sec.260, which is the fastest time ever set on the track.  To give you an idea just how quick that is – Craig Baird drove his Mercedes AMG GT3 car around in 1 min: 54 sec.7311.  Craig Baird’s record time in the GT3 Class is 8th quickest for a car more recognizable with cars can be driven on our roads legally.

  1. Sandown Raceway

Sandown Raceway is a track that, along with Phillip Island and Albert Park, enhances Victoria’s claim to possessing Australia’s greatest collection of famous racetracks. Until Albert Park arrived on the scene, Sandown was regarded by many as Victoria’s premier circuit.  Sandown Raceway is where brilliant Aussie racers like Jack Brabham, Alan Jones, and other heroes have shown off their skills to a home audience.  Sandown Raceway circuit still finds regular use today, most notably among drag racing enthusiasts.

  1. Bathurst/Mount Panorama

Formula One and MotoGP tracks inside Australia are rightfully famous.  Events in these high-end categories are truly global, and even our home-grown Aussie drivers have made a name for themselves racing in these very events.  But Mount Panorama/Bathurst is perhaps the most famous track of all to most Australians.

The New South Wales circuit plays a yearly host to the V8 Supercar race, and it has been a place where legendary battles between Ford and Holden have been played out before loyal fans.  Mount Panorama is also where brilliant racers like Peter Brock and Craig Lowndes have cemented their status as giant motor racing legends.

The outright fastest time for getting around the Mount Panorama Track was accomplished in an Audi R8 LMS, where the 2 minute barrier was broken in a time of 1 min: 59 sec.2910; Christopher Mies was the R8’s driver.  The quickest Touring Car that has ever made it round the circuit was a Ford Mustang GT driven by Chaz Mostert in the Supercars Championship of 2019 with a time of 2 min: 04 sec.7602.

Nurburgring (Germany)

And for something a little different… Porsche has just reclaimed the production EV Nürburgring lap record from Tesla, running a time of 7 min: 33 sec with a Porsche Taycan Turbo S EV.  The Tesla Model S Plaid’s lap time was 7 min: 35 sec set in September of 2021.

The production performance EV class is rapidly growing and features a variety of body styles. This means Porsche will likely be challenged by faster EVs in the near future.

Let’s Go and Caravan

We’ve got the country, we’ve got the beauty, and it seems peoples’ love for caravanning and camping around Oz is growing steadily.  The latest figures from Tourism Research Australia show that the popularity of domestic caravanning and camping trips is one pastime that many Australians cherish.  It’s not hard to see why people enjoy it, when there is so much natural beauty in Australia’s landscapes and wildlife.

According to the latest domestic tourism record, it shows that Australians spent a total of 54.5 million nights caravanning and camping during the year ending March 2019.  This number is an increase of 6.5% from the previous year.  While on these trips, many caravanners and campers also opted to eat out at local cafes or restaurants, a bonus for the local businesses.  This growth was experienced across the board, in all States and Territories, with over 10% growth recorded for Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland.  Interestingly, in terms of age demographics, those with a family in tow – i.e. parents with one or more children living at home – belonged to the demographic group that accounted for the largest number of caravan/camp trips in a year.  People who were part of the younger, mid-life demographic, and with no children, were those of the second largest group taking plenty of caravanning or camping trips (4.2 million).  When it comes to the most nights away in a year, the older non-working demographic (often called ‘grey nomads’) were leading the way with 32% of the total number of nights spent in Australia caravanning or camping.  In comparison, the family segment was only slightly less at 30%.

Sorry tenters, but I’m getting older and so will give my few cents worth for caravanning in the following!  I enjoy getting away in our caravan when we can.  Having a caravan in tow allows for a little more comfort on the trip, with less hassle on arrival at each new destination.  Everything you really need is with you, and the beds are ready made for the night, with no need to pitch tent!

I would certainly recommend trying caravanning, particularly if you like the idea of enjoying the great outdoors, getting away from most of the electronic vices, and smelling the clean air.  You get to meet a whole bunch of friendly, like-minded people along the way.  You also get to discover the many new places you’ve never seen before or rediscover your old favourite spots that you love to get back to.  These sorts of experiences are a treat that I never grow tired of.

Caravan Types

Here are some of the varieties of caravans you can buy without looking into purchasing a fully-fledged motorhome:

Standard Caravan

Easy to tow. It really just depends on the tow rating of your car as to how large or heavy the standard caravan is.  The smaller the caravan, generally, the lighter and easier it is to tow than bigger ones.  Standard caravans come in a range of sizes, single and tandem axles, and so some of the standard caravans can even be pulled by smaller cars.

Because standard caravans aren’t as heavy as the more ruggedly designed off-road caravans, they demand less torque and horsepower to tow comfortably out on the open road; thus, they are more economical on the fuel/power bill.

Standard caravans are also a bit easier to store and manipulate by hand, particularly the smaller ones.

 

Pop Tops

Pop-tops are easy to tow. Small caravans like pop-ups are, generally, much lighter and easier to tow from A to B than larger types of caravans.  You get much better fuel economy towing a pop-top because of the lower drag co-efficiency.

Pop-tops a doddle to store and manipulate by hand, particularly the smaller ones.

 

Expander

The merits of an expander caravan are similar to any standard or off-road caravan; however, they have the added bonus of a variety of pop-out areas that can be designed into the ceiling and walls.  Essentially, pop these areas out at your destination, and you have a lot more interior space and utility at your disposal while being stationary.  Just before you tow away, these areas are fold back into place, and away you tow again.

 

Off Road Caravan or Camper

The merits of having an off-road capable caravan or camper speak for themselves.  They have been built tough and rugged so that you can tow them off-road.  Obviously, you are going to need a bigger, torquier vehicle to tow this type of caravan/camper as they are heavier built and weigh more.  Usually, these are towed by a decent 4×4 capable vehicle like a Land Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser, Ford Ranger, etc.

 

Camper Trailer

Similar to a pop-up caravan, except they fold out an array of attached tents.  These are light and easy to tow.  They can be designed for towing both on and off the road.  They are cheaper to buy, as are pop tops.