CAMPING PRODUCT REVIEWS

RADIO AND BOATING

 

Camping Product Reviews Radio and Boating

 

 

 

 

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Radio and Boating

 

 

Quintrex 245 Explorer 2.45 metre dinghy
Quintrex 245 Explorer 2.45 metre dinghy

 

Price: $?
From: Marine Dealers
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ****
Value for money: ?
Ease of use: *****
How well designed is it: ***
Product quality: ****

 

This tiny little 8 foot dinghy is definitely a sheltered water boat. It is cramped with two people in it and is suited for motors of 4-6hp.

It is a fairly bare bones dinghy and needs some upgrades such as rod holders to make it a bit more useful.

It is designed as a lightweight car-topper and despite its small size, it is reasonably stable in the water.

We haven't had a great deal of time to test this out and have only been out in it twice so far. Watch this space after July 2019 when we should have a lot more to say about it.

Update: Ok, so we took it away to Shark Bay for a fishing trip but it turned out to be too small to be useful.

The limited size of the engine meant that range was limited and we just could not get out to the places the fish were.

If you want something nice and stable and easy to handle for close in shore boating then this might be a good option but for us, it just didn't do what we needed it to.

We have since sold it.

 

Stacer Sea Sprite 3.5m dinghy
Stacer Sea Sprite 3.5m dinghy

 

Price: $1800+
From: Marine Dealers
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ****
Value for money: ***
Ease of use: ***
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: ***

 

At 74kg this boat is much more solid than the Swift (below). The weight means that people with bad backs (like me) need to put an electric winch on the vehicle's roof rack if it is going to be used as a car topper.

This is one of the deepest small dinghies around and gives a much better sense of security if you are out in rough weather. We are reasonably happy to take this out in 10-15 knot conditions and have been out when the forecast was 13-18 knots but that tends to be quite uncomfortable.

Although this is a mere 6 inches longer than the Swift, it is a bigger boat in every way. The beam is wider and the depth greater so there is more room to move and better storage space. The bow has a small covered area with a shelf and the transom is reinforced with a support bar. This boat can easily accommodate a 15hp engine.

With two seats it is only really suitable for two people but could carry three if you are prepared to be a bit cramped on one seat.

The most disappointing thing about this boat was the lack of 'finish'. There are rough edges all over the place and 'slag' from poor welding has not been cleaned away from many of the surfaces. This means a lot of nicks and cuts to your hands if you aren't careful. Most people who saw it when we bought it thought it was second hand and this reflects very badly on Stacer's attention to detail.

Performance wise we are quite happy with this boat. It rides reasonably well in both wind waves and swell. It appears to be built very strongly and we feel confident in it (much more so than in the Swift) when we go out fishing in the open ocean. I do feel that the 9.9hp we have is a little under powered so eventually we purchased a 15hp and that is a better choice. With the 9.9 on flat water we get a maximum speed of around 30 kph but if there are small wind waves this drops to about 12 kph. The 15hp give enough power to get 'on the plane' even when there are 3 people on board.

The best advice I can give, considering our own experience, is to get the biggest dinghy and engine you are comfortable handling.

 

Savage Swift 3.3m dinghy
Savage Swift 3.3m dinghy

 

As this is an old model which can only be found second hand, I am going to talk about the style of boat rather than the actual model in this case.

As a real car topper these boats are much lighter (around 50kg) than other dinghies. That is good for getting them up on to a car roof rack but it also means they are weaker and more susceptible to damage than more heavily constructed boats.

Another compromise is the shallow stern going forward to a deep V bow. This gives fairly good stability but means less free-board at the stern. The hull shape means you are in for a rough wet ride if there are wind waves about.

Although there are 3 seats in this style of boat, it can only realistically carry two adults, and it is not suitable for rough conditions. We would suggest that this style of boat not be used more than 2-3km from shore and only taken out on very calm days. We generally only took this out to sea if the forecast was for 8-12 knot winds.

A 9.9hp engine is about the largest we would recommend for this boat as anything larger may damage the transom.

Even so, we took this little dinghy all around Australia and despite the problems we had with seams breaking and almost sinking on one occasion, it didn't cost much and we eventually sold it for the same price we bought it for.

