Soft vs hard floor camper for a family of 4

Submitted: Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 15:53

Member - Captain (WA)

Is it worth paying the extra dollars for a hard floor camper compared to a soft floor? I have sold my Windsor Rapid and am looking at what camper to buy, preferably second hand.

My camping will generally be single night stays with the occasional extended stop, so quick setup is an advantage. But, like air compressors, its only as fast as the slowest one in the group so speed of setup is not the overriding factor.

From what I have found, hard floor campers are generally much quicker to set up and take down but also tend to be smaller in tent size on the floor area. I have two kids (7/9) and need room for them to sleep on the floor and hardtops seem to be a bit short on space once two single mattresses are setup.

My main question is for those with two kids, do you find the hard floors too small (without the annexe) or does the speed of setup compensate for the smaller floor area (I appreciate that if using the annexe there is enough room)?

I also like the Camprite (seem perfect for a family) but am weighing up whether its worth spending the extra $$$ on a secondhand hardfloor or camprite or spend only $5K-$10K on a softfloor.

Thanks for any advise


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Reply By: navaraman - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 16:03

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 16:03
Captain, I recently bought a second hand soft floor CT and use it with my two boys 9 and 12. We actually got two sets of bunk beds with the CT but didn't find then practical, not particularly stable for the 12 yo climbing in and out of the top bunk. The younger lad sleeps in the QS bed with us. Our trailer, whilst not that big would be bigger in floor area than most hard floor trailers and with two beds set up the floor space is limited. During the day the spare beds can be stacked on the double bed to free up floor space but at night there's not a lot of room, a hard floor would be a lot worse IMO. Our can be set up in 5 minutes for an overnight stop.
AnswerID: 212589

Follow Up By: T-Ribby - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 16:32

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 16:32
Could I just add that for an overnight stop, the soft floor is more roomier for a couple of campbeds. We have found this with two grandkids (10 x 7')
Once the enclosed awning is up on our Camel, two beds take up no room at all.
I looked at the hard floor option and decided against it because of the extra cost, weight, and limited tent space.
FollowupID: 472852

Follow Up By: Member - Captain (WA) - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 18:38

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 18:38
Thanks navaraman and T-Ribby, my thoughts too were that a hard floor would be too small for 2 kids .


FollowupID: 472859

Reply By: Footloose - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 17:11

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 17:11
Having used tents since Fred Flintstone and I used to camp together, I can only think of a couple of disadvantages to the soft floor.
Camping on wet ground and camping in stony country.
AnswerID: 212594

Follow Up By: Member - Captain (WA) - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 18:40

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 18:40
I try to avoid camping in the wet (but its not always possible) - camping in the rain is simply no fun in my books. And have experience problems tenting in stony country, but i suppose a 20L water countainer in each corner may help!


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Follow Up By: T-Ribby - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 19:48

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 19:48
As far as wet weather goes, both soft and hard floors still end up with storing wet canvas.
I cover the bed with a thick sheet of plastic. When the ground is rough/stony, 3 layers of the ever useful shadecloth helps protect the floor and jigsaw closed cell mats for the feet inside.
FollowupID: 472866

Follow Up By: Footloose - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 19:59

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 19:59
"jigsaw closed cell mats for the feet inside. " Never heard of these, do you have a weblink ?
Ever tried to get out of the tent in a hurry on stony ground ? As you get older it becomes more important :((
In fact as you get older it becomes harder to operate at floor level at all !
I'm beginning to get soft in my dotage....looks like I'll just have to become an old age nomad, towing my house around :))
FollowupID: 472868

Follow Up By: T-Ribby - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 21:46

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 21:46
Soft? you're a melting moment !. You must have seen those mats in a camping shop that fit together like a jigsaw, one of the best things since sliced bread and twist caps on beer bottles.
Keeps the mud outa your tent, protects your tooties from lumpy ground, gives you a complete
padded floor, weighs nothing, and has a million other uses. Nothing short of razor wire would prevent me from getting out of a tent in a hurry - the kukri door maker works on any part of the wall - or do you not have a portapottie?.
Some of the 5 wheelers I've seen lately are bigger than my house !.
Terry R.

