Best van for outback trips?

Submitted: Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 13:15
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Hi, we are wanting to start exploring more of our country e.g. Gibb river rd, Kings canyon, Uluru, Birdsville etc. We are a family of 4 and want to know what would be the best van for our various trips. We are looking at a jayco outback expanda or jayco swan camper trailer. We do plan on going on dirt roads and staying at roadside camp grounds. If anyone has any advice, that would be great! thanks
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Reply By: Witi Repartee - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 13:53

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 13:53
Hi, sounds like a lovely family trip.
We really need to know your tow vehicle. SUV? Heavy 4WD etc.

Buy a copy of camps 7 (?) from the EO shop for good bush/freedom camp sites. Also many good spots can often be found up side roads...such as gravel pits, lay down areas, side tracks etc.
Start schooling the kids in water usage/conservation. Buy an ensuite tent...very quick to erect for showers or porta dunny etc or even for temporary storage for a few days.
Make sure you take a big ground mat to put down outside the van...makes for far more pleasant outdoor living and keeps a lot of dirt out off the van.
ALWAYS make sure your awning is tied down to ground pegs. A big unexpected wind at 3am can flip it over the van!
Go to Bunnings and buy a Universal tap handle...(not sure of its real name) to access water from Parks, Tourist info ...just make sure it's potable water!!

AnswerID: 514832

Follow Up By: olcoolone - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 13:58

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 13:58
And what budget you have for the van.
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Follow Up By: Witi Repartee - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 14:09

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 14:09
Also re reading your query..we have no idea of your experience levels. Have you reasonable 4WD experience, been in a club..or done a course?...also have you and the kids been camping much recently...Then hopefully our member with kids and those with far more experience than me can give you lots of ideas. Also explore the rest of site for trips planners, fuel consumptions, check lists etc.
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Follow Up By: SS78 - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 14:38

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 14:38
Thanks for the replies. We did the oodnadatta track last year with our friends jayco and went ok - it was not an outback but they told us to use on the track anyway! Was no problem at all. Our vehicle is an 05' prado which has long range tank, snorkel, winch etc. We are not members of any clubs - just like to do our own thing by ourselves or with friends. Our budget for a van is around $20k or less. Really want to know what is the most suitable for tripping around the outback? Thanks
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Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 19:03

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 19:03
Just check Jayco's warranty carefully. They do not cover their "outback" vans for such heavy outback roads as the Gibb River or even long distance dirt road travel. If you really want to travel on rough corrugated roads you will need to get a more sturdily built van. The chassis might hang together but you need to consider the construction of the cupboards etc! However there is plenty of country to see without going on the roughest roads. If you are planning on camping with kids take a portabletoilet! Don't be too ambitious or overplan - make sure everyone enjoys the trip(s) and Enjoy! Lynne
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Reply By: olcoolone - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 20:16

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 20:16
I'm going to be a little smart with my reply....

The best van for outback trips is one you don't own.

Outback dirt road hammer caravans and unless you're prepared to spend good money on a true off road van you will have problems sooner or latter.

Most off road vans under $50,000..... yes 50 grand will do the occasional off road trip if taken easily OK but start doing more and they will not last.

It's not just the suspension that will let you down it's when all the screws and nails start falling out.

Spoke to one caravanner years ago and he said he doesn't carry a screw driver anymore for tightening things up... he uses Selleys Liquid Nails, cable ties and 100mph tape.
AnswerID: 514849

Follow Up By: Robyn R4 - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 20:32

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 20:32
olcoolone you for got the rest...
...and what is great to tow is a mongrel to live in...and what is lousy to tow is great to live in....
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Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 21:22

Monday, Jul 15, 2013 at 21:22

You can check out my blogs from 2008 for these areas. While we did see a number of small Jayco outback camper trailers on the Gibb River Road and they may have been hire trailers, they were small ones so not much room for a family. Jayco outback are not really an all roads range so if you want to do a lot of roads of the dubious quality of the Mereenie Loop (dirt road way to Kings Canyon), Tanami, or the Gibb River Road (depending on condition at the time) you would be better with a good quality camper trailer or a dedicated off road caravan.


