The Big Lap - caravan vs camper vs hybrid

Submitted: Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 07:12
ThreadID: 102292 Views:15014 Replies:10 FollowUps:11
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Hi All

Well, we are now serious about starting the BIG Lap of Oz at the end of this year as a family of 4 (2 adults & 2 kids, girl 10 & boy 12). Got lot's of decision around work and house to make !

The debate has started over what to purchase in terms of a home on the road ! Mum wants to be comfortable and Dad wants freedom to explore the remote places and easy to tow with reliability.

We are experienced soft floor camper trailer owners and 4x4'ers for many years (tho we don't consider ourselves 'hard core' 4x4 people). Currently we own a 200 series Landcruiser V8 petrol, however a change to a diesel 200 series is most likely for fuel consumption. In Oct 2012 we hired a Conqueror UEV 440 for 3 weeks and drove to Uluru and back from Brisbane. The pace was a bit too fast obviously for a 7500km trip
but the UEV 440 gave us a taste of something bigger than our Trackabout soft floor camper.

We are planning to attend the Brisbane Caravan and Camping show in June to do further research and we are trying to keep open minds on options. However I am struggling to find any RECENT online articles on peoples views of long term travel in camper trailers, caravans or the newer "hybrids". Most info I can find is back from 2008.

We would love to hear anybody's opinion on what you are using, and how you find it.

At the moment I am leaning towards a "Hybrid" and my wife a "Caravan"

So far, the list we have looked at online are;

Australian Off Road - Quantum ?
Conqueror UEV 490
DRV (Caboulture Caravans)
Kimberley Kampers - hybrid
Travelander = Dual Cab 4WD + Tray Top + Trailer (
Trak Shak
Adventure Offroad Campers (bed folds in half, mattress type limited)
Bushmaster ?
Free Spirit Caravans?
Jayco Expanda range - 16-18ft?

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Reply By: KennyBWilson - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 07:32

Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 07:32
also look at the Tvan , Trakmaster and trayon
AnswerID: 511352

Follow Up By: Member - lyndon NT - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 09:36

Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 09:36
We loved our Tvan and would buy another but for a family of 4 MMM, maybe if the kids we little but not at 10 +. Not enough room. The Ultimate has more room for that sort of thing i think.
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Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 08:00

Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 08:00
We have both a camper (Aussie Swag) and a caravan (Bushtracker) Usually drag the camper through the forest tracks but we took the van around Australia.

I note you have 4 persons to find a bed for. My thought would be a van that has bunks. Most campers are ideal for 2 but you would have to add extra addon rooms etc for extra sleeping. While this is possible for base camping you may find setup & pull down a pain while doing the circuit.

If you are taking your time to do the circuit then an inside kitchen will help protect from wind and rain.

My vote would be for a van with queen bed and twin bunks.

I would agree with your thoughts about changing to Diesel.

Enjoy the trip and your accommodation whatever it turns out to be.

AnswerID: 511353

Follow Up By: toffytrailertrash - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 08:50

Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 08:50
I agree, a van with queen plus bunks and definitely diesel. In our travels we have spoken to many who try to live in camper trailers for extended travels and most agree it is a pain to be constantly packing and unpacking..more so with kids.

Cheers and enjoy

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Follow Up By: Member - lyndon NT - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 09:34

Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 09:34
Maybe, but if trained properly the kids are of the right age to be an asset around the camp.
Now is the only time you own
Decide now what you will,
Place faith not in tomorrow
For the clock may then be still

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Follow Up By: Steelo25 - Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 12:13

Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 12:13
Both kids are getting to that age (if not already LOL) were they need their own "space", so a van with bunks would be the go. Still expect the little niggles though, specially being brother & sister, sometimes I think they're more childlike in the early to mid teens.
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Reply By: Bushranger1 - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 10:18

Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 10:18
G'day Stu.
We travelled Australia for 2 years with 2 girls about the same age as your kids.
Had an old Diesel dual cab & off road soft floor camper & we had a ball. We go seriously remote & the trailer went everywhere with us.
Had to set up 2 bunk beds for the kids but a lot of time we just slept under the stars.

Sure setup/packup was a bit of a pain but if you stop early there is still plenty of time for a relax before dinner. I remember sometimes stopping at morning tea time to setup if we found a nice place. Time for catching up on distance education school work!
I reckon don't spend too much on your setup & spend the money going away for longer.
Take your time & enjoy. Don't make it a marathon with lots of long drives & use the time to bond with your family. After all how many people can say they spent 2 years 24/7 with their partner & kids. Get out there & enjoy, we did.