FollowupID: 472879

Follow Up By: Gramps (NSW) - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 22:03

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 22:03
"the kukri door maker works on any part of the wall"

Hmmm ........ nah!!!! I'm not going there :))))))))))))))
FollowupID: 472881

Follow Up By: Footloose - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 22:04

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 22:04
Now there's a comment I didn't think I'd ever get."melting moment" LOL
I've slept under paper on a railway station, on rocks without a bed, in strange places on moving trains, on small boats, in cars, under cars, under canvas, under grass (dont ask) yadda yadda. And believe me non of those moments were melting.
However, I digress as usual.
I was in a camping shop recentlyand didn't see anything approaching your type of mat. I'll ask next time I'm in.
kukri door maker eh ? Now I am in trouble. Thats something else I don't know.
Portapottie ? Now there's a whole new etiquette to learn. And how do you empty em in crowded parks where you're lucky to get a shower, and stand in line to even get a quick wash ? Hmm...suppose you could shorten the lines real quick with one under your arm...think of the conversation with the others in the line..
Prefer a shovel and matches. But I'm warming to the idea...
FollowupID: 472882

Follow Up By: Footloose - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 22:18

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 22:18
Gramps, I have my own ideas on that one !
FollowupID: 472885

Follow Up By: T-Ribby - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 11:14

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 11:14
Look for the (usually) blue mats - they come in packs of 4 iirc.
A kukri is a Gurkha knife which I use for chopping meat or wood (but not together).
WWII vets would be familiar with them if they operated with the Nepalese Gurkhas.
Portapotties. If you leave the holding tank seal slightly undone, and you're not using Biomagic,
it is a real line shortener. We only use ours in an absolute emergency, and it normally stays in the boat. p.s. Biomagic is the best I've ever used.
You said don't ask but I'm as curious as hell about the under-grass bed. Was it in a hayshed?

FollowupID: 472917

Follow Up By: Footloose - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 11:54

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 11:54
Not a hayshed. Twas long ago in a different reality. More to do with not wanting to be seen LOL
FollowupID: 472926

Follow Up By: Gramps (NSW) - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 14:47

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 14:47
LOL I knew what a kukri knife was but I was a bit worried about the connotation it might have had in that conversation :)))))
FollowupID: 472948

Follow Up By: Member - MUZBRY (VIC) - Tuesday, Jan 02, 2007 at 08:55

Tuesday, Jan 02, 2007 at 08:55
The interlocking mats are at Rays tent ,, they are about 400mmx400mm by 12mm thick and are made like a jigsaw puzzle..they look good but I use a piece of 3mm natural rubber under my floor in the CT soft floor model ..The ct is now 5 and have had no trouble with wear and tare,tear ??The spelling don't matter, you know what I mean..........
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Reply By: atoyot - Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 23:44

Sunday, Dec 31, 2006 at 23:44
Not sure about the Camprite's floor space, but hard floor flipovers only double the space of the bed area, and for us (2 + 8yo & 11yo), there just not enough room unless you are using double bunks. Even then, I've had a shorten one to fit, and eventually, it won't be long enough to fit the smaller one in the bed. Having said that, with d/bunks, they do fit and you can camp in stony areas. When it's wet, you'll definately need an annexe for comfortable camping. Overall, the down side for our hard floor is space and takes longer to setup bunks, upside is speed of setup and comfort on all ground types.

AnswerID: 212640

Reply By: Peter 2 - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 08:36

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 08:36
We've had hard floor cub for over 25 years and towed it over most of Oz often in a group with other campers as well. We fitted 2 adults and 3 kids in a supamatic with no problems until they were all in their teens and became too big for the double bunk. We only used the camper as sleeping accomodation and lived out of the back of the troopy with everything else.
On a couple of trips over the years we have had soft floor campers with us and both times they sold it and bought a hard floor after the trip because of the increased level ground area required for a soft floor (a hard floor can be chocked to level it) and the deciding factor was the ground conditions in the outback, rarely is there smooth soft ground to camp on, it is usually stony and rough, not good for a soft floor.
The last few years we have also noticed that caravan parks especially don't like soft floor campers because they smother what little grass there is and the bigger ones combined with a vehicle quite often have trouble fitting on a normal site.
When booking in we've even been asked what do you have, when answered camper they then ask what type and when told hard floor 'that's ok' is the reply.
We are usually heading west from Sydney to get to the desert regions and hate crowds so bush camp as much as possible. It may depend on what you do for your situation and where you intend to use it.
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Follow Up By: T-Ribby - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 11:28