 

Little Bulldog Folding Trailer
Little Bulldog Folding Trailer

 

Price: $2000 approx
From: Marine Dealers
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ****
Value for money: **
Ease of use: ** assembly ***** road use
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: * (new models) **** (old models)
Our recommendation: Do not buy new models with Chinese steel they are useless

 

There are basically two types of Little Bulldog trailer, older models made from Australian steel and those made from Chinese steel. The older models were excellent and we kicked ourselves repeatedly for selling our old Bulldog and moving to a new one made out of cheap, inferior Chinese steel.

The Bulldog is a HEAVY foldable trailer and that weight USED to provide strength. It no longer does as the quality of steel used is abysmal.

You can see more of our opinion on these trailers on our Folding Boat Trailers page.

All that really needs to be said about the new models is said by the picture below:

 

FAIL! Little Bulldog Folding Trailer breaks.
FAIL! Little Bulldog Folding Trailer breaks.

 

Mangrove Jack Folding Trailer
Mangrove Jack Folding Trailer

 

Price: $2200
From: Boat dealers or direct from Mangrove Jack Marine in W.A.
RATINGS:
How useful is it: *****
Value for money: ****
Ease of use: *****
How well designed is it: *****
Product quality: *****
Our recommendation: The best we have found so far.

 

This is by far the BEST portable boat trailer we have found to date. It is light, strong and VERY easy to assemble and pack away. We used the Little Bulldog trailers for many years but they were always cumbersome and a real pain to assemble. The Mangrove Jack Marine Trailer is just so simple to use and although it is half the weight of the Bulldog, it is still very strong and reliable.

See our Folding Boat Trailers page for a full run down on this trailer.

 

Fishing Reels
Fishing Reels

 

Price: $varies
From: Fishing and camping stores.
RATINGS:
How useful is it: varies
Value for money: varies
Ease of use: varies
How well designed is it: varies
Product quality: varies
Our recommendation: Don't spend too much but don't buy the cheapest either.

 

We used to have a few reviews on fishing reels on this page but these have now moved to the Fishing Tips page.

There are so many brands and types available it is hard to do more than compare the different types of reel.

 

Fishing bag : Rogue
Fishing bag : Rogue

 

Price: around $49
From: BCF
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ****
Value for money: ***
Ease of use: ***
How well designed is it: **
Product quality: Pending
Our recommendation: Seems ok so far but see notes

 

When it was time to replace or old rigid fishing box I decided to change direction and went for this padded bag instead. Now that we have a GPS and echo sounder to carry round the padding on the bag seems like a good idea.

The main problem with this bag is the boxes inside. They DO NOT have properly sealed compartments so small hooks and other items can easily mix together. This could have easily been avoided by using boxes with slightly indented lids and this is what we did. We replaced the plastic boxes supplied with some from Repco and this has solved the problem. It is something the manufacturer of this bag SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF FIRST!

The bag seems fairly robust but it is important for the zips to be kept well lubricated or they will stick badly.

Eventually the zips were sticking so badly that the bag became unusable. We have now moved back to using rigid plastic boxes.

 

Bait Box
Bait Box

 

Price: $15
From: Kmart fishing stores etc.
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ****
Value for money: ****
Ease of use: *****
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: ****
Our recommendation: Ok to buy

 

These are an essential item for anyone who fishes from the shore. You can keep a bit of bait, berley, plus spare hooks, floats and weights in the container which saves walking back up to your fishing gear every time you lose a bait or some tackle. Most don't come with a belt so we just made a simple one up with a length of strap from an old ratchet tie down and a simple clip to hold it together.

The boxes are strong and will last many years.

 

Nitro fish scaler
Nitro fish scaler

 

Price: $??
From: Kmart etc.
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ***
Value for money: ?
Ease of use: ****
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: *****
Our recommendation: Ok to buy

 

We bought this little item years ago and it has lasted well. These days we skin fish instead of scaling them but for the odd fish or two that is difficult to skin this little device still comes in very handy. Despite being an all plastic construction, it has stood the test of time.

It has fallen out of favour with us in the past few years as we have learned to fillet fish and then take the skin off the fillets so there is no need to remove the scales. It atill gets used if we leave fish whole for cooking but it is a great little item to add to your fishing box.