AnswerID: 511368

Reply By: Member - Lisa M (NSW) - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 10:41

Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 10:41
Hi stu

You might want to check out the echo4x4 kavango as well, we have taken ours everywhere, including cape York last year, the old tele track and the frenchmans track. It can sleep 4 comfortably in two queen beds, don't know how that would work for your kids. It's similar in size internally to the conqueror but more aerodynamic to tow. The dealer is in Windsor area Sydney. We just did a month In tassie, and heading to darwin this winter (6 week trip)


AnswerID: 511370

Follow Up By: Member - evaredy - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 12:31

Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 12:31
We were recently in a similar situation, We eventually decided on an Adventure Offroad Camper, the Grand Tourer.

The reason was because it would cost less to tow, be easier to tow, be easier to store and be easier to get off the beaten track when we wanted to.
Plus it is the best designed CT out there IMHO, everything including the bed is at waist height, has bucket loads of storage and has one of the best kitchens in a CT.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 17:14

Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 17:14
Hi Stu

With a family including growing youngsters, you will in addition to sleeping space need plenty of packing space for clothes, food, electronics, educational needs and recreational needs for your children. While a camper trailer can give you maximum living space for minimum size for ease of access to places, you wouldn't have as much storage room as you would have in a full caravan for long term travel. A 'cross-over' would also have limited packing space. If you go into the full true off road caravans, be aware of the weight and the tow vehicle required to suit.


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Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 08:35

Monday, May 20, 2013 at 08:35
A caravan would certainly be more comfortable with better storage options. Constantly setting up and heaving boxes of stuff around wears thin. Don't forget that on a long trip you are likely to spend quite a bit of time in uncomfortable weather. A few weeks in a CT in very cold and wet conditions, followed by a while in heat with lots of flies and then mosquitoes, helped us make the decision to move to a fully screened and insulated van. For long term travel, discomfort starts to build up and things that are bearable or even fun for a holiday can become very wearing.
Also think about where you are really going to go. There is an awful lot of Australia to see and a great deal of it is reasonably accessible. If you are confident that you will frequently need to drag your home to very wild or rough places then you are probably needing a small trailer rig. This plan does often turn out to be a bit of a fantasy. If, in reality, you will mostly be travelling on dirt roads rather than bush tracks, a suitable van will do well. That is what we now have and we do the rougher stuff as day trips in the 4x4 from the parked van. Good luck and have a great trip whatever you decide.Lynne
AnswerID: 511434

Follow Up By: Stu A - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 09:34

Monday, May 20, 2013 at 09:34
Thanks Lynne
That makes perfect sense and that is the big question for us, where will we want to go? We are beach and ocean lovers so we are drawn to those sort of areas, and therefore ask ourselves if they are accessible in a large van.
I guess we are also asking ourselves, what percentage of 'free camps" like those in the Camps 6 book could a 21ft caravan access?

I have also heard stories that caravan parks only allow large vans to setup in specific sites, which can limit choice.

Maybe the van as a "home base" plus camping gear for short "expeditions" could be the best outcome and most flexible?

All suggestions welcome !

Thanks all

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Follow Up By: Member - John and Lynne - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 10:10

Monday, May 20, 2013 at 10:10
Our Sunland Patriot is 20.5 ft ("Off Road") and we have never had a problem with free camps which we prefer. Those that don't take our van usually won't take any van - National Park tent sites etc. It does not count as "big" for caravan parks and we can always get a site. Some of the older parks were built in the days of 16ft vans and sites can be a bit tight for modern rigs or for set up camper trailers but we always check a site first if in doubt. Always been able to get set up in reasonable comfort.
Give a lot of thought to the gear you will want to take - kids stuff, school work, warm clothes, water, toilet, bedding, basic food items, BBQ or whatever you come up with and give a lot of thought to convenient storage.
Also, a kitchen that you can access easily on the road is very valuable in our experience. To be able to make a hot drink or a meal at any time is not only convenient but can save you a fortune. After the camper I was so happy to be able to just stop by the road, at alookout or wherever and open the door to the fridge and coffee pot!
No more dubious cafes! Kids of the ages of yours seem to always be hungry! Lynne
FollowupID: 789675

Follow Up By: sam h6 - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 13:34

Monday, May 20, 2013 at 13:34
Hi Stu

We have a 21'6 van, off road style but not a "top" low volume brand by any means. It gets us to most places even over the sand dunes on the SA coast this week to find some beautiful free camps.
We travelled the east coast a few years back in a camper and only had one child then, to say we were sick of canvas by the end of the trip is an understatement. We are a couple of weeks in on our adventure round the big island now with two kids and find the van is great. To have all our own amenities available all the time is so good and as said above full kitchen as soon as we open the door just makes it great when the kids are hungry and tired.
At the end of the day only you guys can decide on what feels right for your trip but a few creature comforts can make it a lot easier that's for sure.

Good luck with it and have fun.

