OK, I just had a moment to work out how long I’ve been living in the troopy and it’s 7 months. That’s long enough to have worked out most systems and glitches for living day to day. I’ve been through a wide range of climates, from stinking hot in Darwin and Alice Springs through to freezing cold, wet conditions at Tingha and all weather in between.
I also spent a couple of months living in the troopy while touring around Tasmania, so all up I’ve got quite used to the freedom of living in the small space, even though right now I’ve made it back to Ballarat and I’m in the caravan. The van is luxury compared with the troopy, but not as easy to move it around.
Inbuilt stove, huge fridge, a freezer, that’s a novelty. It feels strange living in such a large space with so many comforts.
Still, I’m here to talk troopy living. I’m not sure which weather I consider more difficult to cope with living in the car, the heat is hard to deal with when you’re stopped and there’s no escaping it, but I’ve learnt the value of shopping centres and even better, public libraries. I spent many hours in the library, or “my office” as I’ve been calling it up in Alice Springs. Free wifi, clean toilets, cold drinking water, power, what more could you want.
For the cold I had two choices, while free camping I just had to rug up, sleeping at night was in tracksuit, socks and beanie. When I was in a caravan park a small electric fan heater was a touch of luxury, it didn’t take much to heat the small space in the car so the heater didn’t need to run a lot and I left it going all night on many occasions. We were talking about some seriously frosty mornings where all the taps in the park would freeze up.
Some aspects of troopy life are hard to beat. While waiting for the washing at the laundromat you can pop the top right there in the car park and crawl up into bed for a quick snooze. You never need to worry about grocery shopping getting hot or rolling around in the back, as you leave the shop and get to the car, everything gets packed straight away into the pantry and fridge.
There’s never a moment when you wish you’d brought your bathers or a jacket, or pair of shorts with you. They are with you always, everything is. Your camera is with you, phone, chargers, laptop, reading glasses, books, tools, chairs, towels, everything. Everything is with you at all times if you’re with the car.
Hungry? No problem. Thirsty? Hey make a cuppa, have a snack, cook a meal. Found that perfect spot in a river bed under an old gumtree, on a deserted beach, overlooking the ocean on a clifftop just as the sun’s setting and colours are coming alive around you? Good. No need to go anywhere, pull the chairs out, pour yourself a drink, grab the camera and take some photos, stay there for the night, don’t go anywhere.
The troopy is small enough that it blends in, well it blends until you pop the top, so if I’m in an area that’s perhaps a little questionable as to whether camping would be frowned on, I try to keep the top down for as long as possible, only popping after dark. During the day in most car parks or parks, even in built up areas, I don’t think twice about popping the top for comfort and space.
It’s so quick to clean up when you’re living in a space that’s so small, I have a small brush for sweeping out the floor in the back or the front footwells, then a cloth to wipe down surfaces. In the back of the troopy I keep a towel on the floor to help collect dirt, it’s easy to shake the towel out to get rid of most dirt. When the towel starts to get a bit manky I throw it out then grab another one at the next town from the salvos or red cross shop for a couple of bucks. I’ve done this for years in the caravan and it works just as well in the troopy.
In case of emergencies I also keep my second credit card and a few hundred dollars of cash stored in a special hiding spot within the car just in case I lose my wallet. Stashing a spare key is also important. My troopy needs a key with a chip to start the car so I have a spare one of these hidden within the car, then externally I have two plain metal keys hidden. These are fine for opening the doors if you lock the keys inside. And believe me, it’s easy to do. When you’re living in the car getting in and out all the time, you tend to develop the good habit of locking doors, but undoubtedly there will be that one time when you inadvertently shut that last door, and you realise just as it closes that you have left the key inside. Chances are this will happen at a campsite when you’re about to go off and collect some firewood, or go for a quick walk, when you’re not thinking.
One of my external keys is easy to access but well hidden, I’ve glued a strong magnet to the key and it’s hidden up under the car where it’s survived many thousands of kilometers of dirt roads. I’ve used this key perhaps a dozen times in the last 6 months. There’s also a better hidden key which is hard to access should the first spare go missing.
This covers most eventualities, spare cash and card should a wallet or card get lost, spare keys should they get lost. Once you have these essentials you should be right to recover from most issues that may befall you, except perhaps complete loss of car, then you’re in it deep no matter what.
Other handy things I’ve had travelling in the troopy? An internal washing line is great. Not so much for washing but the towel you use each night, tea towels, any clothes that get wet, just to get things hung up out of the way. Space is limited so every time you can move things up out of the way is a bonus. My washing line is very simple, two pieces of wood on either side with many holes drilled, then elastic fed backwards and forwards. My spare hat lives up here out of the way as well.
I have a very small chair it packs down into a tiny package perhaps the size of a good hiking sleeping bag and it’s great, those who have sat in it are surprised at how comfortable it is, and for my money having such a small chair makes a huge difference to livability within the car. The previous owners had two large folding chairs and a table in a bag, but you had to remove this every time you wanted to get in the back of the vehicle. Not ideal when it’s rainy or muddy outside because ultimately you have to put it back inside before you drive again.
Oh and the tyres in the image above? I’ve not been happy with them, 30,000km and they are almost gone, I’ll probably only get another 10,000 from them and they are beginning to crack.
I have internal lights in the poptop of the troopy as well as another inside the cab seating area, but I tend to keep another small light hanging above the bench top as well as a couple of torches. You can see the small round hanging light in the “washing line” picture above, just under the towel, it’s rechargeable and simple to turn on and off while sitting in the back if you just need a quick light, rather than standing up for the lights in the roof. It’s also easy to pick up and use to find things in the dark.
One of my torches is a very small rechargeable light that can be used as a torch, or a head lamp and it has a magnetic base, perfect for sticking anywhere on the outside of the car when you need light shining on the side table or rear door table.
Here’s a 15 minute video of the 3 day drive from Alice springs down to Ballarat. If you’re offended by modern music or swearing, you may want to turn down the soundtrack.
And now just a couple of random pictures of the troopy in different places.
This was one crazy stormy night in Coober Pedy.
It takes a little while to adapt to troopy life but once you do it’s quite easy and comfortable and liberating. Something I’d recommend to anyone that want to experience life in a more simple way. Time to head back to W.A. now.