Top Tips for Surviving a Shake Down Trip


The Shake Down Trip is a critical component of your new camper orientation. Here’s our Top 5 Tips for getting the most from the process:

(1) Dealer proximity: unless you’re a local, spend a night or two in a suburb close to the dealer while you perform your shakedown tests. This way, any help is close at hand if you need it.

(2) Familiarisation: check the everyday use items – cupboards and doors, swivel table, ensuite, toolbox, fridge slide, window, stabiliser and more. Familiarise yourself with the opening and closing process. While this is explained in the handover, it’s good to practise and you’ll quickly learn the best ways of doing it. For example, I find the external compartments on the BRS Offroad Pursuit open best with a firm thumb pressure and close best with a full palm over the large surface area of catch.

Understand which keys open the main door, water tank, shower controls, fridge box and mesh screen door. While the main compartments will be keyed-alike, the other locks are unique. When travelling, keep a key set each to allow independent access to all compartments as required, just in case hubby goes walkabout when least expected.

(3) Electrical Audit: Familiarise yourself with the electrics and monitoring devices in your camper. ‘Caravan & Motorhome Electrics’ by Collyn Rivers is great resource to bring you up to speed on RV electrics, batteries and solar systems. Consider it mandatory reading particularly for novices.

One of the best ways to get to know your electrical system is to perform an electrical audit. Simply remove all connections to 240V power such as a power lead or generator and see what devices work and what don’t. You can almost forget high draw devices such as the microwave, air conditioner, electric jug and hair dryer unless connected to 240V power – consider them only for caravan park use.

Once away from 240V power, you can use 12V power from the camper’s battery bank. Some 12V electrical items such as the fridge, water pump and lighting are already connected to the 12V circuit. If fitted, an inverter converts 12V to 240V power to power other low-draw 240V appliances such as a laptop, CPAP machine or coffee grinder.

In the BRS Offroad Pursuit Platinum, the 240V sockets are also prewired for 12V operation. Simply flick the inverter switch to inverter and plug your appliances directly into the 240V wall sockets. With 1600W to play with, its suitable for computers, a coffee machine and even a low draw hair dryer.

Inverters are less than 100% efficient and will draw power during use and when on standby, so turn them off when not in use. Similarly, it is more efficient to use a 12V power source as opposed to converting it to 240V power, so use 12V power cables if you have them.

During your shakedown test, gauge how much power is used and how quickly it is replenished via 240V recharging, solar or DC charging via the Anderson plug. Typically, charging via the Anderson plug will only bump up the batteries to 75-80%.

Missing 20-25% doesn’t sound too much, but it actually translates to 40-50% of your battery capacity which is huge. Sealed AGM batteries can only be safely discharged to 12.2V or 50% of their capacity, meaning that a 100amp battery only has a 50amp useable range.

Like a 240V charger, a DC DC charger uses a multi-stage charging profile to reach a full 100% charge. The charging profiles reduce the incoming charge as the battery fills, to ensure it gets fully charged.

The DC DC charger is a resource with wide appeal if you like touring holidays, as you’ll always arrive at your next destination with a full charge, regardless of weather conditions.

Assessing the time required to recharge your batteries via the different options will take a few days or longer and it is worth jotting down a few notes until you are more familiar with the outcomes.

(4) Hot water: test the hot water system at all outlets – shower, kitchen and internal vanity sink, where fitted. Gas hot water systems usually take about 15mins to heat a volume of 14L to around 60 degrees Celsius. Once at operating temperature, a thermostat will control the operation of the burner, so turn the system off when not in use to save gas.

(5) Restraining Order: Before undertaking any trip, consider your storage requirements, what you’ll carry and where. Sturdy, stackable boxes go a long way to keep your gear organised and secure, as each box base is locked into the lid of the next. Make sure they are quality units with reinforced bases and lids to avoid self-destruction at the least convenient time.

Tie down points and straps stop items moving around in transit. Ratchet straps or cam buckle straps are the best approach for securing boxes in place and some compartments may benefit from a lining of marine carpet to reduce vibration and wear and tear.

If you have any questions or concerns during the shakedown process, contact your local dealer for support. The dealer is there to support you long after the initial sale, providing advice, servicing and answers to your many questions.

As travellers ourselves, the team at The Dirt Off Road Campers understand the importance of setting up a camper for remote outback travel. We’re always happy to answer questions on vehicle setup, campers and destinations. But even better, our mobiles are always on, so if you have a burning question on how to work the hot water service, trouble shoot your Anderson plug connection, or determine the best off road tyre pressures, we’re only a phone call away.