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 11:28
Hi Peter. The last camping ground we stayed at insisted that a shadecloth groundsheet be laid on the grass under the floor - I assume this is standard practice where there is grass.
We do this anyway, to help protect the floor. Next time out I'm going to join up some of the ground pads mentioned above and try them under the soft floor - they have large perforations
(for lack of a better word) and should allow the ground some aeration, as well as elevating the floor itself.
FollowupID: 472922

Reply By: obee - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 09:59

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 09:59
good morn'n Captain

Yve and I have toted up nearly six months on a soft floor and no complaints. We put a shade cloth under to stop dirt sticking and stones rubbing. When the ground is wet we take a little time for the underneath of the floor to dry but we have had to put it up wet sometimes.

Our rig is simple (Cavalier) but we put a comfortable inner spring mattress in and we use a large light tarp that covers the entire rig when we are more than one night stay. Protection from the heat and or rain and it goes to providing an annex roof as well.

I have watched those hard floor instant successes go up but putting up the first bit is only the beginning. Some of them go on forever with add ons. For overnighters we take about twenty minutes to get comfortable and same for packing up.

AnswerID: 212681

Follow Up By: Oz Travellers - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 11:32

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 11:32
We have a soft floor Cavalier CT . Soft floor CT's do take longer to set up & dismantle. We put shade cloth under the floor amd a silver tarp over the floor inside. I also use a battery powered "dust buster" to clean out the floor before I pack it up, otherwise you will end up getting dirt/grass all over your mattress . Sparky
FollowupID: 472923

Reply By: Member - Captain (WA) - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 14:27

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 14:27
Thanks all for the replys. My first thought of a soft floor camper for space reasons is being swayed for the rocky and sloping ground reasons (+ quick setup doesn't hurt either).

But perhaps for me the most telling tale is the comment of people with soft floor campers changing to a hard floor, but no-one (yet!) has changed from a hard floor to a soft floor. I have now heard this from many different places, not just this forum.

So it looks like I will be seeking a hard floor camper (or Camprite). Anyone in WA who knows of one for sale is more than welcome to contact me.

Thanks for all the advice.


AnswerID: 212723

Reply By: Member - Norm C (QLD) - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 16:32

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 16:32
Captain, if you get a hard floor and want more space, it is not a big deal to buy or get made annex extensions.
Member 10 Para has an Odyssey Export hard floor (made by Australian Off Road Campers at Caloundra Qld). He does a lot of long term camping and has had a heap of canvas additions made. When fully set up, he could sleep a dozen!!

Think he is in NZ at the moment, but if he sees this he might share some of what he has done.

I have a hard floor (also an Odyssey) which is great for us. As you have recognised flat ground is not really required. We carry a number of pieces of wood in various sizes. Three treated pine about 150mm x 300mm x 35mm thick. These are used under a trailer wheel as necessary. Also about 10 pieces of 12mm ply about 100x100. These are used under CT legs as necessary. The legs are adjustable, but I often use the ply instead, or the slope is such that the extended leg is still too short. I painted all the bits of wood red so I don't miss them when packing up.

One of our best camp spots in the Kimberley this year was on a sheet of rock (granite) on the bank of a river. No problem. Leveled with our wood blocks and we don't need tent pegs when we don't put up the annex, (and the new model of our camper doesn't use tent pegs, even with the annex). Had a granite floor to the kitchen!

Another benefit of the hard floor is that the better ones are completely dust proof.

