Myth and Hoax Busting

1.  A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings, events or traveller opinions.
“ancient Celtic myths
synonyms: folk talestory, folk story, legendtalefablesagaallegoryparabletraditionlorefolklore
2.  A widely held but false belief or idea.
“the belief that everything on the internet is fact.”

There are some common ‘myths’ and what we call ‘scuttlebutt’ that comes goes, and then turns up again somewhere else in the RV community.  Now we’re not against re-cycling as an environmental concept, but not so some of these supposed bits of  ‘gospel’ information that can be passed on like a Chinese whisper.  With more embellishment and more conviction attached to every telling, any factual substance wains, or is completely lost.  

While the ‘scuttlebutt’ can just be plain tiresome and unnecessary, there is other information out there, which if taken on board, could have serious consequences for life and limb. 

If you hear some often repeated but questionable ‘facts’, let us know.  If you know better, tell us – and once confirmed, we’ll pass it on. 

MYTH – Dialing 112 from your mobile phone will connect you to a satellite service for emergency calls

This myth is so dangerously inaccurate, it could be classed as virtual manslaughter if it could be proven to be the reason for the death of an unaware traveler.  How this ever came about we have no idea.  All I can say is, what were they thinking? 

In an emergency situation, dialing 000 or 112 will allow your phone to access any available carrier service, Voda, Optus or Telstra, regardless of which service network you are signed up to.  If you are a Voda customer and find no signal but need to make ‘that call’, your phone will connect to whichever carrier signal it finds, if a signal exists.  Remembering that a lot of country is still not covered by any carrier.  

However, you must also be aware that regardless of which carrier you are with, if there is no signal, then you have next to no chance of phoning for assistance.  Check your route of intended travel against carrier coverage maps before heading out.  If you are intending to be ‘out of range’ of any carrier service, I strongly advise consideration of the purchase or rental of a satphone.  Learn how to use it before your departure.  For more satphone info click Satphone info

Fact – Your mobile phone cannot and will not connect you to a satellite service unless you have purchased and activated a ‘satsleeve’

MYTH – Accelerating out of caravan sway is the best way to stop it.

This one gets a bit of attention on various forums, mainly for the wrong reasons.  There is a belief that if your rig starts to get the ‘wobbles and sway’, you can get out of it by putting your foot down hard and ‘accelerate out of it’.  Unfortunately, very few vehicles have the pick-up and power that can ‘stretch your rig into a straight line again in the seconds you have to respond.  Instead, what you may end up doing, is provide the errant caravan sway more energy, this in turn, accelerates the sway into all out disaster.

Many myth subjects can be likened to opening a can of worms

So now begs the question, if I don’t accelerate, do I slow down?  Well, yes and no.  First thing is to not panic.  I know I might be asking a bit but, a level head at this point is going to be your lifesaver.  Apply your electric brake using the over-ride, at the same time, slowly increase your speed slightly.  This should have the desired effect of ‘stretching’ your rig into a straight line again.  In effect you are creating an anchor using your electric brakes and by slowly accelerating, you pull the anchor (caravan) back into line. 

It will happen very quickly, you may not have time to think about it.  I suggest you practice the motions while sitting stationary until you get the hang of the routine.

This should work in most situations, however, there will always be that one event that no matter what you try, it’s all going to pear shaped, regardless.

Once you’ve regained control, pull over, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself.  Check out the whole rig to determine what went wrong.  It could be something simple like weight distribution – redistribute some weight from the rear of the van to the front.  It doesn’t take much to place a bit more weight in front of your axle.  It may have been a blown tyre, uneven chain on your WDH ie four links one side and five on the other or, dare I say it, just too much speed!

This short video shows the effect of weight on the rear of a towed vehicle and the same weight over the front of the towed vehicle.

Incorrect loading of towed vehicle video

MYTH – A buried campfire is safe to leave

This is another common mistake by uneducated campers.  A properly extinguished camp fire is one that has been extinguished using plenty of water, not covered over with sand or dirt.  What is plenty of water?  At least 15 litres to start with.  Then check to see if more is required to fully extinguish and cool the fire.

A covered camp fire can still retain heat of nearly 1000º C hours after being covered.  Anyone not aware of your covered fire can walk on it and suffer very serious burns. 

A typical buried camp fire injury. A child innocently stepped onto a camp fire hidden under dirt or sand.