 

Clip on boat wheels
Clip on boat wheels

 

Price: $250
From: Specialist stores
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ****
Value for money: ***
Ease of use: *****
How well designed is it: ***
Product quality: ****
Our recommendation: Ok to buy

 

These wheels are meant for moving the hull only. If you load the boat up and put the engine on then odds are that the wheels will fall off. They are very handy for moving a dinghy for a short distance by hand but are not meant for use over long distances or in soft sand.

They are very simple to operate as you just clip the top over the rail of the boat, position the L bar on the bottom edge of the boat and then wind the handle until the wheel is tightly held on to the boat. We have had these for years and for some reason I forgot to include them in this section. There is also a nose wheel available that we didn't get, but the boat is easy enough to move without it. The closer to the middle you position the wheels, the less weight you have to take yourself when pulling the boat along.

 

Bermuda storage box
Bermuda storage box

 

Price: $56
From: Marine dealers
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ****
Value for money: ***
Ease of use: *****
How well designed is it: *****
Product quality: *****
Our recommendation: Ok to buy

 

This is a bit on the expensive side but it has stood the test of time and has proven to be very useful.

It is a handy place to put flares, tools, camera, spare spark plugs etc. that we don't want to get wet. It is made of a composite material that stands up to exposure in the sun but we will do bring it into the annexe or shed when the boat is not being used.

In the end this turned out to be an excellent mounting for the marine radio and the echo sounder. Everything in one place and easy to lift off and pack away when not required.

 

Marcom 28 Marine 27Mhz radio
Marcom 28 Marine 27Mhz radio

 

Price: $169 (Plus $70 for antenna)
From: Kmart
RATINGS:
How useful is it: **
Value for money: ****
Ease of use: ****
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: ****
Our recommendation: Ok to buy

 

In order to get ourselves legal when we set out to catch fish and also to enhance our safety at sea, we decided to invest in a marine radio.

Basic stats on the radio reveal that it uses both the marine band and the 27mhz CB band. It has a scanning ability and can also monitor an emergency and chat channel at the same time. There is an auto squelch function and a button to select a distress channel in an emergency (Ie. you don't have to remember what the emergency channels are.) It operates off a standard 12 volt battery and the advertising blurb says that it is waterproof. Despite this we have mounted it inside the Bermuda Storage box (see above).

Although we have never had occasion to use it we do turn it on sometimes just to check and see if everything is still working properly. Despite the dust and corrugations the unit has had to put up with it kept on working for a number of years.

Unfortunately the radio got 'drowned' when it was accidentally left in the boat during winter rains and it wasn't noticed until it was too late. Rust has now rendered it U.S. and although the main board works after drying out there is no reception. Can't blame the radio for that.

 

UHF CB Radio
Uniden UHF CB Radio

 

Price: $300+
From: Specialist dealers
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ***
Value for money: ***
Ease of use: ***
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: *****
Our recommendation: Ok to buy

 

UHF is THE CB these days. It can (in very flat areas) reach between 20-30 kilometres but usually is restricted to 'line of sight' use only and in most areas 5 kilometres is about the best you can hope for without a repeater up on a hill somewhere.

UHF is great for people who travel in convoys and it is also handy to chat with truckies who have arrived behind you and want to pass. It is still a useful item to have and can be used along side a satellite phone for the times when you want to talk to similarly equipped drivers on the road. It is best to get a model that scans all frequencies so you know when someone is trying to get your attention.

UHF CHANNELS OF INTEREST Emergency channels: 5 and 35
Truckies channel: 40
Motorhomers channel: 20
Caravanners channel: 18
Call channel: 11
Prohibited channel: 22 and 23

 

Sideband AM CB Radio
Sideband AM CB Radio

 

Price: $250+
From: Specialist stores
RATINGS:
How useful is it: *
Value for money: ***
Ease of use: ***
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: ****
Our recommendation: Now falling out of use.

 

Once a useful adjunct to your communications system but since the spread of UHF radios, the sideband (despite its superior range) has been side lined in preference to better signal quality.