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AnswerID: 514854

Follow Up By: Members Pa & Ma. - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 12:17

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 12:17
I just gave you a reply, pressed preview & lost it.
In short, started in a swag. Worked up to basic soft floor camper.
Wouldn't take Jayco on rough road, with a lot of research & time we found an older 2nd hand 11ft. Supreme Getaway.
Money has always been an issue so we couldn't be choosy on the layout, just the build.
We found a 1996 Getaway at a dealership. It was in our price range.
The before 2000 getaways are much better built. We compared identical vans, the old & the new & the older one was our choice.
Built more sturdy.In our opinion.
Send me an mm if you want a few more ideas.
You can find a decent 2nd hand Supreme getaway for around 25 to30 thousand. It took us a while tough.
Take care, safe travels Ma.
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Reply By: Stewy - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 07:42

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 07:42
Mother hens advice is good, we have been down this road, started with a basic soft floored camper trailer( back when there not many on the market), with a large annex. With three kids this worker a treat. Then the kids got less mad we bought a second hand Jayco finch which saw lots of travel in the flinders ranges, gawler ranges oodnadata track and vic deserts. Then there were no kids and a bit of money and we bought a little supreme getaway ( brand new) but it only did one major off road trip on the oodnadata track loop kings canyon, Alice, Finke, and lots of general touring but gave a number of issues and we ended up parting with it and moving to a series of three Phoenix vans ( bigger each time) which we used for both the Strez, and Birdsville tracks, Torrens Track, western Qld, Vic Deserts, and Gibb River Road and were happy. SWMO then decided she wanted more so now we own a 21' Bushtracker. It has been a long expensive road and in hind sight if I could have planned it we could have bought the big one straight up and saved a lot of money, but as we all know that is not possible when you have kids.. Best plan is if you are touring get something that is robust and easy to setup and pack up, if you are static camping you can go for the more complicated setup, always it is cost that will guide you. But if you want genuine off road spend the money it will save you in the long run. We have always except for the Supreme bought second hand, normally about five to six year old.

AnswerID: 514859

Follow Up By: GeeVee - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 11:16

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 11:16

Slightly off topic but I'm interested in your issues with the Supreme Getaway caravan. We have a 2005 16'6" Supreme Getaway but have not done a lot of dirt road travel yet. The little bit that we have done we had the fridge move (broke plastic mounting tabs on the face of the unit) which I resecured with aluminium edge stripping. No other problems, but I would appreciate knowing what to look out for.

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Follow Up By: Stewy - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 21:31

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 21:31

Springs rated too high kept breaking high tensile bolts in the suspension joints, did 4 on the Finke line at low speed, By the end of the trip I could change bolts faster than tyres. Was fine on the black top just did not like unformed roads, this also cause a window to break and the bed frame to required reinforcing to hold together. The after market back up was poor, local dealer. We were very disappointed as we had met others on the road with no issues, just the luck of the build, this was a 2002 purpose built 13' that we ordered . We moved on to a Phoenix and felt more comfortable for the places we like to visit.
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Follow Up By: GeeVee - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 21:52

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 21:52

Thanks for that info. Was your suspension a trailing arm arrangement with coil springs and shocks? I know there are a number of different suspension arrangements that were used over the years.

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Follow Up By: Stewy - Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 07:03

Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 07:03
Greg yes it was that very system. The spring rate was not correct and a couple of owners we had met had similar issues but there after market service was direct with the manufacter, we had to fight with a dealer. If you are concerned have someone watch your van move over some undulating ground and watch to see if the suspension articulates. Ours did move not very much at all just the tyres walls flexing

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Follow Up By: GeeVee - Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 10:57

Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 10:57
Thanks Stu, your information is very much appreciated.