Apart from the injury side of things, some of that dirt/sand cover may blow away in a wind which will allow embers to reignite, blow into nearby bush and start a bushfire.  If it is found that your fire was the cause, you could be charged by authorities.  If you is proven your buried fire was the cause of injuries, again, you could be held responsible.

This link is to an article showing the injury to a young child who innocently stepped onto a buried camp fire.

Fact – Your are responsible for the extinguishing of your camp fire.  Your camp fire is safely extinguished using plenty of water – not buried.

MYTHS re LPG Gas Bottles

Safe storage of LPG bottles

The myths surrounding LPG gas bottles are wide and varied.  This link will take you to the LPG Gas blog ‘Caravan Gas Bottles – 9kg Gas Bottle Holders – Regulations – Storage’.

Take the time to read the info direct from an industry supplier.  You are likely to find some surprising debunking.

MYTH – The ‘D’ Shackle Hoax

There has been a lot of publicity on social media over the last few years that appears to be confusing some drivers in regards to rated ‘D’ shackles.  

The first time this appeared was in 2014 as a poster advertising that Gympie Police were fining drivers for not having ‘rated D shackles’ on their safety chains.  This was eventually proven to be a hoax and various government authorities publicly announced it was nothing but a hoax.  However, every year someone finds the poster and sets off the whole debate again.  

Don’t get us wrong, we use shackles with a load rated pin – but that is our choice.  You can still use unrated shackles providing the shackles are designed to take the weight you intend them to take.  It is obviously dangerous to fit  shackles that are designed to take 150kg when you may need 300kg strain.

A suitable shackle is where:

a) The shackle is rated and complies with Australian Standard AS 2741-2002. “Shackles” or other equivalent recognised standard; and,

b) The break load limit of the shackle is rated at least 1.5 times greater than the ATM of the trailer.

Painting the pin yellow, or any colour, doesn’t make it rated either.  It just makes it easier to find when you drop it!

Here is one of the many links that will explain the hoax.  

MYTH – All tow vehicles rated to tow 3500kg ATM will legally tow your 3500kg ATM caravan 

This is another hotly debated subject.  There are many who will deny the myth, possibly because once having spent their hard earned money it is difficult to accept it if they have made an error.  Unfortunately, that will not change the facts.

ATM: short for aggregate trailer mass, this is calculated by adding the tare mass of your caravan to your maximum payload. This rating is set by the manufacturer and it is against the law to exceed it.

Manufacturers of these vehicles saw the marketing potential of the big tow capacity and for some time rammed this down our throats via various media advertising campaigns.  Legally, yes, these vehicles can tow up to 3.5 ton –  but there is a condition, that being: 

      No load in the towing vehicle 

That means no passengers, no tools, no bull bar, no auxiliary battery, no camping gear – nothing!  If you wish to add any load, you’ll need to check the towing/load placard on your vehicle to see how the extra weight is going to affect tow capacity.

To the sales person’s discredit, these conditions are not necessarily mentioned in the sales pitch and you may find out only after the purchase when you take the time to read the handbooks.   By then it may well be too late – the contract’s been signed, and the vehicle handed over.  It is legal to tow that capacity with the vehicle, only in the state it was when coming off the factory floor.  There could be an argument for deception but the written consumer information is there, and available.  It is a matter of due diligence, and ensuring the head rules over the heart.

We might add that transmission type, auto v manual can also have an influence on the actual capacity.

The 3500kg subject is further covered here where you can access other media reports on the debate.

There is an excellent article on understanding weights here.

Fact – Many tow vehicles rated to tow 3500kg ATM will not legally tow that weight once you have loaded the towing vehicle with the rest of your lifestyle toys and equipment.

MYTH – Airbags cause vehicles to bend or even break

Fortunately, this once commonly held belief is gradually losing ground as more believers are converted through media education and the understanding of basic engineering principles.  

We recently read an article, accompanied by independent and objective reports that rejects any basis to this myth.  The following are excerpts:

A cracked or bent chassis can only occur with Excessive Load (Over Loading) and positioning of load as well as vehicle operation. See below PDF Download from 3rd party engineers who have completed a chassis analysis report on how bent chassis can occur. This was tested with and without air suspension installed, with over 20 years of Airbag Man and working with air suspension and thousands of satisfied customers we have never come across our air suspension being the cause of a bent chassis.