FollowupID: 789693

Follow Up By: Stu A - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 15:47

Monday, May 20, 2013 at 15:47
Thanks Lynne, thanks Sam
Has my wife paid you to write those things? LOL.
I can start to see the light !!! But still keeping an open mind for the Caravan and Camping show !

Do you mind if I ask, what brand/model of Van is your 21'6 off road style?

FollowupID: 789706

Follow Up By: sam h6 - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 15:54

Monday, May 20, 2013 at 15:54
It's a supreme classic. 21'6 internal with cruise master suspension, 16 inch wheels, compressor fridge, triple 90 water tanks, solar, seperate shower toilet, grey exterior colour, 2 pack white interior and most important of all upgraded ATM to 3500KG
FollowupID: 789709

Reply By: steved58 - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 19:50

Monday, May 20, 2013 at 19:50
I have a 21ft outback caravan it is great for most of the time however when we need to go to rougher spots ie cape york we also have a rooftop tent with annex and awning with flyscreening this is great for side trips from the caravan and you are still quickly and comfortably set up although we have no kids to worry about
AnswerID: 511465

Reply By: Cheeky1 - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 21:09

Monday, May 20, 2013 at 21:09
Hi Stu,
You're really gonna get a lot of different view-points here and none of them right or wrong. It all depends purely on what works best for you.
All these good people have great advise and it's what works best for them.
It sounds as though you're on the right track though.
Brainstorm and communicate with the good wife because she will have certain needs and you will have your needs.
I can say this though, whatever you choose you will have a ball.
We have bumped into so many young families like yourself on our travels and they're all having the time of their lives. All have had very different set-ups and all have soon got themselves into a routine that works for them.
The Jayco camper trailers are something I would seriously consider if I was travelling with young ones. It gives you the convenience of a caravan but packs up to a camper trailer size.
I've never had one but I've seen them getting out and about on all sorts of tracks, so they must be reasonably robust.
Good luck and enjoy the trip.
AnswerID: 511472

Follow Up By: Stu A - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 07:24

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 07:24
Thanks Cheeky1 - that's great advice.
FollowupID: 789745

Reply By: Member - Scott M (NSW) - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 12:16

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 12:16
Hi Stu, without getting too esoteric or zen like, sometimes the answer to the question really comes back to how you (as a family) want to travel & camp, how you pace yourselves, and what you want to see.

For example, if you plan to say have one travel / transit day and the camp for 3 or more nights, then ease of set-up becomes less of an issue..... if you plan to dot-dash-dot-dash, then an easier set-up (caravan) may be better.

Do you want to really get off the road and remote camp? - if so, then off-road ability and ruggedness will be a premium (say Kimberly or Cub off-road hard floor or something of that ilk).

My brother (Matt-M) had 6+ months on the road with two kids a similar age (bit younger) in a Kimberly Camper. The had a separate soft-floor annex/room that could be set up for the kids, but generally didn't use if if the weren't going to camp for at least 2-3 nights, single night stop the kids slept on the hard floor.

He bought it for around $31k second hand, owned it for 2-3 years and sold it after the lap for about $29k ... overall dropped about $1.5k and a bit he'd spent on it.
AnswerID: 511513

Reply By: Liz S2 - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 21:25

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 21:25
Hi there - we did 52 weeks on the road with 4 kids in a Camprite. Did Cape York and more, a lot of regular blacktop places, but nice to explore further when we wanted to.

Our Camprite slept 6 off the ground, in a single set up (really does take 5 mins to set up.) Two kids in bunks, but if you wanted you could just use mats on the floor for the extra 2 kids. Our kids were aged from 4-10years. We had lots of gear - 2 x bikes, kayak, crate of books, warm gear and hot weather gear. We had a bag on top of car and swapped gear as needed - when down south we put all the beach gear up in the roof rack bag, and vice versa. Fridge was in back of vehicle.

Kitchen swings out and can be used on the road for day stops. We often didn't bother with the awning unless staying 3-5 nights, or signs of inclement weather. We did aim to stay a minimum of 2 nights in each place and averaged 2-3 hours a day driving when we drove.

In fact, we only had annoying weather about three times in the year, (wet weather - just stayed put until it cleared, but in fact, you could close up and keep the bedding dry if needed.) The whole point of travelling is to follow the ideal weather!

Schooling - only problem for us was that it is hard to do on windy days! We eventually gave up formal schooling attempts after three months and just 'un-schooled'. But friends doing their second lap have a good system - Tuesdays and Thursdays are school days and they stay put on those days. Do 6 hours of distance ed.

You said you'd looked at the Camprite in your top post. What didn't seem to suit your needs? We live on the Sunshine Coast so you are welcome to come and see ours in operation. We are just off to Cape York for 6 weeks in first week of July, so feel free to pop up before or after then. (This time we are doing a quick trip as kids still enrolled.)

Best year of our lives! Whatever you choose just do it.

AnswerID: 511542

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