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Reply By: kruznoz - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 10:16

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 10:16
we have just returned from a trip up the birdsville track ,then back to perth via the great central road. we towed our outback expanda without any dramas suspension wise or the body work and interior letting loose...however....the underneath plumbing and wiring took a beating from the gibber rocks and stones etc.
made some metal skid plates at the alice to protect what was left of the underneath for the rest of the trip.
get a stone guard for the front of the van and some protection for the underneath on whatever van you decide on.
AnswerID: 514864

Follow Up By: SS78 - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 13:30

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 13:30
Thanks for your responses. We are getting a little confused and of two minds what to buy now. First of all we were definitely going for a second hand Jayco Swan Outback and then it changed to a 16foot Expanda for more Room/Storage/Comfort and now not even sure whether to get a Jayco based on some of the comments?!? It seems to come down to personal choice and past experiences I guess (and budget). Could you tell us apart from protecting the underbody of the chassis on the Jayco, did you have any other issues/comments on set-up time, versatility of the van (could it go anywhere) and also drag and fuel usage on vehicle? We have a V6 Prado to tow the van with. We will be stopping for 2 - 3 night stays in most places and overnighters between destinations.

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Follow Up By: kruznoz - Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 10:59

Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013 at 10:59
the jayco is a pop top expanda and the whole thing sets up in around 3-4 minutes and yes i can relate to the budget thing. the van towed great behind the 3 ltr ranger, went where i pointed it no worries, the mpg was normal for towing a van and wind drag was non existent [ especially when a road train/truck passed opposite... i was amazed]
i guess if you have the dollars, a high end full off roader is the better option, but with a little bit of work you can make the van more bullet proof. it's the old saying"' you get what you pay for"
more importantly " drive to the conditions" and you'll be a happy camper
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Reply By: Member - Oldbaz. NSW. - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 13:18

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 13:18
I'm not going to suggest which van is best, but I can tell you we have just towed our
15' Gazal Infinity across Oz from Bourke to Innamincka..Birdsville..Alice.Then the GCR
to Leonora. The condition of parts of those roads was horrendous.. The van is not a dedicated offroad unit, but has plenty of clearance, one
piece A frame/chassis rails, full gal sheet floor & simple leaf springs. We had no issues
at all. We saw & spoke to other travellers in on road vans & they weren't falling apart
either. You do need to take stone & underbody protection seriously & prepare & pack
My point is that the concept that you need a Bushtracker/Kedron type van to safely
tour our dirt roads is not a reality. Proper attention to weight,speed & preparation
means many use normal vans to tour where they wish without drama.

By the way, our little van cost $14k, used, 2000 model. We also suggest that a
poptop is far better option than a windup to no time setup & far more
storage space..important for families. cheers...oldbaz.
AnswerID: 514870

Follow Up By: SS78 - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 13:39

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 13:39
Thanks Oldbaz,
Your comments & those of kruznoz have really helped - as we don't have the money to buy a "proper" off-road caravan that will fit two small kids at the moment. Our friend has a Jayco Freedom (On-Road) van and he has taken it on many Outback roads. All he did was turn the chassis upside down to get higher clearance and has not had any major issues with the van in the 8+ years he has owned it.
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Reply By: The Landy - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 13:20

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 13:20
Do you intend to do a long trip, as in the big lap over a period of months, or is the intention to do numerous trips, which seems to be the case?

If you are looking to do numerous trips, you might find that there is suitable and relatively inexpensive accommodation, which could be combined with some tenting.

It isn’t for all, but from a cost perspective it might stack up once you start taking into account depreciation. Not having a van might also open up other travel possibilities in terms of destinations.

Hopefully some food for thought and enjoy yourself on your travels!
AnswerID: 514871

Reply By: Member - Captain (WA) - Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 23:40

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013 at 23:40
Many years ago I was in the same boat as you, wanted to do more exploring of the country with my family of four. We started with a Windsor Rapid Offroad (equivalent to a Jayco Outback Expanda), went to a camper trailer (Camprite) and now have an AOR Quantum - a full offroader.

While my Quantum is made for any offroad condition and is a true offroader, its also something like 4 times the price of a Jayco, so should be significantly better! And while the features of the Quantum are better than my previous campers, we had a HUGE amount of fun in all of our campers!!

And thats the real point, much more important to be out there doing it than saving for something that might be a bit better. While creature comforts are nice, they are not the be all and end all of a trip.

And doesn't really matter what you have, something will always be better. Yes, a Jayco may need to have underfloor protection added, or you may need to tighten a few screws and drive a tad slower over the rough stuff. But drive for what you have and you should be fine.

Much better to be out there doing it with your family, perhaps having to sort out the odd issue, than being a couch potatoe and waiting for something that is supposedly better.


AnswerID: 514904

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