Our airbags are positioned where the vehicle manufacturer expects the bump stop impact load to be taken.

“If you fit airbag suspension to your vehicle it will bend the chassis”

“Fitment and use of Airbag Man air helper suspension WILL NOT adversely affect the vehicle chassis”
Vehicles with and without airbags have experienced chassis damage.
Excessive load and or an unusual operation is usually the cause vehicle or chassis damage.

The Analysis Report:…/AirbagManChassisReport.pdf

Weight Distribution and Airbags:

MYTH – Camps Australia Wide is owned by Big 4

Camps Australia Wide with Snaps

Camps Australia Wide was started by Philip and Katherine Proctor about 20 years ago.  It has been sold twice since inception.  The first sale was to Phillip and Cathryn Fennel in about 2008, and more recently to Heatley and Michelle Gilmore who are about to release Camps 10.

The buzz going around for a few years was that Camps Australia Wide was taken over by the Big 4 group.  This was denied a number of times by the publication’s owners, and even though a number of press releases denied the buzz, the myth still continued.  Even now, there are those who persist in plying this story.

We’ve been at happy hours were the discussion took place and have had to support the denial.  Some perpetrators even stated they knew better because they had ‘a reliable source’.  Who could this ‘reliable source’ have been?

Fact – Camps Australia Wide has never been owned, nor under control of the BIG 4 group.

MYTH – Guide v Authority

While on the subject of Camps Australia Wide, while both the book and the App are valuable aids, they are not an authority.  Along with a myriad of other resources of similar ilk – Wikicamps, Find-a-Camp, Air Camp, Camper-Mate etc. they do not give an unequivocal right to set up camp at any of their listed sites.  We have frequently heard of travellers conveniently justifying their right to camp by citing one of these resources, even when signage or changes to the landscape or ownership clearly dictate otherwise.   These resources have been a great boon to the RV community – but they are not an authority allowing you to camp in any particular spot.  

MYTH – It’s never safe to leave your rig unattended at a free camp.

Shock – horror!  Gumtree and Ebay would be so over populated with traveller’s gear if this were the case.  We are not suggesting that thefts do not happen.  If you leave a temptation out, and an opportunist walks by, that’s your problem.  You are inviting potential misadventure.  This does not just apply to free camps.  Thefts from caravan parks are just as prevalent than those at free camps.  Security of your effects is your responsibility, and comes down to common sense.

Again, drawing on our 7 years full time experience, we have considered ourselves lucky that we’ve had nothing go walkabout.  That was until one night in our 7th year, while staying at a Katherine caravan park.  We lost a box of beer, some bottles of wine and a $600 push bike.  We take responsibility for this – we had become complacent.  That night, we were not the only van hit.  We were one of a few randoms across the park.  The sad part for the perpetrators was that when they tried again a few nights later, it was without success.  The RV grapevine had spread the warning, and  everyone had secured any attractive and lose items.  

Don’t leave opportunity open to anyone.  Be vigilant and be a good neighbour and keep an eye out for those who should not be there.  Notify police.  Do not try to control the situation yourself.  You could end up the wrong end of the stick in an assault case or having a ride in a ambulance. 

Fact – We are all responsible for the security for our personal possessions where-ever we park our RV. 

MYTH – Backpackers are responsible for ‘Sorbent gardens’

There seems to be a general ‘blame game’ against backpackers.  All these common human landmines disguised as ‘paper gardens’ are the creative artwork of backpackers alone.  Well, we disagree!  Yes, they do contribute to the cultivation, spread and growth, but they are certainly not alone.

What about the nappies?  During our years of travel, we have seen only a few backpackers with a baby on board.  So how do disposable nappies end up staining our bush?  All brands of travellers, that’s who – just irresponsible ones.

We’ve also come across evidence of cassettes being emptied on the side of a road, on side pull offs and other places – sometimes just a couple of hundred paces away from a facility.

So who are all these ‘others‘ if not backpackers?  We are left with the likes of family travellers, weekend warriors and grey nomads!  Irresponsibility can’t be stereotyped.

If you feel the need to start a new garden or add to an existing one, burn it.  If you cannot burn it, bury it.   Carry nappy bags to dispose of used nappies in an appropriate facility.  Plan your RV travels with consideration for where and when you need to locate an approved dump point.

Fact – we are all responsible regardless of the timing and disposal of our ‘natures call’.  

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