If you have a sideband radio it is still useful to have around as you can occasionally communicate over long distances using 'skip' off the atmosphere. This cannot be relied on and far better satellite phones are now available for under $400 so the old sideband network is very quiet indeed these days.

 

UHF hand held CB Radio
UHF hand held CB Radio

 

Price: $50
From: Repco
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ***
Value for money: ****
Ease of use: ****
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: ****
Our recommendation: Ok to buy but get better rechargeable batteries

 

We bought these little units to help with backing and hitching the car to the caravan and in that role they have excelled. They are equipped with a clip which means they can be clipped to the front of your shirt while you are reversing and this is very useful until the clip breaks which it does quite quickly.

Each one takes 3 x AAA batteries and the ones we have been using to date are EverReady brand. We have since discovered that EverReady rechargeable batteries are useless as we have used AA and AAA types only to find that they continually go flat even if not in use. Energiser AA and AAA batteries seem to last much longer between charges.

The range of these little hand held untits is much less than the claimed 5km. I would be amazed if they managed even 1 km!

They are great for the role we use them in which is communicating over very short distances for reversing vehicles and even for setting up a satellite dish.

 

Lowrance Hook2 4x GPS Fishfinder
Lowrance Hook2 4x GPS Fishfinder

 

Price: $119
From: BCF
RATINGS:
How useful is it: *****
Value for money: ****
Ease of use: Pending
How well designed is it: Pending
Product quality: Pending
Our recommendation: Pending.

 

We have only just bought this unit so there isn't a great deal to say about it yet. We are heading to Shark Bay in July 2109 so once we are back from that trip we will certainly have more to report.

Initially I am a little worried about 'bottom drop out' on a landscape sounder. Our previous sounders have has portrait style screens which we think are more suited to the task.

This is our first colour sounder but whether that makes any difference remains to be seen.

We are not keen on the stand for this sounder as it does not swivel so we will have to be careful about how it is mounted. Once it is screwed down, the screen cannot swivel sideways.

There is a GPS tracking function on this sounder but we will still be taking our trusty old Garmin GPS just in case this one turns out to be no good. There is no map overlay which is a bit disappointing.

 

Navman 4430 Echo Sounder / Fish Finder
Navman 4430 Echo Sounder / Fish Finder

 

Price: $239
From: Marine Dealers
RATINGS:
How useful is it: *****
Value for money: ***
Ease of use: ***
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: **
Our recommendation: Not good enough, see comments.

 

If you go fishing in a boat (especially when you go to areas you aren't familiar with) this little bit of electronic wizardry is essential. The days are long gone when people set to sea 'blind' to the conditions on the sea floor and if you don't get a sounder you won't catch as much fish as those who do.

It took us a while to get round to buying one of these but now we have one I wouldn't bother fishing areas I don't know without it. It is also VERY useful when fishing shallow, rocky and reef strewn waters which are not clear as you can avoid hidden obstacles and find channels.

This model is a Navman and has all the features we require. It has a fish alarm which tells us when fish are passing underneath, but as yet it hasn't been able to tell us how to get them to bite the right bait.

The good things about the unit include the simple menu system and ease of use. The screen provides good resolution and is easy to read in most light variations. The thing we really don't like about these sounders is the poor quality locking ring that holds the transducer cable on the back of the head. The lugs on the ring are very small and wear out and the ring itself becomes brittle over time and breaks. This is another product that would be much improved if a little more thought and effort had gone into its original design. We have been told that this old style of locking ring is being phased out on newer models and this is a very good thing.

The original model we had was a 4100 and during its 3 year life the head was replaced under warranty and the transducer was replaced out of warranty at our expense. We found that this model has one of the better displays at the cheap end of the market.

The product comes with a 2 year warranty on the head and this appears to be about the useful life of the unit. We replaced the 4100 with this 4430 not due to product quality but because of price, convenience (Ie. the transducer mounting didn't need replacing, and the head swivel stand is the same.) and the reasonably good detail you can get from the display.

The 4430 includes temperature read out and has a demonstration mode but in most other respects it is the same as the earlier model.