Soft floors have their advantages too, but as you say, many people 'upgrade' from soft floor to hard floor. Never met someone who went the other way. Of course thousands of soft floor owners are happy with no interest in changing.
AnswerID: 212740

Reply By: daisygirl - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 20:25

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 20:25
We started in a tent, then softfloor camper and then hardfloor Camper and now the Ultimate which I believe will be the end of our upgrading.

Most people in our 4wd club have done the same thing ie upgraded from the tent, to soft floor camper to either hardfloor camper or even straight to caravan.

The main problem we found with the soft floor camper was that when it rained (which at the moment is not a problem) then the soft floor campers could very easily get very wet inside. We dont have kids but regularly had two dogs and the dog beds would get damp from being on the soft floor even if there was no rain about. Therefore if you have kids would need some type of elevated bed such as bunks if you had the soft floor camper. The Cub camper was fantastic as everything including the kitchen was inside and the same if not more floor space than our original soft floor camper but the only problem was the small sized double bed so we upgraded to the king size bed in the Ultimate and still the best night sleep I ever get!!
AnswerID: 212776

Follow Up By: Member - Captain (WA) - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 21:00

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 21:00
Hi daisygirl,

I like the look of the Ultimate, but with 2 young kids there is not enough sleeping room (and they wouldn't sleep in an annexe area under the bed).

Interesting you like the indoor cooking in the Ultimate/Cub, it was one thing we didn't like in the Rapid as you ended up sort of living inside the van and not socialising to the same degree as tenting or trailer campers. But must admit in wet weather, inside cooking comes into its own.

We started out in tents, went straight to the Windsor Rapid and are now "downgrading" as the Rapid could not go on the tighter offroad tracks. Everything is a compromise and its getting the right compromises is the secret in getting the "best" camper.


FollowupID: 472984

Follow Up By: daisygirl - Tuesday, Jan 02, 2007 at 00:03

Tuesday, Jan 02, 2007 at 00:03
Yes, the Ultimate is great for up to three people inside but after that is a little squishy. Other friends with an Ultimate have two young children that sleep in the tent undernearth but every family is different and not all young kids would feel comfortable with that setup. We dont cook inside all the time but since there is only two of us the times when its really cold or really wet then its nice to have options. We normally sit outside and eat and socialise etc.

I think you have hit the nail on the head when you mention "everything is a compromise" as I would really like an ensuite but "he" didnt want to tow a large van and wanted something more offroad so we had to compromise so good luck in your search for the "best" camper for your needs.
FollowupID: 473002

Reply By: Darian (SA) - Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 21:21

Monday, Jan 01, 2007 at 21:21
We have a hard floor Campomatic - quite a few other makes (KK etc) are much the same size. Lovely to setup and knock down - great kitchen, water storage etc and electrics but in my view these units are a two person unit - I think you would all be tripping over each other. In fine weather you can set up for any arrangements, but if you need to all be inside behind closed doors (foul weather, mozzie attack, or sleeping, then it would be very cramped.

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AnswerID: 212785

Reply By: Lyds- Tuesday, Jan 02, 2007 at 22:30

Tuesday, Jan 02, 2007 at 22:30
It really depends on your style of camping.

We (family of 4) tend to do big trips with lots of stays, and the camprite is perfect in that we don't have to worry too much about the surface being rocky, sandy, wet, etc. However, you do you need to worry about whether you can fit or unhitch readily. Italso allows you to keep the beds made, so no need to roll up mattresses and sleeping bags.

We did 9 weeks from Sydney to Broome and back, and didn't put up the awning once. Lucky the weather was kind.

Whereas, when we got around in the tent you'd worry about the surface, but had more options with space. And I certainly benefited from regular workouts with all the packing.

Good luck!
AnswerID: 212941

Follow Up By: Member - Captain (WA) - Tuesday, Jan 02, 2007 at 22:37

Tuesday, Jan 02, 2007 at 22:37
Hi Lyds,

We went out and purchased a Camprite camper trailer today! It seems to suit our needs the best, but I suppose time will tell.


FollowupID: 473131

Follow Up By: Lyds- Tuesday, Jan 02, 2007 at 23:08

Tuesday, Jan 02, 2007 at 23:08
Well I'm glad you took my advice :-)
FollowupID: 473138

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