We had only used the new sounder once when we noticed problems with the transducer. After contacting Navman in N.S.W. we were asked to return the transducer and they would send us a new one by return mail. Two weeks and several phone calls later, we were still waiting. After being given all sorts of stories about stock taking and computer problems they finally admitted that they had no transducers in stock. By this time the supplier in Karratha we bought the new unit from (Matt Dyson Marine) had received new stock and were happy to provide us with a replacement transducer and sort the warranty matters out directly with Navman. Our sincere thanks to Matt Dyson Marine for their help and our continued disapproval to Navman for lying and poor service.

Because of the locking ring problem we have finally given up on Navman and have switched to a Humminbird 150. It is a basic model and was bought from BCF for just $139. (See below).

 

Hummingbird 150 Echo Sounder / Fish Finder
Hummingbird 150 Echo Sounder / Fish Finder

 

Price: $139
From: BCF
RATINGS:
How useful is it: *****
Value for money: ****
Ease of use: ***
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: ****
Our recommendation: Ok to buy.

 

We, somewhat stupidly, kept on buying Navman sounders, mostly because it is a bit of a pain to remove the transducer. Finally we have given up on Navman. The connections to the head are just too unreliable so we have switched to Hummingbird.

This is another low end sounder with a mono display and not too many fancy functions. It suits our needs and does the same job the old sounders did and the rear connections don't seem to have the same problems as the Navman.

Other than the cable connections there are few differences from the Navman. The display is easy to read in bright sunlight and all the basic features are the same.

 

Garmin GPS
Garmin GPS

 

Price: $250
From: Marine Dealers, camping stores etc.
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ****
Value for money: ****
Ease of use: ***
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: *****
Our recommendation: Highly recommended

 

After we purchased the echo sounder we wanted to get back on to good fishing spots and found we just couldn't reliably find them. This was VERY frustrating, especially when we were looking for a big reef and couldn't locate it (when we knew more or less where it was). Motoring round in ever increasing circles instead of dropping anchor and fishing is a big pain in the bum. Eventually we got wise and bought a GPS.

It does take a little while to get used to using these gadgets but it is time well spent as you can get back on top of good fishing holes every time. You can even use a GPS to save fuel as once a spot has been located and recorded you can go straight to it.

It is a bit of a shame that these gadgets are used by the wrong sort of fishermen to slaughter huge quantities of fish (that they don't need or illegally sell) but to have any chance of getting a decent feed these days you have to stay up with the game.

The model pictured is a Garmin 12 and it functioned very reliably. It is a handy pocket sized GPS which means you can also take it with you when you go bush walking. One use for a GPS I hadn't thought of until recently is to check the speedometer in your car as it gives you a speed reading.

We had dropped the GPS into salt water a couple of times but it is fairly waterproof and quickly shaking it and drying any parts that seemed a bit wet seemed to be enough for it to continue to work perfectly.

After many years of use it was internal rust that finally put an end to the GPS and because I didn't write down all the coordinates, all our old fishing spots are gone.

We have now updated to a Garmin 72H GPS and for the most part it seems to work pretty much the same as the old one.

The new model is a bit more fiddly to use than the old one but it does have the ability to download waypoints to Google Earth which we find very useful. Now I know I have my locations properly backed up.

 

Electric winch
Electric winch

 

Price: $99
From: Super Cheap Auto
RATINGS:
How useful is it: ***
Value for money: ****
Ease of use: ****
How well designed is it: ****
Product quality: ****
Our recommendation: Ok to buy

 

After getting a heavier dinghy I found that my bad back would not allow me to continue to lift it up on to the top of the car manually. I needed something to lift the dinghy that wasn't going to put me out of action for the next week.

I found a 12 volt winch that was possible to attach directly to the back of the roof rack. The electric cable that comes with the winch is a bit short but that was easily solved by utilising the 12 volt power point we have at the rear of the car.

The winch does seem to be pretty slow and is very noisy but it does do the job.

After years of use the winch stopped working and after taking it apart I found that one of the magnets had come loose. I stuck the magnet back in place with an epoxy glue but soon afterwards we sold the old car and had to find a different type of winch to do the same job as the old winch could not be fitted to the new roof rack.

We settled on an electric boat winch and I will get round to reviewing that shortly.

 

 

 

 

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